|CMU Daily - on the inside Friday 24th December
Here we go then, the very final CMU Daily of 2004. We return on the morning of Tuesday 4 Jan 2005 for, well, more of the same really. In the meantime, here's the results of our Track Of The Year poll thing, and our slightly over indulgent Review of the Year. Happy Christmas.
CMU TRACK OF THE YEAR 2004
Well, here it is, the votes have been counted and the complicated mathematical equations (i.e., adding them up) done. The CMU readership have eclectic music tastes, as has been shown by the nominations published in recent weeks, meaning that for every track that received hundreds of
votes, there were hundreds that received only a handful. Needless to say they were all damn fine tunes, and if we had the cash we'd release a compilation of them all so as to educate the ignorant masses as to what they should have been buying this year. Ah well, here's the top ten. Well done one and all.
1. Mylo - Drop The Pressure (Breast Fed)
2. Scissor Sisters - Take Your Mama (Universal/Polydor)
3. The Killers - Mr Brightside (Lizard King)
4. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out (Domino)
5. Morrissey - First Of The Gang To Die (Sanctuary/Attack)
6. Snow Patrol - How To Be Dead (Universal/Polydor)
7. The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now (Rough Trade)
8. Max Sedgely - Happy (Sunday Best)
9. Eminem - Mosh (Universal/Interscope)
10. Kasabian - Club Foot (BMG/RCA)
CMU REVIEW OF THE 2004: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
THE YEAR OF THE IPOD
If 2003 was the year of legitimate downloading in 'theory', then 2004 was the year of legitimate downloading in 'practice'. Following that all important kick start by Apple's iTunes in 2003, this year it seemed like everyone was launching a download platform. Apple, and its nearest rival Napster, slowly expanded their operations globally, and in doing so reached the UK. Meanwhile Sony launched its Connect service, hoping to capitalise on mainstream music fans' existing loyalty to its Walkman portable music players.
Numerous other media, retail and ISP companies launched their own digital music offers, many utilising the back end systems developed by third party suppliers OD2 or Loudeye, who confirmed their dominance in that space by merging midway through the year.
With download charts established and talk of the MP3 replacing the CD single now seeming actually quite viable - throughout it all Apple, traditionally the commercial underdog, dominated the new digital music market. As the year ended Apple's download platform iTunes sold its 200 millionth track, iPod was by far the biggest digital music brand, research in the States indicated music fans preferred to buy tracks from Apple rather than their cost-cutting rivals and the entire Apple empire was experiencing real growth as a result of its success in music.
That said, some question if Apple will maintain its dominance in the digital music space once the whole industry goes mainstream - Apple always appealing more to the early adopter than the everyday consumer. Certainly Sony, Microsoft and Real Networks, all expected to aggressively market their respective music propositions in 2005, won't let Apple maintain their dominant position without a good fight first.
THE KIDS ARE STILL DOWNLOADING
The growth of the legitimate download platforms meant the music business at last had found a way to make, rather than lose, money through the internet. However, that's not to say illegal downloading ceased to be the bane of the music industry's life in 2004. Far from it. If anything more people than ever were illegally sharing music via P2P networks like Kazaa.
The record labels maintained their hard line stance against illegal downloading - with the Recording Industry Association of America dishing out hundreds of lawsuits against suspected file sharers every month, and their sister organisations across the world, including our very own BPI, confirming they, likewise, would start to sue people who they suspected of illegally sharing music online.
Whether the record labels' ongoing legal campaign to protect their copyright has achieved anything is debatable. Some research shows that use of P2P networks like Kazaa is down in the US while it is up in countries where the local record industry has not adopted hard-line policies towards downloading. However, some argue the growth of the legitimate download platforms, rather than the RIAA's legal campaign, explain any fall in P2P usage. Others suggest former Kazaa users are still illegally downloading music, they are just using the lesser known newer P2P networks that it's harder for the record labels to monitor.
Of course the RIAA might argue their legal onslaught would be more effective if it were not for the courts in the US and elsewhere, who generally maintained the view throughout 2004 that internet service providers did not have to reveal the identity of individual file sharers until specifically asked to do so by a judge.
The courts also proved unhelpful in the major labels' attempts to put the companies who make the P2P software out of business. Kazaa et al continued to make the 'Betamax plea' (a technology firm cannot be held responsible if consumers use their technology to conduct copyright violation) and the courts continued to accept it. The RIAA's attempts to have US law changed to stop these firms using that excuse failed when their over ambitious proposals were lobbied against by all the mainstream technology manufacturers and retailers who feared the new legislation would make them liable for copyright infringement too.
Perhaps the courts will be kinder to the music business in 2005. A new court case against Kazaa makers Sharman is currently ongoing in the Australian courts. Their jurisdiction over Sharman's global operations, most of which are based in Australia, will, if nothing else, shed some light on a somewhat mysterious company. Plus, as the year ended, the American movie industry, for whom the risks of illegal file sharing grew significantly with the rise of broadband this year, was ready to embark on a new legal fight against the Betamax plea which, if successful, would benefit the record companies.
All that said, the RIAA's monthly batch of lawsuits are now so run of the mill that the industry association certainly no longer commands the one tangible benefit the legal route used to deliver - capturing the news agenda.
LABELS ON THE UP
Of course it was difficult to be too sympathetic to the major record labels when, for the first time in years, most of them were enjoying considerable commercial success. Although helped by the new digital revenue streams (primarily revenues from download sales and the new 'realtone' ringtones), it was the growth of album sales in a number of territories, including the UK, that really helped the major record companies slowly recover financially.
Some (OK, mainly CMU) might argue that the impact of illegal downloading on the majors has long been exaggerated, and that the difficulties in the music space in recent years was more the result of the excessive spending and a reliance on short term teen pop acts in the late nineties. With the creative side of the music business in good health this year there was a real reason for music fans to invest in new album releases - hence a change in fortune for the music industry.
Of course the major labels would surely argue their recent commercial prosperity is down to the restructuring and downsizing label execs have been conducting in recent years. Certainly Sony and BMG would be keen to stress that such downsizing is essential to compete in the modern music industry, given that that was pretty much their justification for merging this year.
The new super major is only just starting to properly integrate its operations (and lay off its workforce), but that integration will no doubt be fully completed before the efforts of the independent labels to overturn the European Union decision to allow the merger in the first place ever gets to court. Given that the EU courts will almost certainly be unable to stop the SonyBMG merger now that it is underway, some might question why IMPALA, the pan-European body for independent record labels, are bothering to fight the EU decision at all.
Some have suggested that IMPALA's legal action is designed more to discourage EMI and Warner Music - both now independent from the major entertainment groups - from attempting to merge in order to equal SonyBMG and the Universal Music Group in size. Neither EMI nor Warner are officially interested in a merger, but insiders from both indicate such a merger isn't completely off the agenda.
However, perhaps the two majors will lead mergers of a different type in 2005. We've been rambling on about the need for major record labels to diversify in order to survive for years. At last we are hearing an increasing number of label insiders saying that the majors may now adopt a strategy similar to that taken by pioneering label / promoter / management company Sanctuary Music - ie operating in a number of different areas within the music business. With that in mind, as the year ends the rumour mill suggests Warner are seriously considering acquiring key players in artist management in the first quarter of 2005.
LIVE SECTOR STILL GOING STRONG
Of course you can understand why the major labels would want to diversify. Digital music may be growing rapidly, and the record labels may be recovering slowly, but once again it was the live sector that most prospered in 2004.
Despite the launch of numerous new festivals in the last couple of years, most of the big players across the world - and especially here in the UK - achieved record time sell outs. Such is the demand for Glastonbury tickets there isn't a phone network or web server in the world which could cope with the high traffic that kicks in the minute tickets go on sale. Despite the Eavis' best efforts, expect a lot of disappointed music fans listening to engaged tones and watching websites crash when tickets for 2005 go on sale in the Spring.
But it wasn't just the festivals which were doing good business this year. Numerous major artist tours packed out the arenas on multiple nights while, from what we could see, things were just as good at the other end of the scale - the smaller gig venues and new bands that trek round them benefiting from the rise and rise of live music, and all this despite the government's attempts to restrict the number of small scale venues by making entertainment licensing laws even stricter.
All in all everything was very healthy - except, perhaps, the performers, with a number of tours called off this year due to the ill health of their headline acts (David Bowie, Paul Weller, Marianne Faithful, Elton John and Sting among the artists to hand in sick notes this year). Then of course there were the cancelled gigs involving one Pete Doherty - summer gigs with the Libertines called off after he was initially suspended from the band, and Autumn gigs with Babyshambles which became legendary for the 'will he show, won't he show' suspense that came free with every ticket. But, needless to say, more on him later.
So, if you want to be successful in music in 2005 is the live sector the place to go? Well, both Kylie and Oasis have already sold out multiple arena dates for next year, and seem to keep selling out additional dates as soon as they are announced. But we don't like good news here at CMU - so we're pleased to report that the live sector in the US was not as healthy in 2004 as it had been in 2003. While top grossers Madonna, Prince and Simon & Garfunkel performed well in terms of ticket sales, the live scene lacked the pulling power Paul McCartney, Elton John and Billy Joel had delivered the previous year. Some say promoters, who could pretty much charge whatever they wanted for McCartney et al, as a result increased ticket prices across the board, which makes music fans less likely to splash out on concerts by b-list artists. A handful of low turn-outs for previously bankable artists this year, and the cancellation of the Lollapalooza festival, suggest the US live sector may have peaked. With ticket prices in the UK also steadily creeping up, some say promoters on both sides of the Atlantic will not enjoy as successful a year in 2005 if they don't alter their ticket pricing strategies.
Of course, if you do plan to go into gig promotion in 2005, think twice before you flypost - especially in North London. Yep, 2004 was the year the local authorities found a new legal tool for tackling flyposting their past methods having been somewhat laughable (by the time they'd sent you a letter someone had covered up your posters anyway, meaning you were no longer liable).
The new tool was the Anti-social Behaviour Order. The logic, according to both Camden and Westminster councils, is that flyposting constitutes anti-social behaviour. When you issue an ASBO to someone, if they subsequently partake in said anti-social behaviour they face immediate fines or prison sentences. Both councils started threatening to issue ASBOs against any company associated with a flyposting campaign - and that meant a lot of people working in music.
Keen to unite and stand their ground against this dubious use of new laws designed to stop genuinely anti-social behaviour, the major record labels and media companies immediately caved in and promised to never flypost ever again. In the end it was left to street marketing agency Diabolical Liberties - who had more to lose than most in the crackdown over flyposting - to stand their ground and fight the local authorities in court. While a judge agreed to issue temporary ASBOs against key personnel at the marketing firm, effectively stopping them from flyposting in the Camden area, that particular fight is set to continue into 2005. The argument as to whether flyposting actually constitutes anti-social behaviour is yet to be resolved. If the courts decide it isn't, those major labels are sure to refill their buckets with paste and rejoin the battle for wall space.
CMU REVIEW OF THE 2004: THE MUSIC MEDIA
WHAT HAVE COVERMOUNT CDS EVER DONE FOR US?
Flyposting wasn't the only marketing tool used by record labels that came under attack this year - though this one was criticised from within the industry. With more or less every national newspaper giving away cover mounted CDs more or less every week the debate on whether cover mounts were good for the music business got increasingly heated. Cover mounts certainly help sell newspapers, but many in the music industry had long reached the conclusion that they didn't, as the newspapers had once claimed, help sell music - if anything they dissuaded consumers from buying proper albums, especially compilations.
The major record labels generally remained quiet on the topic some deciding the few grand they made every time a track from their back catalogue appeared on one of these CDs actually providing a useful extra revenue stream. The music publishers also shied away from the debate they too make a healthy income from the newspapers. However key artist managers, the big retailers and (to be fair) some of the record labels became increasingly critical - with some artists and labels issuing blanket cover mount bans.
Of course - as is always the case in these things - what was needed wasn't reactionary boycotts or complicated licensing agreements, but a bit of creative thinking. We're biased of course, cos we were involved, but we can't help thinking the new music CDs CMU's friends at BigTime produced for the Evening Standard and the Mail On Sunday proved the cover mount is a medium that can, in fact, be as beneficial to the label as to the newspaper. Which goes to show two things - firstly that most challenges in the music business can be overcome with a bit of creativity, and secondly that CMU is right on more or less everything, so pay more attention next year will you?
WHAT HAS MTV EVER DONE FOR US?
Talking of media platforms that make ambitious claims about their role in promoting music, earlier this year MTV came very close to losing the rights to screen music by Franz Ferdinand, The White Stripes, Dizzee Rascal, The Strokes, Sterephonics and, erm, Victoria Beckham, Craig David and the Cheeky Girls, when the music giant fell out big time with the independent record labels in the UK.
They wanted to pay lower royalties for screening those labels' music on the basis that things had changed since they made their original agreement with the indies, and, anyway, by playing a record label's music they were helping them sell CDs. But the labels wouldn't play ball, arguing inclusion on MTV's playlists did little for their artists' record sales (which presumably did wonders for every TV plugger's self-esteem) and that they didn't see why they should agree to cut their fees at a time when royalties were becoming an increasingly important part of a record label's income. For a few days things got nasty and it really looked like MTV would become indie free - but a last minute deal meant that MTV was able to maintain its access to Beckham, David and the Girls who are Cheeky - well, until their label Telstar went bust a few months later anyway.
ALL CHANGE AT THE BBC
Change across the board at the Beeb this year, of course - when the Hutton White Wash (sorry, I mean Inquiry) led to the resignation of chairman Gavyn Davies and popular Director General Greg Dyke. They were replaced by two men who were both former BBC execs and former (or, in one case, current) Channel 4 bosses - Michael Grade and Mark Thompson. Following the fallout of Hutton, and with the Beeb's charter renewal pending, they got busy planning some radical reforms which involve, primarily, sacking half the work force, and moving the rest to Manchester, or something like that anyway.
Of course for us music types (especially those of us who don't actually work for the BBC) the more interesting changes at the Corporation were taking place behind the scenes at flagging music show Top of the Pops. Despite fucking with the format, replacing quality music with cheap celebrity chat, keeping the show in the same slot as the increasingly massive Coronation Street and recruiting Fern Cotton, one of the most irritating TV presenters of all time, for some completely unknown reason the Beeb's flagship pop show struggled to improve on its disappointing viewing figures. The BBC's solution, revealed at the latter end of 2004 and due to take place in the New Year, is to move the show to Sunday nights on BBC2, presumably so it can find a new voice in a new age, and then be quietly axed. It's a crying shame of course, but we all prefer Popworld now anyway, don't we?
Similar changes are also pending over at Radio 1, who will revamp their chart show in the New Year. All that celebrity gossip, news and interviews stuff proved so popular on TOTP, they are going to introduce it on the UK Top 40 Show too. Wonderful. Ah well, at least in JK and Joel they have decent presenters. And of course Radio 1, after several years of decline, had a good year in 2004, mainly because of, and I'm reluctant to admit this, one Chris Moyles. Anyone and their mother could do a better breakfast show than Sara Cox of course (I know me and my mother could), but Moyles has proved hugely popular since taking over the flagship show and helped the Beeb's pop station turn the tide and start building audience. Given the long-time-coming-yet-still-disappointing retirement of Mark and Lard, the arrival of Fern-Cotton-level irritating Edith Bowman to daytime and, of course, the sad sad loss of John Peel, the fact Radio 1 had a good year is a testament to the people who run the station.
Not that we'd know, because of course real music fans are splashing out on a digital radio set and tuning in to 6Music instead. Both digital TV and digital radio continued their steady growth in 2004, helped, surely, by the BBC's constant cross-promotion for their digital services on their analogue stations. Both government and the commercial sector are desperate for digital to take off of course, so they tended to turn a blind eye to the Beeb's extensive self-promotion in the digital domain. The only real challenge to BBC's dominance in the terrestrial digital space came when they were forced to allow Top Up TV to add pay-per-view channels to the BBC's Freeview network. But no one, as yet, has objected to the frequent use of the phrase "now on BBC4".
ALL QUIET ON THE RADIO MERGER FRONT - UNTIL NOW
Of course, once we all own digital TV and radio sets the commercial sector will get much more picky about how the Beeb cross promote their digital services. Certainly the commercial radio sector see the BBC's continuing dominance among big chunks of the radio audience as a problem - and the need to better compete for that audience was one of the reasons used by major radio companies Capital and GWR for merging their operations.
Given the change in media ownership rules that came in with 2003's Communications Act, you might have expected more mergers in the radio sector in 2004. Actually, all was quiet on the radio merger front for the first half of the year, until rumours started to circulate that two of the majors would soon start talking consolidation. In the end it was Capital and GWR that announced an intention to merge. With the Office Of Fair Trading giving those proposals the go ahead this week, insiders now reckon 2005 will bring the consolidation in the radio sector many expected in 2004.
Perhaps one of the reasons the radio sector didn't have time to merge this year was because they were all too busy bidding for one of the new analogue radio licences that media regulator OfCom began to advertise. We may be in the digital internet age, but the real money is still in traditional broadcasting, and as each new licence became available most of the usual suspects and a handful of independent players could be expected to make a bid - the former usually putting forward a local version of one of their existing digital stations (for some reason, it always seemed to be a rock station). There should be more of the same in 2005 with many more of these licences still up for grabs.
Anything else? Oh yes, Johnny Vaughan took over on Capital's breakfast show to mixed critical and audience response. TalkSport's Kelvin MacKenzie continued to whinge about the way RAJAR measure radio audience figures (though he was unsuccessful in his attempt to sue RAJAR over it). Tony Blackburn walked out on his radio show after being told not to play so much Cliff Richard - but his bosses soon had to back down after Tony and Cliff won the support of the popular media - and good for them. And finally Xfm's Remix show launched a weekly e-newsletter update put together by the team at CMU. That was the biggest story surely.
GET DIGITAL MR EDITOR
When it comes to good old fashioned music magazines, it seems NME, Q and Kerrang have got it covered - or at least that's how it seemed when Xfm's X-Ray magazine closed its doors at the start of the year, another of 2003's new music titles to not go the distance. The Observer Music Monthly was the only other big new music title that continued to prosper in 2004, though rumours in Private Eye say even that may not survive the whole of 2005.
Those music magazines that have survived through 2004 now find themselves needing to adapt to the aforementioned growth in digital music. Q had a bit of a rejig midway through the year to become less album driven the consensus being that MP3 buyers are much more interested by individual tracks than long player releases. And, of course, the main new arrival of the year in the music press - Rip & Burn magazine - was completely concerned with music of the digital kind. How the main music titles will change as digital music continues to grow in 2005 remains to be seen.
NO SEX PLEASE, WE'RE STUPID
Only in America could one of the biggest media news stories centre on Janet Jackson revealing 85% of one of her breasts during the Superbowl. But such was the outrage among middle America at Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's raunchy Superbowl midshow routine (the latter, initially rather flippant about the whole incident, quickly distanced himself from the boob revealing thing, ever the gentleman he opted for the line "it was all Janet's fault"). Media regulator the FCC received record numbers of complaints, and they in turn handed out record fines against US TV network CBS, who had broadcast the show, and whose sister network MTV had produced it.
Whether Nipplegate really made the FCC ever more puritan, or whether it was just a very public demonstration of how strict they had become, we're not sure. Certainly the easily offended in America took it upon themselves to be offended whenever possible. The FCC used that to justify being ever more draconian, and the media owners - all too aware of how costly Nipplegate had been for CBS - became ever more cautious.
The result of all this? American TV, and especially American radio, began to lose its edgier programming. But this is the land of opportunity, and the wider media's loss was the satellite broadcaster's gain. As subscription based satellite TV and radio is less regulated in the US, the shows the mainstream media were too scared to air found a new home on those satellite stations - giving the satellite broadcasters a new USP. The biggest winner was probably satellite radio network Sirius who managed to recruit two of America's most controversial figures - Eminem and Howard Stern. Their arrival on satellite radio is good news for everyone who likes their provocative style, bad news for those of us who enjoy watching that provocative style being used to piss off middle America.
CMU REVIEW OF THE 2004: ARTISTS
CAPTURING THE HEADLINES
Of course Janet Jackson's moment of glory may have dominated the news agenda for a week or so (conveniently just a month before her new album was released), but her column inch count in 2004 was nothing compared to brother Michael. Actually, not a lot really happened regarding those child abuse allegations against Michael Jackson - with the arrest coming at the end of 2003 and the actual court case not due until the start of 2005. But rarely did a week go by without some new story relating to the case - all the more odd given that the court's restriction on media coverage of the trial meant neither prosecution nor defence could ever say a great deal. One of those weird Grand Jury things the Americans like said there was a sufficient case against Jacko for the trial to continue, while Jackson's defence team (which changed half way through the year) continued to look for technicalities to get the whole case thrown out of court. As it currently stands this story should secure even more column inches when it all finally goes to court proper next month.
Keeping the pop courts almost as busy in 2004 was Courtney Love, whose legal team had to cope with a plethora of drugs and assault charges and a very unreliable client who would frequently miss court appearances and, on the occasions she did show up, do her best to piss off her judge. Still, she managed to avoid jail (although she did spend a few weeks essentially sectioned) and as each court case went through the motions kept us all decently entertained.
Also vying for media space this year were Madonna with her new found commitment to the trendy Kaballah faith (by coincidence she had a tour to promote), Elton John with his bitching sessions against fellow performers (by coincidence he had an album to promote), former Westlife boy Brian McFadden with his drink problem (who also had an album to sell), Eminem who did his best to wind up everyone, well, mainly Michael Jackson (and, you guessed it, he had a record to sell) and Marc Almond who nearly got killed in a motorbike crash (and who, to be fair, wasn't trying to sell anything).
Hundreds of American artists encouraged their fellow countryman to oust that mad man Bush from the White House in the American elections. They failed of course, but good for them for trying. Elsewhere in pop politics, several dancehall artists - most prominently Beenie Man - faced the full wrath of the gay rights lobby for their seemingly homophobic lyrics. Gigs were cancelled, airplay was denied and awards were withdrawn as the gay campaigners got increasingly vocal - although the artists involved, as yet, maintain their right to free speech (even if that does involved suggesting gay people should be set on fire). U2's Bono maintained his commitment to embarrassing world leaders into helping the developing world, while others across the pop spectrum continued to campaign in both the political and charitable senses of the word to help those in need - most prominently, of course, with the artistically poor but nevertheless very worthy Band Aid 20 project.
In the news for leaving us behind and making their way to the studio in the sky this year were, among others, Ray Charles, Johnny Ramone, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Byrds producer Terry Melcher, Deacon Blue guitarist Graeme Kelling, The Zombies guitarist Paul Atkinson, New York Dolls bassist Arthur Kane, Les Gray from Mud, Damageplan's Dimebag Darrell Abbot, singer Laura Branigan and of course the late, very very great, Mr John Peel.
But when it comes to the amount of space filled in the CMU Daily, we haven't actually counted it, but surely the column inch award of 2004 belongs to the aforementioned Pete Doherty - the junkie who the NME reckon is the coolest man in Britain. There were the run-ins with band-mates and the law, the frequent web-logged attempts at rehab, the legendary erratic behaviour, and the live shows that could be genius, shambolic or non-existent depending on Doherty's mood (and presumably on what substances were in his blood system at the time). For what its worth we're big fans of Doherty's work here at CMU (his collaboration with Wolfman was one of my favourite tracks of the year), so we wish him well in 2005 - let's hope he can kick his dangerous drug addiction without losing his creative buzz and slightly dopey charm.
MAKING THE MUSIC
While Pete Doherty's antics caught the tabloid headlines, the music made by him and his label mates were dominating the music press. 2004 was a great year for Rough Trade Records who, having celebrated their 25th birthday, delivered us some of the greatest albums of the year. While the band who had topped Rough Trade's roster in recent years - The Strokes - had a quiet year after completing the promotion on album 'Room On Fire', with the Libertines, Babyshambles, Belle & Sebastian and the truly glorious Delays (among others) on the bill, the Rough Trade team were behind some of the best music in last twelve months.
And let's put that into perspective, because 2004 was a fantastic year for music - and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, there was plenty of shit (Girls Aloud anyone? Best of Atomic Kitten anyone? Anything involving Westlife anyone?) - but let's not dwell on that, because there was so much good shit too. In fact so good a year was 2004 it would be inappropriate to randomly pick out some of our favourites off the top of our heads but let's do it anyway.
2004 was the year of The Killers, The Bees, The Zutons, Kings of Leon, Interpol, Razorlight, Green Day, Blink 182, !!!, The Hives, The Ordinary Boys, The Thrills, and the refreshing, funktastic, wonderful Scissor Sisters. The year of Mylo, Soulwax, the Dub Pistols, Adam Freeland, Rennie Pilgrem, The Freestylers, those great Depeche Mode remix albums, that fantastic TwoCultureClash project, Grand National, Lazyboy, Max Sedgely and, come to think of it, anything to do with Rob Da Bank's Sunday Best label (proof that anyone who says dance music is dead is frankly insane). The year of Busted (again), McFly, Maroon 5, Gwen Stefani and decent pop music. The year of Dizzee Rascal (again), The Streets (again), Blade, Kelis, Jamelia, Estelle and the kings of the British urban scene - Goldie Lookin Chain.
It was the year of the comeback. Morrissey fans got the comeback record they desperately wanted. Pixies fans got the tour they desperately wanted. Beach Boys fans got the long awaited release of 'Smile' that they desperately wanted. Prince and Ian Brown fans got the greatest hits shows they desperately needed. And U2 fans got, well, a new album. The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and Eminem may have got a mixed critical reception with their new long players - but we here at CMU rated each of them. And who could have failed to have been excited by the return to music by one Mr William Shatner. I don't care what anyone says - 'Common People' now belongs to him.
If we're talking global success, 2004 was, once again, the year of American hip hop. Jay Z kept talking about retiring, but kept selling records and packing out stadiums nevertheless. Eminem proved he is still very much in demand (by record buyers and music fans if not critics). And the real global unit shifters in 2004 were Usher, Kanye West and OutKast - all three of whom also grabbed most of the headlines at the major music award events.
Of course, there was all that really good stuff that you all ignored too. Why didn't Patrick & Eugene top the charts? Why was Robbie's track 'Radio' so popular when the Client track of the same name was so much better? Why didn't that wonderful album by Los Paranoias get the Lemon Jelly faithful excited? And why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why weren't the Loose Cannons, quite clearly the most exciting new band of 2004, not heard any further than Eddy TM's Remix Show and the CMU office? If the Cannons don't get the success they so much deserve in 2005 I might have to hit someone (starting with whoever fucked up their marketing over at Island Records).
But enough of all that. Let's not forget this was the year Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol proved us Brits (well, those from Glasgow and Belfast anyway) could sell records in America too - and thank the Lord Snow Patrol are finally shifting records after all these years. And let's hope we are saying that about the Loose Cannons this time next year.
But hang on, what's all this about shifting records? Clearly some of the best tracks this year were never actually released - or at least that's the case if, like us, you're a sucker for a good mash up remix. While DJ Danger Mouse's controversial (but, frankly, genius) 'Grey Album' caught the headlines, these were the bootleg remixes that got out attention.
Alter Ego/White Stripes - 7 Nation Rocker (IDC Mix) http://www.btinternet.com/~dancefloor/consume.html
Loo & Placido - Kids Rock
Dizzee Rascal vs The Strokes - Just A Reptilian (Lionel Vinyl Mix)
DJ Riko - Whistler's Delight
Queen - New York At Last
Talking of Eddy TM's Remix show on Xfm - which is kinda where we first heard most of these - 2004 was the year Eddy kept telling me how big Kasabian were going to be. For a while it seemed no one else was interested - but then, sometime last week, everyone started talking about these guys, and big things surely beckon in 2005. Likewise, big things are also surely on the cards for the Go! Team, Bloc Party, Elefant, Evil 9, Do Me Bad Things and Neon Heights - just some of the new bands that got the CMU team excited in 2004.
Phew, that's a lot of good stuff. So, as the New Year approaches, if anyone tells you this Christmas that they isn't any decent music around at the moment, tell them to fuck off. Whether it's urban, rock, dance or one of those many little genres that sit within (and let's not forget country music is on an up just now too), the music world enters 2005 in good health. Which is good news for those that work in the music business. There seems little doubt that people will continue to download it, buy it and see it live next year. Of course, who will manage to make a profit from it all - the labels, the publishers, the management, the promoters, the technology companies, the phone firms, or perhaps even the artists - remains to be seen. But when it happens, rest assured CMU will be there, bad gag in hand, to give you the lowdown.