Monthly Archives: May 2009

corporate gig = court jester?

A quick extra blog, here’s an interesting vid of (excellent) lefty US singer-songwriter Jill Sobule performing at the D: All Things Digital conference, which is run by Rupert Murdoch’s people. She sings a sweet song written ‘for’ Rupert Murdoch.

Imagine being hired for this kind of event and then being asked to be specifically on-topic, yet non critical! Everyone knows who everyone is here: they know she’s a lefty, she knows her co-star runs Fox. I like Sobule and she manages it well but there is something uncomfortable at the heart of this relationship.

If she did ever feel debased, how would she express it? Wouldn’t want to jeopardise a lucrative relationship. For now at least, she’s owned. In an odd way this follows up what I was trying to say in my Morning Star column about Britains Got Talent. She’s not even a court jester here: too soft, doesn’t really speak truth to power, just makes a joke.

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catching up

Argh! Fucking fuckedy fuck! My friend (a promoter out west) co-runs a stage at Glasto. He emailed me earlier this year and offered a good slot on one of the smaller (but still legitimate, advertised) stages.

This precious Springsteen-tinted golddust email went to an old address, which I haven’t bothered to check recently. I missed it.

I literally first saw it this morning, one day after the final lineup got advertised. You cannot imagine how gutted I am right now, I’m wondering what evil shit I must’ve done in a former life to deserve this year’s karma. Fuck.

Right, deep breath. I’m sorry it’s been so long. Honestly, I’ve written and deleted three or four entries since getting back from the States. I’m tempted to blame Twitter because Evan’s right (see previous entry comments), it’s tougher to write long-form blogs once you’re habitually posting every idea the moment it pops up. I love Twitter but there’s also a slight issue with its effect on creativity: One of the classic songwriting ‘rules’ is not to tell anyone your song idea til you’ve finished the song. This is nothing to do with protecting it from theft but simply because once you’ve told it to people, your instinctive need to express it gets drastically reduced and it’s much harder to complete the song. I think that’s from Jimmy Webb’s book on songwriting – really works for me, anyhow. So possibly a similar process happens with Twitter, where you share your early bursts of creative thought, instantly making it much harder to develop them.

17% left on my battery, let’s see how far I get before the laptop dies. I’ve broken the charger cable and keep failing to get around to buying a new one (perhaps because it’s 60 fuckin quid). 

I’ve been having a weird, intense feeling of embarrassment when I get onstage recently – it happened for five gigs in a row and totally threw me. Then luckily it went away the last couple of shows, which was a relief, though I’ll be totally blitzed if it comes back. Maybe it’s beard-related. Started at the tail end of the USA tour and lasted right through to that Trafalgar Square gig for ‘Strangers Into Citizens’ (which was also my biggest audience I think – they said 8k-9k – overtakes the crowd for Frank at Reading and Leeds).

It means I can’t disconnect and get into the song, or just find something in the situation to enjoy. I think it’s a really dangerous place to be in, to be unable to shake off the cringingness – especially when you do material like mine.

My other big fuck-off headache right now is the PRS, the Performer Rights Society, which is the agency I belong to, who are supposed to collect royalties for me whenever and wherever my songs are performed or broadcast. Over the last few months I’ve gone back through my PRS payment statments for more than five years and can’t find a single payment for Frank Turner singing The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin’, not a single one.

If you know Frank you’ll know he played the song fucking loads between 2005 and 2008 and you’ll also know he’s a 100% honest guy and would’ve written the song down assiduously on PRS forms, including at festivals and on big tours with The Automatic etc.

It’s not money Frank pays, it’s money the venue pays for their entertainment licence, which then the PRS should pay to me because my song was performed in the venue. Simple. But can they find it anywhere? Can they fuck!? Did they try!? Well someone looked it up on a computer and sent me a thing saying I’d been paid £43.50 since 2005 for six performances. I checked the performances, they were my own fucking performances! Frank? Nada. When I first flagged it up with them, I provided a massive gig list, a pile of Youtube links and links to print and web reviews where the performance of the song got mentioned. By which I mean I did their job for them (this is what they tell you to do). They are a collections agency. Well go collect! It’s not about the money, honey. But it fucking is.

Anyway, even thinking about that makes me angry, the deeper I dove, the more confused I got – most recently discovering I have two separate IDs as a songwriter with them, even though I only ever registered one. Their website, and in particular the interactive database where you can check claims and make claims, is a total fucking mess. Frustrating.

On happier ground, here’s where I’m at, heading into summer: I’ve almost completed the LSD ep, built from improvised piano and Garageband sessions I did on acid after coming home from tour last autumn. I’ll hand that in this week and we’ll announce things properly next month, when Agent Ashmore has booked me a few shows to go with the EP. Separately I’m working hard on finishing the mizzog new songs for a quiet, personal album, which I’ll record in summer. Meanwhile got seven festivals.

Sounds fun, now I just have to not feel like a cretin throughout. Next blog sooner, unless I tweet everything I want to say.