Category: Uncategorized

Show Me the Money

At the moment, Guy Hands, the newest owner of EMI, in unveiling his new plan for the company. He will cut 2000 jobs, refocus on A&R, rewrite the model to attract more revenue from touring and merchandise, and do away with things like advances* (in favour of a reward system) and even management structure throughout the world.

There is a lot I can say about why this model is insane. But the point is – EMI don’t sell CDs. They sell artists. And yet their whole plan is about making more money of the artists’ output, than investing in the artist.

So you have a company that has no staff left to take care of the artist, and a very public backlash from the major artists, and they expect to sign new bands for less money and ask them to give EMI more ways to make money off them?


Worse still, this could kill EMI. And it’s smaller, more famous labels. Parlophone, who had the Beatles. Capitol, home of Sinatra, Beach Boys and Crowded House (also the Beatles in the US). Virgin Records. Hands will either sink it, or turn them into corporate brands like Paramount.

So maybe I’m being a stick in the mud here. Yes, I’m biased. I’m a big fan of the old labels. They loom large in my legend. Mo Ostin is my hero the same way Bob Dylan is my hero. My interests in music extends past the sound, to the culture of it all. Album covers to radio stations, great music venues to musicians favourite films. To me that’s all part of the rich tapestry of being a music fan.

I also played in bands for a long time. And in a funny twist, I hated marketing anything I was involved with. When it came to playing music, any thoughts about leaking tracks or viral campaigns (let alone corporate sponsorship and digital royalties) were not anything I gave a shit about. I didn’t start writing songs so I could make my childhood dreams come true of assigning ISRC codes to tracks.

(Fuck, I didn’t even like mastering)

And I know a lot of people in bands, and want to be in bands. And I have conversations with those people. And we all want to make money, but we all want to play music. Its common for a band who has some audience to take a low advance for higher royalties. REM did that back almost 20 years ago. Are EMI going to try and convince bands to take the money over exposure? Where does that lead them on their second album?

It’s the problem with the Radiohead model. They made more money than ever, but sold less albums. Sure, they do more than enough of both to survive. But so many bands don’t. And will Radiohead continue to lose their audience now?

But at the heart of this is the philosophical argument for me. I work in the industry of music. There is a ‘coolness’, an un-attainability. A credibility, at heart, to put out music to the world. And by the world, I mean taxi drivers, nurses and kids in the suburbs, not what the Indies are doing.

This could all come from the fact I watched Jerry Maguire recently. And yes, he went for the money. But the success came with the personal touch. Investing in your artist – taking the risk together. You have to protect, as well as exploit, your artists. But artists don’t work for the record company. The record company works for the artist. And EMI is going on about putting artists on a salary.

Strange comment alert: the music industry is a beautiful thing. When it works. Elvis Costello’s career was so well managed. He had a talented artwork person behind him. Great label. Good manager. And they rode the pipes to a degree of superstardom. Now he plays around the world all the time. There arer so many, many positive stories. The Zombies in America scoring a hit with Time Of the Season. Drums on Sound Of Silence. Musicians having a sympathetic circle around them can only lead to good.

The general consensus seems to be: from the music industry – shock and disgust. From the two guys in the Indie sector – joy. From the business sector – loud applause. Time will tell. I hope he doesn’t destroy EMI, but if I was a betting man I would be betting he will.

Today is not a good day for music.


Other points to note.

Hands, from an investment background, is sending out a lot of press to the business side of newspapers. It is, of course, great copy in that section of the paper. If a company like, say, Motorola, can cut staff and costs, in actually encourages people to do business with them. The same cannot be said in music. Why would a band sign to you if you have no support staff or money? It’s a really fundamental error there.

Guy Hands has done an interview where he claims to have paid £40 for the In Rainbows box set. His credibility is paper thin. Geez. Doesn’t he know that what we deal in is credibility? That is number 2 from music. That’s image. Idiot.

* Advances. Bands get ‘advances’, that is, a sum of money, that is paid back to the record company through album sales. It can come in all sorts of ways. A recording advance is simply a label putting up the money for studio time. Tour advances is when a label puts up the money for a band to go on tour. The most talked about advances at the moment is the signing advance. When you sign a band, you usually give them an advance. There is DEFINITELY a side of it where it’s a back slap, but essentially, it’s money for the band to live on. Buy some new guitar strings, get a haircut, don’t worry about where your next meal is coming from, you concentrate on doing what we are paying to be.

It is, essentially, NHS/Medicare for musicians.

You’re kidding yourself cos everything else is old

I really loved the song “The World Is Outside” by Ghosts this year.

One of the things I get from the song is that, well, as the title of the song says, the world is outside. Get out of your inner head and get out there. (This could be totally wrong in terms of their intention for the song, but it’s the meaning I’ve applied to it, and if anything, it’s more valid than their’s.)

It’s been on my mind a lot lately, the way people get stuck in their own heads. Especially at this time of year. It’s a reflective time. So reflective, it seems, that this time of year there is a spike in the number of suicides.

So it’s New Year’s Eve, around 6:30pm, and I’m just milling about. We’re getting to go out. I’m actually trying to not get reflective. What good does it do?

This year was what it was. Oh, I can give you platitudes, if you want platitudes. It had it’s ups, right? It had it’s downs. Oh, big changes. Oh, how some things stay the same. Yadda yadda, bullshit bullshit. You only find out what you already know. That’s why they call it reflection.

For the longest time, I never realised that the first couple of lines in Auld Lang Syne were supposed to be questions. I always took it as statements, or better yet, instruction. Old acquaintances SHOULD be forgotten. They should never be brought to mind. I always thought this was harsh. But again, I apply my own meanings to things, and I think, right on. Let’s look forward to the future shall we? Can’t let old ghosts drag you down.

“The World Is Outside” makes reference to the last Monday in January being regarded as the most depressing day of the year (at least, in cold countries). I remember hearing this on the radio last year when it happened (ha, there I go with the reminiscing). And I remember Tim telling me, a few days after arriving around this time last year, how depressing winter is here.

But all the happiness in the world is outside. It’s all there, to be grabbed, hugged, kissed and drunk. I wish it was midnight right now. Fly, little hours, fly.

New Year’s is a funny time. No two ways about it. But it’s a door, not a room. And I’ve spent a year in this room and I don’t want to look at it anymore. It’s done. I wont ever be back.

Let’s see what’s behind door 2008.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Sleeping in a racing car

You know that scene in the Simpsons? Milhouse’s dad is newly divorced. He tells Homer…"I get to sleep in a racing car! Where do you sleep?"

To which Homer replies…"I sleep in a big bed with my wife."

I’m at the pub with 3 others, all on the phone to their wives. My thoughts are my own. This has been happening to me a lot lately.

I’m the loser sleeping a racing car.


It’s the end of the highway…

There is an American folky, country band called the Creekdippers. They have a great, sort of campfire sing-a-long feel to their songs. They have one called The End Of the Highway, and I have been slowly swaying around Sydney, singing it to myself. With one little, minor, lyrical change.

“That’s the end of the highway, Howard.
You’re a sorry, silly man, with a pocket full of mumbles.
Please nod off like the old Generals do.
I wonder if they’d even have you.”

Occasionally, the song doesn’t fit Howard, because of what I figure is his one saving grace – the guy wasn’t evil. He can’t be compared to Bush. Or the Stalins of history. But he was a selfish, backwards, lying prick.

John Howard has been PM my entire voting life. So when he lost the election, even by such a spectacular margin, I had no idea how to feel. As friends (older) punched the air and threw stuff at the TV, I kept thinking, what a relief. And “finally”.

And I don’t want to be forgiving, as this man bows out. I pride myself in seeing the good in most everyone, but the media and Howards team are so good at sweeping things under rugs and tweaking history.

Lets we forget:

Being elected on the promise of NO GST (the thing that killed John Hewson) and then with no apology, in his first term no less, brings it in. I don’t mind the GST so much. The flat out lie, however, was fucked. As an early adult I thought that was a nasty, fucked thing.

KYOTO. I missed the lead up to the campaign, and missed how big this issue was. And thank God! Now we’re not the only modern nation left out. What exactly was the problem here. Yes, environment is good, it would be good for the planet to survive. However, we need to make money. This isn’t sifting through your garbage and sorting out your plastics. And much, much bigger economies in the world have been behind the Kyoto treaty, and taken bigger losses on less healthy economies. Really, can someone do a Howard debrief and just go – “John. Kyoto. What the hell was going through your thick skull?”

BABIES OVERBOARD. I’m descended from boat people. My family didn’t give up their entire living and worldly possessions so they could come to Australia themselves! They did it so their baby children could have a better life, education, a warless society, fair working conditions and maybe a suntan. Would they really throw them overboard?

It brings up the Liberal party’s constant HATEMONGERING. Of immigrants, both before and after September 11. And not to mention Howard’s old nemesis, the Asians. As someone who is not a Howard Battler, it was pretty clear to see they guy never once spoke to me in any forum. He was talking to the whites, with whom I sometimes mingled. This culminated in the party’s disgraceful Fake Flyer campaign. That guy should be shot.

But when it comes to racism, how can we forget the CRONULLA RIOTS. It was the boiling point from years, if not decades, of racial tension. The Liberals, and Howard, did nothing to stop the racial tensions. Under their watch, they bred the cautious, suspicious White Australia – leading to Pauline Hanson. But the worst thing about Cronulla, was the chance we lost. I just thought, this was so disgusting, such an act of unbelievable racist hate, that it would be a turning point for us as a country. A humbling look at ourselves would follow, and we would be better for it, having seen how ugly our distrust have become.

But no, John Howard came along, and played it down. Wiped it under the rug. Not a racist act, he tells us. There is no problem. Nothing needed to be done. Lets all carry on with no effort to understand eachother. That’s not an answer, Howard. This is the scar you left on my country.

But the word that I hope someone writes on John Howard’s grave for all time is SORRY. Again, an act of such ignorance, and a blind refusal to admit a problem in the interest of solving it. How can he stand by this? How can you not say sorry to a generation of kidnapped children? It happened. It shouldn’t have happened. Howard hid behind the legal liability card. That any official admittance of “sorry” could leave the government open to legal action. This, from our great government ever, in an economic sense. You could afford it.

There have been so many times that I thought about meeting Howard. Maybe years and years in the future. Somewhere, I will see him. Like in a Scorcese movie. Out on the docks somewhere on Sydney Harbour, as the early evening sets in. I’m standing there in a trench coat, looking out at the harbour, the bridge, and the skyline. A black van pulls up behind me, slowly. The back doors open up, and a sorry figure in a wheelchair rolls up beside me, and looks at the view. The van drives away, leaving us to talk.

“Hello John.” I would say, without looking at him.

“Hello Danny.” He says, as we both continue to look out in the distance.

“You know, John, you were a terrible Prime Minister.”

“I did what I thought was right, what I thought was best, with the blessing of the majority Australian people.”

“But you’re not the majority of Australia. You’re our leader. We needed you, who sat in those meetings about finances, and environment, and more, and to make the right decisions for us. You failed us, ad you can’t fall back on I-was-voted-in, I’m-always-right.”

“The people trusted me. And I stand by my decisions.”

“I know you do, John.”

And with that, I take a pistol out of my pocket, and I shoot the little fucker in his little fucking wheelchair in the side of the head. I kick the body out of the chair and into the harbour. It makes an ugly splash, as the man pollutes Australia one more time. I walk away and don’t look back.

We will never be sorry to see you gone.


PS. The original of End Of the Highway is about Donald Rumsfield.

If we can’t get it together

I’m at one of my favourite spots in the world – town hall steps, Sydney.

Was it only ten years ago I was here, as a couple fought, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying, so we made up our own story?


Ambition Makes You Look Pretty Ugly

I am finally, officially, completely and utterly over Radiohead.

There is an article in Billboard today about how Radiohead’s back catalogue enjoyed a spike thanks to In Rainbows. This is the most non-news that news can get.

I don’t care if you’re Coldplay or Seasick Steve; if you put out a new record and don’t get a decent spike in the older albums, you might as well shoot yourself in the head right now. To give some perspective, a recent Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac promotion enjoyed a 1000% spike. It sold ten times more in one month than the month before. This is not news.

Except it is. Because it’s Radiohead.

I have a handful of records that have been given away. Wilco have been streaming albums for free since 2001 BEFORE release. Harvey Danger’s last wonderful record has been free, one of many American indie bands doing the same. Prince gave away his new album with a newspaper (granted that made the news). But so did Ray Davies. And the new Travis single.

Sure. I hear ya. The old “band at that level” clause. BUT, that’s the thing. They can get away with the financial risk. It’s no risk at all really. It’s really easy to be charitable from the Ivory Tower.

And lets talk about what didn’t work with the In-Rainbows-Oh-God-Everything-Is-Over model. No preview? You could have been buying anything. Which for me screams that this is not about the music. It’s about the band, and the brand. This past week, the Eagles debuted at number 1 on just about every chart in the planet. Radio play? TV? What drove the sales? The Eagles name.

And Radiohead are becoming the Eagles.

And they are continuing to appeal to just their fanbase. This back catalogue boxset. That just smells of the Eagles. Expensive deluxe versions of the albums, aimed t the people who already own them all.

Any why donations? Why not give the record away? That charitable band of rich people just earned a lot of money. Let’s not forget that major fact that they are laughing their way to the bank.

You might not agree with me. That is fine. But all this talk about Radiohead being the future… they have presented a new way of releasing music into the world. Fine. They have given us one way.

And I don’t agree with it. If anything, it’s made me think about what I value in the music-to-listener process, and Radiohead goes against everything I believe in. Paying for music. Choosing track by track. Previewing; that is allowing people to judge you on your music (first two, heart of the iTunes model).

I believe in music for everyone. Putting your album in record shops and supermarkets so some 12 year old kid can get it. In having your music exposed far and wide, first and foremost.

The coolest thing you can do in my world is to put out some corker song on a cheap single and put it everywhere, so everyone can hear it and anyone can buy it if they want. Radiohead is the opposite of this.

Radiohead has released no music, made a multimillion payday on the faith of their fanbase, and can happily give up now. Why even try and push the album any further. I guess most of those people will buy the box et next year.

Anyway, all this Radiohead business has made me sick to the stomach. Word is Oasis may do the same. And that’s when I will opt out. That’s when you’re too fat and have started eating yourself.

So before you continue being dazzled by these Radiohead figures, please, think about what you believe in music, and how it should get to people, and ask yourself how well Radiohead’s ideas gel with yours.

Don’t follow. Think. They might be wrong.



If you think Radiohead are just doing what they are feeling as right, and it’s the media that has caught on this story, then…well, you’re not naïve. That’s fine. But in the end they are still doing what they think is right, and I’m allow to challenge that.

Start today tomorrow

I had a big lazy day today.

I haven’t had one in long time. It wasn’t even a day where I was catching up on emails or anything useful. Just lazy.

Woke up far too late. Stayed in bed and finally got back into reading my book which I haven’t touched in weeks (JR Reid’s The United States of Europe – guy writes a little too much from an American perspective but the history and the facts are great). Read most of the new Mojo, and flicked through quite a few of the CD booklets I’ve gotten lately and not spent any time with.

Conversations about the death of music artwork interests me. So many poor album covers. And so very few timeless ones these days. And liner notes are a lost art. Which made reading the notes to David Gary’s new Greatest Hits so great. I don’t know half the songs on there, but he writes about everyone, and does it so well, that I put every one of those tracks on my ipod.

I also caught up on my podcasts. Absolutely top of the lot is Sound Opinions. They call themselves the world’s only rock ‘n’ roll talkshow. And it reminds me how much I love good radio, and how much I loved making it. They really get into talking about albums…really, it’s like the Panel, but about rock.

The boring day continued with catching up with the Office (Joss Whendon directed) and Heroes (so poor so far). Dusted off the guitar and tried to work out every Neil Young song ever (almost). Very little blackberry, or even TV. It felt so good, because next week will be so very busy.

Although, I missed fireworks. It’s on my list of things to do next year.

So not a very interesting post, I know. But you have to write about what interests you, and being totally lazy is very exciting for me. It wont last…


Walk Out to Winter

Summer is still a vivid memory, but the last few weeks we have fallen straight into a cold snap. With my crutches, for a few weeks I felt like Richard III. I wanted to stumble up to kids at bus stops, point a crooked finger and go “Now is the winter of our discontent…”

It’s not yet the pretty, winter-y London. It’s this odd middle ground. There’s plenty of cute girls in cool jackets, scarves and hats about. The outdoor areas of pubs are empty. It’s noticeably darker all the time. People are settling in.

Which is the opposite for me, a cripple who has finally lost his crutches and cast. Although the cold has meant bits and pieces of me have started to hurt again. I’ve accepted the fact that during the cold I will always be Uncle Danny with the funny limp. I am seriously thinking about Mia’s suggestion of getting a walking cane. Unfortunately, my shoulder is the only part of me which is still in pretty bad shape, and the cane needs that. One day…

It’s a been a big few weeks for visitors. Thomas Heymann, Hawker, James, my brother, Chris and Ian from Prague, Katy…and I can almost keep up. Liz has had some visitors too. Her sisters and her friends Colm and Luke. It’s been a very social house of late, a big change from living alone.

It looks like the next few months will be very different, as each of us will be jetting off again. Between now and the end of the year I’ll be away from London more than I’ll be there. I’m not the only one. Next thing you know it will be Christmas.

So bits and pieces have been going on but not much to report. Got back from Paris. Saw Paul McCartney play, which fulfilled a life long dream. Back at work full time. Even started setting the CD player alarm again and trying to keep normal hours (currently it’s Camera Obscura’s lovely album from last year, Let’s Get Out Of This Country). Very much back into old, bad habits.

Feels like I’ve been here before. Chilly London. People pulling their scarves up, scurrying into shops. The sky threatening to rain. Long nights in. I’m looking forward to it again.

It feels good to be home.

Danny Yau

Don’t change your plans

I am sitting in a cafe in Montpanasse, on my own, after several coffees and beers. And god knows how many more cigarettes.

I just spent €200 at FNAC. The radio is playing You’re Beautiful. Its not helping my mood.

Bottom line, I don’t know where I will be next year. It’s now a major issue. My plans have, well, not completely fallen through, but has definitely dropped 16 floors, smashed hard against the floor and is now lying heavy on cracked and creaking floorboards and can go very south from here.

I’m being dramatic I know, but its one of my good points, really.

So point is, where to next? I’m having a big think about it all. Maybe it is time to move on…again.

The worst thing in life is confusion. I don’t mind when things go wrong, I can handle that. It’s not knowing. It’s like when you don’t know where you stand with someone. Its better to be bad and know than to not know. I think so anyway.

So I can only look down at my plans and hope it all works out. Of course, it will all work out in some way.

Just WHAT?

I wish I knew.