Welcome to Complaints in Wonderland

2015-08-01 Ealing Jazz Fest 7944

Welcome to Complaints in Wonderland. Over the years I have been writing letters of complaint to companies and  non-commercial organisations,  I soon learnt that some  people take themselves so seriously that the only way to deal with them is to inject as much humour as possible into the correspondence and then sometimes, as these people seem to have the armour plating of a Dreadnought,  frankness is required. In the interests of fairness  I have also published letters of complaint that have been dealt with in a positive and exemplary manner.The postings are in no particular chronological order but I kick off with NatWest in 2000. So just keep scrolling down for many and various posts. I have redacted names where appropriate as invariably it is a case of  the “donkeys” in the boardrooms leading the “lions” on the shop floor. What a marvellous word redacted is. It brings to mind a take on an Eric Morecombe joke; “Has he or she been redacted? No,it’s just they way they walk”.

I also use this site to comment on various matters aired in the press as well as economics, politics, idiocy in general and the funding of jazz in the UK  by Arts Council England  and Arts Council Wales. To say there is room for improvement with  regard to the funding of jazz in the UK is the understatement of the 21st Century

Regrettably I will not be able to answer postings or comments and if I do it will have to be brief. However any abusive remarks containing strong language will not be answered, the correspondent will just have to satisfy themselves with the fact that if I did respond it would be along the lines that their comments, “are the nicest thing that any one has ever said about me”.

If you have enjoyed reading these letters, articles and  letters in the press. I would be grateful if you could donate to the National Jazz Archive to help them raise the profile  jazz in the UK. Just click on the website button and give what ever you can. This site is paid for by me.Rest assured your donations will be going to help musicians make sure jazz is performed in the UK  fifty two weeks in the year.

Chris Hodgkins

The BBC and Andrew Marr on jazz

Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning television show on the 13th March 2011 gave a wholly convincing performance that demonstrated that his knowledge of jazz is restricted to cheap laughs. The link below is to the Guardian where it was reported.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mediamonkeyblog/2012/jan/31/andrew-marr-clarkson

I wrote to the Mark Thompson Director General and took it through every stage of the complaints process. The whole exercise was a prima facie case for an independent BBC Complaints Ombudsman. There is an even stronger case to have the remuneration of  people like Marr scrutinised as there seems to be a  gravy train that rolls down the tracks regardless of the fact that the TV License payer has to fork out for their vastly  inflated pay. The role of the BBC Complaints Ombudsman has now expanded to the BBC Complaints and Pay Review Ombudsman.

“It was clear from the Programme that Marr does not like jazz and was allowed by the producers to vent his prejudices on a programme that was watched by a great number of people who not only like jazz; who expect from the BBC something better than Marr’s ill informed views and sloppy journalism……………..” To read more

Please click on “The BBC and Andrew Marr on jazz” to access the correspondence

 

Donate to the National Jazz Archive

The National Jazz Archive holds the UK’s finest collection of written, printed and visual material on jazz, blues and related music, from the 1920s to the present day. Founded in 1988 by trumpeter Digby Fairweather, the Archive’s vision is to ensure that the rich tangible cultural heritage of jazz is safeguarded for future generations of enthusiasts, professionals and researchers.

In 2011 the Archive received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to conserve and catalogue the collection. As a result many photographs, journals, documents and learning resources are being made available on this site.

The National Jazz Archive is  a registered charity, number 327894 and is managed by a group of expert trustees with backgrounds in heritage, archives, jazz, law and education.

The Archive exists to help researchers, students, the media and the general Enthusiast – and is based at Loughton in Essex, just inside the M25.

Please donate to the National Jazz Archive here: National Jazz Archive

The India Club, 143-145 The Strand – Asset Community Value Application

The owners of the freehold of the India Club are at it again and have resubmitted another planning application for a “Boutique Hotel” Wikipedia sums up “Boutique” as:

A boutique is “a small store that sells stylish clothing, jewelry, or other usually luxury goods. The term “boutique” and also “designer” refer (with some differences) to both goods and services which are containing some element that is claimed to justify an extremely high price, itself called boutique pricing”.

In other words another high priced joint with no cultural significance whatsoever; whose sole purpose is conspicuous consumption that the vast majority of people cannot afford and would not entertain in the first place. I wish someone would lock Marston Properties in a boutique lavatory, flush them down a boutique toilet into a boutique sewer so they can make their boutique way to the coast.

The current management are trying to preserve the club India Club for the future and they have applied to Westminster Council for Asset of Community Value status. If granted, this recognises the significant community value of the India Club and would strengthen their position against re-development plans.

It would be a great help if you could email in support of the Asset of Community Value application for India Club at 143-145 Strand, to Andrew Barry-Purssell at communityassets@westminster.gov.uk , outlining why India Club is important to you and it’s community value.

Set out below is my submission which I hope will prove helpful. I do hope you can submit an email to Andrew Barry-Purssell.

Dear Mr Barry-Purssell
I am writing to register my support for the Asset Community Value Application for the
historic India Club Bar & Restaurant  143-145 Strand based at the Hotel Strand Continental, London.
  
The India Club was started by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the UK, in 1946 and moved to The Strand in 1964;  little has changed since then with internal features remaining much the same. 
Originally established by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the UK, and founding members including Prime Minister Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, India Club has been a symbol of Indo-British friendship. It became a platform for India League’s post-independence activities and a meeting place for various Indo-British groups and the India League  held meetings in the 1950s, soon after independence in 1947. The building also played a key part in immigrant history and experience in the UK acting as a home-away-from-home for the Indian diaspora.
In terms of diversity in London, William Gould, professor of Indian history at the University of Leeds, said the club played an important role in the 1960s when the first arrivals of immigrants from south Asia to help rebuild postwar Britain. He told the Observer in May this year “There’s some evidence that this was a place that people came to when they first arrived,” . “It is related to some of the themes of Windrush.”
Furthermore, Councillor Tony Devenish, chairman of Westminster’s planning applications sub-committee,recognised the cultural importance of the India Club and  said: “Westminster council refused permission for the redevelopment of 143-145 Strand due the potential loss of an important cultural venue located on its site, the India Club. The India Club has a special place in the history of our Indian community and it is right that we protect it from demolition.” 
The India Club is also a crucial part of the wide social landscape in London’s West End, the diversity of it ‘s patrons is to be welcomed and also the price of a meal is reasonable when so many of the restaurants in central London are beyond the pockets of many people. The India Club continues its ethos of good food at reasonable prices which was a guiding motive when the Club was first established by Krishna Menon in 1946. 
The India Club is a constant reminder of Westminster’s multicultural identity and Indo-British friendship and deserves to be recognised as an important asset to the community.
Yours sincerely
Chris Hodgkins

Structure before strategy is not the way to avoid executive stress – SNAFU 1991

The Richard Wilding Supporting the Arts: Review of the Structure of Arts Funding in 1989, drew attention to the basic structural weaknesses and the need for the Arts Council to take on a more strategic approach. On the 16th October 1990  the Arts Council announced at a consultative seminar on the reform of the arts funding system that they were going to restructure first and then develop a national strategy for the arts a fact that they cheerfully admitted was the wrong way round. The Stage and Television today published my analysis of this idiocy in January 1991. My grateful thanks for the Stage for allowing me to reproduce this article.

“With Strategic planning, restructuring and their much vaunted adoption of business techniques, is the Arts Council about to emerge from the eighties as a business-like purposeful organisation capable of taking the Arts into the nineties? It would appear not………………………….”

For the full article please see: Avoid Executive Stress 10th January 1991

National Arts and Media Strategy 1992 – Flawed, but the Arts Council had a go

In 1992 the Arts Council published a National Arts and Media Strategy. The whole process was flawed from the start as the Arts Council had restructured first and then tried to concoct a policy to fit the structure. Regrettably life does not work like that strategy comes first and structure to expedite the strategy comes second. The Stage and Television today published my analysis of the strategy process in August 1992. My grateful thanks for the Stage for allowing me to reproduce this article.

“The National Arts and Media Strategy (NAMS) has already provoked such comments as the ‘Silence of the NAMS’ (Arts and Management Weekly 11th June 1992) and ‘The good, the bad and the execrable’ (Brian Sewell Evening Standard 4th June 1992) …………………………..”

Please see full article: National Arts and Media Strategy 1992

Public investment in jazz 2012 to 2022

Stuart Nicholson in his book “Jazz and Culture in a Global Age” stated:

“But if adequate remuneration had become one problem facing American jazz musicians, then falling audience
numbers was another. Yet those who attempted to highlight issues such as these often found their words
unwelcome, un- American even, and likely to be shouted down – „Jazz has more than its fair share of
handwringers‟, thundered the New York Times when concern was raised at the results of the 2009 National
Endowment for the Arts survey on the audience participation for the arts, which revealed the audience for jazz,
especially for younger fans, was in decline”.

Britain too has its share of people who think everything in the jazz garden is rosy. The music is of the highest
order but the infrastructure is not there to sustain it.

Public investment in jazz 2012 to 2022 examines:

 Arts Council funding of jazz and the National Portfolio round 1991/92 to 2021/22
 A level playing field for jazz
 The lack of a coherent policy for jazz and music in the UK
 Keep music live

Public investment in jazz 2012 to 2022

How music streaming saved the music industry?

There was an article in the G2 section of the Guardian on the 25th April 2018 saying music streaming saved the music industry.

Streaming may have saved some parts of the music industry but it carries problems for under-represented music such as jazz.

The nub of the problem with streaming for the jazz musician is the pitiful sums that can be earned. A musician recently sent me a statement of his/her earnings from streaming for the three month period ending the 1st April 2018. The total number of streams was 58,377 and earned $59. At current exchange rates $59 would buy £42.03. Therefore estimated earnings per annum are £169 from 235,508 streams. To earn the National Average Annual Wage of £27,600 in 2015 this particular musician would have to have his or her music streamed 38,461,659 times.

Comparisons are drawn with Ed Sheeran who earned $6.6 million from the “Shape of You” on Spotify. However it took 1.318 billion streams to do it. For musicians such as Adele and Ed Sheeran over a billion streams is feasible and has been achieved, for the jazz musician, especially in a world where people have got used to free music, paltry earnings from streaming poses a problem of endemic proportions.

Observations on streaming

A friend of mine sent me a statement of earnings from streaming their music. Set out below is their redacted email and my observations:

From: Redacted
Date: 17 April 2018 at 09:29
Subject: Streaming
To: “Chris Hodgkins Esq.” <chrishodgkins3@gmail.com>

Chris,

Woke up this morning to find my latest quarterly commission statement, 1st January to 1st April 2018, in my emails. Interesting facts: 

1. My music has earned $149 these past three months of which I get 40% so $59 dollars.

2. 41,788 streams earned me $44.2681

3 Radio Broadcast with 16,589 impressions earned $14.7307

I’m never going to be rich.

Redacted

Observations on streaming

The total number of streams is 58,377 and earned $59. At current exchange rates $59 would buy £42.03

Therefore estimated earnings per annum is £169 from 235,508 streams

To earn the National Average Annual Wage of £27,600 2015 this particular musician would have to have his or her music streamed 38,461,659 times yes that is right 38 million times.

In a guest post on www.hypebot.com   at  http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2017/09/could-ed-sheeran-change-your-mind-about-making-money-on-spotify.html   by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0 who countered the argument that streaming music is worse than piracy and cannot earn big money. He used Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” as an example. Ed Sheeran earned $6.6 million from this particular track on Spotify. However it took 1.318 billion streams to do it. This did not include revenue from Apple Music, Amazon, Tidal, Deezer and the other streaming companies.

“Like radio, where the more airplay you get the bigger the hit, the more streams you get the better. The only thing that’s changed is the scale, and that’s what many in the music business don’t understand. Where in the past, a million of anything was a lot, in our new digital world that number hardly creates a ripple. You get some industry interest at around 10 million views or streams, a minor hit at around 50 million, and a true hit at 100 million. Major hits are in the mid-100 millions, and of course, a big hit like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of Your” …….can top 1 billion.

There’s some real money to be made from streaming, but it’s not coming at 10,000 or even 100,000 streams. You got to adjust the way you think about this by a factor of 100”.

If you get a hit on Spotify then serious money can be paid but if you are working in jazz or any of the other “under-represented musics” then the chance of track being streamed a billion times is negligible. With streaming there is a real problem with the level of artists royalties that are paid. A physical product such as a CD will earn the performer around 12% of the published price to dealers. In the New York Times Zoe Keating a Californian musician provided a detailed case study of her earnings which painted a bleak picture. Over 6 months her songs were played 1.5 million times on Pandora earning her 1,652.74 dollars and on Spotify in the year 2012 131,000 plays earned her 547.71 dollars or an average of 0.42 cents a play. Ms Keating summed up the situation:

 “In certain types of music like classical or jazz, we are condemning them to poverty if this is going to be the only way people consume music”. (1)

The underlying malaise is that new media distribution has allowed a scale of mass consumption of music hitherto unknown and in the process lowered people’s expectations of the price they should pay.

Notes

1 Ben Sisario, As Music Streaming Grows Royalties Slows To A Trickle (New York Times. 28th January 2013, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/business/media/streaming-shakes-up-music-industrys-model-for-royalties.html, accessed on 7th April 2018

The National Windrush scandal – the Road to justice.

The Guardian’s coverage  of the past few weeks has exposed the present Government, with its disgraceful actions towards the migrants and their children who arrived in 1947 to help a tired nation drag itself up by its bootstraps. The Government’s policies and actions  demonstrate all the hallmarks and stock in trade of the far-right. The first rule of the far -right is find your scapegoat; immigrants generally and the Windrush generation in particular and the second rule is to suborn Government agencies to do the dirty work; the NHS, Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office.

Richard Griffiths in his book, Fellow Travellers of the Right concluded, “most people take their political stances from ignorance or from carelessness.” Add to this nastiness, vicious far-right ideology and the development of a national culture that trashes the notion of natural justice and you have the political philosophy of the present Government that wilfully and knowingly acts against its citizens instead of for them.

 

Response to the Industrial Strategy – Creative Industries Sector Deal

Industrial Strategy – Creative Industries Sector Deal

Set out below is my response to the recently published (March 2018) Creative Industries Sector Deal that forms part of the Government’s industrial strategy. The document can be downloaded at:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/695097/creative-industries-sector-deal-print.pdf

1 Analysis of the Creative Industries Deal

The first step in any strategy formulation is to ask and answer two questions:

Where are we now?

Where do we want to be?

It appears that the first question is for the main part addressed by the recommendations in Sir Peter Bazelgette’s “Independent Review of the Creative industries” in 2017. The second question is answered by the stated goals for each section of the Creative Industries Deal, places, ideas, business environment and people:

Places – developing more world-class creative industries clusters to narrow the gap between London, the South East and other regions.

Ideas – sustain growth: achieve forecast Gross Value Added (GVA) of £150bn by 2023.

Business Environment – sustain growth: forecast GVA of £150bn by 2023. Boost job creation: higher than average growth rate implies 600,000 new creative jobs by 2023.

People – strengthen the talent pipeline to address current and future skills needs, as well as ensure that it is more representative of UK society.

The flaw is there is no mention of the performing arts generally in terms of orchestras, opera, theatre West End shows and in particular a musician as creator, sole trader and promoter. In 2012/13 there were 4,094 jazz musicians active in the UK. In 2010 there were 869 active jazz promoters and 3,473 active venues who promoted jazz. The creative industries in the UK is an ecology and it seems that crucial parts of the ecology have been left out in the Creative Industries Deal. It would appear that in the creation of the Creative Industries deal they omitted to ask of the performing arts “where are we now”? and “where do we want to be?”

The only reference to musicians was the mention of the Momentum Fund operated by the Performing Right Society Foundation. The fund has funded 215 artistes since 2013 but there were 3,316 applications which give a success rate of 6.5%. The fund will support recording, touring (UK only), marketing and marketing promotions but not touring abroad. There appears to be no analysis of arts and culture that I can discern.

For jazz there is a clear need for:

Promoting excellent music (whether tours, gigs, festivals)

Developing current and future audiences

Leading and supporting education

Building strategic partnerships and networks

From the report of the needs of the community published by Jazz Services in 2016 the following was identified that also chimed with the Arts Councils goals in their strategic plan, Great Art and Culture for Everyone

“1.1       Broadly speaking the needs expressed by respondents fall into two main areas.  The first area highlights the problems of performing Jazz in the current economic and cultural climate and the second concerns the future of Jazz in the UK ten and more years hence.  In terms of the Arts Council England’s key objectives the needs of Jazz in the UK are as follows:

1.2        Funding.  While large events such as major jazz festivals have the resources and expertise to secure funding, smaller events and organisations struggle.  There is a need to help small organisations with the process of securing the funding they need.  Additionally Jazz must receive its fair share of the funding that is available.  Jazz Services has been widely praised for its activities.  Goal 1

1.3        Audience.  Many respondents complain about the problems of attracting and retaining new audiences.  This is all about marketing Jazz, appropriate venues and programme content and the use of new and existing media to reach the audience. Goal 2

1.4        Sponsorship. In reality, with many Jazz related organisations already run on a shoestring there is very little scope for cutting costs so there should be vigorous efforts to attract sponsorship from all available sources. Goal 3

1.5        Management and equal opportunity.  Some initiatives, both urban and rural, highlighted in this report, have been very successful in promoting Jazz and increasing the number of gigs available for young musicians to perform in, audiences have also increased.  Nationally however there are minorities who do not have sufficient opportunities.  Typically females and black ethnic groups are under-represented in all roles but another group feeling excluded is the Traditional Jazz performer. Goal 4

1.6        Education and Participation.  To many, educating young people is of supreme importance for the long term health of Jazz in the UK  Once again there are pockets of optimism where young people have been inspired to play Jazz, some university departments and local education authority arts organisations are thriving, but so much more needs to be done.  Provision of music and instruments in schools is a top priority, not just for Jazz, but for all music genres.  However while children and young people are enthusiastic about playing music of all types there are problems for young people when it comes to participation in Jazz as part of an audience. Goal 5.

The full Jazz Needs Report is available at:http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Final-Report-Jazz-Needs-16th-September-2016.pdf

Chris Hodgkins

2nd April 2018

 

 

 

 

Arts Council England – The Next Ten Years – The Conversation, Discussing a future strategy for arts, museums, libraries 2020 to 2030

Arts Council England has been conducting a “conversation” which is arts speak for consultation. The word that should have been used is debate. The consultation has been running for 12 weeks and concludes on the 12th April 2018.

The Arts Council asked a number of questions under the following subject headings:

Looking to the future.
Role of the sector.
The role of public funding in arts, museums and libraries.
Funding strategy – ‘great’ arts, museums and libraries.
Arts Council England’s role beyond funding.

Please see Arts Council England pdf below for my response to three of the questions; Looking to the future, funding strategy and Arts Council England’s role.

Arts Council England – The Next Ten Years – The Conversation, Discussing a future strategy for arts, museums, libraries 2020 to 2030 1.4.2018

“Opera is many things to me. Elitist is not one of them” – please debate

In the Guardian on the 21st March 2018 there was an article, “Opera is many things to me. Elitist is not one of them”. Opera is not elitest as music it is the inequality of funding that sets it apart and one could argue that it is conspicuous consuption writ large with two opera houses existing almost side by side.

Opera receives a disproportionate amount of public subsidy compared to other art form. In a time of continued austerity there are two opera house in London soaking up substantial public funding.

The Arts Council’s funding decisions are based on the bounded rationality of the past. The lack of art form polices guiding funding decisions has bedevilled the arts in England since the instigation of the National Portfolio bidding process in 2012.

The National Portfolio scheme was an abrogation of the Arts Council’s duty to ensure funding by art form on an equitable basis. The result is that in 2018/19, Opera will receive a total of £57.1 million of which 32.5% will be spent outside of London. Classical music will receive £19 million of which 55% is allocated to the English regions and jazz will receive a total of £1.6 million of which 30% is spent outside of London; 3.4 million people attend classical music concerts, 2.1 million people attend jazz concerts and 1.7 million people attend opera.