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David Guetta. <em>Picture: Ellen Von Unwerth</em>

David Guetta. Picture: Ellen Von Unwerth

Is dance music as important as rock?

There used to be only one figure that counted in the music industry: record sales. Everything else was secondary. Tee-shirts, badges and other paraphernalia were given away. Tours lost money, but none of this mattered as long as the effect was to push the artiste up the charts. The only other area that was ever monitored was the number of times a track was played on the radio.

The internet turned everything on its head. Despite the desperate rearguard actions of the recording industry it’s unlikely music sales will ever be seriously profitable again. Instead the focus has moved to the previously promotional activities of merchandising and touring. This works particularly well for established stadium bands such as the Rolling Stones and U2 who, according to Billboard magazine, made over £75 million from their tour in 2009. This year they could have made even more had Bono not been injured.

So how else do you measure pop success in the digital age? It’s a question that analyst Kevin Watson is one of the first to try and answer. His report was prepared for the dance music business’s annual conference, the International Music Summit, held over three days in Ibiza, Spain.

“There’s not been much research on dance music,” he said. “So what we’ve tried to do is define the industry and how big it is by measuring the media impact.”

The reason for the focus is that many in the dance or electronic music business feel it is marginalised relative to rock and pop. Official industry figures suggest dance music in 2009 accounted for 9.4 million album sales in the UK or about 7.5 per cent of the total. That’s a larger proportion than any other major country. But those figures, Watson said, don’t tell the whole story.

Much electronic music isn’t included in official figures as it is downloaded from specialist sites such as Beatport. In fact the very means of its creation makes measurement difficult. Many of the tracks played in clubs are mixes, mashups and samples combining tunes from a number of artistes, often without the official permission of copyright holders. Generally these are created on home computers and most are never commercially released.

The combined scale of the UK dance music scene, however, is enormous. According to Watson there are around 100,00 DJs in Britain playing in around 1500 clubs with a combined capacity of 550,000. Specialist dance music festivals attract more than 200,000 people each year and that’s not including events such as Glastonbury which also feature big-name DJs.

Globally, the popularity of DJs such as David Guetta or Tiësto measured in terms of the number of Google searches puts them ahead of almost all other musicians with the exception of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. Each attracts tens of millions of searches a month, but Guetta beats them all in terms of fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter. And, according to Watson just one of Guetta’s tracks “When Love Takes Over” received over 50 million user plays last year. That is, rather than having a radio station or DJ choosing the tune, fans selected the specific track on YouTube, last.fm, MySpace and Spotify or opted to download it.

French DJ Guetta has very much been at the forefront of the resurgence of dance music. He provided the soundtrack to the Citroën skating robot commercials, but it’s his work with the Black Eyed Peas that’s made him globally successful. He co-created their biggest hit “I gotta feeling” and since then every American hip-hop and R&B artiste wants to work with him. But it remains to be seen whether his current success is a one-off or part of a trend which will increase the proportion of US record sales represented by dance music above its current one per cent.

- Nick Clayton has lived in Ibiza for the last six years.

The Twitter logoWhatever happened to the Facebook/Twitter election?

This was supposed to be the election decided by social media. So what went wrong?

The answer is: Nothing. The concept of a social media election campaign was pretty ludicrous from the start.

Did anybody seriously believe that a largely disillusioned electorate was somehow going to be galvanised into mass political action or, at least, mass tweeting? Why were so many variations on this view apparently taken seriously in the run-up to the campaign?

The media, old and new, should take the blame. The long, dull, months before the last frenetic few weeks left political pundits with too much broadcast time on their hands and too many newspaper column inches to fill. And across the Atlantic the Obama effect seemed to have something to do with the internet.

Technology commentators, meanwhile, have been almost childishly keen to prove that the latest advances are going to change everything. I plead as guilty as anybody to encouraging this sort of premature expectation. It always takes longer for tech to have a mass impact than pundits predict.

At the same time politicians and their parties couldn’t risk missing the bandwagon. So for months we’ve been treated to uncomfortable tweets, podcasts and YouTube videos. (As a Scot Gordon should surely have taken a cue from the last one’s name before his unfortunate grinning appearance.)

Even more silly was the idea that the old media would somehow be completely subsumed by the new. Look back. Television didn’t kill radio or cinema. They all became part of the consumer mix, a pattern that’s continued ever since. Individual media may decline, but they seldom disappear completely.

After setting up social media to fail, the common consensus amongst commentators is that this election has been won and lost on television. In short: Clegg spoke to camera in the first debate and stole Cameron’s thunder. Brown finally blew it in Rochdale. And every broadcaster ignored Alex Salmond.

It was, of course, the TV pundits who were most vociferous in claiming it was television wot won it. There is evidence that the LibDem bounce had started before the first debate and Labour’s problems certainly didn’t start in Rochdale, but every commentator wants a “defining moment”. (Thus it always was. It is, for instance, now established in folklore that Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party was heading for victory before his Sheffield moment. It wasn’t.)

Equally pundits seem to have sought some Twitter or Facebook event that would set the election alight. It’s not quite clear what was expected, but it hasn’t happened. Instead there were, according to Peter Preston in The Observer, just 33,000 active tweeters during the last debate.

He’s actually being more than a little disingenuous as a former newspaper editor in disparaging this as a tiny number. Anybody who has worked in the media knows just how few responses almost any article or programme elicits. If complaints reach double figures senior management gets twitchy. So it’s actually not a small achievement to have 33,000 people making the effort to stream the debate to their PCs or to sit in front of the telly with a laptop or smartphone.

There are also some interesting statistics on the Experian Hitwise blog showing the growth in visits to political websites, increase in searches including the word “bigot” and the sites people visited before going to a political site. All these stats reveal that, for some people at least, Brown’s Rochdale moment encouraged them to dig a little deeper into the background.

Nothing however suggests Facebook, Twitter or other social media will have a substantial impact on the outcome of this general election. But it’s easy to forget just how novel these technologies are. When Blair won last time they simply didn’t exist and for his first victory MPs were kept on-message with pagers not mobile phones.

If the next parliament runs full term there’ll no doubt be other online networks for politicians to contend with. More importantly perhaps there’ll be far more televisions with internet capabilities and smartphones with built-in TV making it far easier for audiences to respond to debates instantly whether by word or worm. But the result then as now will not be decided by a single technology.

Jarvis Cocker. <em>Picture: livepict.com </em>

Jarvis Cocker. Picture: livepict.com

Mystic Meg need not have sleepless nights. Thursday morning, a piece is written in this section about Odeon’s fall-out with Disney only for them to make up hours later.

Then a piece about how BBC6 Music must be saved for the nation was penned in this section last week and on Friday morning, a convincingly authoritative report in The Times business section suggested the Beeb were sharpening the axe.

Fans of the Asian network have been slow to register their protest, and are welcome to here, but the potential 6Music axe has led to howls from Phill Jupitus and Richard Bacon, as well as the Dame, David Bowie.

In an otherwise excellent article, The Guardian’s Johnny Dee hails 6Music as a success in “transforming celebrities into DJs.” Yes, shows by Jarvis Cocker, Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Bruce Dickinson have been widely lauded. Sadly, the real reason why 6Music needs to survive is because of Radio 2’s obsession with “transforming celebrities into DJs”.

R2’s schedules feature Alan Carr ahead of Steve Lamacq, Paul O’Grady more than Gideon Coe, Dermot O’ Leary with a greater frequency than Shaun Keaveney. Radio 2 used to be the natural home for music broadcasters graduating from Radio One. Because Radio 2 is obsessed by celebs (that’s also why they stuck Russell Brand for so long), 6Music has to provide the essential public service credentials, the Heineken elements R2 should be reaching but isn’t. The idea the commercial sector could offer such devoted music fans a decent alternative is ridiculous.

That’s why so many die-hards are coming to the fore in its defence and, by the time this is written, more will have followed.

What’s undeniable is that whether the Conservatives take power or not, the BBC will have to cut costs. That can’t just mean DG Mark Thompson passing on private jets. It has spent £6m a year on 6Music. BBC3 costs around £100m a year.

BBC3 has as much to do with public service broadcasting as Sister Wendy Beckett has to do with snowboarding. Fans suggest that if it wasn’t for BBC3, Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey and Being Human wouldn’t have made it to air.

Rubbish. If BBC2 can show Little Miss Jocelyn, it would have shown those.

Here is a list of some other recent BBC3 shows – Hotter than My Daughter, Katie Price: The Jordan Years, Snog, Marry, Avoid?, My Man Boobs And Me, Lily Allen & Friends, Lucy: Britain’s Youngest Teen Transexual.

David Bowie has yet to rush forward to defend the public service credentials for this station. Whenever you’re ready, Dave…

Don't panic!

Don't panic!

I want you to picture a man in his pyjamas lying down in front of a bulldozer. Ah, some of you are ahead of me already. You have recognised the man as Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Put the image in your pending tray, for we will return to it later (albeit briefly), as we discuss the topic: Whither Local Newspapers.

Their future has been threatened, allegedly, by Scottish Government plans to remove the legal requirement for councils to place public information notices in them. The plans gives council the choice of putting said notices (which nobody reads) online. These plans are, therefore, a threat to democracy.

So, at least, claimed Pauline McNeill (Lab) who had called a debate on the subject in Parliament. She argued that the proposal would cause serious economic damage to the papers, and pointed out that only 60 per cent of Scots had access to broadband. Moreover, seventy per cent of the over-65s think the internet is something vaguely to do with pornography. That’s what I’d heard too.

You’ve heard of The Invincibles. Well, Jim Mather too is a superhero. He’s one of the Impenetrables. The enterprise minister is so mired in business jargon that he’s the only MSP in parliament who has subtitles going along his navel.

The gist of his case was that council advertising had to be cost-effective and that what were effectively subsidies to local papers could affect their independence. Jim said you had to go with the flow (I’m summarising here), adding: “Just this week the launch of the Caledonian Mercury has shown the potential the web offers for people to develop a new model of newspaper provision.” Does it really? Good lord, I better inform the editor.

Jim said it would be up to councils where they put their public notices (if they involve roadworks in Edinburgh, I’ve a suggestion), prompting bovine Alex Johnstone (Con) to bellow gloomily: “If local newspapers do not survive that choice will not exist.”

Jim then made this bombshell announcement: “Consultation means consultation.” Glad we cleared that one up. He added that intelligent discussion involved hearing different points of view. He couldn’t bear polarising. When this resulted in a murmur of complaint, Jim hollered: “Polarise away! Lock horns if you will.” And, after that bull, he sat down.

Ted Brocklebank (Con), a former print and broadcast journalist who also declared an interest as a shareholder in STV – “albeit an increasingly impecunious one” – said the whole thing was about cost-cutting. He said many people, particularly the elderly, still looked to newspapers for public information.

That said, the estimable Ted said he’d been “underwhelmed” by the industry’s own attempts to communicate about the problem. Ted said he could hardly get newspapers to print a line about the danger facing them. “It was almost as if the newspaper industry believed that, by not mentioning the problems, they would somehow go away,” he said, adding that they’d reacted with all the resolution of rabbits caught in the headlights. To be fair, he exonerated the Courier and the Fife Herald titles, which newspapers coincidentally cover his constituency.

All of this led logically to North East Fife MSP Iain Smith (Lib Dem) giving us a dramatised reading, complete with voices, of the aforementioned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This seminal tome involves, as many of you know, Arthur Dent endeavouring to find the plans for demolishing his house. They were at the local council office, down unlit stairs in a basement lavatory on the door of which was written “Beware of the leopard”. Iain’s point was that making information available was not the same as making it accessible.

A good point too, well made.

Incidentally, Mr Dent once said: “I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” I thought I’d got them pretty taped in Parliament. It’s the day when all these discourses take place and, after a while, you think you know what’s coming. However, I have now to say something I’ve never said before: Karen Whitefield (Lab) made a good speech. Yup, unlikely though it sounds – and I ask you to bear in mind yesterday’s strictures re Labour leader Elmer Fudd that everything is relative – she appeared to have crafted her words. Why, she even looked up from her notes now and again.

Karen said she’d occasionally suffered bad press in her local paper – sounds like these guys are on the job – but she still supported it. Despite web-based news being free onlne, many people still bought papers. Well, it’d be worth it to see Karen panned in proper print.

Thuggish Kenny Gibson (SNP) accused Labour of trying to deny councils the choice of where to stuff their notices. He said Cosla supported the Government and that no one was going to stop councils putting notices in the papers. He also accused local papers of charging more for public notices, and conjectured that councils might now get more competitive rates.

Crucially, Kenny said he’d gone to a meeting of Saltcoats community council and, of 25 citizens present, only one had opposed the measure. Well, I think that’s that issue settled then.

Cathy Craigie (Lab) said the press was at the heart of our democratic process. That’s right. Thus, in Scotland, the national media is 98.82 per cent unionist, while the remaining 1.18 per cent occasionally give independence a fair hearing. Such a vital role in keeping Scotland free. From debate.

Bob Doris (SNP) claimed only two per cent of the mob read public notices, which brought incredulous laughter. Not sure why. Two per cent sounds like an over-estimate. Bob noted: “I hear opposition members laughing.” Oh well, at least his hearing was all right. He added: “I thought I’d come here for a constructive debate.” Good heavens, how could he make such a mistake?

Hugh Henry (Lab) said he’s been on the end of withering criticism by his local paper, but he thought this was healthy. Headline idea for local paper: “MSP says masochism is healthy.” Hugh O’Donnell (Lib Dem) made an admirable ass of himself when he advised the Government to “Drop the dead donkey”, while Cathy Jamieson (Lab) boasted of appearing on the front-page of the Himalayan Times. Headline: “Look at this nutter.”

And so it went on. I was intrigued to see what the voting would be at 5 o’clock. Of course, clearly Pauline’s motion would win – all the opposition parties were against the Government plans – but what would the margin be? Well, the result was 76-48 for Pauline, which suggests that all the Nat MSPs, and one other, supported the Government. A bit odd: you wouldn’t think it a party political issue, would you?

But there you are. Still, with that scale of opposition, local newspaper editors up and down the land may feel they can safely change out of their pyjamas. The bulldozer ain’t going anywhere – for now.