vendredi, juin 29, 2007

Spice Girls are back

After months of rumours, Spice Girls confirm reunion.

Posh, Ginger, Scary, Baby and Sporty have announced they are bringing back Girl Power for a world tour. More from the press conference: Daniel Martin's sketch

Paul MacInnes and agencies
Thursday June 28, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

 The Spice Girls, Victoria Beckham, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie Brown pose for the photographers on the grounds of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, Thursday June 28, 2007
From left: Posh, Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Scary.
Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis

"Girl Power is back and stronger than ever". With these words the Spice Girls announced they are to reform and embark on a world tour, six years after they split up and the day after a line was drawn under the era they helped to define.

Less than 24 hours after Tony Blair left Downing Street, the band, who as much as anything else came to represent the Cool Britannia years, formally revealed their plans at a press conference at the O2, the venue known until recently as the Millennium Dome.

"We wanted to say thank you to our fans. It just feels very right for us", said Mel C, explaining the decision.

"Obviously it's nostalgic. But equally, if new fans want to come along, that's fantastic," Geri Halliwell said. "We ARE girl power. It doesn't matter how old you are, 5 or 65. I like to think our songs are universal and they are timeless."

Mel B concurred: "We feel like the time is right. We wanted to have some fun and be together again for a while." When asked her opinion of Gordon Brown, however, it took Mel C to explain to Mel B who he was.

After months of rumoured negotiations, all five members of the band - Posh, Ginger, Scary, Baby and Sporty, to use their original nicknames - have agreed to the reunion, which will see them embark on a 11 date world tour next December that will include stops in London, New York, Beijing and Buenos Aires.

It is 11 years since the Spice Girls launched their debut single Wannabe, which swept the world and left everyone singing "zig-a-zig-ah" in its wake. Together, the girls sold more than 55 million records, registered six consecutive number ones and also made a successful movie, Spice World.

For at least three years, the band were ubiquitous, launching Channel 5, appearing on TV across the world and spreading the gospel of Girl Power, an ideology that may not have been sophisticated (it amounted to believing in yourself) but spoke directly to their fan base of girls, both teenage and younger.

The group began to fall from pre-eminence, however, with the departure of Ginger, Geri Halliwell, in 1998. Their third and last album, Forever, released in 2000, was their first not to get to number one. The following year, with the remaining members focusing on their solo careers, the band broke up. Since then, the individual members have done everything from ballroom dancing to launching their own range of clothing - and they share six children between them - but, today, they have announced they are back.

The full dates:

2007 December 7 - Los Angeles

December 8 - Las Vegas

December 11 - New York City

December 15 - London

December 20 - Cologne

December 23 - Madrid

2008 January 10 - Beijing

January 12 - Hong Kong

January 17 - Sydney

January 20 - Cape Town

January 24 - Buenos Aires

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

lundi, juin 25, 2007

Jesus and Mary Chain live

The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Royal Festival Hall, London

Tom Hughes, The Guardian

Jarvis Cocker managed a couple of pretty impressive coups in putting together this year's Meltdown festival - Roky Erikson and Devo performances count as rare treats indeed - but there's something particularly seductive in the promise of seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain back on the UK stage. It may only be a relatively meagre 10 years since the band's ugly implosion, but the legendary animus between brothers Jim and William Reid seemed so bad by then as to make this a minor miracle of reconciliation.

And so, through the inevitable scrolls of dry ice, the band appears, a now-sober Jim Reid looking healthy and calm, guitarist William maintaining a touch of that shades-on, rock'n'roll streetwalker cool. They return straight away to their exalted 1985 debut album, Psychocandy, and play Never Understand. It's a perfect example of their heady, then-pioneering trick of melding sheets of squalling feedback to sweet, simple pop melodies - a scorched, malign mutation of Phil Spector's wall of sound. Jim's voice retains all the impassive melancholy it should, and William's guitar is mixed up almost as if it were another lead vocal, spraying a frosty scree across the auditorium.

A wishlist-ticking, cross-career selection follows, and there's even one brand new song. There are, too, little hints of the old days' chaos and trouble. When Jim Reid stops Snakedriver a few bars in and saunters over for a word in his brother's ear, the whole audience draws breath, half-expecting a set-to. There isn't one, but it happens again - twice - at the start of Just Like Honey. Guest singer Leila Moss looks faintly terrified; until Jim Reid suddenly cracks a grin and sighs of relief let fly. Could they be having us on, even just a tiny bit? Either way, a cuddly moment like this would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

What a difference a decade makes.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

mardi, juin 19, 2007

Annie Lennox

Lennox to play global peace gig.
Annie Lennox
The gig will be Lennox's first public appearance this year

Annie Lennox, Corinne Bailey Rae and James Morrison have been lined up to headline a concert in September calling for global peace.

"Something that is of common interest to every man, woman or child on the planet must surely be the notion of peace," said Lennox.

Beth Orton and Marc Almond will also perform, and David Beckham and Jude Law will record special video messages.

The Peace One Day gig will take place at London's Royal Albert Hall.

In 2001, 21 September was designated Peace Day and is recognised by the United Nations.

"I'm thrilled and delighted to be part of it, and to contribute to making Peace One Day a reality," said Lennox.

"Without peace we cannot survive," the former Eurythmics star added.

Actor Law said: "I am immensely proud to be a part of this historic project. This process is about creating an annual moment of global unity. It can only work if we all become involved and it's essential that we do."

Supporters of the project include Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, Pop Idol mogul Simon Fuller and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson.

Tickets go on sale today priced from £35-£75.

lundi, juin 18, 2007

Beth Ditto

What would Beth Ditto do?

Today's dilemma for Beth: How should I respond to catcalls in the street?

The Guardian

I have been 130lb as well as 215lb. I have had blond, strawberry blond, green, pink and purple hair, and none of that has ever exempted me from having lewd comments flung at me in the street. This happens to all women, and it can be really upsetting, but we shouldn't feel hopeless about it - I really believe that if men and women start communicating about this, it's something that we can tackle together.

First things first ... we have to stop referring to this as a "catcall". Women aren't cats, we aren't pets, we are just people trying to cross the freaking street to get an ice-cream cone. (Well, in my case, anyway.)

I struggled with this question, asking, "Beth, what would you do?", and then I remembered all the times I've shouted back: "Show us your cock! That's right - let everyone here see how huge it is! Oh wait! What's that? I didn't hear you! You're walking away?!" Using my voice is always my first instinct. In good conscience, though, I know that this kind of harassment happens in varying degrees and that shouting back isn't always appropriate. Harassment can also stir up strong feelings, which can ruin your day. So, taking all that into consideration, I've written a handy list of scenarios and sketched out exactly how to respond!

No 1: If you find yourself on the receiving end of some crude dude's remarks, it is up to you to decide how much energy to give the jerk. It's understandable to feel too tired, or afraid, or even embarrassed to confront a stranger who hasn't the sense to respect you as a human being. If you feel up to it, though, go right ahead! Just be careful and know how to protect yourself.

No 2: If you find yourself feeling powerless after someone has shouted at you, you need to remember that this is the masterplan of sexism. The guys in question may not know it, but every time they "catcall" a girl they are reminding her of her vulnerability in a system designed to do just that. As women, we need to remember the power that lies within.

No 3: If a friend or partner tells you that catcalls are a fact of life and to "just get used to it", it's worth recognising that they are fuelling the harasser's fire and extinguishing yours. It can be particularly annoying when a boyfriend does this - it's not fair for someone who has the privilege of taking a risk-free stroll in the park, day or night, to dismiss your reaction. The next time he says something like that then you should arrange to get some of the most annoying, frightening women, young and old, ugly and beautiful, thin and fat, to stare at him for a week, pointing and remarking on his body. He'll just have to get used to it! Seriously, though, I suggest that you nip any comments like that in the bud. You can't be yourself with a partner who writes off your feelings.

No 4: This advice is for the boys ... If you want to give a woman a compliment, there is nothing wrong with just saying, "You look beautiful." The over-the-top stallion attitude is intimidating, though, and, let's face it, doesn't really work for anyone. I mean, seriously? When was the last time it actually got you a date?!

· Beth would love to answer your one-line questions or dilemmas in her fortnightly column. Please email them to

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

dimanche, juin 10, 2007

Jarvis Cocker interview

Paris match.

Jarvis Cocker moved to Paris four years ago in search of anonymity and a new life for his French wife and baby son. Returning to Britain to curate the Meltdown festival, he tells Lynn Barber about fame, fatherhood and his alter-ego, Darren

Sunday June 10, 2007

The Observer

Meltdown, the arts festival on the South Bank, starts next Saturday, curated by Jarvis Cocker, and you can see him in concert on the last night, after a week of events including Iggy and the Stooges, Motorhead, Devo, Cornershop, the Jesus and Mary Chain and zillions of acts I've never heard of. That is if you can get tickets - Iggy sold out the first day, rather to Jarvis's chagrin. Jarvis doesn't really do wild enthusiasm but he came as close to it as I've ever heard him when talking about Meltdown. He was asked to do it back in February and was very excited to be taken around the Royal Festival Hall in a hard hat while it was still being restored - he hopes to get a square of the original carpet as a memento.

His first move was to buy a whiteboard 'because I was waking up a lot in the middle of the night thinking, "Oh yes, we can have this," and it was getting very hard to keep it all in me head so I got a whiteboard. Meltdown is one of those things you might fantasise about doing one day but when it actually happens, it's almost traumatic because you know you're only going to get the one chance, and you don't want to miss anything. Obviously it is a series of concerts but I'm hoping that you will get some sense of a festival, where people can just come and hang out. So we've got talks and a room showing short films, including some I made at college, and something that's supposed to be like Speakers' Corner, where people can express any ideas they're into - as long as they're not religious.'

Some of the events are very Jarvisly esoteric: the Lost Ladies of Folk is a showcase for women musicians, mainly from the early Seventies, including a singer called Bonnie Dobson whom he tracked down and dragged out of retirement. Then there's a night of songs from Walt Disney films with many different performers - Jarvis is doing 'I Wanna Be Like You' from The Jungle Book - because he's been watching a lot of Disney films since he became a father. 'The thing with Disney songs is they're very manipulative, very sentimental, but they do get you, you know - there's a kind of sadness to them and that kind of music doesn't really exist any more.' Then he is having Motorhead, followed by a northern soul disco, which he hopes will mix the audiences up: 'I think things are always more interesting when you get people from all different backgrounds. And I wanted to have northern soul because it's almost invisible. It's difficult to have subcultures now because everything is covered so much - as soon as five people sit round a table in a pub in Hoxton, somebody will write an article about it - but they have these northern soul weekends at holiday camps out of season where they play obscure records and put talcum powder on the floor so they can do fancy footwork.' His one regret about the line-up is that he couldn't persuade Leonard Cohen to perform - he worships Leonard Cohen.

I was worried that living in Paris and being married to a French fashion stylist might have changed Jarvis - that he might have gone a bit chic and lost his Sheffield wit - but not a bit of it. He met me off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord and walked me round to his nearby flat, apologising that I would find it a bit messy. A bit? Every inch of hall, corridor, sitting room was covered with mounds of bags, suitcases and clothes rails like the back of an Oxfam shop. He explained these were clothes his wife, Camille, had borrowed for fashion shoots, awaiting collection. There were some people dimly discernible among the bags - a young woman whom Jarvis introduced as his wife's assistant, an unidentified man, and a boy of 11 watching television, who turned out to be Jarvis's stepson (his own son, Albert, four, was at school). Jarvis asked the boy if he'd had lunch and, when the answer was no, cooked him some fish fingers, though 'we call them batons de poisson here', while inviting me to admire the pistachio-green fridge, which was the one good present he ever got from Island Records: 'They usually give you some stupid framed picture of a tulip or something, so one year I said, "If you want to give me a present, give me a fridge."'

While he was cooking, I kept trying to work out whether the flat would be nice if it weren't covered with jumble. It is certainly vast, and grand, with beautiful cornices and stained-glass windows and a fine baronial fireplace, but there are some worryingly awful lampshades and 'amusing' objects, such as a spinning-globe drinks cabinet. Actually it's the same problem as with Jarvis's clothes - you never quite know whether they're thrift-shop or some brilliant designer look. Today he is wearing an ensemble of a grey suit jacket over a purple cardigan, tan shirt, jeans and yachting shoes that I don't think is high fashion, but how would I know? Anyway, he always looks elegant because he is so thin and graceful.

Boy fed, we then proceed to a very jolly restaurant for lunch, where Jarvis apologises for not drinking and smoking and orders food in a French accent even worse than mine. He has lived in Paris now for four years, ever since he married Camille, but there is no danger of him becoming Francophone. He hardly knows anyone in Paris apart from his wife, and his son goes to a bilingual school. 'You will probably have noticed, with your eagle vision, that the telly in our house is in English. I buy me Guardian from the little newsagents on the way to school and I probably read the papers more now than when I lived in England. And there's a couple of English bookshops, which is very good for me, because it would be difficult if I couldn't get books.' It doesn't feel like exile, he says, because he can always hop on a train to London, where he still has a house, or fly up to Sheffield to see his mother.

Still, for someone as sensitive to language as Jarvis, it must be quite a loss to live outside England. His dry humour would never work in French. 'The French haven't got a sense of humour anyway, so you can forget about that. That's my own excuse for not really picking French up. I know that even if I applied myself to it, I'd never really be able to have a funny conversation - there wouldn't be any beauty in it. I'm not saying the way I speak English has any beauty in it, but there's a lot of pleasure to be had in choosing the right word or turning a phrase. And I know that even if I tried it in French, I couldn't do it. The school Albert goes to has lots of American pupils and he comes back and says things like, "I'm going to put that in the garbage," and I say, "No, no, no, the rubbish bin! Put it in the rubbish bin!" It's terrible, really, to get so het up about it.'

Quite. So why is he in Paris? Basically because he married a Frenchwoman, Camille Bidault-Waddington, who had been living in England but wanted to move back when she found she was pregnant. But it also suited him at the time - it enabled him to escape fame. This is the terrible irony of Jarvis's life: having longed for fame ever since he was a child - 'It's the classic way of getting over your social ineptitude: you think if you're a star, people will come and talk to you' - and having waited an incredibly long time for it, until 'Common People' in 1995, he found when it arrived he didn't like it at all. He didn't like being recognised in the street or being pointed out at parties - he wanted to be the observer, not the observed - and he could only cope by getting drunk. Whereas Paris is fine: nobody recognises him at all. 'If I went and stood in the indie section of the Virgin megastore,' he muses, 'maybe someone would come along and say, "Ooh, look, it's Jarvis!" If I was really desperate one day and needed to reassure myself that people still knew who I was, I could do that. But that would be a bit sad, wouldn't it?'

Marrying Camille, moving to Paris, becoming a father - these are all huge changes in his life since I last interviewed him in 1998. He said then that he had no intention of having children - he was enjoying a belated adolescence. He also thought that he couldn't go on being a pop star once he reached 40 (he is now 43), so he was trying his hand at other things. He made some excellent television documentaries about outsider artists and British art schools and also, rather bizarrely, wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra because he thought it would be 'more dignified' to be a songwriter for other people.

When he moved to Paris, he thought he might give up music altogether. Sales of the last two Pulp albums, This is Hardcore and We Love Life, were disappointing and Island Records did not renew their contract, but also Jarvis did not enjoy making them. 'They took a long time to do and I was conscious that it was me that was holding the process up, because I couldn't write the words or wasn't sure I liked the song, and I could sense that the others wanted to get on with it and just go and have a laugh or whatever, and I was holding them up. And so I thought at the end, maybe I should just stop because it's taking a long time, it's proving to be a tortuous process, it shouldn't really be like that. I should just knock it on the head. Why bother?'

So he stepped nimbly away from Pulp and fame and England, and threw himself into Paris, marriage and fatherhood. He had been softening on the idea of having children ever since his sister had them, but still he was alarmed when Camille got pregnant the minute they married, and even more alarmed when they found she was expecting a boy. 'I suppose I was thinking if it was a girl it would be easier because I wouldn't have to be a role model, I wouldn't have to kick a football or go fishing or anything. And because of my father leaving [he disappeared to Australia when Jarvis was seven], I hadn't got an example to base my performance on. But then once I found out it was a boy, I kind of accepted it quite readily. That was the comforting thing about becoming a parent - I don't want to talk about parenting too much because it makes me want to be sick whenever I read it - but one of the good things is that all those fears you might have about how you're going to rear a child fade away. Once you've got one, it all becomes a lot more instinctive and that's a nice feeling if you are someone who tends to over-analyse everything. It's quite nice to realise that you do have instincts, that you don't have to write everything down on a little pad and plan it all out.'

Did the pram in the hall mean any loss of creativity? 'No, not at all. It was probably the other way round. If you've got limited time, it makes you use it more effectively - you're more focused. If you've got all the time in the world, you tend to sit around thinking, "Oh, I'll just sharpen some pencils." I think Cyril Connolly or whoever said that was talking out of his arse.'

So with his new focus, he found himself writing songs again and playing them in the basement. 'Then I did that thing where I dressed up in a skeleton costume and called myself Darren Spooner.' Yes, why did he do that? 'You'd have to ask a psychiatrist! I liked the idea of performing in secret so nobody would know it was me. I made up a name and a whole life story - I would only do telephone interviews and I had a little voice box that made my voice sound deeper. He was Darren Spooner from Doncaster and he was about 45 years old, an ex-club entertainer, whose kids were heavily into drugs - he was kind of an alcoholic as well.' Perhaps a bit like Jarvis's father, a club musician who always claimed to be Joe Cocker's brother? 'Dunno about that,' says Jarvis curtly. He has forgiven his father but he still doesn't like talking about him.

Anyway his experiment with being Darren Spooner ended when the Sun outed him. 'But for about a month people didn't know it was me and that was good. I think the satisfaction was doing something that I didn't have to worry about, that was a bit off-the-cuff. I've thought about it since and if I was doing me amateur psychology I could say: I was glad to get married and have a kid and everything but I was kind of worried about thinking I had to be a nice person and a grown-up person, so in a way I invented a character who was the sort of nightmare scenario, who drinks and takes drugs, letting him do all the horrible stuff so that would leave me to be the nice person and get it all right.'

Did it work? 'Well, it can't work for a long time because you'd become schizophrenic, wouldn't you? And what I realised is that Darren and I have to live together in harmony. For a while Darren became a separate thing but we are now one again. I know it sounds daft but it's true. But you realise those things are part of you. I think it's only when you pretend they don't exist, you can have a problem. You need to accept that you'll always be, in some way, a bit of a nightmare - you're not suddenly going to become a fantastically mature and sensible person.'

So, having eased himself cautiously back into music via Darren, he started writing his first solo album, Jarvis, which came out last autumn to brilliant reviews. And then he was asked to go on tour and perform it. It was the first time he'd sung his own songs on stage for five years, so he was nervous: 'I'd already recorded the songs but if they didn't work with an audience I'd have been screwed. But luckily for me as soon as I was on the stage singing, it felt great - I didn't feel like a phoney - so I was very relieved.' Now he is beginning to think about making a second solo album but he says he has to wait for some time to elapse: 'You have to wait till you're in a different frame of mind, till circumstances change. You write a song about how you think at the time, and then gradually you drift away from that, and when it's far enough in the past, that's when you think, "Now I have to write something new."'

So will he still be singing at 60? 'I hope so, yes. Because what else am I going to do? I had that thing where I thought I was going to retire - when we first moved here, I thought, "Right, that's it" - and then I realised that I still wanted to write songs. Having gone through that, I think, "Well, once you've resigned yourself to the fact that you are the more mature pop performer and you're past the age you ever thought you would do it, you might as well do it as long as you can. As long as I can still lift a microphone, then I'll do it, you know.'

From Sheffield to Paris: Jarvis's journey

Born Sheffield, 1963.

Debut Cocker started Arabacus Pulp at the age of 15. They'd renamed themselves Pulp by the time of their John Peel Sessions in 1981. The band struggled in the 1980s and from 1988-91 Cocker did a BA in film studies at Central St Martin's College of Art, London.

Celebrity Pulp made the leap from Sheffield to national consciousness after signing to Island and releasing the album His 'n' Hers in 1994. Their biggest single, 'Common People', came a year later. After quietly disbanding Pulp in 2002 Cocker collaborated with artists including Nancy Sinatra and Marianne Faithfull, worked under a pseudonym in electro-pop duo Relaxed Muscle and directed pop videos.

Controversy During the 1996 Brit Awards, Cocker leapt on stage and wiggled his backside during Michael Jackson's performance of 'Earth Song' Afterwards he said: 'My actions were a form of protest.'

Exile In 2002 he married Camille Bidault-Waddington and they moved to Paris with their son, Albert. In 2005 he performed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. His solo album, Jarvis, was released in 2006.

Liam O'Driscoll

· The Observer is a media partner for Meltdown, which runs from 16 to 23 June. We have a pair of tickets to give away for Motorhead on Saturday. Email us at (marked Motorhead) by Tuesday.

For more details visit or call 0871 663 2500 for tickets. Jarvis Cocker is the subject of The South Bank Show, 10.45pm tonight, ITV1

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

vendredi, juin 08, 2007

Emily Haines

Dancing to depression.

What's wrong with Emily Haines, asks Laura Barton

Friday June 8, 2007
The Guardian

"I found this thing," says Emily Haines, through jet lag and a sip of Pimm's, "that I drew when I was really young. On a piece of paper, it says: 'What's wrong?' underlined twice, and then a big empty box, and then it just says Emily Haines at the bottom. And I thought, oh my God, that's basically what I've been doing for my entire career! Walking into a situation and seeing how well I can identify what's wrong with it. And describe it. And I think I can do that pretty well."

The various incarnations of Emily Haines - her sometime membership of the Canadian indie supergroup Broken Social Scene; the angular danceability of her band Metric - share that quality. And it's there in her downbeat new solo record, Knives Don't Have Your Back, credited to Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton. "It's the same songwriting process as for Metric," she says. "But the whole point of Metric, sonically and in the whole philosophy of the band, is we're trying to kick the ass of depression. You're not allowed to wallow. So I bring those songs to the band and we speed them up and turn them into something we can dance to. Which is a great way to stay off antidepressants.

"I'm interested in the people who are inclined to be a little bit sad, who maybe see things in a sepia tone but without being mopes necessarily. And I like that about Metric - it's not the Jackson 5 pretending things are happy when they're not, it's acknowledging that actually things are a bit fucked and finding a way to turn that into something else."

Haines refers proudly to the fact that Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, has said Metric are the band all 14-year-old girls ought to be listening to. It is a responsibility, she says, but one she accepts readily. Indeed, with songs such as Patriarch on a Bicycle and Glass Ceiling, Haines has established herself as a feminist songwriter. Her new record includes a song named A Maid Needs a Maid. Is this, one wonders, a direct retort to her fellow countryman Neil Young's A Man Needs a Maid? "I can see there would be a feminist reading of that song. But it wasn't really intended that way. I'm a huge Neil Young fan, but growing up I never understood that song, I didn't know what he meant. Whaddyawant? Someone who cleans up after you?" She olds her pale features into a frown. "And when I was writing this record, I realised I had that exact feeling, as a result of touring and other things, where my ability to connect with somebody actually came down to being a very functional approach to love and companionship." It is, she confesses, something of a habit of hers to try to solve a problem by writing a song about it. "But that doesn't work," she adds ruefully. "It doesn't solve the problem."

There is an air of zealotry and self-awareness to Haines. She speaks of her new dedication to writing songs that aren't about what's wrong. And she has a new ambition to embrace spontaneity. "I feel like I meet people more and more where there's a tone that, 'You're going to get old so you might as well start now.' And so it's a daily decision of mine to allow things to happen that haven't happened before." Today, for example, she went to Trafalgar Square to recreate a photograph of her father, the jazz-poet Paul Haines, who died in 2003.

She has now come to terms, she says, with the fact that the life she has chosen, as a touring musician, as a dedicated experiential liver, may preclude some aspects of conventional life. "I'm accepting I may not have it all," she says, looking somehow bold. "I may not have a husband and a family. I may have an adventure."

· Knives Don't Have Your Back is out now on Drowned in Sound Recordings

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

vendredi, juin 01, 2007


CBS buys social music site for £140m.

· TV firm gains access to online community of 15m
· Founders started in single east London room

Katie Allen, media business correspondent
Thursday May 31, 2007
The Guardian

US television network CBS has paid $280m (£140m) for London-based music and social networking website

The deal - the largest UK web 2.0 acquisition to date - gives CBS access to a fast-growing online social network for a fraction of the $1.65bn Google recently paid for online video phenomenon YouTube.

Set up in 2002, tracks the music tastes of more than 15 million users, provides them with customised radio stations and connects them with other listeners to share recommendations.

It claims to be the world's largest social music platform and has users in more than 200 countries, including almost 2 million in Britain and 3.5 million in the US.

The undisclosed windfalls for its founders may not quite match the sums paid to the creators of YouTube and MySpace but the $280m deal is a welcome payoff for a project that started out from one room in Whitechapel, east London.

The site struggled to raise funding in the early days and, unable to pay the rent on their own flats, the team lived in tents on the roof of their office. took donations from sympathetic observers and friends to stay afloat while it looked around for bigger investors.

"When we started in the dire days of 2002 no one wanted to put any money into online music because Napster had just been sued into submission," said founder Martin Stiksel. "We took it without any external investment up to over a million users so we had to cut some corners with the sleeping arrangements."

It then attracted the interest of Index Ventures, which has also bought into other success stories such as Skype and purchased by eBay for $4.1bn. Now, which will continue to be run as a separate business in London, hopes the CBS deal will lift it to a new level.

"It's great news for making sure sees through its mission and becomes the last music destination on the net," said Mr Stiksel. "We can do all the things we only dreamed about before. We have a lot more ideas in the pipeline that we can now put into effect and also we have a strong partner on our side."

The management team, including the other founders Felix Miller and Richard Jones, hope the tie-up will mean they can negotiate better deals with record labels and cheaper rates for music streaming.

The acquisition, all in cash, follows a number of moves by CBS to expand its online presence including the acquisition of video business news blog and investments in Joost, the web TV service created by the co-founders of internet telephone service Skype.

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves said the deal was a major step in the group's attempt to transform itself from a "content company into an audience company". "Their demographics also play perfectly to CBS's goal to attract younger viewers and listeners across our businesses."

The president of CBS's interactive division, Quincy Smith, said: "We looked at a lot of companies to provide a base for CBS's investment in online reach, and found to be poised at an inflection point - balancing fast growth, a sticky community and the opportunity for monetisation that does not distract the user."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007