December « 2011 « Gruff Rhys


Strike Over!

There were jubilant scenes all over Wales last night as the news came through of a breakthrough in the songwriters dispute.

The BBC’s Siân Gwynedd was quoted last night:

Following more than a week of negotiations, BBC Cymru Wales welcomes the news that the Musicians’ Alliance protest has been suspended this evening.

“We’re pleased that discussions between officials from the three organisations will take place in the New Year, and we greatly hope that the dispute can be resolved”.

Linn Berggren, lead singer of Ace Of Bass joined many foreign dignitaries in congratulating the successful strikers.

Posted in Blog | December 20, 2011 | Comments Off on STOP PRESS!

The Great Welsh Songwriters Strike

From yesterday (Monday, 19 December), and for 3 days, the airwaves of Radio Cymru, the BBC’s Welsh language channel, may well be music free.

Music usually makes up 48% of the channel’s output, but from 19 December the bulk of Welsh language songwriters, around 750 artists, including myself, have politely asked BBC Radio Cymru not to play their music.

PRS royalty payment rates for Welsh language songs have been slashed by 85% in recent times. Any other industry facing such a cut would, I’m sure, be striking as well.

Here are some more statistics…

The rate that the BBC pays songwriters for a three minute song has been reduced to;

£1.65 on Radio Cymru.

Then the PRS (the organisation that collect airplay royalties in the UK) that works out an analogy payment, in this case £4.10 which takes it to a total of £5.75.

According to RAJAR figures, Radio Cymru has 138,000 listeners. BBC Wales the English language channel for Wales has 479,000 listeners. English being the majority language in Wales, by roughly four to one.

It makes sense therefore that the royalty payments should be at least three times bigger. They are:

The BBC pay £2.85 for a three minute song, however the PRS analogy increases it by £145.00 to £147.85.

I’m no mathematician but you’d think that based on this figure, a Radio Cymru play would be worth around £50 pounds – or roughly a third of a Radio Wales payment.

Like I was saying, I’m not a mathematician, I’m a songwriter, I grew up enthralled with Anglo American pop culture, and Punk Rock in any language. I never liked traditional harp music, and I make a living for the most part as a writer of English language songs. The English language being as crucial to Wales as the Welsh language itself.

For many songwriters who have been raised speaking Welsh however, it would be baffling not to write in Welsh. It’s the most natural thing in the world to want to communicate using your first language, your mother tongue.

I’m a freak therefore, singing in my second language much as Ace Of Bass from Sweden, 2 Unlimited from Holland, or Transylvania’s Cheeky Girls (but less successful, obviously).

I didn’t sing in English untill I was 25, prior to that I released three Welsh language albums in Welsh with my band Ffa Coffi Pawb (translation: Fuck Off Everyone), and made enough money to buy some instruments, but not to pay the bills.

It’s never really been an option to be a full time songwriter or performer in the Welsh Language. Bryn Fôn, one of the most popular, possessing of a kind of Springsteenesque/Boss like stature, has been recently quoted in the Guardian as earning between £10,000 and £18,000 a year from royalties, much of which went into funding his own self released recordings, and supplementing earnings he made outside of music. Obviously the average songwriter therefore is earning significantly less than this benchmark.

This year he has earned £750, a huge drop. Musicians singing in Welsh like their counterparts worldwide, do so for the most part out of passion and not for the money, however if the PRS do not re-consider their payment structure many musicians may not have the means to sustain releasing records.

It’s possible that the PRS have no understanding of the cultural damage that their new policies are causing.

Neither do I know the realities of the fun world of administration, but there may be a case for, as the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg) have suggested, creating a new devolved royalty body in Wales, that could possibly have a broader, more sympathetic understanding of a multi-lingual society.

Recording and singing in the Welsh language will always be a labour of love, and not a career choice, but it seems an unnecessary burden to be penalized for doing so.

And as a very fragile minority language, surely it’s popular culture should be encouraged, not forced out of existence.

Posted in Blog | | Comments Off on The Great Welsh Songwriters Strike

Wales Leaves UK, Joins Euro.

Carwen Jones yesterday


In a rousing  speech at the Welsh Senedd in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. Wales’ first female prime minister Carwen Jones announced that:

‘In light of  David Cameron’s insistence on protecting the deregulated banking industry of London above all other industry we feel we have no option but to deal directly with the EU in Brussels.

We must take direct control of our European funding streams to bolster the regeneration of our industrial areas and secure our agriculture, fisheries and off shore 48 hour weekend floating discotheque rigs.

This will place us at the heart of Europe. Long live the European dream. Adieu Tory Euro sceptic nightmare.’

The markets were totally outfoxed and confused. Many international bankers had spent the week betting on the Euro currency’s collapse, Ms Jones’ unilateral intervention meanwhile boosted the currency’s credibility in an instant,  pie charts were re drawn around the globe, raising the Euro’s credibility by 89 mega zorba Maxi points on the zaptak index.

‘There’s no Queen on the Euro!
The age of the oligarch ends here’

Shouted Jones. Ending her speech on a high.

A large crowd clapped and cheered during this historic, impromptu declaration of Euro dependence.

‘Fuck yeah! This is the kind of shit I want to hear from my politicians” exclaimed 22 year old union member Caradog Cale from Aberdâr.

The crowd dispersed peacefully into the night,

A light breeze blew in the chime of a distant repetitive beat from one of those new off shore disco rigs, beating through the mist like an excited young heart at 160 BPM.

Carwen Jones yesterday

Posted in Blog | December 10, 2011 | Comments Off on Wales Leaves UK, Joins Euro.

Gary Speed RIP.

A week on, I’m still in shock from the sudden death of Gary Speed.

For anyone who doesn’t know who he was, he was the popular manager of the Welsh national football [soccer] team. Wales is a country with only a few national institutions, he was therefore one of the most high profile people in the land, and had been a part of public life since his late teens.

To put it into perspective, at least that of a football fan, it’s like losing a Pope or a president or a top sports star or something, but not from an illness or old age but from a suspected suicide at the height of their powers. It’s deeply shocking and mysterious. And there has been unprecedented, collective grief in Wales and beyond.

I’ve been watching him play since the early nineties when he had hair like a raver and seemed to represent the spirit of my generation. And I had the privilege of watching his last game as Wales manager at Cardiff City Stadium on November 12th.

Wales beat Norway 4-1 – and in the first 20 minutes in particular they played some truly fancy, confident football unlike any Wales side I’d ever witnessed. (though the 2002/3 team that Speed captained were also pretty incredible).

During the last few weeks, in a frenzy of over-confidence I had even been trying to book accomodation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, as Speed’s Wales seemed (and still do) to have everything needed to qualify.

Obviously there is no shame in failure. People, especially people from small countries like the Welsh must be able to accept that we can’t always qualify for various scenarios. But….

Gary Speed allowed us to dream.

As a player he was extremely determined and resilient.As a manager he built an inspiring and talented team of progressively-minded people around him, such as assistant manager Raymond Verheijen that helped him stamp these attributes on his team as a whole.

These are attributes that this team will now never forget. They will have them emotionally ingrained on their psyches – I imagine for the rest of their lives.

It’s a tall order but, hopefully the players and his backroom staff and, by extention, the Welsh fans and football fans in general can carry his sense of adventure forward.

We can all take inspiration from his belief that we could achieve anything, and achieve it in the most beautiful way. Regardless of how impossible and distant these things sometimes seem.

Posted in Blog | December 7, 2011 | Comments Off on Gary Speed RIP.

Hotel Shampoo Wins Album Of The Year At Fancy Artrocker Magazine Award Ceremony

Who’d A Thunk It?

Huge thanks to Artrocker Magazine for giving Hotel Shampoo their award for Album of the year 2011.


At a crazy legend laden event in London presented by Jen Long. The likes of Gary Neuman, Akira the Don, John Foxx, Tim Burgess, Jim Reid and Douglas Hart drank cans of strong European  lager beer and spat peanuts and raisins at newcomers like Plan B and Bombay bicycle club.

Thanks Again

A huge thank you again.

Posted in Blog | December 5, 2011 | Comments Off on Hotel Shampoo Wins Album Of The Year At Fancy Artrocker Magazine Award Ceremony





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