The Hyundai Mercury Prize 2017 is a strange beast. It turns the writing, recording and production of albums into a competition. Where it’s obvious when Mo Farah crosses a finish line ahead of his opponents, it’s almost impossible to say, in absolute terms, that one record is better than another.
The artists and music are often a mix of wildly different genres and levels of fame so this year sees obscure British Jazz quartet Dinosaur pitted against mega-selling, Glastonbury headlining singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
For those on the shortlist it’s great exposure, even for someone like Ed Sheeran. For record shops and the music industry it’s an opportunity to sell more product and get the public and the media talking about music in what is traditionally a quiet time of the year for the industry.
While there have been some strange decisions on winners in the past (M-People anyone?), the eventual winner gets a major boost and will be the topic of heated debate.
alt-j – Relaxer
alt-j are an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, by Gwil Sainsbury, Joe Newman, Thom Sonny Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton. They have been described as Folktronica.
Blossoms – Blossoms
Blossoms are an English indie pop band from Stockport, Greater Manchester. Formed in 2013, the band consists of Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan and Myles Kellock.
Dinosaur – Together, As One
Dinosaur is one of the most vital and creative new ensembles in the UK today. Led by trumpeter & composer Laura Jurd, Dinosaur features keyboardist/inventor Elliot Galvin, the effortlessly rooted Conor Chaplin on electric bass and the forever creative Corrie Dick on drums.
Ed Sheeran – ÷
Ed Sheeran, MBE is an English singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer. He was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and raised in Framlingham, Suffolk.
Glass Animals – How to Be a Human Being
Glass Animals are an English indie rock band from Oxford who are bigger in the US than the UK currently.
J Hus – Common Sense
A Hip Hop / Rap / Grime artist from London, real name Momodou Jallow.
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
Kate Tempest is an English poet, spoken-word artist and playwright.
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Loyle Carner, is an English hip hop musician and actor. His sound has been described by NME as ‘sensitive and eloquent’ and by The Guardian as ‘confessional hip-hop’.
Sampha – Process
Sampha Sisay, who performs under the mononym Sampha, is a British singer, songwriter and record producer.
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
Stormzy, is an English grime and hip hop artist.
The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension
The Big Moon is a London four-piece indie-rock band formed in 2014 by Juliette Jackson.
The xx – ‘I See You’
The xx are an English indie band formed in 2005 in Wandsworth, London.
The 2017 Awards Show will take place on Thursday 14 September at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith.
See the official website here: https://www.mercuryprize.comby
While recent deaths of other music legends have been more of a surprise, the death of Glen Campbell on 8th August 2017 and has deeply affected the whole music world. He had been struggling with Alzheimer’s disease for several years but kept touring and even producing one last studio album Adiós released in June.
He will always be most famous for hits such as Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman with over 50 million in record sales, however he was also a gifted guitarist who played sessions with the Wrecking Crew, a collection of LA session musicians who played on hundreds of recordings for the era’s biggest names – Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Simon and Garfunkel, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and many others.
His guitar touched the landmark recordings of his time. He played on Sinatra’s Stranger in the Night, the famous ringing lead riff on I’m a Believer by the Monkees; Viva Las Vegas by Presley and on the Beach Boys’ landmark album Pet Sounds, Campbell’s guitar and vocals are heard throughout.Campbell even joined the Beach Boys for a five-month tour in 1964-65 where he replaced Wilson, playing his bass and singing his falsetto leads, after Wilson suffered a breakdown and refused to go on the road.
Glen Campbell collaboration with Jimmy Webb
While Campbell is seen as a country artist, it was his collaboration with songwriter Jimmy Webb that took his fame beyond the world of country music. Songs like Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, and Where’s the Playground Susie have a special place in people’s affections, with lush string arrangements and strong narratives that were more ambitious than the normal three minute pop song.
Campbell credited the fact that he and Webb grew up within 150 miles of each another as one of the reasons why they had similar sensibilities.
“That’s what we grew up with – the good songs, the good lyrics, the good big-band stuff. I miss that era.” In 2005 he said Webb’s “melodies and chord progressions were as good as anything I’d ever heard”.
Campbell racked up 48 country hits and 34 pop hits between 1967 and 1980. Like Johnny Cash, Campbell hosted a popular television show that defined genres in the artists it showcased.
When disco dominated the pop charts, he showed an uncanny ability to adapt by releasing Southern Nights, the Allen Toussaint song redone with a stomping dance beat, and Rhinestone Cowboy, which became ubiquitous at dance clubs and roller rinks across middle America.
Once the hits dried up, Campbell struggled with alcoholism and turbulent marriage battles. He also became a born-again Christian and recorded religious albums while never cutting back on touring.
By the late 1990s, he discovered a new generation of younger artists were citing him as an influence – partly due to a massive reissue campaign by EMI/Capital, but also to a new wave of interest in Americana music spurred on by artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Freedy Johnston, Michelle Shocked, and REM, who all happened to cover Wichita Lineman.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, but kept releasing albums and touring until the end, even though he struggled with remembering lyrics at times.by
The vinyl revival continues with Sony making vinyl records again. The company has now announced that, in response to rocketing vinyl sales in the past few years, it will again be producing records, with the first batch scheduled to be made in a factory in Tokyo.
It’s not been disclosed which artists will be first selected production will be start in March 2018.
Sony’s original decision to cease making vinyl probably made sense back in 1989. Many customers were moving away from bulky records, and towards smaller, more easy to transport formats such as the CD and cassettes in Walkmans.
As the technology developed with the advent of MP3 players and, shortly after, streaming, vinyl sales plummeted as the format was seen as
Not many predicted vinyl’s enduring retro appeal and resurgence, especially among Millennial “hipsters” and music fans.
Trend mirrored in Europe
The trend has been mirrored In Europe, where most vinyl for major and independent labels is pressed by just two plants, GZ media based in the Czech Republic, and Record Industry in the Netherlands. However, their combined capacity of more than 100,000 records per day is not enough to keep up with global demand.
Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst, is not surprised by Sony’s move. “There’s no doubt vinyl is a market that will keep growing – even now globally there’s not enough capacity for making vinyl to meet the demand,” he said. “As a result the pressing plants can charge the labels a really high premium. So there may well be a profit incentive for more labels to reopen their own plants.”
However, Mulligan said the move would “require a lot of investment, not just in materials but also in expertise, training people up”.
“At the moment, consumers are willing to pay a high premium for vinyl – people will happily pay £40 for a limited edition record – and so labels are still making a wide profit margin. But if demand continues to rise, I can see labels wanting to take control of their own destiny when it comes to producing vinyl, so this may be repeated by others in the future. It’s all tied in to supply and demand.”
“A lot of young people buy songs that they hear and love on streaming services,” said Michinori Mizuno, chief executive of Sony Music Japan.
Sony vinyl plant limited to Japan
The decision by Sony to invest in its own vinyl-pressing plant is currently limited to Japan. The records released will primarily be older Japanese reissues, and some new albums, and the records will mainly be sold in that country.
The surge in demand for vinyl in the UK and Europe, propelled by events such as Record Store Day, has put enormous pressure on few remaining pressing plants. If sales continue to climb – 3.2m vinyl records were sold in the UK in 2016, up 53% on the year before – Sony may not be the only label wanting its own manufacturing plants, as was common practice in the 1970s and 1980s.
Excitement is building as Record Store Day is now only a few days away on Saturday 22 April 2017.
Record Store Day is the one day of the year when over 200 independent record shops all across the UK come together to celebrate their unique culture.
Special vinyl releases are made exclusively for the day and many shops and cities host artist performances and events to mark the occasion. Thousands more shops celebrate the day around the globe in what’s become one of the biggest annual events on the music calendar.
While it is one day of the year, it celebrates a sector of the music industry that is showing signs of thriving in the climate of competition from streaming and people ripping and digitising music illegally for download. At All Good Record Shops we have seen the number of independent record shops grow in the last two years and we have nearly 400 featured record shops in the UK.
As an example of what is available, music legend Elton John is making a live album from 1970 available exclusively for Record Store Day 2017. In November 1970, Elton John performed an intimate concert at A&R Studios in New York, recorded for WABC FM. In front of 125 people, Elton played in his then three- piece line up of himself, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums. Intended for broadcast only, its pristine quality – engineered by the legendary Phil Ramone (the ‘R’ in A&R Studios) – meant that the recording of the performance became a fast- selling bootleg. Sales were so great that it had to be rush-released as 17.11.70 on DJM Records in April 1971, capturing six of the concert’s tracks on a single album. Elton John is a lover of record stores and a big supporter of record store day.
‘Happy 10th birthday to Record Store Day. I love record stores, I can go to the record store in Vegas and spend 3 hours in there. Just the smell of it, the looking at it, the wonder of it, the memories. I love vinyl so much; the tactile nature, the ritual of it, looking at the sleeve…especially with the old albums and the liner notes – who played on them, the process of putting it on, the needle going on and the sound coming out. And it DOES sound better, I know it does! It’s just the wonder of having vinyl’. Elton John
Find participating stores here: http://recordstoreday.co.uk/participating-stores/
Get the latest news on Record Store Day 2017 on the official website: http://recordstoreday.co.uk/by
Ed Sheeran’s new album, ‘Divide’, is dominating the UK album and singles charts with massive physical sales but also big numbers for streaming.
All of Divide’s 16 tracks are featured in the Official Top 20 of the singles chart. The entire top 10 (except, randomly, number 7) are from the album.
All three of Sheeran’s albums feature in the Top 5 of the album chart.
“Wow, what a phenomenal week,” Ed told Official Charts when confronted with the news.
“To every person who’s bought the album – thank you,” he added.
The album, ‘Divide’ shifted a staggering 672,000copies in its first week to bow at the summit of the survey, has clocked up another 158,000 sales across all formats at the midweek stage, according to the Official Charts Company.
Fastest selling vinyl album for 20 years
It’s not just steaming and CDs where Ed Sheeran dominates. The Vinyl Factory reported that Divide is the fastest selling vinyl album for 20 years. According to data shared by the Official Charts Company, Sheeran shifted 672,000 physical copies in the first week, 13,500 of which were vinyl.
In doing so, the record overtook first week sales figures from the likes of David Bowie (who sold more than any other artist in the 12 months to April 2016) and vinyl chart regulars Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys and Noel Gallagher.
This is despite a fairly mixed critical reception:
“Ed Sheeran sells trite innocence by the pound. He uses bland wisdom and unimaginative music to ponder the basic good and bad in people around him, without once looking inward.” Laura Snapes – Pitchfork
“Ed Sheeran: ÷ review – every bloke charm fails to mask Divide’s calculating soul “ Harriet Gibsone – The Guardian
However his fans are ignoring the inevitable backlash and are loyally buying the record and booking tickets to see him on tour.
How streaming has changed the chart
In 2014, the Official Charts Company (OCC) finally acknowledged the importance of streaming, including it in its rankings for the first time.
Back then, it had a conversion rate of 100 streams equalling one sale or download.
This, they thought, would fairly represent the success of a track, balancing consumption (number of times a song is streamed) with purchase (number of times a song is sold).
But it still valued repetition, leaving many wondering if this could become a barrier to new artist trying to break in.by
In the Nick Hornby book (and then US made film), High Fidelity (High Fidelity movie, High Fidelity book) record shop owner Rob is caught by his friend just as he is about to reorganise his record collection.
In the film, his friend looks around the room, his interest piqued, and asks how he is organising the records.
His friend says, “It looks as if you’re reorganising your records? What’s this, Chronological?
“No,” said Rob.
“No, fucking, way!”
“I can tell how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in just 25 minutes. If I want to find the song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember I bought it for someone in the Fall of 1983 pile, but didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.”
If organising your record collection autobiographically sounds like a step too far in obsessive behaviour, then there’s plenty of advice around on how to organise your vinyl record collection or other formats.
Here are four basic laws of organising your vinyl record collection:
- Store in a temperature-controlled space – Vinyl does best at around 65 to 70 degrees, so keep it inside with you in a cool, dry place to prevent warping and mouldy covers.
- Avoid proximity to heat sources – When choosing a place to store your records, avoid anywhere that’s close to direct sunlight or a radiator or heat source.
- Never stack your records – Creating album piles is a cardinal sin of vinyl collecting. Always store your records upright, as even leaning them heavily on one another can create too much pressure, causing your records to warp or scratch.
- Replace old and damaged sleeves: It’s usually recommended that you remove the plastic wrap from records as soon as you get them so it doesn’t shrink or damage the album cover.
While we wouldn’t recommend chronological, here are the main options for organising your vinyl record collection:
Alphabetically by artist – the most straightforward, but bear in mind how you treat solo artists e.g. last name, first name or first name, last name. Take the librarian’s approach of last name, first name.
Alphabetically by Genre – if you have a very large record collection this will be a good option as long as you can easily decide in your own mind where artists belong. For example Fleetwood Mac records could fall into these genres, Blues, Rock, Pop and Acoustic. Jazz has many sub-genres and never the twain shall meet such as Free Jazz or Trad Jazz.
Alphabetically by Album Title – Sometimes you just want find that one album and then this method is for you.
Chronological – here the records are organized based on the year they came out which is great for music historians but may make it harder for you to find that obscure Cocteau Twins record when you need it.
Autobiographical – Nope.
Tell us how you organise your vinyl record collection in the comments section below.by
In the UK, as November turned to December, sales of vinyl records hit £2.4 million last week, beating the £2.1 million from digital downloads. There is also anecdotal evidence that the resurgence of vinyl is not just people of a certain reliving past musical memories.
New generations buy vinyl records
Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association told The Guardian, “We have a new generation buying vinyl, lots of teenagers and lots of people under 25, who now want to buy their favourite artists on vinyl and have something a bit more tangible, a bit more collectible. People have become keen to support their favourite artists by buying into that ownership concept. It’s very difficult to demonstrate your love of an artist if you don’t have something to hold on to.”
Sean Forbes, who manages record shop Rough Trade West in London, which has been selling vinyl since 1979, said there was a “massive increase” in people buying vinyl and that new racks had been put in all Rough Trade shops to meet demand.
“Now it’s everyone who comes in to buy it, from 10-year-olds to 90-year-olds, we get the whole breadth,” said Forbes. “We now get a lot of people come in with their kids, and mum and dad want to start them off with a starter pack of good records. But you also still have the 65-year-old man who smells of weed who will always come into a record shop, stand around and then ask for something you haven’t got, and then leave. So it hasn’t changed completely.”
Adam Gillison of Jumbo Records told The Independent: “Ultimately, in this digital world our customers are continually looking for a tangible, physical way to celebrate their love for their favourite artists – something that digital services simply cannot offer.
“On top of this, over the last nine years the popularity of Record Store Day has continued to soar across the UK, so it comes as no surprise that the vinyl market continues to surge in this way.”
Vinyl records are priced higher
While the revenue figures are higher, vinyl albums are priced much higher than downloads. Last week’s biggest-selling vinyl was Kate Bush’s triple-disc live album Before The Dawn, which retails at £52. A download of the same recording is available for £12.
All of which means that downloads are still the more popular product. According to the ERA, 120,000 vinyl albums were sold last week, compared with 295,000 digital ones.
The “vinyl revival” has been one of the most surprising success stories of the digital music era.
The format has now shown eight consecutive years of growth since facing near extinction in 2007, although it still represents less than 2% of the overall music market.
Overall sales of music have declined from about £634m in 2012 to £610m in 2015. The culture of paying for music may have missed a generation but is hopefully coming back as a new generation appreciate the struggles faced by new artists and damage done by streaming or downloading music for free.by
Leonard Cohen died on Friday 11 November 2016, aged 82 at his home in Los Angeles. He had just released his 14th studio album ‘You want it darker’ to great acclaim and was preparing for a world tour.
Although his music is often associated with melancholy introspection, his lyrics often had witty twists which chimes with an on-stage and off-stage personality that was warm and self-deprecating.
Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Westmount, a well-to-do area of Montreal, Canada on 21 September 1934.
His mother had emigrated from Lithuania to Canada and his father Nathan, whose ancestors came from Poland, owned a successful clothing store.
His father died when Cohen was just nine years old but left his son a trust fund that would enable him to pursue his chosen literary career.
The young Cohen attended a privately run Jewish co-educational day school where he learned to play guitar and formed a folk group called the Buckskin Boys.
In 1951 he started studying English Literature at Montreal’s McGill University and published his first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956. His poetry was generally well received and he went on to release a second volume whilst studying at Columbia University in New York , entitled The Spice Box of Earth, in 1961, aged 27.
He took up travelling the world and indulged in whatever substances were available including LSD. After a spell in London he bought a typewriter, blue raincoat and moved to the Greek Island of Hydra.
He lived there with Norwegian Marianne Jensen, for whom he later wrote So Long Marianne. Her death in early 2016 inspired Cohen’s final album, You Want It Darker, released just three weeks ago.
He went on to publish two novels and moved to New York in 1966 with the aim of becoming a songwriter and singer. His debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released in December 1967 to reasonable commercial success, but instantly became a cult classic with stars such as Judy Collins covering the classic song Suzanne.
Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin and the Chelsea Hotel
Leonard Cohen wrote the song Chelsea Hotel about a sexual encounter with singer Janis Joplin and the story he often recounts on stage is rich with his typical dark humour and charm.
“A thousand years ago I lived at this Hotel in NYC. I was a frequent rider of the elevator on this Hotel. I will continuously leave my room and come back. I was an expert on the buttons of that elevator. One of the few technologies I really ever mastered. The door opened. I walked in. Put my finger right on the button. No hesitation. Great sense of mastery in those days. Late in the morning, early in the evening. I noticed a young woman in that elevator. She was riding it with as much delight as I was. Even though she commanded huge audiences, riding that elevator was the only thing she really knew how to do. My lung gathered my courage. I said to her “Are you looking for someone?” She said “Yes, I’m looking for Kris Kristofferson “I said “Little Lady, you’re in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson.” Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was somewhat shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never let on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades. Anyhow I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.”
Although it became known that the female protagonist was Janis Joplin, Cohen always regretted the locker room revelation of lines like “giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street.”, although this is balanced by “You told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you would make an exception.”
The man who others covered
Although his albums and music had a dedicated following, Leonard Cohen’s songs were frequently covered by other people. Arguably, his most famous song is Hallelujah which was covered many times with a particularly haunting version by Jeff Buckley in 1994 followed by another cover by Rufus Wainwright which featured in the hit movie Shrek.
Songs like ‘I can’t forget’, ‘First we take Manhattan’ and ‘Tower of Song’ have also been covered by diverse artists such as The Pixies, Nick Cave etc etc. ‘Suzanne’ has had versions by Neil Diamond, Nina Simone and Roberta Flack. The album ‘I’m Your Fan’ has various Alternative artists covering his songs including three increasingly unhinged versions of Tower of Song by Nick Cave.
Leonard Cohen’s lyrics and music will live on and he leaves a rich legacy.
More about Leonard Cohenby
We know that record shops and vinyl are seeing a small but steady resurgence in recent years. New physical record shops are opening and vinyl record sales topping one million units in 2015.
At All Good Record Shops we have been heartened to see new record shops open faster than they are closing with, anecdotally, people (usually, but not exclusively men) of a certain age opting to start a business related to something they love. We now have nearly 350 UK and Irish record shops featured on the website and we still think there are few more to add.
The shops would not be sustainable without the regular support of music lovers visiting and buying records, so it was interesting to see a recent survey by YouGov where they tried to profile who is fuelling the vinyl revival.
YouGov survey into who is buying vinyl records
YouGov Profiles data suggests that records’ resurgence is rooted in middle-aged nostalgia. When compared to the adult population as a whole, those that have purchased a vinyl album recently are more likely to be aged between 45-54. By contrast, those in the 18-24 aged group are the least likely.
Furthermore, music plays a central part in vinyl buyer’s lives. Two thirds (66%) of this group say they could not get through day without listening to music, compared to 49% of UK adults in general. A third (33%) of record buyers say they listen ‘whenever they can’ compared to 25% of over-18s overall.
Record buyers are passionate about music and are more likely to go to gigs than the population at large. Two-thirds (68%) of vinyl lovers say they enjoy seeing their favourite artists live (compared to 47%) and are more likely to be happy to spend money to support their preferred acts (21% compared to 9%). Downloading music illegally is condemned, with 59% of vinyl fans saying it is wrong, compared to 55% of over-18s in general.
The record shop experience
We hope that younger music lovers start to appreciate the simple pleasures of buying and owning a physical record whether on vinyl or CD. There is a worrying sub-culture of young people who simply never buy music. Digital streaming services such as Spotify may appear to provide the best of both worlds with easy access for consumers and royalties for the artist, however the biggest slice appears to be reserved for the platform. Portishead’s Geoff Barrow recently complained that he only made £1700 from 34 million Spotify and You Tube streams http://www.nme.com/news/portishead/84559
There is no doubt that our record shops contribute positively to the health and development of music in British Isles. We don’t think there is a substitute for visiting a record shop to browse and discover new music and that should be experienced by all ages of record buyers.by
Here is a message from the owners of Milque & Muhle Records in Birmingham:
It’s with heavy hearts we wish to inform all our wonderful customers, family and friends that we will be closing the shop at the end of this month after a bittersweet three years.
It has been a pleasure to do something like this and we want thank everyone who made it possible.
We’re in the process of organising some sort of party to commemorate, celebrate new beginnings and drown our sorrows. As soon as we’ve got something sorted, we’d love it if you could all be there.
There are some loose but exciting plans in the pipeline for Milque and Muhle and we will be staying online and attending local record fairs, so watch this space.
Let’s wish them all the best for their future ventures.