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Archive for the 'politics' Category

Last.fm makes musicians scrobble for pennies

Posted: July 11th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Sarky IT news site the Register has an interesting article about Last.fm and independent labels. Apparently the site (now owned by the massive CBS) that used to be cuddly little Audioscrobbler isn’t passing much of anything on to the artists whose music it streams, despite shouting about how cool it is.

Just 10% of advertising revenue goes into the musicians’ pot, not any of the subscription revenue. Maybe it’s that I’m running AdBlock but I don’t remember seeing any adverts on last.fm.

The article continues an amusing analogy between “web2.0” sites and sharecropping, where lots of people do work on a small scale while one big site (i.e. landlord) creams off the revenue. It’s all about the Benjamins, no matter how many beanbags you have in your office…

Artists versus writers

Posted: June 4th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Not long after writing my rant about Michel Houellebecq, I picked up (for pennies) a book of essays (Some Recent Attacks) by James Kelman. He’s the author that best transmits Glasgow’s voice, but only famous elsewhere for being the Booker Prize winner who says “fuck” a lot.

One essay, Artists and Value, argues that stereotype and cliché are marks of a bad writer. Of course. But he goes further, making the connection between bad writing and bad attitudes:

“One thing you do find is that many writers who are described as “good” aren’t that good at all, not when you examine their work closely (…) the clichés, the shopsoiled phrases, the timeworn description; basic technical stuff. What it usually signifies is a striaghtforward lack of interest in, or awareness of, particulars. They don’t reach the concrete. (…) And by quick extension of that:

“Everybody on the broo is lazy. Jews are greedy. Black people are criminals. Red haired people are bad tempered. Irish people are ignorant. Peasants are hamfisted. Glaswegian working class males are drunken wife-beaters.

(…) Writers who use too many clichés or timeworn phrases or shopsoiled figures of speech either just don’t care or they’re being lazy.”

And why are we told that certain writers are “good”?

“In our society it isn’t only works of art that have a value placed on them by external forces, so do the actual creators themselves, the artists. The value is economic although it occasionally attempts to masquerade as aesthetic, and received wisdom brooks no distinction.”

JK Rocking! Best £1.50 I’ve spent this year. He wrote this ~15 years ago and it’s still both true and hardly recognised.

Like Pie? Support pie-throwers!

Posted: May 22nd, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Diskant likes pie. This New York Times columnist doesn’t like pie as much as he likes rich people. And wars. He’s boring. This video is the best thing he’s ever been (inadvertently) involved with:[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=sv6nvMUq10U[/youtube]

Apparently the pastry-wielding prankster in the video is facing expulsion from their university. Online petitions don’t amount to much more than a biscuit, but, hey, a University’s more likely to listen than a government, so why not sign this in support of the pie-thrower.

Comicreliefland

Posted: March 26th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on TV the other night was so charming that it would be churlish to criticise it. But as a non-servile peasant, when I see the words “Written by Richard Curtis” I get angry so as to avoid diabetic coma.

I freely admit I know nothing about Botswana. Maybe it really is a sunny, idyllic place where problems can be solved with goodwill and 2 typewriters. However that’s not where No.1 is set. This looks more like Comicreliefland to me.

Comicreliefland is where Africa’s problems are related to us by wealthy Londoners. It’s populated by wide-eyed, tragically cute children. Without shoes. A land whose poverty is unrelated to Western exploitation. Not a result of the deliberate policy of “our” governments, but a fact of nature, cruel fate to be borne in stoic silence until a rich man gives you charity, for which you thank him respectfully in over-annunciated English (so charming!). Most insidiously, all the continent’s problems are waiting to be solved by honest businessmen, if only they weren’t hamstrung by corrupt African politicians.

Let’s look at the problems here and how they’re solved. We have an insurance scam perpetrated on a businessman so saintly he offers to pay the money to charity and the same charity as that favoured by the fraudster. Moral: don’t try and improve your lot, your boss is your friend, he has your best interest at heart.

There’s sinister human sacrifice hinted at. Moral: muti and by extension other traditional ways are dark, sinister and evil. Only corrupt politicians and backward peasants practice it.

There’s a powerful and corrupt political figure. But where does he get the money for his Merc from? The muti? Not from any Western agency or corporation (nowhere to be seen). Moral: Corruption is a property of Africans, not a result of Western economics.

The problem’s not that No.1 isn’t a reflection of Africa’s real problems. It’s escapism, that’s not what it’s there for. But it would be nice to see Africa through the eyes of Africans just once. Make a change from Edinburgh doctors or Notting Hill writers

Whatever happened to…..Chris H?

Posted: June 3rd, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Those of you who have been reading diskant for a while might remember Chris H. He was the one who wrote about films and politics and bike riding and experimental Japanese noise bands before it was fashionable. He was also a member of a collective in Glasgow who organised round the G8 summit and corresponding events in 2005 providing accommodation, resources etc. for protesters in a warehouse in the East End. The Evening Times, a Glasgow paper, printed an article about Chris and the group full of factual errors and misquotes. Chris subsequently took them to court for libel and is still stuck in all the legal processes two years on, putting him in financial and employment limbo.

He’s presenting his side of the story over at Making Lying History and I’d encourage you to read it if you have any interest in the power of the media, the courts and (what it all comes down to in the end) money in how events are portrayed to the world. I certainly never thought our tongue-in-cheek, stupid made-up staff biographies would end up getting used against someone in court.

Anyway, have a read and help out if you can. My one brush with the courts (a nasty solicitor’s letter for something a band said on diskant) turned me into a quivering wreck so I’m proud of Chris having the guts to stand up for himself in court. I don’t think I could do it.

www.savagesound.com

Posted: November 11th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

Take a moment out to read through this site:

www.savagesound.com

I don’t live in Chicago, or in fact the USA at all for that matter. I went to Chicago once, it seemed refreshingly community-based for a big city. I post on a Chicago-based forum from time to time and it was on this forum that I heard about Malachi Ritscher. Malachi Ritscher lived in Chicago and from accounts seemed to have devoted his life to supporting the musical community of the city. He is known best as a live performance archivist and many of his ‘field recordings’ from gigs have made it to official releases on the artists’ albums.

*

The instant quality of the internet is both a blessing and a curse. How many times have you fired off an e-mail to someone in a fit of rage only to regret it a split-second later? With the internet it is possible to offend an enormous amount of people with the click of a mouse. However, with the internet it is also possible to stream photos of a plane hitting the Pentagon to a punk rock music forum and thus make the readers of the Forum (for those few minutes) the most knowledgable people on the planet about current events, right in the moment.

I think everyone has read about people making rash decisions to end their own lives by posting a “Do I or don’t I?” message on Myspace and no one responding. I think the figure is something like one third of all Americans with access to the internet have their own blog. We are used to seeing people’s opinions and feelings immediately thrown out to the world to the point where we can detach the words and pictures from a real person at the end of the internet connection.

Have a read of these:
http://www.savagesound.com/gallery99.htm
http://www.savagesound.com/gallery100.htm
http://cbs2chicago.com/local/local_story_307085813.html

There is something perverse and unsettling about reading things that should be this personal in an environment that is totally opposite to that. It normally makes me recoil at someone’s self-centredness. This has similarities for sure – the person concerned carried out their actions to draw attention to the things they were writing about (to put it in simplistic terms) but in this case what they were writing about and what concerned them needed that attention.

Anyway, have a read of it all, it’s what the internet is there for.

Clear Channel update

Posted: September 10th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell

Hello, regular readers of this ‘blog (you sad bastards) may remember a post on here back in July about the infiltration by media giant Clear Channel into the United Kingdom’s shores. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, click here.

A small part of the original version of this post contained speculation over reports that our indie zine brethren Drowned in Sound were backed by some subsidiary of or a company associated with Clear Channel. I did stress at the time that this was far from hard fact and merely something I had been told. However, I am pleased to report that Colin Roberts, editor at DiS has contacted us to clarify that they are in no way funded by Clear Channel, and nor is their record label. From the horse’s mouth:

“Drowned in Sound Recordings is a wholly owned part of Drowned in Sound, owned and managed by Sean Adams, founder of Drownedinsound.com.”

Colin also went on to confirm reports about their involvement at the CC-funded Wireless Festival that took place earlier this year:

“Yes, we ran a stage in conjunction with the CC-run Wireless Festival and were well-and-truly fucked over. We had very little say in the artists that played, but did manage to use the corporate might of one of the world’s largest media companies to draw a few more people to our web-site – essentially using the rich to bring something to the ‘underground’.”

The lesson to be drawn from this? I’ll let you form your own opinion about that. My personal opinion is that every single one of you motherfuckers should go and buy Universal Sound’s reissue of “Children of Fire” by Hannibal Marvin Peterson & The Sunrise Orchestra. It’s absolutely amazing stuff and the best album I’ve heard this year. No question.

The Guardian, live music, and Clear Channel

Posted: July 30th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell

Yesterday The Guardian contained an article by Alexis Petridis about how 2005 is a new golden age of live music in the UK:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,1537784,00.html

Interesting sentiment (from someone who has no idea about what is actually going on in terms of music being performed at venues of a capacity of less than 200 people?), and it’s nice to hear from Feargal Sharkey and whatnot, but something of a concern in the last paragraph courtesy of Steve Lamacq:

“Live music is going through the kind of renaissance that football went through when clubs realised that their grounds were unsafe or rubbish or not good enough and piled some money in. Then it becomes popular and the big companies come in. We’ve already had [multinational media corporation] Clear Channel arrive. I’m not saying for a moment that Clear Channel are Roman Abramovich, but . . .” He pauses. “Do you see where I’m going with this? The thing is that they’ll make big gigs really good. But instead of getting the best players, they’ll get the biggest names in rock and I think that some people further down the chain will go out of business. There will be exclusivity clauses saying if you don’t play this venue, you can’t play this other venue we also own. Where can it possibly end? Can it just get bigger and bigger? My advice to people is to make the most of it now. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Or you could try and do something about it Steve. Make no mistake, having fucked over a huge amount of people in the USA, CC are now turning their attention to Europe and I’m really upset about it.

Look here for more information:

http://archive.salon.com/ent/clear_channel/ – a good introduction to the monopolising and bullying policies of CC.

http://www.clearchannelsucks.net/ – a central resource on information on CC

http://www.hailtocc.org/u2-2005/u2.en.html– part of a manifesto revealing quite how detrimental to grass-roots, DIY and independent live music promoters and venues CC has been in Belgium, and how they rope in the biggest rock stars to help them do so.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Clear Channel Worldwide – some more information on CC’s ties to the Bush administration and pro-Gulf War rallies (no, I’m not kidding).

http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/2005/05/radio_free_clea.html – an incredible article about how Clear Channel set up its own pirate radio station specifically to mock its other stations and generate publicity – check the comments.

Clear Channel may be able to pull its various strings together to bring big rock stars to big venues around the world, but their corporate muscle also prevents anyone who isn’t part of the elite (i.e. anyone who doesn’t submit to their demands) access to information, venues, markets and whatnot. Because they can infiltrate so many aspects of the music market, they can demand that booking agents and promoters have to work exclusively with CC-owned venues at CC rates, with CC-approved bands, in CC-approved towns, working exclusively with CC-owned media (radio/newspapers/magazines). Do you know CC also demands that in their venues all bands that perform have to surrender a hefty percentage of any merchandising revenue (not a new shady practice, but one taken to heady new levels, considering they’ve got fuck all to do with it)? You should definitely read about their tactics about dominating and homogenising the American radio market, and their links to highly conservative Republican groups (not to mention their playlist policies after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001). What’s freedom of speech again? Oh, and Clear Channel owns literally every venue in Boston, meaning that any band not wishing to toe their line can’t even play that city in America. Nice.

You may not realise it, but CC are already making headway into the UK. They already own Mean Fiddler and the Reading & Leeds Festivals, and have a 39% stake in Glastonbury. But here’s the most surreal – and worrying – thing: CC is now trying to infiltrate the UK music industry by pretending to be “indie”. You may have noticed a couple of independent gig promoters have suddenly managed to start booking up some bigger names to do some unique or intriguing gigs of late, quite out of the blue. I certainly know that they’ve approached a couple of independent promoters that you have probably been to gigs by (and maybe attended a festival by the sea organised by), offering to throw them money and access to the CC universe if they covertly surrender their freedom and independence in some unholy alliance. Thankfully, the people you’re probably thinking fo right now todl them where to stick their dollars. In additon to this, I’ve recently heard about booking agents having a nightmare trying to sort out tours for bands if they are associated with CC, having to work within strict ‘pre-approved’ boundaries of clientele when it comes to bands, venues and promoters.

I had been informed that indie ‘zine Drowned In Sound‘s own label, Drowned in Sound Recordings had been funded by CC, but DiS have come back to us to assure everyone that this is most definitely not the case. Phew! However, apparently CC did indeed “invite” DiS the magazine to have it’s own tent at the highly prestigious (CC owned) Wireless Festival earlier this year, apparently only to get some kind of ‘credible’ badge on their ‘indie’ stage. Their abuse of this ended up being pretty galling. This from DiS editor Colin Roberts:

“Yes, we ran a stage in conjunction with the CC-run Wireless Festival and were well-and-truly fucked over. We had very little say in the artists that played, but did manage to use the corporate might of one of the world’s largest media companies to draw a few more people to our web-site – essentially using the rich to bring something to the ‘underground’.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this.

Getting back to the main point, though it is heartening to hear that not everyone is willing to sell out their ideals about independent music, it is still obvious that a scary amount of people are willing to jump into bed with Clear Channel as they disingenuously try to seep their way into the UK’s live music venues and promotions through ploughing new money into the ‘market’ for live music. Unlike Mr Lamacq, I don’t have mixed feelings about this situation: I think it’s fucking awful, and I encourage you to do something about it. It’s quite simple. Read some articles at the above links, get yourself informed, and – if you can – avoid Clear Channel-associated products, gigs, venues and labels at all costs. It’s currently not too hard as their grip is fairly marginal, but only proactive action is going make them reconsider their policies. Fuck these bullyboys, their exploitative machinations and their heavy-handed dealings – support musicians, promoters and labels not willing to jump into bed with these soulless bastards for the sake of a quick buck. It seems like a pretty simple and obvious thing for me to say, but it’s always worth doing it just in case someone at the back wasn’t listening. Just do what you can. If you have any interest in music made and performed independently of the mainstream industry (and by reading this I would assume that you do), you can help.

“Support DIY” – I should have this on a placard that I have to drag myself around with, like a monkey on my back.

If anyone wants to update me or set me straight or anything, or even debate any points, please feel free to comment or email me at dstockwell(at)diskant(dot)net. I’m trying to spread awareness here. Please do speak up if you’ve anything to say and let’s get some dialogue going about this situation.

In other news, never heard of fearmongering? Now you have: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18911

What a load of bullshit.

/soapbox

Nike apologises

Posted: June 28th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell


(If you can’t read this, go here)
Just as well really.

NIKE STEALS MINOR THREAT SLEEVE

Posted: June 24th, 2005, by Chris Summerlin

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/news/05-06/23.shtml

I don’t know what to think about this or whether I even care. Bear in mind Black Flag are on a Wannadoo ad, Nike already used Search & Destroy by the Stooges, Lyle Preslar from MT is an A&R guy and Brian Baker is about the best example of a career punker known and it’s all splitting hairs really.
I guess all it says is that the MT fan at Nike’s marketing office kind of missed the point.