Thursday, 24 January 2013

Would you pay £18.50 for an album?

The recent demise of the HMV chain of record stores, the last real national outlet for buying music on the high street, has got me thinking.  All the places where I bought music as a teenager are long gone Our Price, MVC, Woolworths, Tower Records and now HMV.  I ought to be nostalgic for them but I'm not.  I couldn't even summon up much enthusiasm for the inevitable 'support you local independent record store' campaign.


I suppose I have to think about why I used to shop there and why, even though I buy just as much music now as I did in my youth, I haven't bought anything from a record shop in years.  The main reason was that it was the only choice.  You had whatever stock was in your local record shops and that was it.  If they didn't stock it, you weren't getting it.  I can remember finding a review of an album from years previously and deciding that it sounded so good that I just had to get that record (It was 'The Inmates Meet The Beatles Live in Paris' seeing as you're asking).  I had to go to the shop, they looked it up in some big reference book and ordered it.  It took about 2 months to get it!

So yes CHOICE, is the big thing.  The internet has changed music distribution entirely and how can a physical store, even a huge one, compete?  The Tower Records shop at Piccadilly used to be almost a tourist attraction because of the range of music it stocked.  Right now, via Spotify, YouTube or a dozen other services I can listen to practically anything I want.  And that has enabled people to branch out and try new artists and genres in a way that was simply incomprehensible only a decade ago.

Another change has been the COST of music.  Aside from the streaming options mentioned above, if you want to buy music it is quicker and much, much cheaper than ever before.  When preparing for my last show I came across this CD from Travis.  It cost £14 in 2001, that's £18.50 in today's money.  I can buy a brand new copy of that CD from Amazon today for £5.30, or a used copy for £1.27 (download is £8 for some reason).

Travis: Worth £18.50 or £1.27?
Okay, so comparing the price with a used copy may not be a fair comparison but it represents an option that is available to me today that would not have been there a decade ago.

Would you pay almost £20 for an album? No, we have adjusted to a different price range.  I'd baulk at paying more than £7 now unless it was for something really special.  Even then that decision is normally made after giving the album a few listens on Spotify first.  How can a record store compete on cost?  It's not that long ago that HMV were still trying to sell albums for £15.  The surprise is not that they've gone bust but that they lasted as long as they did.

However perhaps the reason most people give for why they love record shops, especially the independents, is the staff.  Building that personal relationship with someone who would recommend new music to you or maybe just a cool place to hang out and listen to something different.  Who wouldn't want to hang out in Championship Vinyl from the movie High Fidelity?

Maybe I just never found the right record store?  But I do know that now with blogs, facebook, twitter and all the other resources of the Internet I can get more interaction and recommendations about music then ever before.  Plenty of the tracks that I play on the shows are from 90s bands that I'd never heard of before people through our facebook and twitter sites recommended them.

So I've got more access to information about new (and old) music than ever before, can purchase or listen to almost any music and at a much, much lower cost than at any other time in the history of recorded music.  So farewell HMV and your ilk but your time has passed.  For a blog that focuses on 90s music it may seem a bit rich but in this instance nostalgia for record shops is over-rated, we've never had it so good.

Of course you may disagree...

Postscript: After watching that clip I too felt the urge to obey John Cusack and purchase a copy of 'The 3 E.P.s by The Beta Band'. Instead I had a listen on Spotify.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Playlist from January Britpop Revival Radio Show

Another enjoyable show, thanks to everyone who got in touch via email, Facebook and Twitter.  Not so enjoyable when the first record failed to play though, 10 seconds of dead air felt like an eternity before I realised that I'd accidentally pressed the mute button!

Also, had a great time interviewing Philip Watson about Speedy and their lost album, News From Nowhere.  The songs below have been added to our ever expanding Spotify Playlist.

Songs played:

  1. Don't Look Back In Anger - Oasis
  2. The Changingman - Paul Weller
  3. For The Dead - Gene
  4. King Of The Kerb - Echobelly
  5. In Your Car - Kenickie
  6. Baby Come On - Spacemaid
  7. Richard III - Supergrass
  8. Farewell To Twilight - Symposium
  9. Rollercoaster - Northern Uproar
  10. Barriers - Suede
  11. Dumb Jam - James
  12. Don't Let It Get You Down - Echo And The Bunnymen
  13. Riverboat Song (BBC Session) - Ocean Colour Scene
  14. Reaching Out From Here - The Boo Radleys
  15. Everest - The Supernaturals
  16. I'm Sparticus - Blammo!
  17. Another Day (In The Life Of Riley) - Speedy
  18. Boy Wonder (Live) - Speedy
  19. Anytime Anyplace Nowhere - Speedy
  20. Time For You - Speedy
  21. Bigger Than The Menu - Stamford Amp
  22. Babies - Pulp
  23. Breathe (A Little Deeper) - Blameless
  24. On & On - Longpigs
  25. You're Gorgeous - Babybird
  26. She Left Me On Friday - Shed Seven

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Gallagher that cried wolf

So I see that Liam Gallagher has been talking to NME saying "Beady Eye's new album is the LP Oasis should have made after 'Morning Glory'".  Yeah right.

Liam Gallagher, telling it like it is? 
Does anyone actually believe that?  Before 'Different Gear, Still Speeding' was released he said it was "better than 'Definitely Maybe'".  I'm listening to it as I'm typing this. It isn't, it so isn't.

I genuinely hope that the new Beady Eye album is the business.  It's just that nobody is going to take Liam's protestations of greatness seriously until he delivers on it.  He said he was disappointed by the public's reaction to 'Different Gear, Still Speeding', wondering if it was too soon after Oasis.  The brutal truth is that it just wasn't that good.  A few decent songs but largely bland and hugely derivative, it's not surprising that people voted with their wallets.

In this online world people no longer buy albums based on reputation.  When both Different Gear and High Flying Birds came out I gave them both a number of listens on Spotify and on the basis of that bought one and not the other.  You can still sell a lot of records Liam, and I hope you do, you just need to make an album that merits it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Vapour Trails hits the airwaves

I'm pleased to say that, starting this week (7th), my new show Vapour Trails will be going out on Strangeways Radio every Monday at 3pm EST, 8pm GMT.

I'm thinking of this as my 'bigger Britpop' show.  What do I mean by that?  Well for a start I'm going to be playing a wider range of music as I think that the audience will be a bit more specialist, so I have the licence to go 'off-piste' a little.  Yes, there will still be Blur & Oasis but with an hour to record every week it wont last very long if I just play the hit singles.  So you can expect more album tracks, more recent material from established Britpop bands, we'll go back and even have some Madchester and Baggy as well as picking up on some more current bands who I think fit with the Britpop genre.

Come and join me every Monday afternoon (America) or evening (Europe) at, you'll find me in the chatroom.  Stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 and all that

Well, another year over and a new one just begun as John Lennon once said.  So this seemed a good time to sit and have a think about what has happened for Britpop Revival in 2012 and I think it's safe to say, it's been a pretty busy year that has developed in all sorts of ways that I didn't plan!

Towards the end of 2011 the band that I had been playing in for the previous 5 years came to an end and I started looking for a new project.  I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to start a covers band playing Britpop.  It made sense commercially (there were plenty of 60s & 70s cover bands locally but none doing 90s) and I really loved the music.  Promoters were keen and as soon as I'd mentioned it people started approaching me to book a band that didn't even exist yet.  Seeing how much interest there was I started a facebook page, asking people what songs they'd like to see the band playing and pretty soon it started to grow with plenty of people keen to share their love of Britpop.

The band never really got going though.  We didn't quite get the right people together and after a few rehearsals it just sort of petered out.  If I'm honest I also wasn't relishing the business side of running a semi-pro band again.

The facebook page was still growing and it quickly transformed from being a band page into a general fan page for all things Britpop.  More and more people kept joining, including loads from Indonesia and Malaysia for some reason.  Even today Indonesia and Malaysia accounts for about 40% of the people who 'like' the page, though they don't post much.

In the summer FB made some changes to how pages work and suddenly, although we had thousands of people following us, only hundreds were getting to see each new post.  Despite this the page continued to thrive and a number of 'regulars' started to emerge and I really enjoy all the comments and interaction with people on the page - it's why I do it.

The idea for a radio show had been brewing for a little while but it got the kick that it needed at a children's party of all places.  I was talking with a friend about how I'd love to do a show playing Britpop music and he simply said "Well have you done anything about it?".  I said not really and at that point realised that I either needed to put up or shut up.  When I got home I sent an email to my local community station Phonic FM and a week later I was in their offices pitching the show.

All of a sudden everything had a new focus.  The mixcloud page for hosting previous shows was set up and I started writing this blog.  With the help of people through Facebook and Twitter the set list came together and by the time of the first show in November there was a community of people out there all across the UK and the world listening in (well a few anyway).  Despite being petrified for at least the first hour of that show, it felt great.  As soon as it was over I wanted to do it again.  Once a month was not going to be enough!

Soon after that first show I was flattered to be asked if I'd like to produce a weekly show for Strangeways Radio, an internet station based in the States.  I jumped at the chance and the new show, called Vapour Trails, will be starting in a couple of weeks.

One of the things that I most pleased to have been involved with this year has definitely been helping to put the lost Britpop album News from Nowhere by Speedy onto the net.  I know that I have gone about this at length in previous posts so I shan't do it again now!  Suffice to say that if you haven't heard it yet, you really should.

The Speedy episode is one example of something else that has surprised me. I've discovered loads of great new music, albeit much of it is actually old.  Through Facebook and Twitter people are always suggesting new bands that fit with the Britpop genre or reminding me of old bands they liked, some of whom I've never even heard of.  Spotify is a massive help for tracking stuff down as is Zoverstocks, who stock all sorts of old stuff for just pennies (see 1palbumclub).

So it's been a great and surprising year.  My thanks to you for reading this blog and getting involved, that is what has made all the difference.

2013 is already shaping up to be even better.  The new show for Strangeways Radio starts in just a few days and I am really looking forward to that.  On Phonic I am planning to have our first live studio guests.  We'll also be looking at number of interviews and perhaps even a session or two as the year progresses.  There is the enticing possibility of doing some DJing on the Other Stage at Glastonbury this year, which would be fantastic if it comes off. In March I should be going to see Suede and then the following week Damon Albarn & Noel Gallagher on stage together  - wow!

What else? Who knows.  I had no idea that 2012 would work out like it did so whatever happens I'm just going to roll with it. (I have to get a cheesy DJ link in somewhere!)