Category Archives: c.r.e.a.m.

CHARLES HOLGATE AND THE PUBLICITY GAME

This post originally went live on January 19th. Soonafter Charles Holgate called me up (for the 1st time!), requesting that I take it down for two reasons: 1. because I had mistakenly referred to him as an employee of Sarah Lockhart’s Ammunition dubstep conglomerate (rather than an independent publicist who works with them) and 2., because he wanted to ‘keep working the release’. Charles gave me a list of 9 “confirmed press” spots where it was to be reviewed, and told me to give him 2 weeks, during which time he would make good. He suggested that if I didn’t see proof of his work in that time, I could put the post back up. I gladly agreed.

At one point in the conversation, he said that Uproot had been received with apathy. I said “Fine! The UK is a weird market. But why can’t you produce any evidence, even a single email from a journalist in support of that story?” Charles’s response was incredible: he told me that each January he deletes all of his emails from the previous year. (akin to: the dog ate my homework)

Over the next few days, I was contacted by about half a dozen UK music writers, all saying some version of “I regularly get calls/emails from Charles and he never once mentioned Uproot .”

This confirmed my worst suspicions, but I still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Instead of the 2 weeks he asked for, I’ve given him 7…

Unfortunately, the same process has repeated itself. I’ve sent Holgate multiple emails asking for any update on the “confirmed press” (if it was confirmed in mid-January, how come it’s not in print by mid-March?). I was repeatedly told by Charles that I’d get an update “tomorrow”.

After a few weeks of ‘tomorrow’ (well over the 2 week deadline he set for himself) and honoring our verbal agreement— here is the original post, edited to reflect his status as an independent publicist.

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I’d like to explain how Charles Holgate aka MC Nomad, an independent publicist best known for his work representing the Tempa/Rinse FM/FWD conglomerate, stole several thousand dollars — not from me, but from the artists I used on Uproot and the label it was released on. But before we get to that, we need to take a quick look at the publicity business.

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With all the talk about declining record sales and the near-terminal state of the music industry model as we knew it in the 90s, people rarely mention the role of publicists. Like live shows, the work of the publicists will endure even as CD sales plummet.

It’s possible – but highly difficult – to land record reviews in significant media outlets without a publicist acting as intermediary. Music PR fees vary widely – from $1000 to upwards of $5000 a month – and there’s usually a 2 month minimum. (You can, essentially, pay your way onto major TV appearances such as the David Letterman show. But those fees only make sense if you’ve got a decent product, massive fan base, great distribution, a tour to cross-promote, etc.)

That said, the work of a publicist is fairly hard to pin down. They talk to writers and editors – via email, phonecalls, drinks after work, bumping into them at shows, etc. Publicists get music writers hyped about the album, detailing its importance/awesomeness while suggesting ways it can be covered in the writer’s publication(s). They coordinate interviews. Publicists are sensitive to the marketability of any given release and tailor the campaign around that. Usually PR companies give the record label mailing address and the label does the physical mailout. One pays the publicists to follow up: “have you received the package? what did you think?…”

In a perfect world, a publicist is a cool person who helps translate the musician’s vision to the public. Their fees pays for themselves via increased CD sales, and everybody’s happy. This is often the case! In an imperfect world you get Holgate… wait, it almost never gets that bad. (More on this in a bit)

Hiring a professional publicist is a virtual necessity for any release’s visibility. But their work is intangible — How do you quantify buzz? And a publicist’s role in raising it? The only time I got reviewed in VIBE was with Gold Teeth Thief, a mix CD that was barely buyable. Lord knows I’ve never had a publicist or manager.

CHARLES HOLGATE: BAD AMMUNITION

Only three titles from my entire discography have been serviced by a publicity firm: Minesweeper Suite, Special Gunpowder, and now Uproot. For the recent CD, the label (the Agriculture) hired online PR in America (note: they didn’t do print media PR). In the UK, they hired a person named Charles Holgate. Dubstep fans may know Charles from his appearances as MC Nomad.

charles holgate mc nomad

[Tempa/FWD/RinseFM publicist Charles Holgate]

After he agreed to work for the Agriculture, Charles informed them that he was leaving Zzzonked (a PR firm) to go solo, focusing on publicity for dubstep’s cross-platform monopoly: Ammunition / FWD / Rinse FM. The first two are run by Sarah Lockhart. Ammunition is the parent company of several dubstep record labels: Tempa, Soulja, Road, Vehicle, Shelflife, Texture, Lifestyle, and Bingo. FWD has long been promoted as the dubstep night, offering the canonical dubstep experience. (Yes kids, the ‘underground’ London dubstep scene is a carefully controlled, heavily centralized machine). Rinse FM is a London pirate station. Charles and Sarah work with Rinse FM in its attempt to ‘go legit’ and enter the commercial radio market. Charles assured the Agriculture that everything would be fine despite his sudden move.

I met Charles Holgate aka MC Nomad in London this July. We ate pasta and discussed Uproot. He seemed professional. I went away content. Then Charles disappeared. After being paid-in-full for his services and and receiving the promo CDs, he simply stopped returning our emails. Complete silence. (During an album’s promotional campaign, it’s normal to have at least several email interchanges with the publicist each week).

I began to worry – not a single sign of interest had come from the UK. This is highly unusual. The UK boasts what is probably the world’s highest per-capita number of electronic music fans. (Perhaps it’s John Peel’s legacy.) I was getting interview requests from the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico – yet nothing at all from the UK. In early October Charles Holgate broke his silence, promising a “full update” in a few days. Nothing arrived. In early November Charles Holgate promised a “full update” in a few days. Nothing arrived. No response to emails, no returning phone calls. It was obvious we’d been had, but I hoped he was honest enough to explain why, and either start working or give back the remaining copies.

I decided to give him a call on December 17th. Connection! Once he heard it was me, Charles began stammering… He told me he had received 100 copies (the label had sent him 200-300 CDs). He kept stammering. He promised to email an update by 1pm the next day. Nothing arrived. Two weeks ago Holgate sent us the long-awaited “update” (only 6 months late!) in which he took responsibility for the Pitchfork review and two mentions (not reviews) on UK websites that I’m in direct contact with. Charles blamed his lack of results on end-of-year holidays (remember, we started working with him in July). He apologized. He promised weekly updates. Since then, nothing.

charles holgate MC Nomad1

[MC Nomad on the mic]

I’m outing Charles Holgate because I don’t want this to happen to any other labels or artists. It’s more severe than the typical lazy publicist or unpromotable release. If he hadn’t been stammering like a fool when I asked him what was going on, I might’ve given Charles the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because this is the first time I’ve been dicked over in the music business. In general, the independent music scene is very self-supportive and honest and open-minded.

For the record, this was not my money spent — I mean stolen. I received a flat producer’s fee for Uproot– any profits made are to be split 50/50 between the record label and the artists on the mix.

So yes, a publicist who works with Ammunition/FWD/Rinse FM torpedoed the project in the UK. I have no reason to believe that Ammunition knew about Holgate’s activities; I mention Ammunition because most know him for his work representing them (and as MC Nomad on Rinse FM, etc). By snatching the label’s money and several hundred of its CDs in exchange for silence and inept lies, Charles Holgate has robbed the artists on Uproot and the label that was cool enough to release it in the first place (most labels hate mix CDs since the licensing is expensive and requires a mountain of paperwork).

Instead of UK publicity paying for itself via increased sales/visibility, there is a big black hole. ‘MC Nomad’ buried Uproot! (the irony is not lost on me.) Usually UK distros will send a few copies to key media sources, but since Charles Holgate was contracted to do just that, the distro didn’t perform their standard basic mail-out. Result: few or no UK media sources received the mix.

If you are in the UK, I suggest that you ask him for a copy. Charles Holgate should have several hundred Uproots occupying space in his London flat.

DUTTY MOVES

OiNK is dead. In the past week, I was invited to 2 post-OiNK sites (by an altruistic stranger and the same woman who gave me my first taste of pig). Both sites are quite good. Together they have almost as many members as OiNK did, and they’re only a few months old. You can change the skin/stylesheet of each one to an ‘OiNK’ setting, so it looks almost exactly like our departed friend.

Cut off the head, several grow back.

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I’m playing NYC’s DubWar party tonite, with special guest Jah Dan blessing the mic. Details and ticket giveway over at Dutty Artz.

Matt Shadetek & I sat down and looked at our release schedule for 2008 – it is beastly. It is craziness. We are being topsecret w/ power moves for the moment but soon we’ll turn it on and it won’t stop. the label has a myspace, the iceberg’s tip.

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Alan blogs. And it’s great. sorry, gringos.

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Greg = gringo, but when he writes about funk carioca, he talks about contracts, which is wonderful. His post led me to Flamin Hotz, who talks about contracts, which is wonderful. The Flamin Hotz post is the best online overview i’ve seen of funk economics; before you can even talk about international exploitation/interaction, there’s a ton of Brasil-side madness to contend with:

When the artist in the favela sells the song, the contracts stipulates that he is signing over all of his rights to the music for a one time fee (roughly $1000 reais or approximately $500), the artist will not be allowed to play the song live any more, and that the artist will get no credit for the musical process that was put into the song. In the Baile Funk scene this is just business as usual and has created a huge divide in who actually is getting money from CD sales, radio play, and international licensing. Our goal with our international release is to combat this system where money is only filtering to the top of the food chain.

This touches on what happens in many musical ecosystems across the planet. Most of the classic reggae tunes, for example, are owned and controlled by the studio bosses, so when labels like Soul Jazz license material the studio bosses are the ones they must legally deal with — the ones who get paid. For example, if you want to put Sister Nancy’s classic anthem ‘Bam Bam’ on a compilation, you do not need her permission and she does not receive any money from it, even though she wrote and performed the lyrics.

The music business is a kind of pathetic vivid nightmare, run by greedy people, dilettantes, and people who don’t like music.

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Maga Bo knows incredible amounts about Brazilian music. A comprehensive radio show/podcast he’s done for years is now archived at Spannered.

OINK IS DEAD, YOU’LL HAVE TO BUY IT

France’s Recmag just upped a video interview with Andy & I from our show in Feyzin. “Moment unique entre improvisation bruitiste et dancefloor tendance noise avec le guitariste des légendaires The Ex, Andy Moor et le producteur, maître du mix, DJ Rupture.”

We produced another very limited-edition CD, Live in France, to sell on this recent tour. This one contains highlights from several France shows we did last March. A few copies remain.

live-in-france3

50 minutes long. Live improvisation for guitar+turntables. For a preview, check this youtube piece. Overall, the sounds are more beat-oriented than our first tour CD.

FYI, Live In France is a mass-produced, labeled CD-r in a slimline case, fruit of one of the many services offered by Chinatown’s graymarket economy.

it’s only available here (via PayPal) & at Ex shows. ‘xclusive!

U.S. people – $7.50 which includes shipping

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rest of the world – $9.50 which includes shipping

50 CENT & THE INTIFADA: REALITY MUSIC

Before we get to Fiddy, some crate-digging.

a lot of heads know about this record. It’s been sampled quite a bit in underground circles, most recently by Shackleton. In our post 9-11 world, one can’t imagine a major label issuing a (great) compilation called Palestine: Music of the Intifada.

Yet in 1989 that’s exactly with Virgin Records did.

palestine-music-intifada

Liner notes are informative. “Not only does [the compilation] summarise Palestinian aspirations but also it reflects the radical social changes that are being brought about by the daily struggle against occupation.”

Sabaya Al Intifada – Min Al Mukhasyyam Toulad Al Ru’aya

They translate the song title & explain: “From The Camp Is Born The Vision is an example of the rapidly changing position of women in society. The name of the group, ‘Sabaya al Intifada’ or ‘Young Women of the Uprising,’ for example, reflects the breakdown of restriction of women from the public life. The singing is itself a challenge, as the traditional Mowwal (or introductory solo vocals) is, for the first time, sung by a woman.”

Changing demands of geopolitical reality echo audibly in music.

“I love New York,” says my Brazilian friend as we drive into a promising and justifiably paranoid Sao Paolo night, “but every time I’m there I feel how money is strong. I come home thinking: I need to make more money.”

Right now in New York City, you hear the ominous snare-crack and tech-steppy dystopian synth melody of 50 Cent’s I Get Money booming out of cars, shops, cranked-up portable radios. “I get money” goes the main sample of Milk Dee, “money I got…” Even its percussion-only elements reference & reinforce the main theme: the beat is sampled from Cassidy’s I’m a Hustla. A few months ago the streets here were bumping with Swizz Beatz’ Money in the Bank and Straight to the Bank from the same 50 album.


[50 Cent - I Get Money video]

It makes sense that the current wave of New York rap hits are often about money, about banks. This is capitalism music. It’s difficult to live well in this city unless you have lots of money in the bank. Billowy folds of the European social state — free health care, reasonable rents, unemployment benefits, quality espresso for 1 dollar! — are starkly absent. These songs come from the speakers and you think: that’s what I’m thinking about too, money, how to get it… The geopolitcal reality of this compressed town-nation of strivers seeps into the music, how could it not?

Brooklyn is all ethnic-enclaves (and/or class-enclaves) but in public and semi-private Manhattan the boundaries collapse: rich people may prefer that poor ones remain invisible (Mexican immigrants hidden away in their restaurants’ kitchens, the TV fantasy of a nation of uppermiddleclass, and on) but wealth, especially in an overcrowded walkerly city like Manhattan, is not only visible but it always seems to be just… almost… within reach.

The 50 song in particular is clattery, edgey. A queasy synth tone makes an atonal slide through the track every 32 bars or so. He’s bragging but the thing feels unsettled. (mo’ money mo’ problems; Connecticut tax laws can be so ornate) On some Hot97 mix shows the DJ will cut up the intro — a minute or two of “I get money money I got” and spare aggressive beat – extended, doubled up, and reconfigured under the DJ’s fader. Its sound and meaning amplified by one of the East Coast’s most power radio transmitters.

50′s popularity isn’t just an East Coast thing, or a US thing either. I’ve seen kids rocking his shirts and sidewalk businessmen hawking his albums in a dozen countries, at least…

Google ‘I get money’ and you find Fiddy. Incidentally, at the Harvard Free Culture Conference I spoke at a few months ago, they offered free bottles of Glacéau, 50 Cent’s bottled water business which he raps about in the first verse of I Get Money and sold to Coca-Cola for 4.1 billion dollars, netting roughly 100 million from his 10% share. A billion dollars for what!? How!? Curtis elucidates-

I take quarter water sold it in bottles for 2 bucks / Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the f**k?

Real talk. C.R.E.A.M. talk. New York wallet-eaters stand up.


[Wu-Tang Clan - C.R.E.A.M. video]