The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Promenade

24

The Irish Rock the Vote initiative has been getting a bit of a hammering from many quarters. And the criticisms – the banality / pointlessness of the videos, the refusal to advance even a single issue of importance to their target audience, the obsessive neutrality of everything they do, etc – are (no pun intended) rock solid.

Now it transpires that, as Rev Jules pointed out yesterday in his blog, their Executive Director has gone on the record that he does not expect a big increase in the turn out of 18-30 year olds...

It could have been all very different. Aside from apathy, non interest in politics, and a preference for spending one's time on the pull, there are two other key barriers to getting a greater proportion of 18-30 year olds voting. Yes, I'm talking about the old chestnuts...

  • 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.

Alas, Rock The Vote by launching only last month eliminated any possibility of having even a stab of a chance at breaking down either of these two well-established barriers. They've truly put the cart before the horse. Maybe if they had launched back at the tail end of the summer 2006 - just as the colleges were about to open for another academic year - they could have channeled their enthusiasm and considerable resources on getting the yuff of Ireland to register to vote (or move their registration to where they live/study/work) before the Nov 2006 December 2006 deadline for updating the voter lists. With that tackled (and in the process maybe bagging a bit of credibility and respect) they could have been well positioned to orchestrate a high profile campaign to heckle, bully and pressurize the Government into calling an election that, in line with most of continental Europe, actually fell on (God forbid) a weekend.

But forget the trite videos, forget the refusal to embrace a single issue of importance to 18-30 year olds, forget the enforced fence-sitting of the initiative. Because here is where for me it gets really, really insane: RTV's Executive Director is on the record as saying they that it is their strict policy "not to comment on the day we believe polling should take place"! To say I was gob smacked would be a massive understatement. They would not even be prepared to campaign for a weekend election day? Up to reading that I was prepared to give them a wide berth, with an assessment along the lines of them being a bunch of idealistic, enthusiastic, well-resourced, politically naïve, digital camera wielding 18-30 years olds who were averse to expressing the slightest of political views. Scrap That. With a capital S. And T. They have no credibility. No spine. No spunk. None. They do not represent the best interests of those they pander to.

I had planned to rant on about the pointlessness of the full page ad they had in yesterday's Tuesday's Irish Times (the vast majority of whose readers BTW are not even in their targeted demographic, and sure let's also gloss over the fact that the 24,670 euro cost of such an ad could – for example - fund 50 buses to ferry 2500 18-30 year old registered but exiled voters to their polling station in the boonies) but – really - why bother?

Rock the Vote had huge potenital but it was sure squandered in the hands of this crew.


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18

Jeff Tweedy WilcoThe latest email newsletter from Wilco has had me a bit perplexed ever since it hit my inbox.

A few lines in we’re told we can expect a “slightly serious tone (in) this note”. Okay. I put down the cornflakes. These guys now had my attention.

Reading on they invite us to listen to a stream of their new album ‘Sky Blue Sky’ and then to “take a moment to reflect” on the “dynamic” between themselves and their fans. There follows a riff about how some fans have lamented the “somewhat sad state of the music business” and have been asking Wilco to “consider changing the way (they) do things” and the band tell us they have refused to do so.

With that out of the way they then ask us to “go out next week and do the right thing for Wilco… and buy the record”.

I don’t know about you but I simply don’t know why a band as well established as Wilco with a solid, passionate - often obsessive - fan base thought it necessary to basically beg their fans to go out and buy their latest release. It’s true that some reviews of advance copies have varied from less than gushing to 'good but not their finest hour' but that’s not something likely to scare off your typical Wilco nut, someone who will be fully aware of the many layers a Wilco record typically has that need repeated listens to reveal.

The most likely explanation here is that Wilco fear MP3s of the album floating about the place will impact the sales. But it is that very scenario that really throws me. Hear me out.

A few years back Wilco put free downloads of the complete Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album on their website while they sorted out which label was going to release it. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of fans downloaded the album and – when it was finally released - many of us (myself included) went out and actually bought the album. And before you could say “I am trying to break the bank” it was the biggest selling album of Wilco’s career.

Roll on 2007 and Wilco seem to have done a complete U-turn and are - if we read between the lines of this begging letter - now in fear of MP3s. What’s going on? Why the shift? Maybe pressure from the record company (the quite excellent, often adventurous and in-for-the-longhaul Nonesuch label) to massage their fans into action in this way? Personally, I doubt it (and if there was such pressure Wilco surely would have resisted, if you think back to the ‘Our way or the highway’ attitude they took with their former record label when they asked for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to be re-recorded).

So all things considered, I for one am perplexed as to why they thought they needed to do this. If any one has insights into or ideas on this do please throw them into the comments below.


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03
(This is the first entry in my new blog which will cover music and related technology stuff)
 
 
 
Muse.ie logoBack in 1999 when I started CLUAS the most visible music website in Ireland was www.muse.ie. At that time it was run by Eircom's digital publishing division (christened with a - of course - cooler than thou name: 'Rondomondo').
 
Remember, this was the time before the dot com bubble burst and those working for this new interweb thing were going to become masters of the universe. Or something like that. Ronodomondo somehow persuaded some moneyed (but gullible) people to hand over loadsa dosh to help them get a place on the frontline of this, er, new world order. Rumour has it that the Rondomondo boyz'n'gals then - holy Batman - splashed a good wad of it on flash offices and even flashier dot com furniture, all necessary for the cause of course).
 
Anyway, roll the clock forward now to early 2000 and in strides the pin to burst the dot com bubble, neatly pricking Rondonmondo on its way. So before you could double-click your gold-plated mouse it was farewell to muse.ie. Until now that it is.
 
Yes, the muse.ie domain name was bought by an Irish company called MediaSpace who last November announced they would be 'shortly' relaunching Muse.ie website. The launch date kept getting pushed back, until a few days ago when it was finally launched.
 
However at the end of January I managed to find a rear door to the muse.ie site that was wide open from where I could sneak in and see the site as it was at that stage in its development. It was looking good even then but there were clearly a number of rough spots to be sorted out. One of these rough spots however is not just still in place but was exploited by one of the site's first users. Read on…
 
On my first visit to the new version of muse.ie my eyes were drawn to the first album review they published . A review of a new release by someone called Vanessa Holmes (no, I'd never heard of her either).

Muse.ie album review section

The review itself had a pungent fishy odour about it. First up, it read like a very badly written press release ("You can here samples of the CD album right now at…"), then the very generous rating by the reviewer (a whopping 9/10) raised my eyebrows a notch or two. (Update: the review has since been removed by Muse.ie from the site, however here is a screendump of the original review that allows you to read it in its entirety).
 
I decided to dig a bit deeper. The review was written by "millimills2000" and her muse.ie profile gave a load of information about her, including a link to her myspace page. And it was here that my worst fears were confirmed. Scrolling down the MySpace page I found a comment left for "millimills2000" by none other that the esteemed artist who was the subject of the review in question - Vanessa Holmes - which Vanessa signed (wait for it) "Love Always, Your Niece Vanessa"…

Muse.ie: Vanessa Holmes comment

Well there you have it. Up and coming bands of Ireland, take note - the time has finally arrived to mobilise your Aunties to your cause! Muse.ie is here, the 21st century platform for Aunties (and sure Uncles too, why not?) to publish their glowing reviews of their nieces' and nephews' carefully crafted musical art. Just get them to sign up for a free muse.ie user account and global domination of music markets is yours for the taking.
 
Yes, yes, yes, excuse the facetiousness of the last paragraph. What is going on here is that muse.ie is allowing anyone to publish any review of any act they want without any editorial intervention. This is crying out to be abused and so it was as soon as it was out of the traps. Now - to their credit - Muse.ie seem to be aware of this as in the last 24 or so hours as they changed the title of the reviews section (where the offending article appears) from "Reviews" to "Your reviews". Even so is it really sensible to present yourself as a music magazine (with an appointed Editor who previously oversaw NME Ireland) but then allow any review of any act written by absolutely anyone to be published without as much as a momentary check by a lowly sub-editor? This functionality should never have seen the light of day and should - IMHO - be dropped.
 
(ASIDE: We on CLUAS have in the past had similar attempts by bands - or those close to them - to submit glowing reviews of themselves but we were able to screen them before publication. A propos, I invite you to also savour my all-time favourite rejected review submitted to CLUAS).

Despite all the above I have to say muse.ie is impressive in its ambition and the richness of its functionality. Will it be a success? I genuinely hope it will (it'll be a darn good place for me to steal new ideas for CLUAS and, sure, a rising tide floats all boats does it not?). It will certainly attract a good number of Irish music fans.
 
I do however note that Muse.ie wants bands and fans to create their own webpages, upload their own music and videos. Sound somewhat familiar? Will users and bands really want to maintain yet another profile page on muse.ie in addition to their own websites, MySpace & Bebo pages and blogs? Only time will tell.
 
In the meantime, be sure to call up your Aunties before muse.ie pull its Auntie-friendly review submission service!
 

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Nuggets from our archive

2007 - REM live in the Olympia, by Michael O'Hara. Possibly the definitive review of any of REM's performances during their 2007 Olympia residency. Even the official REM website linked to it.