Sunday, 22 July 2018

Podcasting -

Last September I wrote about how to do Podcasting. The latest RAJAR figures, which document all sorts of listening behaviour, have just been released. The BBC news website has made this the top news item on the entertainment page. Now admittedly this is a slow news Sunday at the start of the summer holidays, but Podcasting really is big news. The BBC article however draws some very odd conclusions that obscure the proper headlines.
  1. They suggest that those listening to Podcasts has jumped from 3.8 million to 6 million since 2016. This is true but misses the fact that it has been a steady climb in listening every quarter.
  2. Based on research by Acast the BBC claims that "Millenials" (16 -34 age group) make up the bulk of podcast listeners. A quick look at the RAJAR figures suggests this doesn't tell the whole story. Yes the two demographics that make up this group are the largest share of users but the 35-54 age band are on a par with the 15-24 & 25-34 ranges. 55+ lag behind but is a growing market. Let's remember that Acast want to sell advertising to podcast listeners and that their document reflects this.
  3. Quoting Hannah Verdier who reviews Podcasts for The Guardian and Rowan Slaney, who writes The Guardian's Podcast column (spotting a theme here yet?) The BBC article the proceeds to recommend a very narrow range of podcasts aimed squarely at the young folks while protesting that their recommendations aren't part of the "London media bubble". 

All this totally fails to grasp the true impact of podcasting. I'm 54, subscribe regularly to ten Podcasts and listen occasionally to at least another ten. I won't suddenly stop next February when I turn 55. Rajar point out that 72% of listening is on a phone and over half consumed while traveling or working. So Podcasting is supplanting "live" radio, and the BBC itself recognises that and can take a large share of the credit for Podcasting's growth. The charts quoted in their own article miss the BBC's dominance of the medium, it is their future as well as ours. The highest placed non BBC show (4th) is "My Dad Wrote a Porno" which is very funny, but run by a BBC DJ. ITV's Love Island is next, with the long running Joe Rogan show after that.

The point of Podcasting is choice. Choose when you want to listen, choose your subject, choose often from multiple offers within that subject. The Tour De France is on at present, my preference is for The Cycling Podcast, but I'm also listening to the BBC's Bespoke and Eurosport's Bradley Wiggins show on occasion. Recent proof of the way that Podcasting is changing the landscape comes from another BBC Podcast. the Grenfell Tower Inquiry reports every day that the inquiry sits. Providing this depth of reporting on a news show would not be possible, but as this inquiry may be one of the most important things happening in Britain at the moment it deserves to be heard widely and often.

So, the BBC reports on Podcasting, a genre it dominates and does brilliantly, misses the point that ANYONE can Podcast, if it's good it will find an audience, if it isn't it will wither quickly. They also fail to spot the depth and breadth of Podcasting. As reported by Podcast Insights there are over 550,000 Podcasts and more than 18.5 million episodes on iTunes, if you can't find something in that lot you really are hard to please.

I will post some of my favourite Podcasts on Twitter. Follow me @sellingservTim to pick up some places to start your Podcast journey.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Magic of YMO

Kraftwerk get much of the credit for the rise of electronic music in the early 80s & beyond, but for me Yellow Magic Orchestra are at least as influential. Their career started with computer game noises and you can hear their influence in game soundtracks and woven into a diverse range of artists music. Between the bands own albums and the myriad related artists they are a collectors dream.

Wikipedia is fairly good for once on the history. One thing it does highlight is how many of their songs have advertising connections. Fuji cassettes, Seiko watches and Kirin beer are just a few brands that have had the YMO touch. One of their best known songs, "Behind The Mask" (yes Eric Clapton via Michael Jackson) started as a Seiko commercial in 1978. This a version recorded by Sakamoto with Jackson's lyrics.

Never heard that before, very Eighties!

Where Kraftwerk pioneered Techno, YMO started off as kitsch lounge/exotica practitioners and progressed to more dance synthpop based material influencing bands like Human League & Depeche Mode. Early adopters of the Roland TR808 & TB303, they got their shot with Afrika Bambaataa two years after he sampled Trans Europe Express and that introduced them to the Detroit crowd. From there YMO influences crop up everywhere, often second or third generation but there nonetheless.

My favourite YMO homage is on a Vicious Pink 12" from 1984. A Side "CCCan't You See" is fairly standard synthpop, the B side "8:15 to Nowhere" is pure YMO, and the cover of "Great Balls of Fire" would have been at home on a Takahashi solo disc of the time.

From YMO's group albums you inevitably get drawn into their solo albums, and from 1979 to about 1984 they can do little wrong for me. They played on a huge number of other artists albums, but I'm going to save talking about them, the band Japan, and acts like Akiko Yano & Sandii & The Sunsetz for another post as it is way too much for now. I will give a recommendation for Nicholas D Kent's comprehensive site Technopop which will give you plenty to investigate.  It hasn't been updated in a while but as an archive you can't beat it

Where to start with their music?
My favourites are Solid State Survivor, home of Rydeen, Technopolis, and the original Behind The Mask and Technodelic, Kraftwerk lite synthpop with some innovative early sampling. Unlike the Dusseldorf crew* YMO were a good live band, Fakerholic, if you can find it is the best of their 1979/80 world tour, avoid 'Public Pressure' like the plague, Kazumi Watanabe's guitar replaced by extra synths - horrible. There are some good live albums from recent years, try them online & pick the one you like best. Compilations? YMO have been badly served there. 'YMO Go Home' & 'Kyoretsu Na Rhythm' are the best of an unsatisfactory lot.

Why choose YMO?
I love Kraftwerk but they can be a bit po faced & joyless at times. YMO are fun, they have a uniquely Japanese sense of humour that is frankly odd. If you get the Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy you will get YMO. If you listen to nothing else by them try ×∞Multiplies , but make sure it is this version , ignore the stupid Amazon reviews and get it. You will still be laughing in a week.

*Kraftwerk of the 80's that is, now they are different, the Manchester Velodrome is in my top 5 ever shows, but was it a live show or an experience?