Thursday, May 31, 2007
"Everyone in the industry thinks of this Christmas as the last big holiday season for CD sales," Mr. Sinnreich said, "and then everything goes kaput."
Love it or hate it, the "New York Times" is the paper of record. If for no other reason than most news organizations no longer DO any reporting, they just rely on wire services and print commentary/opinion. "The New York Times" sets the agenda. And when they go on a story, it has legitimacy. Wall Street, the business community, they now know what active music consumers know, that the CD is headed for extinction. With everybody clued in, its death will be hastened. THEN what?
1. Indie Retail
Survives. Just like vinyl has never gone completely away, there will be people who will want to own discs in the future, whether they be CDs or vinyl. Most of the indie stores that have weathered the crash will continue in business, assuming their owners still want to keep the doors open. Most have diversified, they don't rely solely on music to make money. They will be kept alive by collectors. But they will not matter. Just like vinyl doesn't matter. Disc sales will be a sideshow. If you make a business out of it, more power to you, but most people just won't care.
2. Big Box Retail
Best Buy and its brethren are going to kill the CD. They're gonna shrink floor space and titles and one day they're just going to stop selling discs completely. This will happen long before record labels desire to give up on the physical format. Retail is in tune with its customers' whims, it has to keep moving forward to survive. Soon CDs will be evidence of the past, and these stores want to be the future. Big box retailers will kill the CD the same way the industry killed the cassette and vinyl. They'll just stop stocking them, and the consumer will go elsewhere.
I think Aram Sinnreich's prediction is right. After this Christmas, big box retailers will start folding their tent. Oh, maybe they'll sell a few titles. But so do supermarket chains.
Radio hasn't given a shit about CD sales for years. Radio exists in its own little backwater, where the advertiser is king and the music is just part of the sausage. Hey, so many of the records that zoom up the chart are not available at ANY price! With indie promo essentially gone, radio groups are not worried about losing the relationship with labels, there are no more perks left to acquire. As for radio station shows and other give-backs, you don't need the label for that, just the manager. The manager will be more powerful than ever before.
4. The Promoter
When the CD dies, Live Nation is going to be in even deeper shit.
Oh, AEG will be too, but they tend to only want to be in the blockbuster business.
You see forever, the road took its clues from the labels. The labels signed the acts, promoted them, created DEMAND! Now the promoter has to create demand himself, and so far, he's shown no talent for it. Oh, he could cede this development process to Net radio and other developing exposure media, but that just means he'll have to settle for smaller shows, and less revenue. Doesn't bode well for your stock price.
5. The Agent
Will have to work in concert with the manager to help create demand. This won't solely be the province of the promoter. The label did the heavy lifting for seemingly EVERYBODY in this business, what happens when the label goes KAPUT!
6. The Manager
It starts with the manager. He creates the original demand. But the goal used to be to sell to the highest bidder, to get the label to COMMIT! And that commitment yielded exposure, which could earn you money on the road, and in the old days, royalties. NOW WHAT?
The manager has to piece together all those new media strategies, to try to get his band traction. MySpace, music blogs, it's not about grand slams anymore, not even home runs, but BUNTS! Spreading the word, building demand, is like starting at the bottom of the minor leagues, working your way up to AAA, and then entering the bigs. First in KC. Or Seattle. Some secondary market. It's gonna be tough. And the manager is going to be starving all the while, because fifteen or twenty percent of nothing is nothing. Which is why the established managers only want established acts, and a vacuum has been created for new managers to develop new acts. But there will be starvation along the way, and only the fittest will survive.
7. The Act
Has to get a manager. That should be your goal, to create enough noise to get someone to commit their money, time and effort to growing your act. You can only go so far by yourself. After all, you've got to write the music and play it! So, the act lights a fire, which burns up through the manager, agent and promoter. As for the label?
8. The Label
There will be no labels if you can't get paid.
The online business presently doesn't deliver what the consumer wants, which is ownership of a ton of unrestricted music for a low price. Those wishing to sell recordings only have six months to solve this problem.
It ain't iTunes. Even Steve Jobs says most people who buy iPods buy almost no music at the iTunes Store (http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/).
It's not Rhapsody or Napster... You've got to get a new player, when iPods rule. And the public is not ready for rental.
The only solution is some kind of legal P2P. But the labels and publishers are not ready for such. Therefore, stasis and infighting will kill the recorded music business.
Sad, if you think about it. People should pay for music. But the owners won't LET THEM! Not in the way they want to.
It's not about mergers, or laying people off, the solution is on the other end, delivering a lot of cheap music. But no one is prepared to do this. It's fascinating watching the movie. As fat cats inured to an old way of doing things proceed to destroy their business.
Will survive. And thrive.
10. The Public
We haven't had that spirit here since... Well, if not 1969, then 1979, or '89 or even '99. But 1999 was almost TEN YEARS AGO! The public thinks that most mainstream new music is crap. And if the labels die, GOOD RIDDANCE! In other words, most people just aren't paying attention. They're not only not buying discs, they're not going to overpriced shows with exorbitant ticket fees either. In an era where it's about getting the masses involved at a cheap price, the music industry has catered to an ever shrinking few willing to overpay for crap.
Joe and Jane Public want music. But they'll just steal it. Or listen to the radio.
As for new stuff? You'll hear about it from your friends, if you're INTERESTED! Otherwise, you'll just fire up your home theatre and watch one of the 500 channels or a DVD.
Music has turned itself into a second class citizen. Via greed, via an inability to wake up and admit we're living in the future.
It's not like this inevitability, the impending death of the CD, was sprung upon the executives in the middle of the night. It was obvious at LEAST seven years ago, when the original Napster gained serious traction. The only person who saw the light? Steve Jobs. And he made his money from selling iPods, and now iPhones. If the iTunes Store never goes ga-ga, he just shrugs his shoulders and moves on. As for the music industry??
There will be a new music industry. But it will not look like the old one. It will be run by youngsters, with different values, spreading the word amongst their peers. They won't sell out to Madison Avenue because Madison Avenue won't have any idea what they're doing. When the new acts do get traction, will advertising even LOOK the same? Will anybody be watching the commercials on television? Will we live in a Google ads world?
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are duking it out online. Even AOL. You wonder why AOL went free? For the EYEBALLS! There wasn't enough money in selling online access to compete with the big boys focused on ads.
Same deal in music. By catering to a select ignorant or addicted few, willing to overpay for discs, the music business ignored the mainstream, failed to see what the people wanted and where they were going.
The people are digital savvy. It's in their DNA. Selling McCartney discs at Starbucks is the last Hail Mary left. Whether it's successful or not, you won't be able to do it during Christmas '08, Starbucks won't be able to stand the hit to its credibility, its customers will LAUGH at them, DISDAIN them.
The disc is dying, are you prepared?
For more from Bob Lefsetz visit http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
When a band like Green Day venture into the shark-infested waters of cover songs, there is good reason to expect a symphony or groans. For the past ten-plus years, they have been the poster boys for corporate rock. Since their breakout, they have mostly conjured up images of suburban teenage angst; the perfect soundtrack for smoking cigarettes behind the gym after school and prattling on about how mom and dad don’t understand, but not a band of much substance. To the deeply committed punk rock community (where I cut my teeth), they are the ultimate heresy: “sell outs.”
In a way, the three boys from Berkeley are still trying to shake that label with their latest foray: a cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” on Amnesty International’s Darfur benefit album. If you’re both a Green Day hater and a cover-song purist (not to mention a Lennon fan), you will already be rolling your eyes. You would also be missing the point.
Even the most jaded of music fans has to admit there is something to be said for the shift in the band’s material over the past few years. The world was rightfully surprised when American Idiot was released, not only that they released a record that was not only of substance, but that seemed to actually make a statement. In the political desert that was the 2004 elections, American Idiot’s release was a welcome oasis; one of the biggest bands in the world was actually taking sides!
Like it or not, Green Day has the attention of millions of listeners. What they say matters to a very large swath of understandably alienated youth. Anthony Roman, frontman for the politically charged Brooklyn based Radio 4 pointed out “a lot of people make fun of Green Day, but they’re the band that’s getting through to twelve and fourteen year old kids. They’re the band that’s getting to people when they’re at an impressionable age and letting them know what’s wrong with this country.” This is what made American Idiot important, what makes their version of “Working Class Hero” important too.
In a way, it is also strangely appropriate. This song was written not too long after Lennon had shed his “former Beatle” image and was coming into his own as a solo artist. In the radical years of the late sixties/early seventies, Lennon had identified himself as a revolutionary. “Working Class Hero” was a highlight of this era in his work. It is a calculating yet angry story of lower class alienation. And there is no doubt that it reached an audience who took his call to arms very seriously.
To be honest, Green Day's version doesn't quite measure up. Lennon's original was right on the mark when he highlighted his powerful lyrics with nothing more than a lone acoustic guitar. Green Day's attempt to "punk it up" with overdriven guitars and thumping drums, not to mention Billy Joe Armstong’s trademark nasal delivery, in the end just muddles the message.
But that does not pull away from what the revival of this song means in this troubled moment in time. “We wanted to do ‘Working Class Hero’ because its themes of alienation, class and social status really resonated with us” is Armstrong’s claim. And it would be naïve to think they’re the only ones. How much of Green Day’s ever-swelling fan base is made up of kids staring down a life of bagging groceries for a living? How many of them will resonate with what Lennon’s lyrics say: “as soon as you’re born they make you feel small,” or “they hurt you at home and they hit you at school?”
More importantly, how many of them will hear the issue of class talked about for perhaps the first time in their lives? In a country that is perpetually mis-labeled as middle class, the blackout on the growing ranks of the working poor is not an accident. We hear about a prosperous economy, rags to riches stories and the exploits of the rich and famous. We don’t hear about the millions without health care, the growing amount of McJobs and the biggest wealth gap in the industrialized world. For a young Green Day fan, angry and alienated at the world, this song may actually be something to identify with.
Alexander Billet is a music journalist and activist living in Washington DC. He is a regular writer for Znet and Dissident Voice, and has also appeared in MRzine, Socialist Worker, and CounterPunch. He is currently working on his first book The Kids Are Shouting Loud: The Music and Politics of the Clash.
There's something so missing in todays sanitised music world, far too many wanna be stars perhaps, corporatisation has strangled creativity and rebellian to the point where so much interesting music and passionate voices are not being heard as once they might.
Whilst I care not for Green Day this article resonates with me, for the fact that even in New Zealand a country far removed from so much of the ills that have befallen the US and leading nations of this world, they still impact and influence so much of our day to day lives and increasingly will do.
Our economy we are told is doing real well, yet the only people whom seem to be having a struggle free life are richer members of our community. We seem to have lost so much of what was wonderful bout our way of life and there seems to be less not more on the horizon for so many of us here.
Our concept of creating wealth is unproductive and self serving, its a back slapping society where selfish greed is more important than the world we leave the next generation.
From we to me to I... we can do better and if we don't respond positively to those around us now we are threatened with a very drab exisitence for all but a very few.
As soon as your born they make you feel small,
By giving you no time instead of it all,
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years,
Then they expect you to pick a career,
When you can't really function you're so full of fear,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still fucking peasents as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
There's room at the top they are telling you still,
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill,
A working class hero is something to be.
A working class hero is something to be.
If you want to be a hero well just follow me,
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
alcohol you are my friend... anyway Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails in the Herald Sun
Q: It must be an odd time then to have a new album, Year Zero, out?
A: It's a very odd time to be a musician on a major label, because there's so much resentment towards the record industry that it's hard to position yourself in a place with the fans where you don't look like a greedy asshole. But at the same time, when our record came out I was disappointed at the number of people that actually bought it. If this had been 10 years ago.
I would think "Well, not that many people are into it. OK, that kinda sucks. Yeah I could point fingers but the blame would be with me, maybe I'm not relevant". But on this record, I know people have it and I know it's on everybody's iPods, but the climate is such that people don't buy it because it's easier to steal it.
Q: You're a bit of a computer geek. You must have been there, too?
A: Oh, I understand that -- I steal music too, I'm not gonna say I don't. But it's tough not to resent people for doing it when you're the guy making the music, that would like to reap a benefit from that. On the other hand, you got record labels that are doing everything they can to piss people off and rip them off. I created a little issue down here because the first thing I did when I got to Sydney is I walk into HMV, the week the record's out, and I see it on the rack with a bunch of other releases. And every release I see: $21.99, $22.99, $24.99. And ours doesn't have a sticker on it. I look close and 'Oh, it's $34.99'. So I walk over to see our live DVD Beside You in Time, and I see that it's also priced six, seven, eight dollars more than every other disc on there. And I can't figure out why that would be.
Q: Did you have a word to anyone?
A: Well, in Brisbane I end up meeting and greeting some record label people, who are pleasant enough, and one of them is a sales guy, so I say "Why is this the case?" He goes "Because your packaging is a lot more expensive". I know how much the packaging costs -- it costs me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a CD with the colour-changing ink on it. I'm taking the hit on that, not them. So I said "Well, it doesn't cost $10 more". "Ah, well, you're right, it doesn't. Basically it's because we know you've got a core audience that's gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever". And I just said "That's the most insulting thing I've heard. I've garnered a core audience that you feel it's OK to rip off? F--- you'. That's also why you don't see any label people here, 'cos I said 'F--- you people. Stay out of my f---ing show. If you wanna come, pay the ticket like anyone else. F--- you guys". They're thieves. I don't blame people for stealing music if this is the kind of s--- that they pull off.
Q: Where does that extra $10 on your album go?
A: That money's not going into my pocket, I can promise you that. It's just these guys who have f---ed themselves out of a job essentially, that now take it out on ripping off the public. I've got a battle where I'm trying to put out quality material that matters and I've got fans that feel it's their right to steal it and I've got a company that's so bureaucratic and clumsy and ignorant and behind the times they don't know what to do, so they rip the people off.
Q: Given all that, do you have any idea how to approach the release of your next album?
A: I've have one record left that I owe a major label, then I will never be seen in a situation like this again. If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal. Come see the show and buy a T-shirt if you like it. I would put out a nicely packaged merchandise piece, if you want to own a physical thing. And it would come out the day that it's done in the studio, not this "Let's wait three months" bulls---.
Q: When your US label, Interscope, discovered the web-based alternate reality game (ARG) you'd built around Year Zero, were they happy for the free marketing or angry you hadn't let them in on it?
A: I chose to do this on my own, at great financial expense to myself, because I knew they wouldn't understand what it is, for one. And secondly, I didn't want it coming from a place of marketing, I wanted it coming from a place that was pure to the project. It's a way to present the story and the backdrop, something I would be excited to find as a fan. I knew the minute I talked to someone at the record label about it, they would be looking at it in terms of "How can we tie this in with a mobile provider?" That's what they do. If something lent itself to that, OK, I'm not opposed to the idea of not losing a lot of money (laughs). But it would only be if it made sense. I've had to position myself as the irrational, stubborn, crazy artist. At the end of the day, I'm not out to sabotage my career, but quality matters, and integrity matters. Jumping through any hoop or taking advantage of any desperate situation that comes up just to sell a product is harmful. It is.
Q: Is the Year Zero ARG something labels will copy now?
A: Well, their response, when they saw that it did catch on like wildfire, was "Look how smart we are the way we marketed this record". That's the feedback I've gotten -- other artists who've met with that label ask 'em about it: "Yeah, you like what we did for Trent? Look what we did for Trent". They've then gone on to try to buy the company that did it to apply it to all their other acts. So, glad I could help them out. I'm sure they still don't understand what it is that we did or why it worked. But I will look forward to the Black Eyed Peas ARG, that should be amazing.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Do you cringe when your cell phone rings? Do you suffer from withdrawal when you can't check your Blackberry? Do you rush to post your vacation video to your Web site? The questions below allow you to place yourself in one of the categories in the Pew Internet Project's Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users. To identify the typology group to which you belong, please answer the questions below. When you press the 'Calculate My Results' button, a new page will tell you in which group you fit, along with a description of the general characteristics of that group.
take the test
Your Results Bob
Based on your answers to the questionnaire, you most closely resemble survey respondents within the Omnivores typology group. This does not mean that you necessarily fit every group characteristic.
Omnivores make up 8% of the American public.
Basic DescriptionMembers of this group use their extensive suite of technology tools to do an enormous range of things online, on the go, and with their cell phones. Omnivores are highly engaged with video online and digital content. Between blogging, maintaining their Web pages, remixing digital content, or posting their creations to their websites, they are creative participants in cyberspace.
Defining CharacteristicsYou might see them watching video on an iPod. They might talk about their video games or their participation in virtual worlds the way their parents talked about their favorite TV episode a generation ago. Much of this chatter will take place via instant messages, texting on a cell phone, or on personal blogs. Omnivores are particularly active in dealing with video content. Most have video or digital cameras, and most have tried watching TV on a non-television device, such as a laptop or a cell phone.
Omnivores embrace all this connectivity, feeling confident in how they manage information and their many devices. This puts information technology at the center of how they express themselves, do their jobs, and connect to their friends.
Who They AreThey are young, ethnically diverse, and mostly male (70%). The median age is 28; just more than half of them are under age 30, versus one in five in the general population. Over half are white (64%) and 11% are black (compared to 12% in the general population). English-speaking Hispanics make up 18% of this group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many (42% versus the 13% average) of Omnivores are students.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Are you following this Kelly Clarkson flap? She made an album from the heart, that she wrote. What did the label do? They shelved it for months, hoping she'd come to her senses and record some more upbeat hit tracks just like the ones she recorded before, positive not NEGATIVE! Who wants to hear about Kelly's love losses, no one in the audience ever broke up with their boyfriend!
Now you might think Kelly is a mindless twit, with a voice only. But she'll tell you she wrote hit records for others. And, she's sold a FUCK OF A LOT OF RECORDS!
Used to be selling records gave you leverage... If KELLY CLARKSON has no leverage, what hope is there for you, someone selling ONE TENTH the number of discs!
2. They're only in the disc business.
Well, we'll call it recorded music. If they ever figure out how to monetize Net acquisition, maybe their fortunes will change. But for now, the label only makes money if they sell your music. They'll do whatever it takes to sell your music, TODAY, to run up the value of the company so it can be sold to someone else. They'll whore you out to corporations (say this to yourself, "Verizon is not my friend."), release multiple singles (if they get any traction at all), do whatever's best for THEM, not YOU! Your career...they might pay lip service to it, but they don't really give a shit, the employees are probably not going to be IN this business by the time your next album comes out.
As for labels getting a piece of your touring income, other revenue sources, do you want to marry someone DESPERATE?
3. They don't pay you.
Oh, they'll give you an ever-shrinking advance. But royalties? No one sells enough albums to go into royalties anymore. And they own the rights to the recording. Terry McBride's got it right, you want to control all the rights, so you can license INSTANTLY! So you don't have to get someone on the phone to say YES to YOU about YOUR music!
Oh, they'll give you money to get started, but it's like making a deal with the Mafia, they own you, forever.
4. There's no one working there.
Most analysts believe Warner cut its workforce to make its balance sheet look better, to stanch losses, hopefully report profits. In other words, it's got nothing to do with whether these people were NEEDED, whether they had jobs integral to the company, just what their salaries and benefits were. Oh, the company can outsource these jobs, but when you go for a meeting at the label do you really want to sit in an empty boardroom with a speaker phone on a conference call with a zillion temporary workers? Whose allegiance is not to this company, hell, why should it be, they've got to make their nut every month, they've got OTHER CUSTOMERS!
So, going to the building to work the label...that's a passe concept.
And, what if they don't outsource/get independent contractors to do the work? Will it be done at all? And, how well, by the overworked, multitasking employees still left?
5. They just care SOMETHING hits.
The label doesn't give a shit about you hitting, they just care that SOMETHING breaks through. And as soon as it does, your work project goes to the bottom of the pile. If you own your own copyrights, own the label, you're ALWAYS the priority!
6. They control physical distribution, not online distribution.
They can get your disc in stores. Then again, CAN THEY?
Online, distribution is close to flat. Make a deal with CDBaby, they can get you on all the online services, can get you paid. You don't need to be with a major to get into the online store.
As for albums... Do you really think albums will be the definitive format in the future?
7. Tour support is a thing of the past.
Not completely. But it's just about gone. And more than ever you need to break on the road. If you're doing all the work, why shouldn't you get all the profit?
8. They only want you once you've proven yourself independently.
If you've created the base, why give up control now?
9. MTV is dead.
You don't need a big budget video which won't be aired anywhere anyway. You just need a digital camera and Final Cut Pro, maybe even iMovie, and you can create a video for almost nothing and put it up on YouTube where it's got as much presence, as much priority, as the majors' efforts. And, you control the budget. Zillions aren't spent, and they're not charged back to you.
10. Terrestrial music radio is dying.
If Pink can go to number one at Top Forty and languish at the bottom of the SoundScan Top Fifty, selling 15k a week, how important is that airplay ANYWAY? As for other formats... Hot AC doesn't sell many records, and AOR is an oldies format and the Alternative panel has shrunk to almost nothing and Active Rock...that's not selling tonnage either.
11. They specialize in saying no.
Music is now about inspiration, made by the seat of one's pants. You have to do business the same way. In this fast, ever-changing world, you need to take risks, you've got to make snap decisions, you've got to be able to say yes, QUICKLY! The major is against innovation, it's hard to get an answer AT ALL, never mind YES!
You want to give your new track away for free? No! They won't even let you SELL IT if it competes with the track they're working at radio/in the marketplace. It's not about artistry, but commerce.
But, if all you care about is commerce, if you want all your money up front, if you want to whore yourself out to corporations, do whatever it takes to sell your lame, paint by numbers built by committee music, then sign with the major label. I hope you achieve your goal and get instantly rich, because after this instant, you'll be done.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 15th May 2007
Corporate social responsibility often resembles the adventures of The Good Soldier Svejk. In 1914, about to be conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army, Svejk puts on his old uniform and a volunteer’s buttonhole and, waving his borrowed crutches and shouting “to Belgrade, to Belgrade!”, has his landlady push him to the recruiting office in a bath chair. Jaroslav Harsek’s marvellous creation is lauded by the newspapers for his extraordinary patriotism.
By this means Svejk attempts to persuade the authorities that he is doing everything he can to get to the front, even if, to his enormous regret, his rheumatism prevents him from having his brains blown out. By noisily volunteering to subject themselves to stricter standards, the corporations try to pre-empt the rules which might otherwise have been imposed on them. This, they hope, will allow them to participate only when and how they see fit.
In Svejk’s case it didn’t work. His patriotism was rewarded with enemas and emetics until his rheumatism was miraculously cured. The corporations, on the other hand, always seem to persuade the authorities of their undying commitment to the causes they espouse, which ensures that they can enter the war on their own terms. This seems to be the way that the global campaign on road safety is going.
Death and injury on the roads is the world’s most neglected public health issue. Almost as many people die in road accidents – 1.2 million a year – as are killed by malaria or tuberculosis. Around 50 million are injured. Some 85% of these accidents take place in developing countries. The poor get hurt much more often than the rich, as they walk or cycle or travel in overloaded buses. The highest death rate is among children walking on the roads(1).
The annual economic cost to developing countries, in lost productivity alone, is $65-100bn: roughly the same as the amount they receive in foreign aid(2). I caught a glimpse of the human cost when I was hospitalised in northern Kenya. Some of the men on the ward had bullet or axe wounds inflicted in tribal wars; others were dying of AIDS; but over half the patients had been smashed up in road accidents. They could not afford good painkillers, and sobbed and screamed through the night. It looked like a scene from the First World War.
The problem is likely to become much worse. By 2020, according to the World Bank, deaths from road accidents are likely to fall by 28% in rich nations, but to rise by 83% in poorer ones(3). By 2030, they will overtake the deaths caused by malaria(4). But while $1.9bn of foreign aid will be spent on tackling malaria over the next five years, the annual global aid budget for road safety is less than $10m(5).
This issue has been neglected partly because it is something the rich inflict on the poor, and partly because it is widely perceived as an unavoidable price of doing business: as the global transportation industry expands, so must its human costs. Governments are just beginning to wake up to the problem. But the corporations got there first.
In 1999, at the invitation of the World Bank, the motor and oil companies joined something called the Global Road Safety Partnership. It was supposed to bring together “governments and governmental agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations”(6). But its executive committee contains no one from a civil society organisation and only two representatives of government. BP, Total, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Michelin and Volvo, however, are all represented(7).
Professor Ian Roberts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compared the prevalence of certain words in the partnership’s annual reports to their prevalence in a similar report written by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the partnership’s reports, he found a pattern of systematic neglect of pedestrians and cyclists. In the WHO’s report, “speed limit” occurred 17 times in every 10,000 words; in the partnership’s reports, just once. “Pedestrian” was used 69 times by the WHO, and 15 times by the partnership; “buses” and “cyclists” were mentioned 13 and 32 times respectively by the WHO, and not once by the partnership(8). “Reclaiming the streets for walking and cycling,” he notes, “will not serve the interests of the car makers”(9).
Instead, the Global Road Safety Partnership emphasised better training for drivers and better safety education for children. These measures do not interfere with the commercial interests of the transport industry. Neither, according to peer-reviewed papers Professor Roberts cites, do they work(10).
The motor industry also appears to dominate the most prominent international body on road safety. Three weeks ago, the racing driver Michael Schumacher wrote a column – quite a good one – for the Guardian to mark Global Road Safety Week. He described himself as a member of the “independent Commission for Global Road Safety”(11). The Commission launched the Make Roads Safe campaign, which is modelled on Make Poverty History. But how “independent” is it?
It was established by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Foundation, which is run by motoring and motor sports associations. Of the eight commissioners, one is an executive of General Motors; one runs the Bridgestone Tyre Corporation; one is a trustee of the FIA Foundation; one is chairman of the FIA Foundation and a president of the Automobile Club of Italy; and one is Michael Schumacher(12). The Commission’s secretary is the director-general of the FIA Foundation.
Its report is better than the material published by the Global Road Safety Partnership. There is more emphasis on speed limits, road design and traffic management. But there are some odd gaps and contradictions. It complains that “participation by middle and low income countries in the existing international road safety organisations … is low” and that there is a “lack of ownership” of road safety programmes by the governments and people of developing countries(13). So why do all its own members come from the G8 nations? The Commission prescribes an “action plan” for global road safety, to be run by something called the Global Road Safety Facility. This – surprise, surprise – also turns out to have been launched and partly funded by the FIA Foundation(14).
Most importantly, it calls for the developing nations to follow the path taken by richer countries in reducing deaths and injuries. But at no point does it mention that much of this reduction was the result of cyclists and pedestrians being driven off the roads. This is a much bigger issue for poor nations – where the great majority of people who use roads do not own cars – than for rich ones. Is this the vision: that the space now used by pedestrians and cyclists and oxcarts and rickshaws is surrendered to car drivers? If so, it might reduce fatalities, but it would also represent a classic act of enclosure, through which the rich are able to secure the resources of the poor.
Michael Schumacher is in danger of finding himself in the same position as Bob Geldof: a celebrity who claims to speak for the poor and weak, but who is informed and guided by the powerful. We need a global campaign on road safety, but it must belong to the people on whose behalf it acts.
1. All these facts come from Commission for Global Road Safety, June 2006. Make Roads Safe: a new priority for sustainable development. http://www.makeroadssafe.org/documents/make_roads_safe_low_res.pdf
2. ibid.3. E. Kropits and M. Cropper, 2003. Traffic Fatalities and Economic Growth. Cited by the Commission for Global Road Safety, ibid.
4. C. Mathers and D. Loncar, 2005. Updated projections of global mortality and burden on disease, 2002-2030, Cited by the Commission for Global Road Safety, ibid.
5. Commission for Global Road Safety, ibid.
6. Global Road Safety Partnership, no date. What is GRSP? http://www.grsproadsafety.org/?pageid=1
7. Global Road Safety Partnership, no date. Executive Committee. http://www.grsproadsafety.org/?pageid=130&typeid=28. I Roberts, R Wentz and P Edwards, 2006. Car manufacturers and global road safety: a word frequency analysis of road safety documents. Injury Prevention 12. 320–322. doi: 10.1136/ip.2006.0128499. Ian Roberts, pers comm.
10. Cochrane Injuries Group Driver Education Reviewers, 2001. Evidence based road safety: the Driving Standards Agency’s schools programme. Lancet 358.2302; I Roberts, R Norton, R Dunn, 1994. Preventing child pedestrian injuries: pedestrian education or traffic calming. Australian Journal of Public Health;18:20912. Cited by Ian Roberts, 22nd September 2001. Global road safety and the contribution of big business: Road safety policies must be based on evidence. British Medical Journal, Vol 323.
11. Michael Schumacher, 23rd April 2007. One every 30 seconds. The Guardian.
12. Commission for Global Road Safety, no date. About the Commission. http://www.fiafoundation.com/commissionforglobalroadsafety/about/index.html
13. Commission for Global Road Safety, ibid.
14. FIA Foundation, 2005. World Bank & FIA Foundation launch Global Road Safety Facility. http://www.fiafoundation.com/policy/road_safety/news/world_bank_fia_foundation_launch_grs_facility.html
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
If you had lived through the Zombie War, would you have survived?
We have prepared a questionnaire to determine what your survival odds would have been, based on a series of questions about you, your lifestyle, your skills, your location, and your flight options. Answer the questions to the right, then click the arrow once you have completed each one.
It turns out I would only have a 39% chance of survival.
Lucky I have a survival kit
I cheated on the test too
Monday, May 21, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
Apologies for that, I've been seasonably tired and a little out of kilter with my world. Actually I take that apology back, I really don't care, so take that regular passers by!
To be honest I have been bored very very bored of late.
I'd say its the onset of winter but that simply hasn't taken hold yet, which is boring in itself - I can see the payoff being a late starting summer and that is rather depressing.
Actually I could perhaps say much of my lethargy of late is being under whelmed but over worked during NZ Music Month - a time I've never really enjoyed for the lip service paid to those whom make music in this land blah blah blah...
Local politics is doing my head in, the anti smacking thing was simply too much, I just don't understand why it was such a big deal to so many people. I can't understand the logic behind those who demand the right in law to smack their children - I do understand that parents smack and will do so for the time being at least. I'm way more interested in seeing this behaviour reduced to the point where few parents see the need for smacking, except in extreme instances. The last resort if you will, not the first port of call.
I'm tired of the violent culture of which I am a part, the constant revleations factual and alleged of our police force. The knee jerk over reactions of our media and public to such organisations as the gangs - a very real problem but one we never seek solutions for, so much easier to simply propose unworkable 'solutions'.
I'm bored with the politicing that we are subjected to day after day after day - I am sure this is only because most media now have political reporters - get rid of these people and let the politicans wallow in their silly games without the encouragement of the media - maybe they'd get more done or at least find more time for constructive debate on issues.
I'm over the sports fest that ahs been breaking into my morning news, stupid sailboat races that are as exciting as watching paint dry, the netball of this week (actually I don't mind netball, just don't want to watch it). My morning news routine has been watching a german language show on triangle - I don't speak German so I find it a little hard to follow.
I am not following events in the middle east and other global hotspots I usually follow very closely, its all too depressing of late - well it has been for decades but I'm lucky enough to be in a position to take timeout so am, to varying degrees.
I'm not excited by the various distractions that I normally use to fill in my evenings.
Does this make me a teenager? God I hope not.
Being Friday I think I'll get drunk tonight and howl at the moon.... maybe I'll play teeny tiny records (7" singles) whilst sipping on a cold ale
damn is it beer o'clock yet, my evening sounds like fun
Thursday, May 17, 2007
He said he was a man of god and he no doubt thought as much. If there is a god, yeah right, then that god would disown a person like Rev Jerry Falwell I would imagine.
He's dead now and many will miss his thoughts and deeds of hate, ignorance and intolerance but many many more will perhaps be better off without his brand of so called Christianity.
I hope you rest in peace Mr Falwell and I know for sure this planet is better off without you and your kind of hate monger.
Just say no to religious extremists - no matter what their faith!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I'm not sure if this blog is blocked as part of a wider block of blogger.com or if my world has been singled out.
There is, of course, a chance its simply a matter of good taste.
I used to get a number of chinese visitors, I don't know why, maybe its the nude pictures I post. In future I promise, no more piccies of me in the bath.
Are ya happy now censors, my only artistic outlet crushed and one more blow against bathers
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Its rough as guts, booze was involved.... and well I'm no mixer at the best of times.
The theme is music from the eighties, my eighties not the decade currently being recycled via many a average CD compilation, not that this is better its just more reflective of some of my musical experiences of that decade.
This isn't about making any musical statement, its not all tracks I'd normally play, rather its a simple mix tape for a party and as such has some tracks I adore and some I simply find mildly amusing but fit what I was interested in creating.
All tracks are played from vinyl badly, as thats what I do :) I'd quite like to redo it whilst sober but the chances of that happening are pretty much nil.
23 Skiddoo - Coup
* the sunworshippers speak
Liquid Liquid - Caravan
A Certain Ratio - Du the Du
Ciccone Youth - into the groovey
New Order - Everythings Gone Green
Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu - Doctoring the Tardis (instrumental)
* Fred Dagg - We Don't Know How Lucky We Are
Pop Will Eat Itself - Def Con One (The Doomsday Powermix)
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - Surfin' USM
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F11 (extended Version)
Beastie Boys - Girls
Greater Than One - Why Do Men Have Nipples
S' Xpress - Theme From S' Xpress
The Beatmasters - Ska Train
* The Sunworshippers speak again
Nitzer Ebb - Join in The Chant (remix instrumental)
OMD - Dazzle Ships (II, III, IV)
MP3 here (128 Kpbs, 58.6 MB)
enjoy or something
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
One Day You’re Gonna Wake Up, America.
By David Michael Green
And, like every other one since last you can remember, it’s gonna be an ugly morning.
One day you’re gonna wake up and go to your lousy job with its lousy salary and non-existent benefits. You might even remember the good job you once had. Or that the government you once supported gave tax breaks to companies like the one that exported that good job of yours to the Third World (which is what they’re now starting to call your country). Or that that same government undermined the labor unions which fought to get you your good wages and benefits.
One day you’re gonna wake up and be furious at the monstrous tax burden you are carrying, a tab which accounts for fifty of the seventy hours you must work each week just to eke by. You might even figure out why your tax bill is so high. You might remember that the government you once supported shifted the tax burden from the rich onto people like you, and from the taxpayers of the time onto those of today. And that they borrowed money in astonishing quantities to fund their sleight-of-hand, so that you work thirty hours a week just to pay the interest on a mountain of money borrowed decades ago.
One day you’re gonna wake up in anger at the absurdly poor education your children are receiving. You’re gonna remember that it wasn’t always that way, that even after the military’s voracious appetite was temporarily sated, your country still managed to find a few bucks to at least educate a workforce. No more. And you’re gonna remember how you applauded when your educational system was twisted in to a test taking industry that is careful, above all, not to teach children how to think.
One day you’re gonna wake up literally sick and tired. You’re gonna want treatment for your maladies but you won’t be able to touch the cost. You’re gonna wonder what you were thinking when believed your country had the best healthcare system in the world, even though it was the only advanced democracy in the world that didn’t provide universal care, even though it devoted fifty percent more of its economy than those other countries to pay for a system that left fifty million people uninsured, and even though there were massive layers of unnecessary and harmful private sector bureaucracy skimming hundreds of billions of dollars of profits out of the system in the name of free enterprise.
One day you’re gonna wake up too tired to go to work anymore. You’re gonna want to retire in dignity but will be left instead to laugh bitterly at the cruelty of that joke. And you’re gonna wonder what in the world you had been thinking voting for a president who’s primary goal was to allow Wall Street to raid Social Security, destroying what had once been considered the most successful domestic program in human history.
One day you’re gonna wake up and wish that it wasn’t so bloody hot, and that there weren’t so many diseases and species eradications and violent storms lashing the planet. And maybe you’ll even remember that you once supported a government that lied about the very existence of global warming – back when it might have been curtailed – a government that scuttled the barest remedy for the problem in order to protect oil company profits.
One day you’re gonna wake up and wish you had a government that could simply and competently do the basic things it was designed for. A government that could protect you from foreign attack, that could come to your rescue after a devastating hurricane, that could properly manage a new program or other people’s security. An administration that didn’t pervert the purpose of every agency within the government to its opposite, using civil rights lawyers to fight civil rights, for example, or the EPA to protect polluters.
One day you’re gonna wake up and cry out for simple justice, blindly applied without bias. And perhaps you’ll remember when that principle died. When your country stood by and watched the politicization of its judicial system for purposes of partisanship, and said nothing. When it stood by and watched its highest law enforcement officials in the land lie about their failing memory of events and pretended to believe that was acceptable.
One day you’re gonna wake up and wish that you weren’t being drafted to go fight wars you don’t believe in. You’ll remember how soldiers were sent to their deaths for lies. You’ll remember how badly they were treated when they came home maimed and twisted. You’ll remember how real, patriotic, former soldiers were mocked and humiliated by dress-up, unpatriotic, former non-soldiers. And suddenly you’ll understand why no one would volunteer for the military anymore, and why people like you had to be drafted.
One day you’re gonna wake up and want very badly to run outside and scream in anger about a government that long ago stopped serving your interests in favor of the narrow interests of a tiny oligarchy. But instead you’ll stay inside and keep your scream tucked safely in your belly. Because you’ll know that in your country dissent has long since been outlawed, on pain of torture and death. You’ll remember concepts like due process, limitations on government search, seizure and wiretapping, habeas corpus, trial by peers, legal representation and prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment as historical artifacts no longer even taught in schools.
On day you’re gonna wake up and want so badly to change governments. You’re gonna treasure the concept of democracy like no Soviet dissident ever did. You’re gonna crave the opportunity to own your own government, to make your own societal choices, to make a change of direction never before so desperately necessary. And you’re gonna wonder why you didn’t speak up as you watched first-hand the dismantling of the democracy you had been handed by previous generations of patriots. You’re gonna wish you had been patriotic enough yourself to demand, above all else, free and fair elections, and you’re gonna shake your head in puzzlement at how you stood by watching in silence those that patently were not.
One day you’re gonna wake up and want to get the hell out of your rotting, repressive country. You’re gonna remember a time when that wasn’t true. But, oddly enough, you’ll find that other countries remember too. They’ll remember your country’s arrogance, its unilateralism, its walls, its racism, and its politicized abuse of immigrants. And they’ll remember how your government undermined and violently replaced theirs whenever corporations from your country had their profits threatened. You’re gonna want to leave, but there will be nowhere you’ll be welcome. You’re gonna find out that walls can face both directions.
One day you’re gonna wake up in a hostile world where your country no longer has any friends. There will be governments of other countries – former long-standing allies – that cannot afford to have anything to do with you, lest their publics angrily remove them from office for collaborating with a country as hated as yours. Nor will those governments trust yours anyway. They will perhaps possess intelligence that could save your life, but they will not share it. They will possess forces that could help you survive real security threats, but they will not provide them. Your country will have become an international pariah, the South Africa of the twenty-first century.
And because no one will assist you, one day you’re gonna wake up fearing for your life as your country is brutally attacked by angry militants deploying weapons of mass destruction against your cities. Long dormant connections in your brain will resurface, and you will dimly understand why. On this day – perhaps March 20, 2023 – you might be assisted in your comprehension by the message of one of the attackers, someone whose family your country callously destroyed in its mission accomplished in Iraq, and who spent the next twenty years plotting this day’s revenge. And you will wonder again why you stood by as your country attacked Iraq on a completely bogus pretext. You’ll remember applauding when this mailed fist was long ago sent. And, just as it comes hurling back in your direction at a lethal velocity, stamped “Return to Sender”, you’ll wonder what you were thinking. And you’ll realize just how much you weren’t.
One day you’re gonna wake up, America, and you’re gonna find out what was happening while you were sprawled on the couch watching endless mind-numbing loops of CSI, Desperate Housewives or Dancing with the Stars.
One day you’re gonna wake up and realize that catching all the action during week seven of the 2011 NFL season really wasn’t so critical in the greater scheme of things after all.
One day you’re gonna wake up and wished you’d invested a little more energy into monitoring and choosing the people who made monumental decisions on your behalf.
One day, with a flash of remorse greater than you thought it possible that one human vessel could contain, you’ll remember the ignored warning shots across your bow. Moments later, you’ll discover the human capacity for searing remorse is actually even greater still, as you contemplate your inattention even to the shots that were fired right through the bow. With a fury you would yesterday have thought yourself incapable of, you’ll hurriedly attempt to affix Band-Aids to the tattered splinters remaining from your country’s once sturdy hull. But you’ll learn quickly the toll of those years spent wasted in a civic coma. You’ll find that no amount of patchwork can any longer save this sinking ship from its appointment with the dustbin of history.
In shame, you’ll regret the callous arrogance with which you laughingly dismissed those who sounded the early clarion call. “We are destroying ourselves”, they tried to tell you. But even on the rare occasion when you roused yourself from your stupor long enough to learn the slightest bit about the very threats that jeopardized your life and that of your species, still you found it more reassuring to follow the blustering worst amongst us, with their patently absurd pretended confidence, and their ever constant resort to the cheapest of false solutions, and the rudest of demeanors.
One day, you’ll desperately search for hope of any sort, but none will remain. Nothing will be left to save you.
One day you’ll realize that once there were solutions, but that that day is now long past. You’ll see that human technological capacity ran its evolutionary race with wisdom, and the latter came in second. You’ll sadly realize that you stood by while your country led the once great tool-making species to its own destruction.
One day you’re gonna wake up, America, and realize how far it’s all gone. But if that day isn’t very soon, it won’t matter.
Because one day you’re gonna wake up, and it will be far, far too late.
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
For me, the pro-smacking rhetoric has been a depressing dose of reality in terms of New Zealand culture. It's like when your lovable old grandfather comes out with a racist remark. You are not so much shocked as embarrassed on his behalf. However it's still a setback, a diminishing of respect -- a side of him that you would rather not have observed.
But maybe it's better in the long run that you do. In a way, seeing so many people become so angry because a member of the Green Party is attempting to stop the
hitting of children is like Godzone has suddenly let its mask slip. It's not a pretty sight....