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

Rebirth of the cool – Streaming helps jazz reach new audiences – up to a point Lord Copper

There was an article by Sarah Marsh in the Guardian on Monday 29th July 2019 that rising numbers of younger fans spark a UK jazz renaissance and streaming sites report growth in young listeners and festivals are signing up more jazz acts.

However there are two caveats. Streaming as a marketing tool allows jazz musicians to get their music heard by new audiences; the downside is that for the jazz musician to earn the National Average Wage of £27,600 in 2015 terms, they would have to have their music streamed 38 million times – if you are Ed Shearing, earning $6.6 million from “Shape of You”, this is not a problem as it took 1.318 billion streams to do it. But in a world where people are getting used to cheap or free music, streaming poses a problem of endemic proportions for jazz. There is also a major problem for the jazz musician with the “Value Gap”, which is the disparity between the value upload services such as YouTube takes out from music and the revenue that is returned to the music community.

The second caveat  is the notion of the “Product Life Cycle”,that helps understand the patterns of reinvention and renewal in jazz; where this creativity will lead to in terms of the career path of the jazz musician and how they are supported and sustained. Renaissance, revival or reemergence the music will look after itself, it is the infrastructure that needs to be developed and kept in constant repair.

How will our museums survive if they subject every donor to to an ethical audit?

There was an an article in The Observer by Mark Lawson “How will our museums survive if they subject every donor to to an ethical audit?” (24th March 2019) that drew attention to the ethical angst, dichotomy and perhaps hypocritical nature of arts patronage amongst established institutions. The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection. Tate’s fortune was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean.(Reference, www.antislavery.ac.uk). The British Museum is full of artifacts purloined from around the world. The problem is the there is no policy for the arts in the United Kingdom, a policy that would ask where are we now; where do we want to be and how are we going to get there? An intrinsic part of the national arts policy should be an ethical policy so that funded organisations can be held to account. 

The Observer on jazz at Schloss Elmau

I read the article promoting Schloss Elmau by Harriet Green in the Observer on Sunday 17th March 2019. A raft of musicians were mentioned and regrettably jazz was sidelined by the fact that the author admitted to having a “deaf ear to jazz” – what ever that means –  and the jazz musicians calling themselves 4 Wheel Drive gave an unforgettable interpretation of songs by Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Sting. The music was so unforgettable that the author could  not remember their names. For the record “4 Wheel Drive” are; Nils Landgren (trombone & vocals),Michael Wollny (piano),Lars Danielsson (bass & cello) and  Wolfgang Haffner (drums).

Time for a political reformation

Will Hutton’s analysis “Labour’s leadership is at rock bottom” in the Observer on the 23rd December 2018 whilst correct, failed to address the problems that are at the heart of the sorry mess the UK is in. At the last referendum the British public were egregiously misinformed, misled and lied to. The next referendum to resolve the crisis should ensure that  EC citizens, resident in the UK,  who pay taxes and young people aged 16 to 18, whose future is at stake can vote. Secondly the present political system has failed and tinkering with it will not solve the problems. There needs to be a political reformation that brings in proportional representation, a federal system of government with a reduced Parliament and an elected second chamber to insure that the iniquities and inequalities of the north south divide are vanquished.

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