Saturday, 26 December 2009

This blog is moving...

Just to let you know that this blog is moving.

If you've subscribed to receive email updates, you should receive them as normal.
If you've subscribed via RSS, please subscribe to my new feed at

http://www.chrissingletonmusic.com/blog/rss.xml


The new blog can be viewed at

http://www.chrissingletonmusic.com/blog

which is on my spankingly new website.

Enjoy!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Inlay mockups

The saga of my artwork for Lady Gasoline continues. Since you all helped me so much with shaping the cover, thought you might like to look at a mock-up of the inlay. A cool crowd called Verdict in New Zealand will be finishing it off and laying it out properly.

For now it doesn't include the 'be a work of art' stuff - i.e., all the photos of my er, fans...but it will do when completed.

My photoshopping is pretty rubbish - I haven't even managed to take 10 years off me, let alone get the lines straight. So remember, it's all rough, right. Any comments welcome.









Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Betsey Trotwood gig

Just a quick note to remind people of the Betsey Trotwood gig tomorrow, 2 December at 8pm.

It now features 3 acts:

- yours truly: www.singletonmusic.com
- a brilliant folk duo James and Amy: www.jamesandamy.com
- my backing singer and top folk soul brother John Gibbons: www.folksoulbrother.com

It'll be a mix of acousticness, basses and harmonies.

Come along! £7 on door or £5.50 if you buy online in advance from http://www.stubmatic.com/chrissingleton/event/2522


Full details and address also from



Sunday, 29 November 2009

One more time...art votes needed.

Apologies for bombarding you all with all these art-related questions. But based on your feedback (and of course my own personal preferences) we've narrowed things down quite a lot. I'd like to ask you one more time about concepts. There are basically two mock-ups to choose from (ignore some of the dodgy Photoshopping, but you'll get the idea).

Tell me whether you prefer Option 1 or Option 2...thanks a bunch.

OPTION 1


OPTION 2

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Booty artwork

Well, when I asked you for your initial views on my artwork ideas for the next album cover...you inconveniently picked the wild card - the idea involving the rather saucy pair of boots.

But I'm listening to you, so I've played around with the idea and mocked up some more boot-related / minimalist ideas. Can you let me know which of the below appeal? Incidentally if you need a bit of sonic inspiration, you can listen to the 'Lady Gasoline' track at http://www.myspace.com/chrissingleton.

Incidentally I'm feeling very sleazy after looking up all these boots on the internet.

OPTION 1


OPTION 2


OPTION 3


OPTION 4


OPTION 5


OPTION 6


OPTION 7

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Why I'm not betting on a Tory win

For quite a while now the media has been doing a good job of convincing us all that the Tories are on their way back to power. Be it in The Guardian or The Daily Mail, David Cameron has for the past year or so been consistently portrayed as the next PM, and the assumption that the Conservatives will win the next election is now firmly embedded in political journalism.

It’s easy to understand why political commentators are taking a ‘Tories-will-win’ line: Brown is a jaded, unpopular prime minister who presides over an uninspiring administration – an administration which has been finding it hard to appeal to Labour supporters, never mind floating voters. And the Tories have been ahead in the polls for ages.

In strictly democratic terms, the Tories will not win the next election. They will get around 36% to 42% of the vote, with the majority of the country voting the way it always does – for centre-left parties (Labour and the Lib Dems). But under the UK’s antiquated and grossly unfair electoral system, first-past-the-post – which rewards parties that win a minority of the vote with a majority of seats in parliament – a 40% chunk of the vote could still result in the Tories getting back into power.

However, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the Tories may not win a majority in parliament. Instead, I think that a lot of indicators are increasingly pointing to a hung parliament (where no party has overall control).

There are four main reasons why I think the Tories are unlikely to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons at the next election:

1) The Tories have a seriously big hill to climb to reach a majority
The Conservatives need to win 117 seats in the next election to gain an overall majority of one, and 140 seats to win a 'working majority'. This will require at least a swing of 6.9% to the Tories – the biggest swing in 60 years, according to BBC journalist Michael Crick. And I’m not sure that Cameron (a multi-millionaire ex-member of the Bullingdon Club) has sufficient populist appeal to pull that kind of swing off.

2) It’s harder than ever before to secure an overall majority in the House of Commons
As Michael Crick also points out, the number of MPs elected who are not Tory or Labour but “others” (Lib Dems, Democratic Unionists, Respect etc.) has grown massively over the years – from 7 MPs in 1959 to 100 MPs in 2005. The main effect of this has been to create a ‘balance of power’ block in parliament and make it harder for any party (and particularly for the Tories) to win an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons.

3) Constituency boundaries favour Labour over the Tories
According to the UK Polling Report, the way that constituency boundaries are currently defined means that there is an “in-built bias” for Labour in the electoral system that will frustrate the Tories’ attempts to secure a majority in the House of Commons. A combination of out-of-date boundaries, over-representation of Wales and other oddities means that Labour will automatically win “more seats per votes cast” than the Conservatives.

4) The polls are narrowing, and the economy may be improving
Largely because of the above factors, in order to win an overall majority, the Tories need to poll significantly higher than Labour in an election – 12% more, according to Professor Michael Thrasher from Plymouth University. Six months ago, opinion polls suggested that this was not an implausible scenario – many polls had Labour 20% behind the Tories. But today’s Observer poll has Labour on 31% and the Tories only 6 points ahead at 37%. And Labour’s decent bye-election win in Glasgow North East also points to a possible shoring up of their support.

This improvement in Labour's electoral fortunes and its standing in the polls may be to do with perceived improvements in economic circumstances; and if the state of the economy does improve significantly before the election (as many are now suggesting will happen), it may give Brown a boost which further narrows the Tories' lead to a point where they cannot achieve an overall majority.

The next election could be the most fascinating in years. But what happens after it could be even more interesting: a hung parliament might finally lead to the introduction of a fair voting system - Proportional Representation - if the Lib Dems end up being kingmakers and demand it as part of a deal for propping up Labour or the Tories.

My betting career only goes as far as putting £2 on a horse that didn't win the Grand National - but next May or June I might throw a few bob after a hung parliament. And I'll definitely be staying up all night to watch the election.


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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Art - your input wanted...

Getting ever closer to the release of 'Lady Gasoline', my next album.

I'm now at the stage where we're trying to finalise artwork ideas. This being a new-fangled digital age, I thought I'd throw it out to my little band of online followers for input.

Can you take a look at the below cover ideas and let me know which is your favourite? If you were coming to the music cold (i.e., if you'd never heard my stuff before), which would appeal to you the most?

Each is numbered 1 to 6; please specify the number of your preferred option. Either leave a comment below or on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chrissingletonmusic. Feel free to elaborate on why you like a particular cover. Or if you don't like any of them, let me know that too!

Much obliged. Talk anon, Chris.

OPTION 1


OPTION 2


OPTION 3


OPTION 4


OPTION 5


OPTION 6

Monday, 12 October 2009

Charity gig on Friday 16 October

Just wanted to let you know that I'm doing an acoustic gig for charity in London on Friday 16 October at the Getty Images Gallery, which is just beside Oxford Circus.


It's to support my mate and top bloke Thomas Rigby, who is raising money for two charities: the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK (bowel cancer research) and Article 25, a development / disaster relief charity.

If you would like to come, just email mailto:%20info@chrissingleton.co.uk and I will sort you out with a ticket. They cost £20 but the drinks are complimentary. Should be a good night, and it'd be great to get your support.

Venue details are here: http://www.gettyimagesgallery.com/.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The death of the MP3

As many of you know, I've been quite an advocate of independent artists giving music away for free. Not because I don't value music, but because I don't think that indie musicians - and many established ones - have much of a choice around this. Digital technology and the internet has created an unlimited supply of recorded music, which means the real cost of it is rapidly approaching zero.

I've tried to take advantage of this as much as I can, by giving away MP3s in exchange for data. The idea being that you get my album free, but I can contact you about other stuff that you might want to pay for, like gigs or t-shirts (I've yet to do the latter: I find the idea of somebody wearing an item of clothing with my face on it a bit perturbing). It's working fairly well, with thousands of people now owning a digital copy of Twisted City, and more and more strangers - yes, strangers! - attending my gigs.

But I'm increasingly aware that this 'business model' is slowly - or perhaps not so slowly - becoming of limited use. This is because like the wax disc, vinyl LP, 8-track cartridge, cassette, minidisc and CD that went before it, the (downloaded) MP3 is going to die out...and soon.

Why is the MP3 in its death throes? Because a combination of streaming and increasingly sophisticated mobile devices connected to the net are starting to give people instant access to vast, online music libraries. Soon, there simply won't be a need for people to store MP3s or carry them around on iPods (believe me, these currently hip devices are going to look very quaint in the not-too-distant future). The humble MP3 represents the last incarnation of paid-for recorded music; and soon it will be a relic of the past.

What this means, of course, is that the current practice of artists giving away downloads in exchange for email addresses is also going to come to an end, and fairly soon. Which is a shame in many ways, as this has created an opportunity for musicians to generate large fanbases, and a cheap means to sell stuff direct to listeners, without record company involvement. If the MP3 is no more, with it dies the incentive for people to submit data for music; they'll just turn to Spotify to listen to stuff instead.

And where will this leave the record companies? It's an interesting question. Obviously if there is no recorded music left to buy, then they can hardly sell it. What they can sell though is concert tickets, because there is still a profit to be made from live performance - you can't make a digital copy of that. The result: record companies are going to have to become concert promoters if they want to survive.

So I think in about 5 years time the de facto model for the industry will be this:

1. Record company signs artist.
2. Record company advertises artist on TV, radio etc., encouraging people to stream their music on Spotify (or whatever the streaming service du jour is in 2014).
3. Fans do what they're told and stream Lady Gaga's new single (or whatever the electro-pop-cum-performance-artist sensation du jour is in 2014).
4. Record company puts on shows for the artist and sells tickets for them, taking a huge cut of sales.
5. If artist doesn't shift enough gig tickets, he or she is dropped, which means, yes, you got it...the artist is beholden to the record company again!

So if I were running a record company right now - and technically with my small label, Brownpaper Records, I suppose I am - I'd be turning it into a promotions company and looking for ways to get as much of the ticket sales pie as possible. And a cut of of everything else that's going too - publishing, sync rights, merchandise and so on. The buzz term for that is the '360 degree' model. I call it the piece-of-everything-you-ever-make-or-I'll-sue-your-ass model.

And if I were an artist, I'd start giving away dem MP3s like mad while you've still got people walking round with iPods. Yes, here it comes, the plug for the album: download it here. Free.

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Your face, on my artwork

A bit of an odd one this, but I think it could be fun.

As many of you know I've relied a lot on online marketing and social networking to distribute my music over the past year.

In the process I've encountered a bunch of very supportive people who have been incredibly helpful in spreading the word about my stuff and befriending me in every online way possible. If you're reading this, that probably includes you.

To say thanks, I'm inviting you to be a part of the artwork for my new record. You submit a picture of yourself, and - depending on the number we get - it'll end up on an album sleeve. It'll also be used in an online collage too.

With the online collage, when somebody clicks on your image it will take them through to a charity website of your choosing. If it's successful I'm hoping the idea will raise a few quid for 'charidy' as well as being an interesting design project.

So, if you'd like to be a work of art, then just head on over to http://www.singletonmusic.com/art/ where you can read all about the idea. I look forward to your photos.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Calais



















Images are from the Daily Telegraph.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

News on the new album and more free music

A quick update on where I'm at with various bits and bobs. Been so busy that I haven't had a huge amount of time to blog here (I'm sure my legions of readers are very upset about that).

First off, I've finished the new record. Was lucky enough to be able to master it at Abbey Road with Steve Rooke (of Beatles remasters fame), which was brilliant. The provisional release date is 26 April 2010, which is miles away, but that's to give me enough time to do the plethora of things that go with putting out a record. I'll be putting sneak previews of tracks up on the blog, and I might even do some Youtube acoustic versions soon.

Secondly, in the run up to the release, I'm making 'Twisted City' available for free again. The free version contains me popping up now and again in my best south Dublin accent, bugging you to donate to my honesty box, and it doesn't have any bonus tracks on it. Sincere apologies if you bought a copy recently...but hopefully you don't feel too short-changed, and I very much appreciate the support. I'm thinking of sending some extra free content to the people who bought the album - stay posted for more info on that. The free version of 'Twisted City' can be downloaded at http://www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum/ - check it out.

Finally, I've got a free EP of new music available. The tracks on the EP aren't on the new album but they were recorded during the sessions for it. Just recommend the free version of 'Twisted City' to 4 mates and you get the new EP totally free. Find out more at http://www.singletonmusic.com/invite/spreadword.htm.

Right, I'm off to bed. Talk soon.

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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Mastering the album at Abbey Road

Well the album is finally done now.

The final bit of the recording process involved a trip to Abbey Road to master the record. Mastering basically means putting the album through a very fancy equaliser, then compressing and limiting the record to beef up the sound.

The mastering equaliser we used at Abbey Road was an old EMI-designed piece of kit from the 70s; despite advances in recording equipment, these EMI mastering consoles remain incredibly popular with artists and producers (due to the way that they give records a more warm, 'analogue' sound) - so Abbey Road haven't got rid of them.

I was very lucky to have a chap called Steve Rooke master the album. He's done a lot of very impressive stuff in the past, but his recent big project was doing the Beatles remasters. I had great fun during our lunchbreak hearing how he went about it. Steve's a really nice chap - not to mention an extremely experienced mastering engineer - and working with him was both a pleasure and a privilege.

I took some shots on the day which I thought I'd post up here - a photo diary of sorts. Hope they're of interest.

The tube station at St John's Wood, the nearest station to Abbey Road. It's got a very funky staircase and lamps.



As I walked down from the tube to Abbey Road, I encountered something very odd, and which looked like it could have come straight out of a Sgt. Pepper-era promo film: a bunch of impressive-looking dudes on horses.



In Abbey Road they have tape machines like this just lying around the place in the corridors. I was drooling over this one. I'm surprised they don't get nicked more often.



This was the mastering equipment that the record went through. It dates from the 70s but people love the 'warm' sound it produces so much that they continue to use it in Abbey Road to this day...albeit hooked up to computers. You can "see" two of my new songs on the computer screen.



And here's yours truly in the mastering suite. I look like death, due to having been up all night putting the final touches to the mixes. A lot of coffee was needed during the session. Excuse my dishevelled appearance.



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Sunday, 9 August 2009

What's Rupert up to?

There's a bit of a buzz going round the newspaper industry right now which involves, rather predictably, Rupert Murdoch. He's been intimating a lot of late that free online news content might soon become a thing of the past, at least where his News International titles are concerned.

Well, good luck to him. Rupert may have been pretty shrewd with regard to his business dealings in the past - and this is possibly why the press are taking this idea seriously - but in the long run, I can't possibly see this idea of paying for news content working. Here's why:

Firstly, the internet doesn't respect copy protection. Once one person has content, countless other people do, because copying and distributing a file is insanely easy. There has been much energy expounded and cash spent by record companies to copy-protect their content - and all in vain: getting free albums is easier than ever (legally or illegally). There is nothing to suggest that the newspaper industry would be any more successful in putting a wall around text, which from a technical viewpoint is even easier to copy than music.

The second reason that copy-protecting newspapers will not work has to do with something that - somewhat ironically - Murdoch is very fond of: competition. Even if he finds a viable way to protect his content, where will that leave him? Competing against a bunch of other news organisations that are all offering their content for free. He's partly aware of this, which is why his titles are attacking the BBC so much for publishing free news content...but even if the Beeb was forced to remove or scale back its online news (not entirely unthinkable if the Tories get in next year), there would still be thousands of alternatives delivering quality, free, online news output. And that's before you even consider the blogosphere, an increasingly trusted source of news and comment (if all the big newspapers were to put their content behind a wall, bloggers would have a field day).

Before charging for his content, Murdoch would do well to check out a book called 'Free: The Future of a Radical Price' by Chris Anderson. In it Anderson shows how companies are increasingly using the power of free services or content to access new markets and generate profit. The classic example he cites is Ryanair: it gives its flights away for free in order to sell a bunch of other stuff: car hire, travel insurance, accommodation, train tickets, bus tickets, scratch cards, credit cards...the list is endless. But to date it has worked, albeit at the expense of horrible flights for its customers. And the reason that it has worked is that in truth Ryanair is not actually an airline but a provider of travel services (and anything else it can flog). The free flight is the turnkey that unlocks other - and very big - markets for the company.

And digitally, the power of free content is even more pronounced. Because of its cost-free, copy-and-paste nature, digital technology effectively creates unlimited supply. And as any economist knows, when there's unlimited supply, the price of what's being supplied will drop to zero; it cannot but become free.

Murdoch - and any other digital content provider - can try to fight this; but it's a losing battle. Whether you're a rock band, a filmmaker or a journalist, you simply have to face the fact that the internet is going to make your content available for free, whether you like it or not. Content creators have a choice: to restrict content, and put themselves at a massive disadvantage, or to think creatively as to how they can unleash the power of free content and distribution. It amazes me that somebody as savvy as Murdoch isn't aware of this, and it makes me wonder if there is some ulterior motive behind his floating of his idea of charging for content. It'll be interesting to see how it pans out.

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

A tour of my studio

One for the musical nerds amongst you: a video tour of my little studio, where I'm recording my latest (ahem) opus. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/chrissingletonmusic#play/all/uploads-all/0/amvSKMQ5GBI. It features me commenting on bits of recording equipment, an old organ, guitars and photographs of John Lennon.

I'm hoping to make a few more of these little videos; future ones might actually involve some music...stay posted and I'll try to make the videos a bit more exciting in future...maybe some tap dancing or something is in order, to liven them up a bit.


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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Be the first to hear my new album

Ok, so the new record's nearly done. It's 99% mixed. One more track, the dubiously titled 'Lady Gasoline' (a daft title and no relation to 'Lady Madonna' - I swear), needs to be recorded but then that's it...and then off to to master it and put it to bed.

Things being the way they are however, it's going to take a while before it gets released. I've got to work out how to actually put it out. Do I go physical? (That's not a sex thing, it means manufacturing cds!). Do I just put it out digitally? Do I encourage punters to buy it on iTunes or just ask them to buy it direct from my site? Do I tell people to listen to it on Spotify? The whole way that artists flog albums these days is a minefield and, while we're at it, an enigma wrapped in a mystery too.

Well that's for me to worry about. However, if you'd like to get a copy of the album before anybody else does, here's your chance. Anybody who posts threads on my messageboard - http://www.singletonmusic.com/messageboard/ - between now and 31 July will be automatically entered into a competition to get an advance copy. The more interesting your posts, the greater a chance you've got of winning.

Incidentally the judge's decision on who is the most interesting poster is final and I'm the judge. Get posting!


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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Thrifty Styley

As you probably know I'm a big fan of music promotion on a tight budget, and have come up with all manner of ingenious ways to spam - sorry "befriend" - you in various online contexts.

I'd just like to give a shout out to a blogging accomplice of mine who has recently started a blog about how to be thrifty when it comes to doing stylish things with your house. I've yet to follow any of the sage advice on her blog, as my idea of a stylish home is one with lots of guitars in it...but for those of you who are interested in being funky with your home whilst keeping the purse-strings firmly shut, the blog is full of very good and credit-crunch friendly tips.

Please check it out and subscribe if you can at http://thriftystylishhome.blogspot.com/

(Normal rock and roll and hyperbole services will resume shortly).


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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Syndication

Budding - or not-so-budding - musicians are naturally drawn towards social networks. In fact, I'd say the explosion in the popularity of social networks owes a lot to bands and artists going round 'befriending' people (a misnomer if ever there was one - and that's coming from a musician - 'bespamming' would be more appropriate!).

It's easy to see why: since their earliest days, social networks have offered bands (and indeed brands) a cheap way to connect with other people and to display their wares easily on a digital plate.

However, social networking has got to the point where there now are multitudes of communities to focus on - or worry about. Bands will know that keeping people engaged with these communities relies on there being interesting content regularly posted on these sites. But keeping tons of social networking presences up to date is extremely laborious.

Thankfully, there is a way around this, and it comes in the form of syndication. Recently I made a decision to use this blog as the main source of my content, and to feed it through to all my profiles. I started off by doing this mainly through importing this blog's Atom feed into Facebook pages, Last FM etc., but I'm now going to be using a tool called Ping to spread my blog's content all over the interweb.

If Ping does what it says on the tin, when I post this blog it should show up literally anywhere I've got a social networking presence - and that's a whole load of places: Myspace, Facebook, Last Fm, Twitter, iLike and more (it's getting faintly ridiculous!). Ping has been around for a while and I'm possibly a bit late to the party, but my hope is that from now on if I write stuff here, anybody else who has a whiff of interest in what I'm doing should get updated...without me having to worry about using javascript to import RSS feeds or copying and pasting content. There's a whole load of other snazzy (but probably pointless) stuff I can do with Ping too - for example, I think I can just text Ping if I want a message about the poo my cat is currently doing to appear on 20 social networks at once.

I'll let you know how I get on. If you're reading this successfully, it's probably worked!


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Monday, 15 June 2009

Facebook vanity URLs

The eagle-eyed social networkers amongst you will no doubt have noticed the launch of Facebook's vanity URLs on Saturday; individuals can now register a Facebook URL with their name plonked at the end of it - i.e., www.facebook.com/chrissingleton. If you've got a page with over 1,000 members, you can assign a Facebook URL to that as well.

I'm trying to work out what the benefits of this are to musicians (or indeed anybody else trying to flog stuff on an unsuspecting public). One of them is convenience. If you've got a Facebook page or profile, you can now just whack www.facebook.com/yourname on your marketing material. More importantly, there are probably some interesting search engine implications associated with having a vanity URL. I reckon that when you google a band with a Facebook page / profile associated with them, we'll now see the Facebook page come higher up in the rankings, because URLs that contain keywords have a positive impact on search results.

How useful the latter will be depends on how the band in question use Facebook; if it's your main marketing tool then search results displaying your Facebook page more consistently are unquestionably beneficial. If Facebook is not your main way of communicating with your fans, then it's better to use search engine optimisation and a lot of linking to ensure that the web presence you really want to push comes up top of the tree.

Very famous bands (or indeed brands) will be able to benefit from vanity URLs for another reason: people are lazy and will expect top-selling rock acts (or companies) to just have a Facebook page by default. So they won't bother searching for a band or brand's Facebook page, they'll just type www.facebook.com/u2 (or similar) directly into the browser.

Regardless of the benefits to those of us who wish to use Facebook to flog our wares, I've got a feeling that the whole search engine thing is ultimately more about Facebook than its users...the more Facebook can get associated with other people's content in search engine results, the more visits it will get to its site, and the more advertising revenue it will generate.

Anyway, now that I've waffled on about vanity URLS, do feel free to befriend me at mine: www.facebook.com/chrissingleton. It has a certain ring to it, don't you think? Makes me feel kinda vain. If you want to register your own vanity URL go to www.facebook.com/usernames.


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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Remembering the Roses

As the song goes, it was twenty years ago today, that Sgt Pepper taught the band - oh hang on, wrong album. Sorry. It was twenty years ago this month that The Stone Roses released their self-titled debut; and about thirteen years ago since I heard it for the first time. I was wandering fairly aimlessly around Clontarf in Dublin (worked up, if I recall correctly, about a girl who wasn't paying me sufficient attention) and I had a copy of the album, on cassette, in my cheapo walkman.

Despite the poor quality of my headphones (big fluorescent orange foam objects that I'd bought from a pound shop), as soon as I hit play, I knew the record was going to become the perfect soundtrack to that moment - and to that time in my life in general. Apologies for waxing lyrical here, but listening to it was like being let out of school early on a blisteringly hot summer's day; a first kiss; sagging off for a cheeky pint when you know you should be doing something officious. (See, I told you I was about to wax lyrical).

More simply put, it was a beautiful record. When it came out in 1989, its stunning melodies, jangly guitars, backwards tracks and close vocal harmonies must have represented an oasis (no pun intended) in the desert that was 1980s music. It was a return to decent record-making, and marked the advent of a 90s music scene - Britpop - which, whilst having a silly name, nonetheless brought with it better songs and hairdos than had been seen in a very long time.

And speaking of an oasis, The Stone Roses really set the tone for the 90s. The band that went on to dominate the decade, Oasis, were frequently likened to the Beatles - but any Stone Roses fan knew that in many respects, it was actually the Roses that were being ripped off - their look and Ian Brown's performance style in particular.

Oasis went on to outsell the Roses and become something of a national institution that the Roses never really were; but one thing Oasis never had, in my view, was the sense of mythology that surrounded the Roses. A lot of the great albums / bands are draped in this sense of mythology - to think of the classic Beatles, Pink Floyd or Velvet Underground albums is to immediately call to mind a tapestry of images, characters and stories that becomes interwoven and infused with the music itself and adds a sense of magic to it. It's a mythology that I think Oasis have strived for and tried to manufacture - watch that DVD about the making of their last album for a prime example of this - but have never been completely successful with. In contrast, The Stone Roses were a band that had this mystique / mythology in spades: Ian Brown's sullen stage act and almost whispered vocals; John Squire's Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork; lyrics that made dark and mysterious references to Christian myths.

"The Stone Roses" was the perfect name for the band and their first album; the juxtaposition of the hard and the soft in the title summed up the music perfectly. Their debut album was full of sunny music but also dark and enigmatic themes: when you pause to consider the lyrics of Made of Stone, for example, you realise that lurking underneath its gorgeous melody is a fantasy of killing off a lover.

20 years on, The Stone Roses is a record which still stands the test of time; it's regularly voted one of the top albums of all time in those polls that music magazines seem to feel the need to do every six months. It continues to inspire bands like Kasabian, Doves and Elbow. My own songwriting still references them a bit too (although not as much as when I was a teenager - you should have heard how ridiculous my efforts to copy Ian Brown's vocal style sounded).

It's a beautifully sunny day today, and I think I'm going to try to find the time to find a contraption, without big orange foam headphones, that will let me walk around the place listening to this album. Different city this time, but, for 40 minutes or so, probably the same feelings.

If you've got memories of the first time you heard The Stone Roses, I'd love to hear them - so do leave a comment. Cheers!


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Saturday, 23 May 2009

Chris Singleton music - for just a quid

As you may have noticed I've been experimenting a lot with how I get my music out to new audiences; in the past I've given away a lot of free music, and operated honesty box policies on downloads.

I'm currently trialling a system where you can choose what to pay for my last record, 'Twisted City', with prices starting from £1. It's a bit different from my previous honesty box payment system, because the more you pay, the more content you get (there are bonus tracks, e-books, downloadable videos and more on offer).

If you're curious, just hop on over to http://www.singletonmusic.com/buyalbum/choose/ where you can find out what it's all about. The bottom line though is that if you want to, you can download my entire last album for just a quid!

I hope you enjoy. If you have yet to sample my music, you can do so at http://www.singletonmusic.com/, where a free 3-track EP is available.

In other news, I'm nearly there with the new record - I hope to have it all done and dusted by the end of the month. Will keep you posted on that.


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Thursday, 21 May 2009

We're closing in...

At the end of my road there is a bus stop. For ages it had a poster slapped on the side of it which featured a rather rotund woman on it. Accompanying this image were the words 'We're closing in' and an encouragement for members of the public to dob in benefit cheats. Helpfully a hotline was provided for said dobbing-in purposes.



Now, forgive me if I'm wrong but it looked suspiciously like the woman on the poster in question was yes, poor, and dear me, coming out of a house on a council estate. Ah, I get it now - the people who are ripping off the system are without exception poor and they live in council estates.

I never liked this campaign, because at the same time that I was encountering these posters, I seemed to be reading more and more about this little thing called the credit crunch, caused by insanely wealthy bankers, who flagrantly abused the system to the point where it collapsed and had to be bailed out by the taxpayer - and there was a distinct lack of posters critical of them.

It all seemed pretty hypocritical to me then, but it seems incredibly hypocritical now. The expenses scandal has highlighted that the political class which organised this campaign and paid for it with, yes, taxpayers' money were, dear me, benefit thieves themselves.
(Incidentally I don't know why I'm saying 'dear me' a lot - perhaps I have had a pint too many and I'm overdoing the incredulity. Apologies.)

Right, so now that it has become clear that the money that I thought I was paying in tax to fund, you know, things like schools and hospitals is also bankrolling duck islands, moat-cleaning, property 'flipping', taxi-rides to Celtic games, capital gains tax avoidance, gardening costs, porno films, porticos, helipads, nappies and plasma TVs, I fully expect my bus shelter to feature a publicly-funded poster of my local MP looking shifty and being closed in on. And I don't want them to forget the hotline either.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The charts they are a-changing

Traditionally, music charts have been all about music sales. You sell records, you get in the charts; you don't, and you spin yourself as an serious, tortured act with a cult following who wouldn't be seen dead on a hit parade. Frankly, I know which camp I'd rather be in.

The UK (and other) charts have undergone a number of changes over the past few years. As physical cd sales declined, the chart rules were modified so that MP3 sales on iTunes and other digital retailers were taken into account. This led to some interesting effects: popular album tracks started entering the single charts; and obscure songs that had not been released as physical singles started to make surprise appearances, due to positive word of mouth and "grassroots" followings of underground acts.

The charts may be about to undergo another profound change. This is because I think that conventional sales - upon which charts are built - are on the way out. It seems increasingly likely (thanks to services such as Spotify) that people soon won't buy MP3s or cds any more, but will stream whatever songs they like over the internet (either on a subscription basis or by agreeing to hear adverts between tracks).

If this happens, the focus of charts is inevitably going to switch away from sales to the number of plays of particular songs. To a certain extent, this is already happening. The music social network Last FM currently tracks what its users are playing (see http://www.last.fm/charts for what's currently hot) and Spotify also shows you how popular tracks are as you play them.

In many ways, this emphasis on how many times songs are played is a more accurate reflection of the popularity of music than music sales. After all, a lot of people may buy a track - say, a novelty or charity single like Mr Blobby - only to rarely play it. Equally, a great album, released by an independent artist, may not sell many copies but get repeated plays by a dedicated, small following.

Interestingly, what all this raises is the possibility that some sort of 'song quality' indicator may emerge - something that goes beyond telling us how many people own a song, and lets us know how many people actually like a song. We could arrive at this indicator by dividing the number of plays of a track by the number of people playing it; for example, if 10 unique Spotify users play a song 100 times, you could give the song a popularity rating of 10 (100 divided by 10). But if the same 10 users played another song 1000 times, that track would have a popularity rating of 100 (1000 divided by 10).

Listening to music has traditionally been viewed as an intensely subjective experience, but what examples like the above point to is that maybe beauty does not entirely lie in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps certain songs have intrinsically good qualities that charts have not, hitherto, been able to highlight accurately. Online data could change all that, and start to highlight the fact that some songs have inherent and enduring appeal.

As with so many other things right now, the internet is allowing us to measure our behaviour in entirely new ways - and leading us to make remarkable conclusions about things. I wasn't really expecting the net to tell me how well-written a song is; but it's now looking like a distinct possibility. To conclude, the internet will become a rock critic.

Crikey.


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Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Spotify

A while ago I wrote about the future of rock and roll. The future, in my view, was that that rather than being bought, music would either be swapped for data (email addresses), or would be provided through an on-demand streaming service where listeners stream tracks for free so long as they listen to ads.

The 'music for data' half of that future arrived a while ago, with Radiohead's 'honesty box' release, In Rainbows; the second half has now arrived too, with the release of Spotify.

Spotify is a program which, once installed on your computer, allows you to legally stream pretty much any song you want (using an iTunes-style interface). But every three songs or so, you have to listen to an advert before you can play another track. Alternatively, you can pay £9.99 a month to listen to as much ad-free music as you like (about the cost of a newly-released chart cd).

Spotify represents a revolution in how we consume music - and if this way of listening to music becomes the norm (which I'm pretty confident it will), the implications for the music industry are enormous. There are three areas which I think will be particularly affected.

First, I've got a feeling that Spotify will slowly spell the end of the line for iTunes and other digital download services. Ok, so you can't currently download anything from Spotify on to an MP3 player - you have to play tracks through a computer that's connected to the internet. But that scenario is likely to change quite quickly, thanks to mobile broadband connections. If people can start streaming music from the internet onto their mobile phones using Spotify and 3G connections, then the need for MP3s becomes redundant (indeed, a Spotify application for the iPhone is already being discussed).

The second big impact is going to be on radio stations that primarily broadcast music. If a mobile phone version of Spotify comes along, you can pretty much take any music with you, anywhere. I'd be amazed if this didn't have an impact on the likes of Radio 1 and Radio 2. They might have to change their content somewhat to attract new listeners - I can imagine a lot more chat or documentaries about particular artists becoming a part of their schedules, to compensate for the fact that people are getting their music on the go elsewhere.

Finally, it's going to impact artists. If Spotify or a similar service becomes the de facto way to listen to music, then the whole idea of physical album sales is finally dead. Musicians will generate income from each play on Spotify - the PRS will make sure of that - but I doubt it will be as much as the income that physical cds used to bring in. Also, if the number of people who listen to radio stations falls, then so will royalties, so it will be hard for us rock and rollers to make money that way too.

Ultimately what all this spells for artists is that in future, the real money is going to be in gigging. Instead of record deals, we'll be looking for promoters to put us on a tour - in fact, I think the record companies are slowly morphing into promoters.

That's because a live performance by your favourite band in a real venue is one thing that the internet can't yet provide...but watch this space.


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Monday, 6 April 2009

The 3-D internet

There's been a lot of talk about Google Streetview of late (the UK version of which launched recently). Most of it has been about privacy issues. The press focussed on the fact that people were likely to get caught out (or perhaps burgled) as a result of that black car with the Googlecam on top doing the rounds. Love affairs blown. Joints cased. Dudes walking into sex shops in Soho being highly embarrassed.

Well, perhaps that may be so. But the real story is far more interesting.

What Streetview does is give us a hint of the way that the internet is going: 3-D. With Streetview, you can walk down a street, take a left turn, swing around, cross the road, have a look at something that catches your eye - all rendered beautifully. It's extraordinary.

If I may be so bold as to make a prediction, I reckon what will happen next is that certain businesses will allow users to 'go into' buildings - to click on them and be taken inside. At the moment, using Streetview, you can just 'stand' outside say, WH Smiths at Kings Cross. But in time I reckon you'll be able to click on it, go in, stroll down an aisle and order some books. Or click on a Domino's Pizza, have a bit of a stroll around and order, well, a pizza. Go into a HMV and buy a record. Walk sheepishly into the aforementioned shop in Soho and order something for the weekend. Or perhaps you might do something slightly more cultural and explore the exhibits of the Tate Modern - yes, you might one day be able to look at a urinal and a pile of bricks in an entirely new way altogether, and from the comfort of your own home.

If this comes to pass, we're going to be looking at a 3-D internet, where sites are no longer flat pages but virtual places to be explored (and most likely, shopped in). In fact, some of this has already been happening to a degree: the Second Life community is a 3-D online world which can be explored in the manner I'm describing. And people spend millions in its virtual shops. But so far, its userbase is still only a small percentage of internet users.

A more 'general' shift to 3-D seems like the logical next step for the net - where the 3-D, virtual world becomes the default browsing experience. Websites are still, generally speaking, flat pages with text and images on them, but the creation of Streetview gives us a glimpse of an internet which is really more of a virtual world; where websites could be housed within virtual buildings; where a chatroom is a virtual bar.

And technology being what it is, all this could get very sophisticated, and fast. Virtual reality isn't just about a visual experience; there are a host of devices - from headphones to helmets to 'wired' gloves - which all serve to make the virtual experience more physical. If the internet goes 3-D, computers get very fast, and physical devices are made available that let everybody 'touch' the virtual world, we are suddenly in the realm of science fiction: the holodeck from Star Trek's Next Generation.

Captain Picard aside, in the not too distant future, the internet could well morph into a virtual world that is indistinguishable from our own. It sounds far fetched, but so did the motor car, electricity and a mouse that grew a human ear on its back.

So bizarrely Google Streetview raises an existential question. If the internet goes down this route, it will become a man-made universe, perhaps one day turning into a digital dimension running in parallel to - and feeling just as 'real' as - our own. This points to the obvious: is 'real' life actually just a digital, virtual experience? After all, pretty much all life in our 'real' universe works like a computer program, built by a set of coded instructions in our DNA. And (okay, paraphrasing a bit here) physics is basically all about electricity and numbers - just like the internet.

Damn, it's The Matrix. A Keanu Reeves film explaining the meaning of life. What an annoying conclusion to have to come to. But believe me, not as weird as you might think.


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Monday, 23 March 2009

Jade Goody dies

Anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer knows that the disease can be summarised in one word: horror. The horror of diagnosis. The horror of knowing that days are numbered. The horror of saying goodbye. The horror of the physical pain. The horror of losing hair during treatment. The horror of treatment failing. The horror of blindness. The horror of organs shutting down one by one. Morphine. Losing consciousness. Death.

However, for anyone who (thankfully) hasn't seen a cancer death first hand, this reality has - up until now - remained relatively hidden. Although the 'one in three of us will get cancer' statistic is regularly bandied around by the press, I've never seen anything in the papers that really conveys what cancer means - until now.

With Jade Goody's death, there has been a sea-change in how cancer is presented to us by the media. For the first time, every minute detail that families of cancer victims are all-too-painfully aware of has been put in front of people. From the morphine machine in the wedding dress to the onset of Jade's blindness, the horror of cancer has, arguably for the first time, been really laid out for all to see. On TV, on the front pages of tabloids, on the internet, in office conversations, everywhere.

For me (and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh) Jade Goody didn't really offer much when she was alive, but her public death - whilst sad - has had very positive ramifications. More people are going for smear tests, donations to cancer charities are up; cancer awareness has increased. But the most important outcome is this: we are too good at hiding realities, but for once, the horror of cancer has been revealed. It's sad (although probably fitting) that it took a reality TV star to give us a dose of real life.

Or real death.



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Monday, 16 March 2009

Microsite for Betsey gig

A very quick one this to point you in the direction of a little microsite for my Betsey Trotwood gig.

Go to http://www.singletonmusic.com/betsey/ where you can buy a ticket (recommended as the venue is small), download a free EP, look at press coverage and invite your friends to the show.

Incidentally tickets are only £10 now - costs of show fell so I passed it on to the punters...

Hope to see you at the gig. All the best Chris

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Britain for sale

Living in Britain as something of an outsider (sort of: I'm Irish but of a lot of English descent), I perhaps get more wound up than most by the anti-Johnny-Foreigner attitude that is expressed by the British media.

Now don't get me wrong - there is plenty of antipathy towards foreigners in Ireland - but the levels of hysteria expressed by the British press about immigration and the hatred directed towards all things to do with the European Union are in another league. And you see this hatred expressed by individuals too, with people I know joining Facebook groups such as "I was born in the UK so why the fuck do I have less rights than immigrants" or "This is our country and if you don't like it fuck off". No doubt the constant barrage of foreigner-bashing headlines in the media inspires the negative attitudes and the Facebook group names (and incidentally, I find it interesting that the more right-wing the group, the more the work 'fuck' appears in it).

The impression that the press gives is one of Britain being a perfect country with a perfect identity that is somehow sullied by these bad people from abroad interfering with it. But the problem with this (aside from the obvious) is that the British press also seem to hate their own state, and the idea of their own government 'interfering' either.

As such, most British newspapers have campaigned for decades for the Government to keep out of owning or running British public services - and successfully too. Railways, electricity, gas, airports, airlines, ferries, telecommunications and even water have been taken out public ownership and placed in the hands of wealthy private owners.

The irony of all this, is that the new private owners in question often tend to be...yes, you guessed it, foreigners. The French provide a hell of a lot of UK electricity. A Spanish company runs most of the big airports. American healthcare companies are cherry-picking bits of the NHS. If Mandelson gets his way, we might have a Dutch company delivering mail. God knows who's running the railways (the train operating companies certainly don't).

Remember British Rail? Sealink? British Gas? British Telecom? You, the Brits, used to own and run them. You don't any more. They are all in the hands of various rich people, many of them from abroad. The nationality of these private owners doesn't bother me; what frustrates me is the fact that public services have been placed in the "care" of private owners at all.

When a public service is privatised what typically happens is this: a middle man gets put into the mix (interestingly, something that successful companies always try to avoid). The service often remains bankrolled or underwritten by you and me, the taxpayer, but the middle man (Johnny Foreigner or Paddy Englishman, I don't care) has to make a profit. In order to facilitate this profit, invariably one (or all) of the following things needs to happen:

  • more tax has to be spent on giving our middle man his profit
  • the Government has to reduce the level of access to the public service because it now costs more
  • the middle man has to reduce the cost of the service by cutting corners or staff pay (both detrimental to the quality of the service)
  • the taxpayer, in addition to paying for the service through tax, has to provide a top-up payment to facilitate the profit (that's why UK rail fares are extortionate!)
The counter-argument to the above is that the private sector adds 'rigour' and competition. It's apparently meant to be more efficient than the public sector. Well, private sector 'rigour' and 'efficiency' don't seem all that appealing in the light of the credit crunch - if the private sector can't even get private finance right, how on earth is it meant to cope with public services?

As for competition, it doesn't (and can't) exist for many of the public services that have been privatised. Privatisation hasn't provided me with a range of choices when it comes to things like water, buses or trains. I'm stuck with what's provided - the middle man for my area. (I'm currently using Russian gas and French electricity and I have to get a bus owned by a company that operates transport in Germany and Denmark. Again, not that I mind the nationalities - it's the nature of the ownership that worries me).

Whatever the debate about efficiency, there is still the issue of accountability to think about. "Public service" means just that: serving the public, not making some guy rich. Should a health service be run to make somebody a profit, or should it serve the interests of everybody? Should an environmentally-friendly train journey cost two to three times as much as travelling by car, just so First Great Western can stay in business? Should something as fundamental to life as water be controlled by a company, or should it belong to all of us?

As for rich foreigners, it's hardly surprising that the press has no problem with them owning British public services. After all, they've got a little thing for owning British newspapers too. Isn't that right, Mr Murdoch? Mr Black? Mr Lebedev?



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Sunday, 8 February 2009

Betsey Trotwood show in April

Just to let you know about another London show coming up - I'll be playing the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell on 1 April. It'll be another full band show, so I'm quite excited about it. I love, er, playing with my band - such great musicians. And I've heard great things about the venue too.

Tickets are £10 plus booking fee (75p). This is a slightly higher ticket price than for the recent Troubadour show, but the increase is not for profiteering reasons (I haven't quite worked out how to make a profit yet!). Basically the venue is gorgeous but tiny and order for us to break even, ticket prices have to be a bit higher. I hope it won't deter you from coming along.

If you do want to attend, please get your ticket ASAP to avoid disappointment - the capacity of the venue is only 50. Tickets are available to buy online at http://www.stubmatic.com/chrissingleton/event/317

I'm working on getting some fantastic special guests to play at the show, and I'm really looking forward to it. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The politics of snow

Being a simple Irish country boy*, I never fail to be amazed at how people overreact to things here in the UK.

It snowed. And people didn't go to work. And kids threw snowballs at people, including me -the cheeky scallywags (thankfully no rocks, otherwise I would have upgraded 'scallywag' to an expletive). And all of a sudden we've got a political row going on. About snow. The Daily Telegraph is moaning about schools being shut, and whinging that the UK's lack of preparedness for adverse weather is costing the economy billions. And so on. Even the Guardian's making a big deal about it.

Interestingly, in this era of triangulation, the politics of snow divide along traditional left / right lines. The Right are all complaining that years of state nannying (not that I've seen much nannying post-Thatcher) has left us without the grit (pardon the pun) to get up and go to work/school. The Left attribute the inefficiencies in clearing roads to privatisation and the sub-contracting of road-salting. Question Time was a hoot tonight because of the impassioned feelings and debate about snow (incidentally, Will Young's out-of-depthness added to the hilarity, particularly when he tried to answer questions about Carol Thatcher and gollywogs. Mind you, he's a brave man for going on that show).

I like to take a political stance on almost everything - to the point of annoying everybody - but in this instance my response is: it snowed. It was a bit of a laugh. We all built a snowman. Kids - shock! horror! - got a day off school. This kind of thing doesn't happen very often (I think the last snowfall like this in Britain was nearly 20 years ago), and it was good fun. Once again, the UK press has totally overreacted and tried to whip up anger over nothing.

There are lots of things that we could be worried about right now, but not snow. Frankly the weather was a welcome distraction from all those gloomy reports about the economy.

Here's my take on it anyway: British snow for British snowmen.

* technically I'm not from the country, I'm from Dublin - and I'm not entirely Irish either. My father comes from the south of England.


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Monday, 2 February 2009

Twitter

Hmnn...interesting. Everybody is currently talking about Twitter the way that we all went on about Facebook a couple of years ago. Even though Twitter's been around for a while, I think it's only now that widespread take-up of it is starting to happen. Maybe it's something we've all got to do in a recession.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is basically a way of telling people what you're up to at a given point in time. It's pretty much like a Facebook status update, but I think what makes it a little bit more interesting than that is the way you can syndicate your twittering quite easily across the web. One status update can be broadcast across a wide range of networks - say what you're doing on Twitter, and it can appear on your Facebook page, website, blog and so on.

I'm not sure what the advantages of this are yet, compared to syndicating other content, but more and more people are twittering, so there is probably something in it - at the very least, some sort of market. As such, I'm going to find out how musicians can use Twitter to flog albums and gig tickets. If I come up with any interesting 'learnings' (to use a horrible management-speak word that should be banned) I shall think about letting you know.

If you are arsed, my rather uninteresting twittering can be heard at http://twitter.com/chrissingleton.


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