The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

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21

JujutsuYesterday the Consumer Association of Ireland published the letter they sent to MCD after receiving complaints from hundreds of ticket holders for the Barbara Streisand gig in Celbridge. The letter seeks a refund in addition to compensation for the complainants that contacted them.

Will MCD cough up? Many doubt it and that what awaits us, once they send in their reply to the CAI, is another round of phone-ins to Joe Duffy featuring some of the punters in question, the CEO of the CAI and a PR person from MCD going on the defensive with a list of banal talking points. And then it'll all quieten down, until the next concert controversy.

Surely there is an alternative here? An opportunity for MCD to turn this around? Instead of taking a position of 'no compromise' in the face of consumer uproar and having to go on the defensive, why not take control of the conversation and turn it around to their benefit? There's many ways this could be done but here's one 5 step plan for MCD to do exactly this:

  1. Reply to the CAI acknowledging some shortcomings in the organisation of this particular gig that effected a small proportion of patrons and agree, as an act of goodwill, to take it on the chin and reimburse these ticket holders (limiting it to those that had contacted the CAI up to the date the CAI sent their letter). Cost? My back-of-envelope calculation says we're talking about 100k Euros.
  2. Ensure the report of the 'specialist committee' that MCD set up to investigate what happened at the gig (it is due to be published the week of Sept 10th) has a set of solid generic recommendations for organising & managing events of this nature.
  3. When the report is published issue a press release welcoming the report and accepting its recommendations in full, stating that they will be fully reflected in a new 'Customer Charter' for all MCD events, to be published by the end of 2007.
  4. Commit to placing the 'Customer Charter' at a visible place at all future MCD-managed events and provide a freephone customer contact service on the charter for patrons who wish to complain about any aspect of the event's organisation.
  5. Then invite all the other promoters in Ireland to either:

         a. Draft a similar Customer Charter for their customers, or,
         b. Propose the text of the MCD charter as a model for all promoters.

With this sort of approach they can, Jujutsu-like, turn what has been a PR disaster into a PR coup, one that puts its competitors on the back-foot and raises the game for the entire industry.

Update: An hour or so after this entry was first published Jim Carroll posted on his blog that Aiken Promotions have recently published a 'customer care policy' on their website. I dug around a bit in the search engines and was able to conclude (from various cached copies of the Aiken website's home page) that the 'customer care policy' was published by Aiken sometime between July 17 and Aug 3rd (i.e. just after the Streisand concert debacle). So the opportunity for MCD to lead the way on this front has been taken from them by their main competitor. The Aiken policy however I note is not complete (e.g. no customer care line in place) so there is still room for MCD to up the ante and offer a 'charter' that is far-reaching and sets a high bar for the rest of the industry.


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21

Barbara StreisandThe Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) today published a letter it sent to MCD, motivated by 95 complaints representing 343 ticket holders to the Barbara Streisand concert in Celbridge.

No matter what you think of Madame Streisand's music (or, for that matter, of people prepared to cough up a fortune to sit in a field and listen to it) the letter presents a long list of complaints from a large number of punters.

The letter seeks not only a refund but also compensatation for the complainants for "their lack of enjoyment of the concert" (although I do note that the lack of enjoyment they talk about is not of the musical kind).

Citing the The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980, the letter also claims a breach of the 'law of contract' and that the punters in question are - therefore - entitled to a "remedy". Hmmmm. Roll on MCD's reply, which - it would seem - we can expect the CAI to publish on their website.


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17


CD Disc

Twenty-five years ago, on August 17 1982, the first ever CDs rolled off an assembly line in Hannover Germany. And the music that was on those first CDs? Some future-focused music of the day? Maybe New Order's 'Temptation'? Or Simple Minds 'Glittering Prize'? Or even the Stranglers 'Golden Brown'? No, the first music on the first CD was Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony.

The first CD player hit the shelves a few months later on 1 October 1982. A Sony player, it was initially available only in - where else but - Japan. And the first CD to be supplied for mass consumption? Billy Joel's '52nd Street'. Obvious choice, really.

Anyway, will the CD be still on the high street for its 30th birthday? I have my doubts.


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17

 

NME are reporting that the new Radiohead album (which was remastered last month) won't be out until 2008. I can only speculate, but there may well be some fascinating stuff going on behind this decision to postpone the release.

With Radiohead out of a contract, their non-aversion to corporate bashing (despite being signed for years to a multinational) and the music industry up in arms over what the future holds, I suspect that they are planning some innovative means of getting the album out there. I certainly don't expect them to do a Prince and stick a free copy of the album on the cover of the Daily Mail, nor just release it via iTunes or eMusic or Amazon's new MP3 store. They are in a unique position - a band with a huge global following without any record company obligations - to do something radical, shake some indsutry feathers and make a pretty buck while they're at it.

Or maybe they'll just release it on vinyl only.

Anyways, want to hear some snippets of the new album? Nigel Godrich, back as producer on their new long-player, took bits of tape which were chopped out of the mixes when tracks on the new album were edited. He then stuck them on a reel and when you play it back it sounds like this (Quicktime plugin required, if your browser does not show anything below go to where this was originally posted on the Radiohead site, and scroll down to the 15 June entry):


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14

European Court JusticeThe days of record company lawyers sending intimidating letters to music fans suspected of illegally downloading and/or uploading copyrighted music may be coming to an end. At least in the EU.

If it happens it will be as a consequence of some action in that plush auditorium there to the right. No it's not Whelan's after its ongoing refurbishment, it's the main chamber of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. There is a strong likelihood that the ECJ's judges may soon rule that ISPs should not hand over to record companies details of an individual subscriber who is suspected of illegally downloading music.

An 'Advocate-General' produced advice for the ECJ on a case in Spain where a group representing the interests of copyright holders were requesting, in the context of a civil action, that an ISP (Telefonica) hand over information that would help them identify individual subscribers. The advice to the ECJ was that only in criminal cases - not in civil cases such as this - would the ISP be compelled to hand over the requested data. If the record companies can't get that data, they can't - obviously - get their lawyers to write those letters.

In the past the ECJ have followed the advice of an 'Advocate-General' in three-quarters of cases. If they do so this time it will put an almighty plank in what has been a principle reactive strategy pursued by record companies and their umbrella industry organisations since the arrival of music downloads. Maybe this will get them to focus proactively on more important aspects for the future of the music industry such as: removing copy-protection from MP3s, reducing the cost of a download and using more innovative pricing models.


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14

Universal Music GroupWhen recently blogging about what might possibly be the best ever pricing model for selling MP3s I mentioned how EMI were the only major record label to allow MP3s of their artists' music to be sold without copy protection. Now however they are being joined by Universal. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

Over the weekend Universal records said they would start selling MP3s free from the shackles of Digital Rights Management. A welcome move, but as always the devil is in the detail. For example:

  • Their move is an experiment and not a full commitment to go down the route of DRM-free MP3s. They will evaluate how things are at the end of January before deciding if they will stick with this strategy.
  • They will not sell songs on iTunes that are free of copy-protection.
  • Tracks will not be sold indivdiually but by the album. Which defies logic as consumers shift more and more towards cherry picking the tracks they want to buy. Not to mention acts such as Ash who are moving towards releasing singles only.

The sort of good news is that they will sell these tracks for 99 US cents, 30 cents less than EMI are selling non-copy protected MP3s. Still twice the price they should be sold at, if you ask me. But some competition is better than none at this early stage in the whole digital music game.

What about the other 2 major labels who are still selling their MP3s with copy protection? I'd say give them just 6 months and they will be on board. And then competition will hopefully drive prices down. And maybe to even zero cents one day...


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08

Amie Street Logo

When it comes to downloading legal music from the internet two of the biggest names in town - iTunes and eMusic - have built up their business on back of two different pricing regimes. iTunes charge consumers by the download - 99 cents for each DRM-protected track (or EUR 1.29 for a track that is DRM free, but of EMI artists only). On the other hand eMusic have a subscription model where every month you can pay from EUR 12.99 (for 20 downloads, no DRM protection) up to Euro 20.99 (for 75 downloads).

iTunes and eMusic however can expect some potentially considerable competition when Amazon launches their MP3 store later this year but the most disruptive aspect of their launch could be its pricing model. While there has been no announcement yet from Amazon on how they will price their downloads, a strong hint emerged this week when it was revealed that Amazon has invested in a small US based start up company who have a very innovative new pricing model for MP3s.

Amie Street, the small online music retailer who secured the investment from Amazon, are already out there offering a unique pricing structure - every song sold by Amie Street is not just free of any DRM shackles but it is also - initially - totally free to download. But as more people start to download the song the price rises, up to a maximum of 98 US cents (i.e. 31 cents less than the price of a DRM-free track on iTunes).

Will this be the pricing structure of Amazon's future MP3 store? If so - and it is successful - could we see the eMusics and iTunes of the world adopt it? It all remains to be seen but the whole digital download industry - despite the ubiquity of iPods and other portable MP3 players - is really only now getting off the ground. And the major labels are playing catch-up.

Between Amazon's pending (DRM-free) arrival in the market place and Steve Jobs' plea to the music industry earlier this year that they remove copy protection from MP3s (which to date AFAIK has only been embraced, among the  majors, by EMI), I think it is a matter of time before restrictions placed on legal downloads become a thing of the past. Sure, as Prince is showing the world, you can give away your music to your fans - without copy restrictions nor charge - and still make a financial killing (once off payment of £250,000 from the Daily Mail, and God knows how many millions from his 21 day stint in London's O2 arena).

I know it's all very utopian but the day may still come when we will have an even simpler version of the Amie Street pricing model: music available for free, forever.


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02

Elton JohnNote: After a huge interlude (during which whatever spare time I had was focused on sorting out stuff for the CLUAS site) I'm now getting back into blogging, I suspect it'll be in starts and studders for a while though, but hang in there...

The internet is, er, killing the music industry. Obviously.

Thankfully we have Elton John who, single-handedly, has come up with the best idea yet to save the music industry from inevitable death delievred by the hand of devious digital demons:  we must (wait for it) shut the internet down!

Damn, if only I had thought of that earlier. Yes, in yesterday's Sun Elton John went on the (analog, non-digital, paper-archived) record stating:

"I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span… there’s too much technology available… I’m sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting.”

Glossing over the fact that he is making a packet after recently deciding to put his back catalogue online, I must say that I for one am all up for it. Yes, let's indeed shut down the internet for 5 years and see what sort of music is conjured up. 

If everyone else out there doing stuff on the internet can agree to do the same, I'll gladly do my bit and shut down CLUAS until August 2012 (at which point you are all cordially invited to pop back to the CLUAS Discussion board to talk about how it all went).

Deal?


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01

Warning: 
This blog entry starts out with a flimsy but deceptive rock music angle to lure a reader in. This is a trick. Because - before you know it - it descends full-on into all sorts of political stuff.

Whether the widely derided Rock the Vote initiative had any impact in terms of getting greater numbers of younger voters to vote is something we will probably never know. I for one have my doubts that they did succeed on this front. But in an earlier posting on Rock The Vote I lamented how the initiative did not have any chance (or apparent willingness) to address what are two other key barriers to getting a greater proportion of 18-30 year olds voting, namely:

  • Not being registered to vote (or being registered to do so in another part of the country from where you live / work / study),
  • The (since time-eternal) imposition of the party in power of a week day election.

Now it's not very rawk'n'roll but indulge me a bit here as, below, I delve into the latter of these two points.

The deal is that Ireland is completely out of step with the vast majority of other European countries in terms of when elections are held. Our elections (and referenda for that matter) have always been held on week days, putting a downward pressure on the level of turn out. But take a tour of continental Europe and you'll fine the vast majority of other countries hold their elections on a weekend: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Romania, Iceland – I could go on - all hold their elections on a weekend. That the turnout in these countries - young voters included - is higher than a weekday Irish election (or referendum) will come as no surprise (sure 84% of the entire French electorate, in between reading entries on Aidan's French Letter blog, turned out not once but TWICE to vote in each of the two rounds of their recent Presidential elections, and both rounds were - bien sûr - held on a Sunday).

I think that even if Rock The Vote were carried out properly (which as a minimum that would mean not launching at the last minute nor having an inane dependency on pointless YouTube clips) is not on its own going to cut the mustard. So what to do? Let me stick my idealistic but naïve political neck out here and say that the only way to be sure it is going to happen is (sharp intake of breath) to get it engraved into the law of the land. Maybe it's piece of legislation that is required, or maybe an amendment to the Constitution – I sure haven't a clue. Either way it ain’t going to happen overnight, if at all. But if there is to be any chance some new stuff must happen. And start to happen now.

Key to it must be to building up some sort of momentum and visibility for weekend voting and why it's a good thing (greater participation in the democratic process, greater mandate for elected politicians, more yuff votes being cast meaning greater interest from politicians on youth issues, bring us in line with our sophisticated continental cousins, etc, etc). If all this becomes more visible, more prominent in our (cough, splutter) national conversations, you never know, the occasional elected politician (or upstart seeking to steal the seat of a sitting chancer politician) might take a bit of notice. They might see it as a potential vote winner, or an issue to embrace in order to differentiate themselves from other vote chasers they're up against. Or so goes the thinking. In fact imagine this was done years ago, we this week could have had FF, as they shadow-box their way towards piecing together a coalition, sitting down with an independent TD who says FF could count on him or her on the condition that they legislate for weekend elections.

Talk etc is fine, but might there be an opportunity in the coming month or two to actually do something? Here's my thinking. Some of the biggest universities in the country (the NUI colleges & TCD, stuffed with plenty of Irish yuff last time I checked) actually have their own political voices in the Oireachtas. Between them NUI & TCD elect 6 senators to the (60 seat) Irish Senate and voting to fill these 6 seats for the next sitting of the Oireachtas closes on July 24th (graduates of these universities each have a postal vote). Now I am fully aware that the Irish Senate does not strut about the place with the same legislative power as the Dail, but – hey – it could be a start.

As a TCD graduate I have a vote (and in the last weeks candidates’ publicity materials have already started to choke up my letter box) so I'm going to give something a whirl. I’ve decided my vote for this year's TCD Senate election will be determined on the basis of who (if any!) among the candidates is committed to supporting legislation for weekend elections and will progress 'the cause' if elected to the Senate. They may be powerless to do anything of real impact - I honestly don’t know - but I am going to drop an email to each candidate, asking for their position on 'the cause' and see how each responds.

I do note though that 2 of the 3 sitting TCD Senators (David Norris and Shane Ross) manage to land generous and regular lumps of coverage for themselves in various Irish meedja outlets, nice potential platforms they could leverage to raise awareness of 'the cause' – if they so desired... Anyway watch this space for any update on what I hear back from the candidates.

Any graduates of NUI out there think this is worth pursuing? If so maybe drop a line to the Senate candidates on your ballot paper and ask them where they stand on this question (your letter box should by now be getting clogged with their propoganda)? Or - more likely - you'd prefer to ask them if they would introduce legislation to ban writers of music blogs from spouting on about politics...

Anyway, there does end the political stuff. Back to some rock and roll, courtesy of Aidan's aforementioned French Letter blog.


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25

UNKL, a bunch of American creative types who (to quote themselves) "develop products that tie directly to their ever growing line of urban vinyl characters" have a whole range of 2" minature dolls they flog for about US$8.

They have just announced that they will be launching a “six pack” set of Wilco dolls at some Comic shin-dig called Comic-Con, taking in San Diego in July. We're talking a limited edition of 1000 of the 6 packs, which can be ordered for 50 bucks on Wilco's Musictoday store. Earliest shipping date is June 15th (and watch for the importation duties slapped on by your friendly Custom and Excise service).

Hat tip: DaddyTypes, my fave blog for new Dads.


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Nuggets from our archive

2002 - Interview with Rodrigo y Gabriela, by Cormac Looney. As with Damien Rice's profile, this interview was published before Rodrigo y Gabriela's career took off overseas. It too continues to attract considerable visits every month to the article from Wikipedia.