CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

CMU Weekly – Friday 15 Jul 2011

By | Published on Friday 15 July 2011

Andy Malt

It’s been another big week in the media this week, as the phone-hacking scandal rumbles on. Arguably, it’s no longer appropriate to refer to it as just a phone-hacking scandal, now that all manner of other dubious information gathering tactics, business dealing and political point-scoring has come into play.

The rush of excitement hasn’t been quite as strong as this week has progressed, though. Not that the issues aren’t still important, and new developments not dramatic. But I had become somewhat accustomed to a new major scandal breaking at 4.30pm every day. The end of that cycle is like drug withdrawal.

Not that I want to turn this all into a series of cheap gratifications. So much of what has happened in the last ten days has been truly appalling. But when you’ve been hooked on what has been one of the biggest news stories of recent times (and possibly the biggest media story of all time), it’s hard not to be a little disappointed when it becomes just another ongoing story and you have to go back to normal life.

Still, there’s always plenty going on in the music world to get excited about, thankfully. And this week, the Big Thing was Spotify’s long-awaited US launch.

The popular European streaming service’s arrival Stateside has been much delayed because record labels on the other side of the Atlantic have been more nervous about allowing a free and unlimited online jukebox enter a market where subscription-based equivalents, such as Rhapsody and MOG, are already doing reasonably well. SO nervous, in fact, that Spotify has had to make numerous changes to its offering, limiting the number of hours freemium subscribers get each month, and how many times they can listen to any one track (limitations which will also save the digital music firm money, of course).

These limits mean that the ‘wow factor’ that we Europeans got when we first gained access to Spotify in 2009 has diminished somewhat. But the company seems confident that it can still win over America – one rumour circulating is that some execs there have predicted they can reach 50 million users in the States alone. The aforementioned ten-year-old Rhapsody currently has 800,000, so that figure is indeed very optimistic, even if Spotify does have the free subscription option. Although a tie-up with Facebook (another rumour which seems likely to become fact in the near future) could well help Spotify on its way.

Back in the UK, we’re about to head into the height of complaining season in the music world, which is always fun. I am, of course, referring to the Mercury Prize, the shortlist for which is announced next Tuesday (19 Jul) at the Hospital Club in London.

No one knows which twelve albums released in the last twelve months will be nominated, but what is certain is that music critics and fans in their hundreds and thousands will disagree with the list. Some will point out that the list is wrong every year, some will point out that the award was set up by a now defunct telephone network, and others will set up their own rival awards, as if it somehow makes a difference.

That’s all to come, though. Right now, it’s time for me to put together my traditional (well, I did it last year) list of albums I reckon will feature in the final twelve. PJ Harvey and Adele are currently the bookies favourites to win, and it’s a given that they’ll both feature. I also reckon Wild Beasts, Ghostpoet, Katy B, The Vaccines, Elbow, James Blake, Metronomy, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Led Bib, Matthew Halsall, Tinie Tempah, Jamie Woon, Gruff Rhys, Jamie xx and Gil Scott-Heron, The Horrors, and Radiohead could feature.

Jamie xx and Gil Scott-Heron are a longshot, as ‘We’re New Here’ is essentially a remix album (and remixes of an American artist, for that matter), so I should probably discount them. Radiohead are so obvious I’m inclined to take them out, but they’ve never won the Mercury and all of their albums since ‘OK Computer’ have been nominated. All except ‘Kid A’, that is, which proves their inclusion is not assured. Plus, of course, you could question what benefit winning, or even being included on the shortlist, would bring them (and therefore, did they even put themselves forward?).

There has to be, of course, a token jazz entry, so I’ve opted for trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s ‘On The Go’. His third album, it has had much attention from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Radio 3, and 6music. It’s a shame to refer to it has a ‘token’ entry, because his take of the smoky jazz of the 50s and 60s is very good, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, here are the final twelve albums that will definitely appear on the shortlist. Maybe. PJ Harvey to win, by the way. Did I already say that?

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Adele – 21
Wild Beasts – Smother
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam
Katy B – On A Mission
The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
James Blake – James Blake
Metronomy – The English Riviera
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Matthew Halsall – On The Go
The Horrors – Skying

So then, let’s meet back here next week and see how many I got right. But right now, you should all go and listen to the latest edition of the CMU podcast, which this week finds Chris and I discussing Spotify’s US launch, Mathew Knowles’ denial of accusations that he has been stealing from his daughter, George Michael’s accusations of wrongdoing at the News Of The World and in the police force, Lady Gaga’s YouTube suspension and egg attack, plus Morrissey’s fan suspension and dog attack.

What fun.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

THE BULLETIN: Click here to read this week’s CMU Weekly bulletin

THE PODCAST: Click here to download this week’s podcast or stream below

Subscribe to the e-bulletin here | Subscribe to the podcast here | Subscribe in iTunes here