I haven’t kept this blog up very well in the last year, as it’s been very busy and I’ve been gallivanting about the place. Luckily, however, I’ve started a new blog - so point your peepers at this site instead, you can keep up with all my goings-on there.

I might still post things here from time to time, but just letting you all know that a lot of stuff will be over there. :)

The Pirate Bay, Spotify AB and Progress in the Post-Information Age

The strange, yet undeniably obvious truth about many businesses, even large, long-established leviathans built on old-school morals and hard graft, is that they’re unable to adapt to the ebb and flow of constant diversity. I mean, sure, supermarkets will always sell a variety of FMCG products plus a few specialist brands; live music venues will continue to put on live music and club nights, and directors backed by film corporations will continue to churn out blockbuster after lacklustre blockbuster in an attempt to meet the demand of a sea of movie-goers.

So, where’s the need for change? The information age has long-since hit and left the developed world reeling in the face of the Dot Com Bubble. Steve Jobs has passed on and left a multitude of disciples, Bill Gates remains the world’s second-richest billionaire after cultivating technological giant Microsoft, and if you’re not on Facebook, well, I’m afraid you’ll be hard-pressed to know what’s going on with regards to your friends and relatives in a world where 9am and 5pm simply aren’t the boundaries any more. But whilst Google becomes the new Big Brother and Twitter makes it so nobody can sneeze in a corner without someone halfway around the world knowing about it, what a lot of businesses with a dedicated, yet underdeveloped IT department fail to realise is that the information age has not yet reached its plateau – the Amstrad, Windows 95 and the loud chug of 28.8k dial up has only paved the way for further progress. Even the most tech-savvy of us can prove to be dinosaurs when it comes to the innovative depths of the internet, and what we are beginning to see is just how these dinosaurs are able to adapt to the rapidly-changing times.

A majorly controversial aspect of information sharing continues to be the impact high-speed broadband and recording technology has had on the distribution of copyrighted material. The old adages of, “recording songs from the radio for a friend’s mixtape” or “taping every episode of The Simpsons from BBC2 on VHS over the course of the week” can no longer stand as acceptable analogies, what with users uploading a plethora of high-profile films, expensive computer programs and music artists’ entire discographies en masse to file-sharing drop boxes, cloud-based sky drives and peer-to-peer (p2p) torrent websites for bulk distribution. However, with problems often come the need for solutions, the founders of which stand to gain considerable financial rewards should their remedy prove successful.

It must be remembered that file sharing is not a new phenomenon. Anything from CNC punch tapes to the Kermit protocol have surfaced in the back-and-forth of file sharing, as well as a fairly humorous campaign from the Software Publisher’s Association in the early 90s. Following the advent of the world wide web being made largely available in households in the late 90s, a major player in the calm before the explosion of high-speed internet services and subsequent p2p sharing emerged in the form of Napster in its user-friendly yet highly illegal in the eyes of Metallica’s lawyers format. Chat program IRC and similar community-based network platforms were used for sharing files before Napster became popular, but they were never as accessible as Napster, nor did they focus exclusively on what many now believe will become the internet’s coup de grace to the music industry: exclusively sharing music in mp3 format.

Since the year 2000, when data compression (such as mpeg and jpeg formats) became feasible for the general public, there have been several incarnations following in Napster’s footsteps; important names being KaZaA, Gnutella and Limewire. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 and the subsequent Copyright Directive 2001 were passed in an attempt to address what was slowly becoming a problem of profits for creative industries; but with internet service providers being exempt from liability for the actions of their users, a practice that was once “sharing” amongst friends quickly spiralled into “piracy.” Filesharing sites and p2p networks began dropping like flies, citing “hostile legal climates;” The Pirate Bay became a defiant thorn in the side of the Recording Industry Association (RIAA); long-standing fileshare services such as MegaUpload were closed down by the US government pending trials; and the past three years have seen the coming into being of four highly controversial pieces of anti-piracy legislation, namely the UK’s Digital Economy Act, the United States’ SOPA and PIPA, and the latest international treaty, ACTA.

However, with the dawning of a troublesome time for filesharing and free information came new ideas by paradigm breakers looking to move with or even exploit the changing times. As I have observed previously, there has been a surge in the development of online on-demand television services; but as well as these, the notion floated by Napster over ten years ago has come back in the form of Swedish music streaming service Spotify. Although controversial in both its introduction of paid subscriptions, as well as its paltry payments to artists per play, once-small startup Spotify AB have hit on an unoriginal, rehashed idea innovatively reinvented for the new millennium. A solution that, in an age of piracy and inventions such as the PirateBox, has developed it into the $3.5bn company you see it as today. Along with imitators Deezer, and old-guard iTunes and Amazon mp3, it may be argued that we are beginning to see a new breed of paradigm breakers in the information age, tackling grey issues like piracy not by hashing out controversial legislation and attempting to push it through governments despite overwhelming opposition to it; but by attempting to adapt. In order to survive the changes that come with inevitable technological advances, businesses could take a leaf out of Spotify AB’s book and attempt to adapt their business models to accommodate the new innovations. By beating other companies to the punch, there’s no telling what could be achieved purely by embracing the changes and improvements the digital age has to offer.

Striving to adapt and innovate lend themselves so well to making it big in most industries, and some might say there’s a particular need for the next “get rich quick success story” in such troubling economic times. The thing about the internet is that most of its content, whether original, plagiarised or otherwise, can be accessed (legally) for free. Whether you choose to steal the content or use it for inspiration and adaptation is entirely up to you and its owner’s lawyers, but the reason the Dot Com Bubble was so huge in the mid-90s was largely due to the fact that the internet is accessible from anywhere with a signal, using deceptively simple yet sophisticated devices. With a significant change in technology and content delivery comes a need for a change in the way content suppliers operate: the fact that social media is such a huge, recession-resistant industry is hardly a coincidence.

You do not need to ask my permission to share this. Please link it widely.

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

This has spelt out my concerns far better than I could do in an acceptable time frame.

Structuring and Restructuring: Starting a new role in a small-yet-demanding company.

I graduated from university back in July 2011. I was on tour with a band then, convinced that once we’d done our rounds up and down the country, I could settle down, find a nice graduate role in a company somewhere, spend months making tea, and eventually earn a bit of scratch.

Needless to say, as the last eight months have taught me quite harshly, that was not necessarily the case. As it stands, the country is still reeling from the relentless one-two sucker-punch combo of a nasty recession combined with unforgiving spending cuts on behalf of our wonderful Coalition government. As such, the problem for many, much like in the Thatcherite 1980s, is that of jobs – or, more accurately, a lack thereof. I spent months and months of my life amending CV after CV, writing cover letter after cover letter, and doing all of the research in the world to discover what each and every technical term within its respective business meant. Employers hardly ever exclusively pursue degrees: so many people are pushed to attend university now, hence the controversial increase in fees; anyone from humanitarian scholars to hairdressing artists can study for a degree in this day and age, no matter how much it costs or how ridiculous the course may sound. Even then, being able to spend your entire student loan on colourful cocktails that have a tendency of coming out the same colour they went in every weekend is no means for gainful employment. No, employers seek experience – something many graduates, myself included, possess very little of.

The result of this wicked cycle of “no experience equals no employment” and vice versa is usually depicted accurately by disinterested gargoyles at every Jobcentre Plus, demanding to know why Mr. Big-and-Flashy BA Honours Man didn’t get yet another response from a job; why McDonald’s refers to him as “overqualified” and why countless years of writing means he’s still not sufficiently qualified enough for a junior copywriting job in the City. So, I took my dishevelled and unemployable self down to Mass1, a small-yet-feisty communications company based in East London, with my eyes on the prize of a part-time frontline communications role collecting data and engaging with targeted members of client organisations. That interview was last Thursday, and as I type this in the office, the role I began on Friday morning has transformed itself dramatically. My line manager frequently dragged me away from data collection throughout my first day, giving me hurdles in the form of research, copywriting and data analysis. I like to think I seldom had issues, but I had no idea what she was planning.

I came into the office on Monday after working the weekend doing frontline comms. Rana introduced me to Tom and Mark, the two owners of the business, who asked me the usual spiel of interview questions, but it was so casual, I hadn’t noticed. Before I knew it, my duties weren’t simply those of a call operator; I was a Campaigns Executive, shadowing Rana in her day-to-day works and stresses; I had to get to grips very quickly with data collating and analysis tasks I had never done before, constructing and filing reports, and writing copy to specifications. Updating an online blog was fairly easy (funnily enough), but this was followed by further data analysis and research. Running errands to buy paper and a mop proved, whilst simple, quite arduous – Liverpool Street, despite having many, many offices, does not play host to many stationers that stay open past 5pm.

Studying a non-vocational subject like History at university ultimately had the effect of pigeonholing me as a would-be teacher, academic or archive researcher. Diverse subject matter lent itself to diverse socio-political views, resulting in a diverse choice of career paths - I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated, even though everyone else seemed to – and wanted to know where I was going. This divergent attitude is what I feel fits me into this role; something I can well and truly discern from the two short days working at Mass1 is that, in a small company with a lot going on and a very diverse and demanding clientele, above all, you need to be adaptable. A jack of all trades, and a master of some – some which you may use from time to time, but be prepared to spend your own time revelling in your effortless expertise. My role is dynamic, which, whilst I am constantly out of my comfort zone, I’m never out of my depth – I’m constantly learning new skills, developing old ones, switching focus, and as I move on in my endeavours, perhaps I’ll focus on specific fields; but much like a gateway course in that first undergraduate year, it’s mostly about finding what you like and what you’re good at. Whilst stressful at times, it’s constantly stimulating, and as I develop, so will the role.

Yesterday, for example, I was given a few tasks, but after the hectic nature of day one, managed to nothing short of smash them to bits whilst holding office chit chat and eating monster munch. It was fast-paced, and unrelenting, but so much more engaging than sitting at home scouring Brand Republic. I’m hoping that my skills will come more into play once there is a call for them – particularly the social media, copywriting and branding side of things. Helping to put a smaller company well and truly on the business map, being a part of the next industry success story expansion is something that really appeals to me as a young and hungry graduate, but I’m hardly holding my breath. Though the pay for a position like this one is lower than the average in this industry, or in London; I am receiving benefits that far outweigh a larger pay packet that, without experience, I can’t really justify. I am essentially gleaning all the postgraduate workplace education I possibly can, and after spending months feeling like a cemented part of the “1-in-10,” it’s a very welcome change.

I’m not about to say to anyone that they should rush out and try to find the smallest, most laid-back company they can and put in a CV. What I am stressing, however, is that taking a vocational degree in Economics or Business Studies or Computer Science or Chemistry in order to clearly and clinically puncture their way into the Treasury, Microsoft or GlaxoSmithKline isn’t the only way to do things. Marketing and Business graduates are chosen over History graduates all day long for the entry-level graduate positions in brand development and social media that I’ve been relentlessly attacking, because they’re expected to know the lingo and hit the targets without much prompting. What a degree can’t tell you, however, is how a person – as an individual – will adapt to working life; but that’s what experience is for, and there’s no substitute for it. Now that I have my foot well and truly wedged in the infrequently-opening door of career opportunity, I’m pretty damn excited about where I’ll be able to go from here.

Still, the song plays on: Sonic Boom Six, HMV’s Next Big Thing… ?

It wasn’t so long ago that Jamie at Bananatown, following a particularly brilliant live show featuring Manchester’s raggapunk mashup veterans, Sonic Boom Six, penned that “[the band] are really getting back into their own following the departure of guitarist, Ben Childs.” In November last year, when the Boom decided to end some of their tour shows on not-so-much crowd favourite as die-hard-fan-favourite, “Until the Sunlight Comes,” six-string main man Nick Horne sheepishly admitted, “I have to pretend to be Ben at the end…” when referring to the undeniably epic final solo. Yes, it’s no well-kept secret that Ben wrote that solo, and quite a lot of music from the Boom’s first three albums. However, following their latest performance at the HMV Next Big Thing event at the Camden Barfly last Thursday, I am finally more inclined to believe what Jamie said many months ago: The Boom are back. Completely different, going in so many directions it’s ridiculous, but back all the same. And better for it.

I could do an adequate job simply reviewing the live show and saying how wonderful it all was, but firstly, I’m sure that someone else will have already done that, secondly, I was having too much fun to concentrate on song orders and crowd reactions, and thirdly, I managed to miss openers The Wonder Villains due to traffic and adverse weather conditions; so it would simply be unfair to them. What I can comment on, however, are the new sounds I heard, the direction I perceive the band to be moving in, and how they’re practically game-changing for not only a band that made their name in and out of the shallow pockets of Moon Ska EuropeHidden Talent and the ska-punk scene as a whole; but also for the mainstream they are – hopefully – about to break into in a massive way.

Following their various online presences; namely the Facebook page, Laila and Barney’s Twitter and the recently-migrated-to-Tumblr Barney’s Blog has revealed over the last two years that Sonic Boom Six were recording a new album. An album that “would blow City of Thieves out of the water.” An album featuring, “some of Barney’s best lyric-writing to date.” Everyone has heard the flagship single, “For the Kids of the Multiculture,” by now, as it has been featured on many a music television channel and plastered all over the social networks for the past few months. However, on Thursday, we were treated to brand new tunes, “Gary Got A Gun” (which you previously could not be updated on new album shenanigans without spotting somewhere in the respective blurb), “The High Cost of Living,” and “Keep On Believing.” From what I remember, they were all very promising in different ways; but, more importantly, they were all representative of a new sound, one capable of moving distinctly out of the shadows of now-KillBillies folk-punk frontman Ben Childs for good.

It is no surprise or secret that quite a lot of people have been jumping on the dubstep bandwagon for the past two years, after the musical phenomenon exploded in the mid-00s following darkstep remix experiments by big names like PlasticmanDigital Mystikz and Atari Teenage Riot. Dubstep remixes became two-a-penny by 2010, ranging from chart-topping artists like Cher Lloyd (the dubstep remix of “Dub on the Track” featured three incredible grime MCs who aren’t nearly as big as Cher, but the tune itself was not well received by grime fans or dubstep fans) and upstarts (at the time) The Skints (with the KANEDUBSTEP remix of “Up Against the Wall.”) Dubstep was the new sound, the popular sound, so new in fact that Simon Cowell has entertained ideas for a “DJ Idol” style show in an effort to cash in on it. The introduction, therefore, of dub, electronic and darkstep elements to the Boom’s sound, coinciding with the joining of new guitarist, synth-player, producer, mixer, remixer and father-of-five James “Midas” Routh split the fans a bit; with ska-punk purists (read: Reel Big Fish-enthusiasts) claiming that the band were simply going the way of everyone else.

I think it’s definitely worth pointing out that James has been experimenting with electronica in his room and various studios for years before joining Sonic Boom Six, and his influence is no less “watered-down” than the dubstep you hear on the radio or in grotty squat raves. What we experienced with the “Midas Mix” of City of Thieves hit, “Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang!” for example, was a loss of two verses from Ben and ex-King Prawn/ADF badman Al Rumjen, but also an introduction into what James was capable of given a particularly dub-laden rap tune to mess about with. Up until the new songs were aired live, James has essentially been filling the shoes of musicians from the Boom’s history, be they Dave Kelly’s guitar or Ben’s guitar, brass or keys; I welcome the sounds we are now beginning to see emerge from the Boom camp with the inclusion of new talent. You may notice that many of the B-side remixes on new Boom singles were produced by James, I would bet that the new album was co-produced by him also, and I personally would love to see what he can do with Suicide Bid’s stuff – it could be phenomenal.

That out of the way, “The High Cost of Living” demonstrated just what’s new about the Boom, without being too new to be unrecognisable. Laila’s wails and Barney’s riddimic yaps danced about on the track, incorporating a hip hop feel not uncommon with the Fugees or the Beastie Boys, whilst remaining heavy enough to justify including live drums and the heaviest hummers in any Gibson Explorer known to man. Peter Phillips (of The Moon Club in Cardiff and Sub 89 in Reading) voiced that ska-punk-grime youngsters Tyrannosaurus Alan had, with their latest track S.T.B., achieved “a sound Sonic Boom Six have been trying to find for the last ten years.” I think that might be somewhat erroneous, due to the fact that they touched on it back in the day when we heard the likes of “Blood For Oil” or “Silent Majority” – to compare S.T.B. to something like “What Doesn’t Kill You” shows just how far apart their contemporary sounds are.

On the other hand, the now enigmatically infamous “Gary Got A Gun” erred more on the side of heavy, and less on the side of hip hop; a kind of new-school “For 12 Weeks,” or “Sid the Strangler.” A vocally roaring salvo of a chorus lent itself well to the overdriven guitars, pounding drums and the obligatory “Laila K Skank” and allowed the frontwoman and wing-hype-man to dart about the small stage, demonstrating Sonic Boom Six’s oldest trick in the book – it’s all about the live show, it’s all about the energy.

What came next was something I don’t think anyone was quite expecting, in the form of “Keep On Believing,” a song I immediately, and will continue to refer to, as “Nick’s Song.” All Journey references and jokes aside, the tune was littered with guitar hooks and woah-woah vocal lines straight out of the 1980s, and even though it was delivered in truly contemporary Boom style; I couldn’t stop looking at Nick, the man who never stopped wearing leather jackets and bullet belts, has rocked an undeniably “metal” guitar since I can remember, and had his “power stance” in full swing throughout what everyone was now fully aware of as a ballad that he had full creative control over. Quirky? Yes. Unexpected? Certainly. But overall, was it fun? Definitely. “Keep On Believing” basically enveloped all the faux-nostalgic amusement of a karaoke rendition of "Stairway to Heaven," or a performance from an 80s tribute band full of past-it beer-bellied 40-somethings who still have frequent arguments involving Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth. With a punk edge. If you could imagine such a thing.

With the obvious inclusion of James’ wob-wob darkstep electronics and Nick’s artificial glamorous arrogance finally comes a new chapter in Sonic Boom Six’s history. It looks like not only riding on the backs of countless tours, remix albums and City of Thieves has come to an end, but also playing the gambling game with DIY promoters and greedy, petty booking agents of the dog-eat-dog underbelly of the “underground punk scene.” Surprisingly, it could go either way - it looks like the new sounds to consume could throw a spanner in the works of what people are used to seeing on the front of Kerrang! Magazine, but at the same time, the Boom could very well be accommodated by such publications if they can be marketed well enough to demographics otherwise enthralled by pop-punk, hardcore and You Me At Six.

The fans may have been, and will continue to be, good to the Boom; but something tells me that this corner-turning, in the form of A&R men and slick media types searching for something to market has come just at the right time. If you’re not capable of selling yourself to an establishment that can sell you on for a profit, you’re doomed to languish at the bottom of the industry, playing shows to semi-empty rooms for less than a tenner whilst the promoter (and your booking agent – if you have one) pockets everything else. And they call it independent punk rock, a movement inspired by really hardworking and not at all manufactured bands like The Sex Pistols; “a new scene, with new values; so different from what had happened before. A bit dangerous.”

“We never said that we’d start a revolution,
We never claimed to be anything but ourselves.
We never said that we’d find some world solution,
We only asked for a place up on the shelf.

This is the sound we make, the choice we take,
There’s no mistake, this can’t be faked.
What’s the point? Just call it what you want.”

I happened to chance upon the above article on the Guardian website from Sunday, in which angry, outspoken and incredibly brilliant misery blogger Charlie Brooker offers his views on the fallout from a recent article published on the Daily Mail’s online outlet, entitled, “Right-wingers are less intelligent than left wingers, says study.” Utilising the trademark wit, marvellously strong language and outrageously elaborate metaphors that Brooker has become known for, he puts across the notion that the Mail, whilst being typically controversial with their (for lack of a better word) journalism, have essentially turned their media guns on their own intended audience. Well, aside from those who read the paper for entertainment purposes. Brooker suggests an appreciation, albeit a tongue-in-cheek one, for what the article became following its publication; a “self-fulfilling prophecy” of sorts. Comments that have since been deleted and disallowed, the opinions of the affected banished forever into the deep recesses of online peacekeeping through forum censorship, included such gems as, “Sounds like a BBC study, type of thing they would waste the Licence fee on, load of Cods wallop,” the intricate levels of fallacy therein laid bare for all reading the comments to see, dissect and sensibly argue against. Or to do what most people did when faced with such articulate prose: laugh profusely.

Nonetheless, I am not writing this purely to emphasise or agree wholeheartedly with Charlie’s sentiments (though I do, for the record), no; what struck me about the article, and its interpretation by people in my immediate and more far-flung social circles online such as Facebook and Twitter, was the way in which many of the so-called Liberal lefty brigade managed to, once again, separate themselves completely from the angry Daily Mail readership by doing something equally as ridiculous. On the day the article was published at the start of this month, I spotted at least twenty proud liberal students, SU representatives, musicians, DIY promoters and protest organisers band the link to the Mail Online around like it was the latest copy of the Socialist Worker, the special edition that happened to contain the missing link between Marx’s utopian ideal and an utter lunatic liquidating millions of Russians in an industrially backwards country in the name of modernising far enough to beat the USA in the race to land on the moon and split the atom simultaneously.

What I witnessed following the posting of this “sublime piece of online performance art” was the liberal left-wing, previously forever scoffing at and shunning the rag that is the Daily Mail, suddenly shoving it in the faces of anyone and everyone and their mum in the hope that they would all understand now and forever that everyone on the left, personified in the past year by protest march after protest march, copies of the Guardian and angry anti-Government songs and sentiments, was by far the intellectually superior political camp. I don’t think there’s much need for me to express how hilarious I found the concept that many of those among the left wing needed to be legitimised by a “stark write up of a daft-sounding study” in a publication they consistently and systematically stripped of all legitimacy. Yes, the Daily Mail is terrible, the Mail Online is terrible, and racist, and classist, and sexist, and outwardly sympathetic towards the Cleggs and Camerons and Farages of our Great British Isles; but not when its sensationalist “journalists” have a cheap pop at someone whose political leanings I don’t really like! No, now it’s pretty much the pinnacle of all intellectual thought! Come, friends, let us share our opinions unprejudiced and welcomed upon the online forum of this wonderful publication!

I am not intending to argue one way or the other with regards to the left or right with this entry, as with regards to this article (and other scenarios in recent months) I’ve found both sides to express their share of ridiculousness. However, what I think should be more apparent in the minds of the politically active, whether MP, campaigner, protester, journalist or entertainer, is that propaganda works both ways; and to be wary of extremes. Being ignorant of the bigger picture in any argument leads to fallacy, and just because one tiny facet (however badly-written or riddled with sensationalist trolling) of an otherwise virtual caricature of everything you’ve decided is wrong and disgusting about the world puts you in a good light for the day, all of your previous revulsion of that caricature is still apparent: the fleeting enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

As far as I can tell, prejudices are evident in everyone, hence why no one system of values, exercised individually or by the state, will work for everyone. Jumping on an ill-thought-out interpretation in an effort to expose how comically stupid some of the right-wing are (and there are a lot of them) only serves to show the jumper in a similar light – and that can’t be good for anyone.

Or, more accurately; what does this mean for digital media and branding?

I had a look at the above mentioned article in Media Week today, citing figures for the increase of “on-demand” online television services such as BBC iPlayer and 4oD, and considered how far we’d come since their initial inception. Reading of the figures depicts a rise in figures for actual users of the “free” (or ad-funded) services such as iPlayer (68%) and ITV Player (36%) and increases in their “levels of awareness,” but also compares them to the use of paid services, such as Sky Go and LoveFilm.

I was quite intrigued by the surfacing of this article, as it came at the same time my Facebook news feed has become more a salvo of links to full series’ of US drama shows on NetFlix. It would appear that, what began as a US-only on-demand subscription service has exploded into the UK online market by way of a free monthly trial. Combine that with the Apple iTunes and, more recently, Spotify-esque ability to harness the power of idle clicking, the service being supported by a wide range of hardware platforms that people already use for other things, and not having to send off for or return physical media, and one may start to see just how wide the appeal for such a service is. 4oD, in a similar fashion, I seem to remember began life as a mainly pay-per-view or pay-per-rent service, with the occasional popular show streamable for free with ad support. Since the need to download an application (that wasn’t mobile, one-click or on a shiny tablet or smartphone) that you had to install with a minimum of PC knowledge, that ran sluggishly and didn’t always work properly, was apparent with 4oD at the time, it didn’t really take off in the same way iPlayer did a few months later. But just look at them now! Fully online, all of the shows you could ever wish for completely accessible on your choice of shiny mechanical box in just a few clicks – something NetFlix beat them to the punch to back in 1999.

However, regardless of “who started what, when?” finger-pointing, the purpose of this isn’t to show which service is the best, or the easiest, or the cheapest – they can probably do that quite well themselves (plus, it’s clearly the BBC iPlayer, as most television watchers in the UK already pay handsomely for that). What interests me, in a digital age that has drastically changed the nation’s viewing habits, where even us Sky+ lacking peasants are able to throw TV schedules completely out of the window and watch our favourite shows at 3am on a night shift if we so desire, is how this kind of technology will affect the economics of television in terms of advertising and branding.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am the sort of person who argued once that, “I paid for that ticket to the cinema, I don’t want to see any bloody adverts when I go to watch the film.” I’m also the sort of person who tries to turn up at the cinema for the trailers, and actually looks forward to some of the more infamous or humorous adverts, purely because watching a man dressed as a huge raw turkey beat someone up and knock over a Christmas tree in true slapstick fashion on behalf of the Food Standards Agency is even better on a 70-foot screen in the dark. However, unlike on the television, where you either have to watch the adverts during breaks, or hear them from the kitchen when nipping out for an obligatory cup of tea, on-demand services allow people to cautiously and effectively sidestep them completely if they wish. When watching PhoneShop on 4oD (as I so often do), even when Channel 4 lets me pick which advert I want, if it’s between some annoyingly pretentious fragrance advert and an advert for the show I’m already watching, I’m going to mute it and stick on Jaya the Cat for a few minutes, because I can do that using two windows and a mouse – no remote control that may or may not register on the TV’s infra-red is going to stop me. In the same way, Spotify Free users are constantly inundated with adverts for things they don’t want or need. Sure, banners either influenced or not by your Google search results may be plastered all over the page, but you don’t have to read them – you’re watching the show paid for by adverts that you don’t care about.

As a result, Stan Smith once not-so-famously sat in a Burger King and exclaimed, “the economics of television have changed, Steve; have it… your way,” to great comic effect – a joke crammed in at the same time American Dad! creator Seth MacFarlane had begun advertising his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy sponsored by the fast food giant. What we’re beginning to see more and more of isn’t an obviously shoehorned-in BMW Z3 driven on screen for approximately two minutes by largely exclusively British car proponent James Bond in 1995 epic GoldenEye. No, far from it; anti-hero blood spatter analyst Dexter uses Apple MacBooks and iPads every day, the Hustle crew were seen on the BBC last week driving a blue Lexus nobody has seen on the show before, and the less said about Absolut vodka and Sex and the City, the better. 

But this isn’t a new thing at all, products have been advertised subtly and not-so-subtly in the media for over a hundred years now. What I’m saying isn’t that product placement and movie tie-ins are rising, or falling, or even good or bad. I think it’s just becoming more apparent that, due to aspects from the economic woe this country and a lot of the developed world has recently found itself in, to the fact that a lot of people don’t want to pay for television (resulting in the demise of 4oD in the early days and the constant rise and rise of link sites such as QuickSilverScreen and Project Free TV), product placements and tie-in advertisements are becoming entirely necessary for televised entertainment to continue to grow. Consider the cuts to the BBC and look at the BBC iPlayer this January. Marvel (or don’t) at how many of the shows currently playing on there are repeats from last year. Get annoyed at what you thought was a new episode of Mock the Week actually satirising news from last August, and wonder why nobody has considered marketing Dave on Demand yet. 4oD, on the other hand, boasts full series’ of absolute classics like arguably the greatest sitcom of a generation, Spaced, similar funnies The IT Crowd and the aforementioned PhoneShop, as well as somehow securing (delayed) rights to MacFarlane’s latest, dreariest and annoyingly racially-un-PC creation, The Cleveland Show. How many of those shows are sponsored by someone or something? Now, watch how many brands you can spot just by scanning for them.

As a young, hungry graduate-cum-marketer and promoter, trawling social networks and trying to get a foot in the door of digital and social media, I naturally welcome the fact that I could be driving Razz Prince’s Audi R8 one day, regardless of how hilariously idiotic his character is. I want to own the same ’52 Fender Telecaster Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon play on Magic and The ’59 Sound albums respectively. I really enjoy that when I purchase a special edition Fred Perry shirt, a similarly-interested punk, mod rocker or Amy Winehouse fanatic will probably go to great lengths to guess correctly where it was manufactured, what year and the designer they collaborated with to achieve colour blocking or innovative pastel tipping. Then I won’t tell them I bought it second hand on eBay. Regardless of how we are, this digital television generation may not like adverts and brands being slapped in their faces, but they can’t get enough of the brands they do like – maybe that’s the key to Facebook and Google’s targeting algorithms making them ridiculously wealthy. The economics of television have made branding, subtle or otherwise, a necessity for prosperity, and, when done effectively, I personally don’t see that as a bad thing.

Rob Lynch - My Friends And I

I saw this fine gentleman supporting Ben Childs and Mike Scott over two years ago at the Purple Turtle in Camden, and at the time, all I could remember of his set was firstly, it was pretty good, and secondly, the words, "My friends and I, we live the good life, at least, just for tonight." It’s taken that two years, and a chance discovery of Rob by Liam of Let’s Go Nowhere to lead to my hearing of the song for a second time. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. And what a song it is. At a time when I’m coming to the realisation that life is a bullet, I’m growing older and trying to get somewhere, and slowly forgetting that what sets a man apart from the ordinary isn’t winning wars, or winning awards; it’s who he loves, and who loves him; Rob’s words pick me up and remind me that my friends and I have many more days to come and many more journeys and mistakes to make, and it makes me glad.

I have my driving practical test on Monday at 1:35pm. It’s taken me many years of on-and-off learning, and far too much money that I could never really afford, but I really, really hope I pass the test, purely because being able to drive will allow such things as proper band tours (Let’s Go Nowhere and Chapter Eleven will tour in the Summer, driving will just make it easier), road trips out West and all the romantic stuff you really look forward to doing when you’re young because all the rich kids down the road and all the actors on TV are doing it.

So, in that respect, I’ll devote the rest of this post to my acoustic brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, as well as share part of a new song I’ve been writing with some of them in mind. Anyone who knows, is friends with or has supported Chapter Eleven since our conception back in late 2010, don’t forget that there is a wealth of incredible music out there; and remember Let’s Go NowhereAsh VictimIan BrittBeng Beng CocktailJoe YorkEmma HallowsDucking Punches and Louise Distras, as well as many, many, many more.

an extract from Carry On, Carrion

They say youth is wasted on the young,
But I don’t think they have the right to take that innocence from anyone.
I thought it would make me stronger, it would give me room to breathe
And I believed that we might grow old gracefully.

If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me
‘Cause I’m dreaming of all the people we could be
All the lives we could live
And all the wonders we could see,
Out there, there’d be no cautiousness,
No taking it for granted
The journey a big fucking gamble
No danger of waking up and looking out into those grey skies
Shouting, “this isn’t what I wanted!”

And they say youth is wasted on the young,
And while I guess that’s true, no one can take that innocence from anyone
As long as we grow old together, we’ll remember everything
And carry on, carry on, at the top of town, we’ll sing.

Job searching, brands and bands. Hello Tumblr.

So, I decided to start a new blog for the purposes of documenting things a bit more professionally and a bit less all-over-the-place, like many of my moleskines and other tangible media. It’s still going to jump from place to place, I’m hardly essaying, but at the same time, it’ll all be here on one blogging medium, making it easier for me to find a refer back to it.

I’m still looking for employment, unfortunately - but it appears that the people at Propel London are prepared to assist me with that. Taking your first steps into Digital Media, branding and marketing and SEO and various other acronyms is proving tough for me, even more-so in the current economic climate; but maybe I can find a nice entry-level blogging-esque position that’ll make use of my existing skills whilst teaching me new ones I can use to progress. Maybe.

Speaking of progressing, I appear to have roped my friend Tommy Passingham into designing me a website for my acoustic music project known as Chapter Eleven. In the spirit of promotion and all that, it can only be a good thing, getting the music and the name out there for everyone to see and hear. I’ve gone from doing comic-yet-godawful covers of Rebecca Black’s Friday to playing solo at all-day festivals in less than a year, so I think it’s about time I start to push it a bit - people may be as inspired by my music one day as I am by my own influences.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ed Solo recently, particularly this song, which I think is really catchy and cool. I’d appreciate finding more stuff like it, drop me a message if you’ve got any suggestions! It’s proving very good as cooking music - bouncing around a kitchen with friends always makes for an enjoyable experience, even if you’re just cutting vegetables and washing dishes.

That’s basically what I’m about right now, to be honest; writing (blogs, journals, poetry, lyrics), cooking, music and learning as much as possible about PR and social stuff. It’ll be interesting to see where I’ve gotten to with all of this in a few months’ time - an experiment, if you will. Let’s see where life takes me!