Greenpeace Vs. MacExpo

Greenpeace expelled from MacExpo

Greenpeace has responded to being ejected from the MacExpo in London saying it was “a totally over-the-top reaction”.

Speaking to Macworld, Zeina Al-Hajj, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaign said: “We registered as an environmental NGO (non governmental organisation) called Green My Apple, so it’s not like we were hiding anything”.

The MacExpo event management also told Macworld that they had no problem with Greenpeace’s message, but according to Zeina that also was not the case: “We had this parody of the Mac advert. We had a photo of the design guy on the stand and we were asking people if they wanted to hug him. We were told not to do this.”

The Greenpeace exhibitor also claims the management told them they could not wear their T-shirts as they walked around the event: “The T-shirt was black with the shape of a woman blowing a kiss to an apple and it said ‘I love my Apple I just wish it became green’. On the back it had the URL for the campaign.” They told us “you can’t wear that, it was ridiculous – we couldn’t even go to the toilet”.
(Source: MacWorld)

I’m typing this on a (recently outdated) Macbook Pro. My wife uses a Powerbook and there’s a G5 Powermac in my studio.

I think it’s fair to say we’re a Mac-centric household. Since I switched, back in ’97, I’ve bought six Apple computers. Some of the early ones are now living happy lives, passed on to friends and relatives: that’s my form of recycling. After all, if a Mac works, it just works. It’s not as if it’s going to catch any viruses or suddenly be too slow to check email.

But I am puzzled that Apple hasn’t embraced Greenpeace’s more conventional recycling campaign.

How is it that Dell offers to pick up and recycle / safely dispose of its old computers but Apple doesn’t?

C’mon! This is Apple – it’s meant to be ahead of the PC vendors, not dragging its heels way behind.

I still love using Apple computers but I’m not so in love with their intransigence concerning the environment.

The way that MacExpo treated Greenpeace is shameful and shortsighted. Inevitably, that shabby treatment rubs off on Apple. It makes them seem like every other big corporation, trying to brush eco activists away under the carpet.

Just think of every new revision of iPod. How quickly the previous generation looks old and ugly compared to the shiny novelty. Even though they’re perfectly functional, they get discarded as upgrades are bought. Think of all those batteries, full of nasty metals. How many aren’t disposed of safely? This is Apple’s responsibility to deal with: they make the potentially polluting devices, they should deal with the consequences.

Come on, Apple! Sort it out!

Billie The Vision & The Dancers

Billie The Vision & The Dancers

If you’ve looked at my Last.fm page lately, you’ll see that I’ve been listening to a lot of Billie The Vision & The Dancers. I heard about them when I was gigging in Scandinavia, people with impeccable taste were telling me that I should check them out.

So, I ordered their CD ‘I was so unpopular in school and now they’re giving me this beautiful bicycle’ online and when it arrived, I fell in love with their music.

They sound like the first Aberfeldy album colliding with elements of Jonathan Richman, all layered with that pure pop sense that (currently) only Scandinavian bands have. The instant ‘Summercat’ came out of my speakers, I knew I’d found another band to love. They have the crucial combination of poppy music with very, very good lyrics. I couldn’t imagine any contemporary British band coming up with anything as simple, passionate or heartfelt as ‘Noble Square.’

They’re great pop music!

You can download the whole of that album for free and their last one too by clicking here. Yep, they’re giving away this lovely music for free on their website. But, if you can afford it, please dig into your pocket and buy their CDs. If you don’t, maybe they won’t be able to carry making such lovely songs?

In the meantime, download their music, push all the furniture back in your sitting room and get ready to dance! 🙂

Why You Should DIY!

(This post is basically aimed at musicians but bits of it apply to anyone creative.)

White Town - Don't Mention The War

Above is a pic of my new album which I’ve just released on my own label, Bzangy Records. Originally, it was slated to come out on Ninthwave Records but they had to shut down recently.

So, I decided to do it myself! 🙂

Yeah, it does sound pretty foolhardy. However, I have a history of silliness:

The first White Town single came out on my own label, Satya Records, way back in 1990. If I hadn’t released that single, I would never have had any records out on Parasol or any of the other indie labels I’ve worked with over the past sixteen years. Come to think of it, if I hadn’t taken the big risk of ploughing £800 into 1000 7″ singles, I doubt I’d ever have got to release ‘Your Woman.’ So, I wouldn’t be a professional musician now.

When the new album arrived a fortnight ago, I was ecstatic. And nostalgic. I remembered the feeling of un-packing the very first White Town record, the thrill of seeing it, looking at the cover. When I got ‘Don’t Mention The War,’ I was grinning all day. I kept examining the booklet and CD-surface, holding it up to the light, driving my mrs. doolally by asking her, repeatedly, “Doesn’t it look cool! Ooh, look at the spine! Look at the traycard!”

There is nothing like the feeling of holding a record you’ve released yourself in your hands. I can honestly say, it’s more exciting than having a number one. More exciting than getting gold discs.

Admittedly, I’m a bit more DIY than the average indie musician: on this album I’ve written, performed and recorded everything. I also mastered the CD and did all the photography and graphics layout. Basically, I did everything up to the pressing. But I was quite willing, initially, to have it come out on another label.

When Ninthwave fell through, I did think of shopping it round other indies. Then I thought of the endless delays, the indecision, the waiting… and I couldn’t be arsed. I wanted this record to come out in 2006 and the only way that was going to happen was if I did it myself.

Again, it’s a question of how you view your life. If you’re a musician, do you wait your entire life for permission from a major corporation to make music? Or do you realise that you need no-one’s permission but your own. If you make music, do gigs, release records / mp3s or any combination of the former, you’re a musician. You don’t need a record contract to tell you that you are.

It’s never been easier to record music and find some form of audience for it. With social networking hubs like imeem and YouTube, you don’t even need to be a geek like me to get your music or vids on the net.

I find it extraordinary that here, in the 21st century, musicians still have a 20th-century mindset. There are talented musicians and songwriters all over the world who’ve spent years learning their craft. They’ve spent hundreds of hours noodling on their guitars or tweaking their plugins. They’ve gigged and recorded, putting everything into a few songs they lovingly burn onto a CDR. But then what do they do?

They send off their heart’s work to corporations who don’t care about art, only profit.

Then, when they get rejected by these companies, they become dis-heartened and think that, in some way, this must mean that their music is not worthy to be heard.

Hello? Have you looked at the charts, single or album, in the last year or two? It’s wall-to-wall bland, corporate shite. Fake “organic” singer-songwriters next to manufactured indie/emo bands next to reality TV puppets. If you get turned down by a major label, it’s a good sign you’re doing something right, not wrong.

If you’ve spent all that time and effort, why don’t you go the last yard and put out your own CD? If you can’t afford that, why not form a CDR label and do small runs that are hand made, making them totally personal and unique? Stick your CDs (or CDRs) onto CD Baby and they’ll even put it onto iTunes for you. That means that people all around the world can hear your music and buy it, simply by looking you up in the (currently!) most popular online music shop.

I’m often asked by people to evaluate their music for them. I try to help out where I can but I do find it strange. What does it matter what I think of their music? What does it matter what anyone thinks apart from the artist and their audience?

In the 20th century, the path between artist and audience was cluttered with middlemen, all taking their slice of the pie. Labels, publishers, managers, engineers, producers, graphic artists, video makers – everyone got paid from what the artist earned. In that century, the artist had to co-operate with this because there was simply no other way for them to reach their audience. In many cases, the artist would never have had an audience in the first place without the work of those people, publicising their music through the old, rigid media.

That’s all changed. If you have the will to do it, you can do everything yourself. Or you can do whatever you want and find other independent artists to help you with your graphics / video / whatever. You can reach mass audiences from your garage or bedroom studio. You don’t need a record contract, you don’t need lavish video budgets, you don’t need recording studios equipped with ridiculously over-priced gear. All you need is an idea and the persistence to make it real.

* Write a song.
* Form a band.
* Play a gig.
* Make a record.
* Find your audience.

There’s never been a better time to DIY! 😀

Last.fm Stats

Last.fm White Town airplay

Regular readers will know that I’m something of a stats hound. Whether it’s Google Analytics or YouTube times viewed, I love ’em!

Well, now I can spy on stats for who’s listening to my band, courtesy of Last.fm.

And the results are surprising! Look at the graph above, it’s for the last six months. Why the huge spike at the end, hmmm? It’s too early to be the new album. Maybe it’s people who saw me when I was gigging in Finland and Sweden and have decided to check more of my stuff out? Perhaps lots more people have joined so, proportionally, my listenership hasn’t changed even if the absolute numbers have grown.

Now, bear in mind that these are statistics. And, of course, all statistics are shaky once you start extrapolating too much from them. For a start, Last.fm users are geekier than average and prefer more alternative music than average. Have a look at the overall charts to see what I mean.

But I’m still surprised my listens have gone up. Now to try and work out why! 😀

First UK Web-Rage Conviction

The Net in 1969
The internet, earlier today

An internet user has been found guilty of what police said was Britain’s first “web-rage” attack.

Paul Gibbons, 47, tracked down John Jones using details obtained online after the pair exchanged insults in an internet chatroom, a court heard.

He travelled 70 miles to Mr Jones’ home in Clacton, Essex, and beat him up with a pickaxe handle in December 2005.
(Source: BBC News)

Isn’t web-rage an exceptionally clumsy neologism? Web-rage is such an ugly word… I prefer homicidal attack.

Remember, kids, it’s a wild and woolly world out there, full of people who’ll take violent exception to your choice of footwear or definiton of permanent revolution.

So, hey, let’s be careful out there!