Wednesday, 16 January 2013

More Bands For Download 2013

Back in 2006, the year I first went to a music festival, it was around this time of year that the first band announcements were made for the Download Festival. The batches were small but they contained names which were very interesting. If memory serves, Metallica were in one of the first announcements along with The Prodigy and Trivium. Why did I raise this point? Well, in 2006 it would be January before any bands were announced for the festival, and they would be announced in small batches on an almost weekly basis (if not weekly than fortnightly). Roll forward to the announcements for 2013 and by January, all the headliners were announced as well as some of the bigger names from the undercard. In December, 5 names were confirmed for the festival either by tweets from the festival organiser or the band themselves officially announced it on stage. We were told in mid-December that by mid-January, there would be a big band announcement of over 20 bands. That was made today and it was an announcement of 37 bands (32 new names and the official announcement of the 5 announced in December).  As I’ve not written an announcement blog since the last main announcement, I will include the bands announced today and via tweets (excluding Volbeat as they were announced just in time for the last blog) along with my opinions of them. In alphabetical order then:

3 Doors Down – 3 Doors Down are an excellent live band. I saw them in Manchester in 2012 and they were, well as I said earlier, excellent. Somehow they were missed off the honourable mentions list for my gigs of the year blog - definitely an oversight there. Anyway, they are a pretty strong booking for Download I think. They’ve never played the festival before and it’s always good to see a first time booking on the line-up – especially when it is a band as good as 3 Doors Down.

Airbourne – Last time I caught Airbourne was the beginning of their set at Wacken 2011 (would have stayed for the whole thing but I was pretty damn tired). They are a great live band and they work really well at festivals. 2013 will be the 3rd time they play Download but it will be the first time I see them there, so I’m ok with this.

Amon Amarth – Amon Amarth is another good booking for Download as far as I am concerned. First time they’ve played the festival since 2008. I enjoyed them when I saw them at Wacken last year. If they don’t clash with anyone I’d prefer to see at Download, I suspect I will watch them again.

Asking Alexandria – This is a band that I just cannot get into. I’ve tried a couple of times and I have to say they are just not for me. I could piss and moan about the fact that there is a band playing Download that I don’t like – or I could just...not. The only thing I will say which is mildly annoying is that between them and another announcement from today is a band I want to see.  Again, it’s mildly annoying; it is not the end of the world.

Black Dogs – I haven’t heard much of Black Dogs but what I have heard, I like. While typing this short paragraph, I am listening to a song called “Savages” which is ace. Also, their bio on their band camp page made me smile: “Black Dogs: an unstoppable pack of northern bastards”.

Buffalo Summer – Can’t find much stuff by this band (one song so far) but that one song is pretty good so I am ok with this booking.  

Bullet For My Valentine – One of the bigger announcements from this batch. I have yet to see Bullet For My Valentine. It has only been recently I have actually got into them. As I haven’t seen them, I’m alright with them having been announced for the festival but I can fully understand why people are getting annoyed with how many times this band has played. They have played in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and now 2013. Assuming nothing goes wrong before the 2013 festival, they will have played 7 out of 11 festivals. That is a lot.

Cancer Bats – At the moment, I cannot get enough of Cancer Bats, so I am delighted they have been booked again for Download 2013. I’m also really pleased to see them on main stage after the weather cancelled their main stage slot at the 2012 festival. I wonder, considering BFMV and Cancer Bats are at the same festival, if we will see an AxeWound set at some point over the weekend. We shall see...

Coal Chamber – I don’t know a massive amount about Coal Chamber other than they are doing reunion shows and their front man is the Devildriver front man, Dez Fafara. I like what I’ve heard of them though so they could be worth watching.

Converge – This is another band that is not for me. I’ve always meant to listen to them but never had until this announcement. Having now listened, I almost wish I hadn’t. I don’t hate them, but I can’t claim to like them.

Down – Down is very hit and miss for me. Some of their stuff I really like but some of it, I really don’t. However, I’ve seen them live twice now and they are excellent live. They were one of my favourite bands when I went to Download for the day in 2011. I imagine I will watch them again, although they find themselves sandwiched in-between two bands I won’t be watching.

Earthtone9 – This is a band I first became aware of in 2010 (late to the party as ever) and really liked what I heard. They were announced for Sonisphere and as I was headed there, I planned to watch them. Then the stage times came out and they clashed with Motley Crue. Based on how Motley Crue was that day. I really wish I’d gone to see Earthtone9. Again, if there is not a clash I will go and see Earthtone9. The song Evil Crawling I is a beast of a tune.

Enter Shikari – I’ve added some of their music to my Download Festival 2013 Spotify playlist because I don’t mind some of their stuff. However, on the whole, I cannot get into Enter Shikari, and I doubt I’ll be watching them. Maybe watching them will help me get into them? Who knows? If they clash with no-one else I want to see, I might give them a chance.

Five Finger Death Punch – This is a band that I wouldn’t mind watching live. I haven’t seen them before (although the opportunity hasn’t come up). They were booked for 2012 but had to cancel. I’m not a massive fan of their music but I like what I’ve heard so they could be worth watching.

Goldsboro – There once was a pop group called Orson. They had a bit of success in the UK with their debut album but the second album wasn’t so successful and they split up. The reaction to all of this is Goldsboro – a rock band that Classic Rock magazine suggested were “a power trio pitched somewhere between Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath”. Having listened to some of their music, I can agree that it is very good. They could be well worth watching.

Hacktivist – I can’t make my mind up about Hacktivist. I’ve listened to them a few times now and I go between liking them and not. I guess this is what is known as the struggle to get into a band. I recognise they are a decent band but I can’t decide if they are to my tastes or not.

Hardcore Superstar – I quite like what I’ve heard from this band (which admittedly isn’t much) but they could be well worth a watch. It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t watch them at Download as they are also playing Wacken Open Air. It’ll be a bit annoying if I miss them at both now I’ve mentioned it...

Heaven’s Basement – I last saw this band supporting Halestorm and they were very enjoyable. They’ve played quite a few of the UK festivals I’ve been to I think, and I’ve never managed to watch them at a festival. They tend to clash with other bands I’d prefer to see. I might watch them at Download, might not – we shall see.

HellYeah – I saw this band at Download 2007 and remember thinking they were quite dull. It was cool for me to see Vinnie Paul behind the drum kit (after the death of Dimebag Darrel, I never thought I would see that) but that didn’t help me through the whole set. Since 2007, they have released 2 albums and I’ve listened to some of the music from them and I am tempted to give them another chance.

Huntress – After their announcement, I thought “I’ve heard of that name before”. Turns out the reason I had heard of it as it is a recruitment agency. I found the band shortly after that realisation and came to another one – Huntress are ace! I’ll definitely be trying to see them. Only heard a handful of songs but from what I’ve heard, they sound excellent.

I AM I – In 2010, ZP Theart left Dragonforce in what I seem to recall was quite a shocking move. I AM I is the band he formed following his departure from Dragonforce. It reminds me of a power metal vibe but in a very different way to Dragonforce. They are a fairly decent band though and a good booking for Download. I more I listen to them; the more I am reminded of Edguy actually (without Tobi doing the vocals).

In This Moment – I’ve seen In This Moment before when they supported Devildriver on their pre-Download 2007 gig. That was a good night actually. I remember that I really enjoyed In This Moment and have wanted to see them again. The chance has not come up sadly. If they aren’t clashing with anyone then I hope to see them at Download.

Jimmy Eat World – I saw Jimmy Eat World twice in 2011 and thought they were good both times. I preferred them when they supported Foo Fighters as they played the songs I knew mixed throughout the set, as opposed to playing them right at the end of the set like they did at Reading. Anyway, I am really happy about this booking as I do like what I’ve heard of them. If I end up planning to watch them though, I’ll do a little more research first.  

Korn – Korn is probably the band I am happiest about seeing in this announcement. I was really looking forward to seeing them at Download 2006 but Jonathan Davis had to be rushed to hospital. The band played a fairly memorable set with guest vocalists (including a superb version of Freak on a Leash with Corey Taylor). However since then, I have not had the chance to see them (or truthfully been all that interested in spending £30+ on seeing them on UK tours). They are being rejoined for this tour by Head, one of the founding members of Korn I believe so I’m hoping it will be a classics/best of set and leave the dubstep album alone (although if they want to throw a quick version of Narcissistic Cannibal in the set, I’d be ok with that)

Last Witness – I listened to some of Last Witness earlier when prepping for this writing and they didn’t do a great deal for me. That’s pretty much it. I don’t hate them, or even dislike them. I just don’t care for them really.

Limp Bizkit – What can I say? Limp Bizkit, along with Linkin Park got me into rock and metal music. For that, they will always have a special place in my heart (a place which Linkin Park are doing their best to leave but that is a sentiment for another blog, maybe). I saw them at Sonisphere 2009 and thought they were alright. I remember thinking that they could have been better. I didn’t see them at Sonisphere 2011 as they clashed with a couple of smaller bands I wanted to see. However, I think I would like to see them again. The thing about their positioning is interesting as it appears they are headlining the second stage on the Saturday. This means, due to an agreement between the festival organisers that they will clash with the end of Queens of the Stone Age’s set, and the changeover gap before Iron Maiden. I am tempted to go and watch them and when they are finished, try and get as far forward as possible for Iron Maiden. That sounds like a good plan – I shall see what happens when stage times are released.

Mastodon – Mastodon have released one song that I like. I’ve tried so many times to get into them and every time it ends in failure. I guess it’s just not meant to be.

Motionless In White – I haven’t listened to much Motionless in White but what I have heard, I have quite liked. A fairly good booking I would say.

Parkway Drive – Pretty sure these guys have played Sonisphere before when I’ve been there and I’ve missed them. Listening back to their music now, I can see why I missed them. I like what I am hearing but I am not in love with it. In terms of them being a festival band, they definitely fall into the category of “if there’s nothing else on I fancy watching, then I’ll watch them”.

Stone Sour – Stone Sour are one of my favourite bands so I am of course delighted to see them on the Download line up. I wish they were higher up but no matter! I suspect I’ll be watching them.

The Hives – This is a very surprising booking for the festival I would say but I am really happy with it personally. I love the song “Hate To Say I Told You So” and I’ve been told they are a superb live band. I imagine I will be watching them as long as they don’t clash with one of my must-sees of the festival.

The Sword – I saw them live in Portsmouth off the back of the song they had on Guitar Hero and I ended up leaving quite early. They were pretty boring that night. Some people love them; I am not one of those people.

UFO – Nothing wrong with a bit of classic rock early in the day to get things started. I bet some of the music would be good for a sing-along. It would be outstanding if they performed Doctor Doctor live before Iron Maiden came out on stage, but I suspect that is unlikely. Their set should be fun though, and it saves me spending £25 to see them in Portsmouth!

Vision Of Disorder – I really like what I’ve heard of this band, which admittedly isn’t much (seems to be a theme of these blogs). I would like to see this band at Download if I get the chance.

Walking Papers – One more blues rock band on the line up is no bad thing. I like some of the music I have heard from this band. I was surprised to learn that it is Duff McKagan on bass. I wonder if he is a live member as well. Anyway, they are another band that I will see if I get the chance to.

Young Guns – I like some of this bands stuff. I also don’t like some of it. Will I watch them? Who knows? Only me, and I don’t at this stage. If there is nothing else on, then I probably will give Young Guns a watch.

Overall I would say that this has been a very good announcement for Download (in terms of my personal tastes anyway). One thing which does slightly concern me about this line-up however is the lack of a “wow-factor”. Last year had Metallica playing the Black Album in full and the only European date of Black Sabbath. The year before had the only UK date on the reunion tour of System of a Down. 2010 had AC/DC headlining. I am happy with the line-up this year but there is definitely no “wow-factor” present. Still, as it stands, I would be happy seeing 37 bands that have been announced. While that does include bands I’ve already seen, I think that is quite a good return at this stage. This is the updated line-up poster:

All in all, that looks pretty good. At the end of my last announcement blog, I posted a list of bands I suspected would be announced. Of the 10 I listed, 6 were announced. If you look at the poster, it is fairly clear that there are still 2 second stager headliner slots to fill. I think they will be filled by Paramore and The Scorpions. There is no science behind that guess. Scorpions have been rumoured on various websites for a short while now, and Paramore are playing other European festivals at around the same time as Download. As for other bands, I would like to see The Wildhearts get announced although I suspect at this stage they might not be. I would still like to see Bad Religion get announced as I was really looking forward to seeing them at Sonisphere, and then they clashed with Panic Cell’s last ever show. I think I’d like to see Within Temptation get announced but aside from that, I can’t really think of any other realistic names I’d like to see added to the bill. That’s an odd way to be with about 5 months to go before the festival, but the current line-up in my opinion is pretty strong.

EDIT - Late in the day but it would seem that poster is quite misleading. Enter Shikari are headlining the second stage on the Saturday and Limp Bizkit are headlining the second stage on the Sunday. Bizkit against Rammstein? Only one winner there sadly

EDIT 2 - It would seem that The Hives are clashing with Iron Maiden. That is really not friendly. I said I would watch them as long as they are not clashing with one of my "must see" bands. Iron Maiden are a must see band. Bah!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Late last night, the news came out that HMV was going into administration. This year has seen a couple of high profile casualties in terms of retail business closures in the form of Comet and Jessops. These businesses were in administration for less than a day before closing. The situation is slightly different for HMV as they are going to continue trading while the administrators search for a buyer. This is of course bad news for the employees (some if not all) as all discussions of a possible “save” for HMV have included the closure of a large number of stores so there will be job losses. I think this move into administration and possible closure has been inevitable for some time unfortunately. As soon as they became the last big high street retailer of music and film, I have wondered how long they will last. I’ll be honest, they have lasted longer than I imagined, especially in the current economic climate. If HMV closes, it will be big news and it will have a dramatic effect on the future of the high street (in my opinion).

The high street will not just disappear when the HMV stores go but I do think the other businesses will suffer as a result. There are several different retail markets in an average high street which attracts different customer bases. When looking at it that way, the high street should do just fine without HMV. However, I can’t help but feel that with no major high street retailer selling music and DVDs, there will be fewer customers in the high street and the businesses there will suffer from a reduced footfall and as a likely result, reduced takings. Thinking about my own local high street, which already is in competition with Gunwharf Quays in terms of shopping and entertainment, without HMV, it is reduced to mobile phone shops, a book shop, fashion retail and places to get food (the market, places like McDonalds and shops like Tesco). Aside from that there are functional businesses there such as banks and opticians, but I cannot think of anything else there (I have excluded the gym I use from this list as I can’t imagine many people use the gym then go for a stroll round the high street). Taking this into account, I suspect the bulk of people that go into a high street will visit for one purpose and then when they have achieved that purpose, they will likely leave. There is no science behind this thought process other than opinion, but I believe that other businesses will suffer from a reduction in the number of people in the high street. It would be nice to see independent businesses open up in the high street to take over from HMV if it does cease to trade locally but I can’t imagine it happening. What I can imagine happening though is that people will shop more online. Online shopping has been growing year on year and I can’t see that slowing down. If HMV closes, it will significantly increase putting even more pressure on the high street. Fashion retail will likely survive this happening, but other forms of high street retail could lose out. The reason why I believe this is that people will always need to try clothes on before they buy.

Is it possible that this could have been avoided? In a word, yes. It is very easy to look back with hindsight at everything HMV has done and think “how did they not see this coming?” but that would be much too simplistic. One thing they should have done is something which this country should have done when the economy was growing and booming. HMV should have fixed their roof while the sun was still shining. What I mean by this was instead of investing money into HMV Live and buying Waterstones, they could have invested more into their online market, or reduced the price of their goods to the customers (it is all well and good running fairly regular offers like 2 items for £10 on older items, but for newer releases, it is important to be competitive). Instead of dedicating large areas to their shops to electronic items such as iPods and headphones, they could have made those items online exclusives and focused their high street operations completely on music and film. Consider this, if they advertised with their music in-store that they had great deals on MP3 players, CD players, headphones etc on their website, people would go there. When people visit the website, they find these great deals on items you cannot purchase at HMV stores, and they are indeed good competitive prices. With these items, you can even further the incentive by offering money off in-store when you make a purchase over a certain amount. For example if you buy an iPod from HMV as opposed to Apple, HMV will give you a £10 off your next purchase voucher. That may not seem much, but that could then encourage customers to go back to the shop and possibly spend more money. Doing that, you link the online business with the high street business and you create a happy customer base that may consider HMV as the go-to place for their music and film needs, as well as their music/film hardware needs. This is a hypothetical example which may not work in real life as well as it is works in my head, but I think rewarding customers instead of ripping off customers may be of benefit. I addressed the removal of headphones (amongst other things) from their shops. That to me has been a fairly big failure. Only once have I been in a HMV store and been able to try out more than 2 pairs of headphones as the others are broken. To me, that is a metaphor for HMV – broken.

HMV never really challenged the online retailers when they had the chance and they have suffered as a result. Their website I’d say has only really been good for a few years now. They never were a business I considered when it came to online shopping (for music and film, it was always CDWow, Play and Amazon). Today, I have gone on to the HMV website and pulled 5 examples of items and prices for comparison. The bulk of my comparisons will be between HMV and Amazon. Starting with a favourite artist of mine, Ginger Wildheart released a triple album via PledgeMusic earlier this year and then released a commercial release of 12 songs from that triple album, voted for by the people who had pledged. The 12 song disc, called 100% entered the midweek charts at number 9. The album dropped to 23 by the weekend charts due to the numbers available for physical purchase, and I think dropped out the chart completely not long after. The 100% album is available for purchase directly from Ginger for £10. However, people may not be aware of this and would go straight to one of the major music retailers to buy it. HMV is selling the album for £15 (and it has been seen in their stores for £18.99). Amazon is selling it for £11.47. The second example I have is from a much smaller band called Eureka Machines. Their first album, Do or Die is available from both HMV and Amazon as well as from themselves. HMV is selling Do or Die for £13 while Amazon is selling it for £9.26. Around £3.50 is not a massive amount of money by any stretch of the imagination, but why would you pay more for something when you could pay less? As a side note, Eureka Machines are selling both of their albums in a package for £13! That is the same price as HMV is selling just one of the albums for (you can get both albums from HMV for £25). I appreciate they are trying to make a profit, but that will lose you customers, especially where the cheaper option could be just a few clicks away.

Moving on to DVDs (I’m looking at TV DVDs here); HMV is again more expensive than their competitors. I quite like Louis Theroux documentaries and actually recently considered buying some of the box sets. Looking around, I found that one of the ones I was considering buying, The Odd, The Bad and the Godly, was on sale from HMV for £15. Amazon is selling the same box set for £8.49. Why on earth would you shop with HMV when you look at how much they charge over their competitors? The BBC Official Shop is also significantly cheaper than HMV for the same products. Just last year, a new series of Red Dwarf aired on the TV Channel Dave. It has since been released on DVD. HMV is selling the DVD for £15.99 and the Blu-Ray for £20. Amazon is selling the DVD for £13.49 and the Blu-Ray for £16.49. I ask again, why would you shop at HMV? Finally, I want to look at the bigger box sets, where you can buy every episode of the TV show in one box. For this example, I will look at Only Fools and Horses. A new episode of this show has not been on TV in some time (and I do hope there never will be new ones, but that is a different blog for a different day). HMV is selling the 26 disc box set for £49. Considering how much TV you are getting from this box set, without shopping around, I would say that is a fair price. A couple of clicks later and I have the same item up on Amazon...for £32. I’m sorry, but it cannot just be a case that HMV is paying that much more for their stock than Amazon is, it just can’t be.

There is one other factor which could be the cause for the demise of HMV. It is all well and good me pointing the finger at them and saying they are in the wrong just because of their pricing, but there is more to it than that. The world has changed since HMV launched. The major way people get their music now isn’t via going to the local shop and buying the CD, but by downloading or streaming the music. Downloading, both legally and illegally, really hit HMV along with other music retailers I’m sure. I am aware as a consumer that if I want to legally download music, I can visit the iTunes store or visit the Amazon MP3 store and pay roughly about the same amount of money for the music I want to buy (assuming I don’t want the CD). I am aware of other companies but they are the main two that I am aware of. I honestly didn’t know if I could do that from HMV. After a quick visit to their website, it turns out you can. But I think it speaks volumes that I genuinely didn’t know whether you could or couldn’t buy MP3s from HMV. Downloading music illegally has obviously had an impact on the amount of business HMV and other retailers have. But, while it is obviously illegal, it is easy to see why it is done. It is very easy to do it, and it is obviously cheaper (assuming you don’t get caught and fined!) Streaming music is an entirely different beast all together. I pay £5 a month for Spotify and stream music from them. That is £5 per month that HMV will never see because I may be able to buy one old album from them, but if I want to download 1 song, I’m probably not going via HMV to do so. In fact, if it is a song that I don’t actually want to own, just listen to, then chances are I will just play it on Spotify. I guess what I am saying here is that I have options for listening and buying music which don’t involve HMV. Could they have entered the world of music streaming? I don’t see why not.

What was the point of all of this? Well, to be honest, I’m off sick from work and I was bored. HMV going into administration and potentially collapsing is the major news story in the UK today so I figured I’d write something about it as my first blog for 2013. A lot of what I have written in this blog is my own opinion, and I have no idea if in the real world it would actually work. It astounds me though looking back with hindsight that more wasn’t done to steady the HMV ship when they had the chance. It amazes me that they seemingly didn’t consider online shopping a threat to their business model. It amazes me further that they didn’t worry about people downloading and streaming music. It worries me what impact their closing will have on the high street. I feel sorry for the 4000 odd people who could lose their jobs. They have been let down by a company that failed to change when they needed to most.