NEWS

May 2016

When I wrote the updates for the website last month, I focused on the amount of celebrities that we’ve lost this year and the numbers this past month haven’t waned. It seems there is an epidemic spreading among the rich and famous. We’re only five months into 2016 and we’ve already been forced to say goodbye to so many iconic stars. From David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan in January to Victoria Wood, David Guest and Prince last month, 2016 is fast becoming the year of the celebrity death.

The Daily Telegraph – who maintains a gallery of famous people’s deaths – has recorded more deaths already in 2016 than 2014 and 2015 combined. And unfortunately, 2016 isn’t going to just be an unlucky one-off - the number of celebrity deaths is actually set to increase every year from now on.

The morbid trend is therefore largely because today there are more celebrities than ever, but looking at the ages of 2016’s lost celebrities also goes some way to explaining the phenomenon. Many of the stars we’ve lost this year are from the baby boom generation, meaning that they were the first generation to experience fame in the era of TV. Celebrity culture only took off in time for this generation to become swept up in it, which means that those in the first generation of the mass-celebrity era are coming to the end of their lives now. This sad trend is only set to increase, as this golden generation of early TV icons gets older.

The BBC’s obituary editor Nick Serpell explained why, describing the amount of significant deaths this year as “phenomenal.” He said: “People who started becoming famous in the 1960s are now entering their 70s and are starting to die.
“There are also more famous people than there used to be. “In my father or grandfather’s generation, the only famous people really were from cinema – there was no television. Back then, if anybody wasn’t on television, they weren’t famous.”

“We’re seeing the likes of the cast of TOWIE and Geordie Shore becoming household names, you have stars of social media - the spectrum of celebrities has increased exponentially. This has seen an unlikely grouping of people classed as celebrities Of late these have included drug dealer turned author Howard Marks, architect Zaha Hadid, writer Harper Lee, disgraced former Tony Minister Cecil Parkinson, footballing legend Johan Cruyff and perhaps most appropriately, David Gest, a nice guy but perhaps famous for being famous. Of course another change is we are made much more aware of these deaths when they happen. It’s not a case of a report in the newspapers and on TV. There’s Facebook, twitter to name a few new-wave ways of spreading ‘news’. Whatever the reason, while it might be keeping the media busy, it is causing heartache for fans  and that trend looks set to continue.

I find it terribly sad that an actor, magician or DJ’s life is reduced to one byline in the day’s newspaper and in some cases, like my dear friend Ed Stewart, you don’t even get that. I couldn’t find one reference to Ed’s passing on any of the ‘death lists’ for 2016. How terribly sad to have worked your whole life to build up a niche for yourself in the market place only to have it forgotten so quickly. Music is of course the exception.

With the music world still in shock after the sudden death of rock legend Prince, his American fans have flocked back to his music and sparked a huge surge in sales of the artist’s catalogue. Three of his albums landed in Billboard’s Top 10 just hours following his death on 21 April. ‘The Very Best of Prince’ was the solace of choice for fans as the greatest hits compilation sold 179,000 total copies in the hours after Prince's death; of that total, 100,000 were traditional album sales, while the rest came from bulk purchases of some of Prince's classic singles. ‘The Very Best of Prince's’ ascension to the Number One spot marked his first chart-topper since his ‘3121’ hit the top spot in 2006, and the fifth Number One album of his career.

Right behind the ‘Best Of’ collection was Prince's 1984 masterpiece ‘Purple Rain’, which ended the week at Number Two and 69,000 copies. As Billboard notes, Prince became the first artist since Nelly's Sweat and Suit in 2004 to simultaneously capture Number One and Number Two on the Billboard 200 in the same week. Prince landed one more album in the Top 10, ‘The Hits/The B-Sides’ at Number Six.

Prince's death came just a half-day before the Billboard 200's weekly sales cutoff, meaning all of the sales of ‘The Very Best of Prince’, ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘The Hits/The B-Sides’ were recorded in the roughly 12 hours following his death; the exact number of Prince albums sold following his death is expected to be much larger and will carry over into next week's Billboard 200. In total, his catalogue sold 256,000 copies in that limited April 21st window.

I have to profess not understanding fans need to rush out and buy music once their idol has gone. If they are such big fans then why didn’t they already own the recording? Why didn’t they buy an album before the death of the music industry? With the advent of Apple’s gadget wizardry, more commonly named an IPod back in 2001 it seemed the writing was on the cards for the music industry. The rise of free or pirated music online and the declining sales of CDs have at the same time been wielded as a cautionary tale about the power of the Internet. A few weeks ago Lily Allen made a statement saying “any aspiring rock guitarists or pop singers might as well pack away their dreams and find a proper job”.

“Everyone assumes I made millions from the John Lewis ad. I probably made $13,500,” said the singer, whose cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ made it to Number One last year. It was played incessantly on the radio, and – of course – the television, as the soundtrack to John Lewis’s Christmas advert, featuring an animated love story between a bear and a hare.

Allen, who took a four-year break to bring up her children, has claimed that pop stars now make most of their money from turning up to awards ceremonies and product events. Now that people don’t buy music, we have to find other revenues. It’s not something I’ve really been offered. But I might,” she said. “I didn’t know how bad the music industry had got in those four years I was out.”
Perhaps she should have taken a look at last year’s charts: not the music charts, but those tracking sales across the entire entertainment industry – albums, films and video-games – put together by the Entertainment Retailers Association. These reveal that the top-selling product in 2013 was the video game Grand Theft Auto V, which sold 3.67 million copies, followed by the DVD of Skyfall, the James Bond film, which sold 2.96 million copies.

You would need to go down to ninth place before you hit anything melodic – and that would be ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 86’, which scraped in just over one million units. The only other music in the Top 20, in physical or electronic format, was ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 85’.

Only a decade ago – the days when Dido, Coldplay and James Blunt were hit machines – it was not uncommon for an album to sell more than three million copies.

You might think that the rise of digital music would compensate for the dire fall in sales of physical CDs, but this isn’t the case. Last year, the sales of all types of albums and singles totaled $1.77 billion in the UK, down 0.5 per cent on the year before and down 7 per cent over three years.

The problem is that people just don’t buy music in the quantity that they used to. They either pick and choose the odd single, or they stream music on services such as Spotify or YouTube, often free of charge.

Touring has long been the most lucrative way of making money for the big stadium acts, such as the Rolling Stones, Take That and Elton John. Now the global recession is over, ticket prices are on the up and relatively new acts, such as One Direction, are cashing in.

All of these events are an opportunity to sell merchandise and push the brand. The days of a Rolling Stone baseball cap are over. Taylor Swift has three different perfumes to her name; Rita Ora, who has recorded just one album, has polka dot shorts, necklaces and an entire range of Rimmel London nail varnish in her stable of merchandise.

As one music agent says: “For a lot of these pop acts, the music is just another piece in their product range.” And no area is off limits. Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk not only spawned 2013’s biggest single, Get Lucky, but also a brand of Get Lucky condoms.

According to PRS for Music, the industry association that helps collect royalty payments, British writers and artists earned $1.09 billion from royalties. But on top of that, they earned $178 million in 2012 from “ancillary brand revenues”. This jargon includes sponsorship of a venue, concert or tour, with the artists taking a cut. Indeed, Rihanna’s latest tour was technically known as the Budweiser Rihanna 777.

Artists’ “ancillary” earnings also include the endorsements they clock up, such as producer Mark Ronson and singer Katy B lending their cool to a corporate brand like Coca‑Cola. For that, they will usually be compensated for both the use of their music and of their image. The deals add up: from Lana Del Rey fronting adverts for H&M, to the likes of Jessie J who has got into bed with VitaminWater. (And this from the girl who sang “It’s not about the money, money, money”.)

PRS does not, however, track the pay cheques about which stars are possibly the most opaque: personal appearances. It is no secret that pop stars can cash in when they are invited to perform at the birthday party of some Russian oligarch or Saudi princess – Lakshmi Mittal paid Kylie Minogue an estimated £315,000 to sing for half an hour at the wedding of his daughter. Jay‑Z and Beyoncé each charge £1 million a night.

What is more surprising is when celebrities are paid just to turn up: not to sing or present an award, but just to be seen at the launch of a product or the opening of a new nightclub.

Yusef Mohamed, director of Big Bang, one of the many agencies that specialize in placing celebrities at events, says: “Many of these celebrities are very busy. Turning up to these things can take a lot of the artist’s time – they are not going to go to them unless someone is paying them.”

And how they pay. The fees start at about $3,400 for the most Z-list of celebrities, all the way up to $340,000 or more for a proper star. Mark Borkowski, the PR man who represents celebrities as well as brands, notes: “This has been going on for some time, particularly in the luxury fashion world, where budgets are high.”

Sometimes, of course, tempers fray. The designer Nicole Farhi caused ructions two years ago when she said she was fed up with stars demanding to be paid to sit in the front row of fashion shows and refused to pay. An A-lister such as Rihanna, it is understood, charges $102,000 to be at a show.

Allen herself back in 2007 was open about how the fashion industry bent over backwards to butter up music stars, claiming that after an Yves Saint Laurent show she was taken to the flagship store and told to help herself, before emerging with $8,500 worth of dresses, handbags and accessories.

These personal appearances have to be managed with caution, however. “You have to be very, very careful,” Borkowski says. “If you become a hired hand, and are seen at the shaking of every stick, your ubiquity will destroy your credibility.”

And rivals for the work will be snapping at your heels. The celebrity market is becoming “saturated”, Mohamed warns, thanks to the sheer number of talent and reality shows, which have created an army of people looking to cash in on their fame. For some, the old ways still remain the best. One music agent says: “I get these offers coming in quite often – and they are fine for a pop act, who have only a few years to milk it for all it is worth. “But for a proper music star, you can forget it. Their fans would never forgive them.”

But what then about the stars who have left us and can’t support the release of a new album with a tour or a range of merchandise. That’s simple; you don’t get to release a new album.

 

Warners took over the reins of EMI and subsequently Universal and are sitting on a potential goldmine of back-catalogue for all their stable of artists but they have failed to do anything with it. EMI Gold remained the company’s golden department
right up to its demise. Back-catalogue was one of the company’s only areas making money and I’d like to think that dad had something to do with that.  When I waved goodbye to Steve Woof and EMI as a company I was initially worried about the changes to come but right off the bat I was approached and asked to produce an album for a Mother’s Day release. Richard and I excitedly worked on the playlist and ‘The Definitive Matt Monro’ was delivered a few weeks later complete with master and approved artwork.

For those of you who follow the site you will know that the album has never been released and won’t now because of its inclusion of several Capitol tracks but that isn’t the biggest sin.

Julie Eldridge left on maternity leave never to be heard from again. Before she left she explained that the album had to be put back because of an X Factor release. Its ashes never did resurrect and we still don’t know why. I had hoped to get Warner’s interested in releasing the album for dad’s 30th anniversary. As well as my work on the ships, which produce healthy sales, Matt Jnr was touring the country with ‘The Matt Monro Story’ and as is the norm with a show of that size we garnered a lot of radio publicity, but that still wasn’t enough to tempt Warners into releasing it. In fact they didn’t bother releasing anything.

On 3rd June 2015 I received an anxious email from someone called Kathy Kelly, Head of Licensing at Warners, letting me know that Rhino UK were looking to release a 2 on 1 Series featuring the artists Matt Monro and Shirley Bassey. She listed the tracks and asked for my approval by return. I replied that same day saying that in principal I had no objection to the release although ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’ was an odd choice as it came from ‘Matt Uncovered’ and whilst the quality was okay, it wasn’t as good as the rest. I went on to say that as I held the best masters for all of the songs Richard and I would be willing to put the disc together if she approved it. “The masters can be done in a day as they are all sitting on a hard drive and supplied as a DDP image”. I never heard from her again. My subsequent emails were answered saying my comments on to the product manager to confirm.

Four months went by before I got an email from Andy Tribe, the missing product manager who stated that they were now looking at a fresh package for dad in the New Year. I should have asked which New Year!!

On 16 November 2015 I received an email from a Stuart Wheeley apologizing for the delayed response saying that he’d been told there is a film about Matt in production for 2016 so he was looking at something to tie in with that. He went on to elaborate that he didn’t have the exact details on when the film was happening and maybe I could shed some light on it.

I wrote back saying there was no such product on the table and that running the Estate I would be the one person in the know if something that big was in production. I asked him to let me know his source. A month went by along with several unanswered emails before I put it to him that surely he must remember who originally told him about dad’s film being in production and that surely someone at Warners had to know something about it otherwise how could they do a tie in.

At last a reply admitting that the consultant who’d informed him about the project didn’t actually have any information on it!!!! Stuart had since found out that it had only been an idea and not yet commissioned.

I finally lost my temper and in February of this year I contacted Nigel Reeve, the Head of Catalogue and demanded to know what was going on and more importantly ascertain whether Warner’s had any intention of releasing another Matt Monro product. To his credit he replied straight away despite being overseas saying that many of the artist relationships that had been built up over the years at EMI had not been maintained as well as they should have by Warners. He explained that he had asked Stuart Wheeley to ring me as soon as possible so we could open up lines of communication and discuss fresh options.

And here’s the shocker, no one at Warners knew of the existence of ‘The Definitive Matt Monro’, it would seem it is sitting somewhere in archives never to be seen again.

I spoke to Stuart at length and while Warners seem interested in doing another album they don’t want something down the lines of another ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘Best Of ‘, which I fully understand. After speaking with Richard at length we came up with an album called ‘The Performance’, which we have been holding back for some time, this being because it is the last of dad’s live shows we hold.

Sadly because of the news of George Martin’s passing I suggested a George Martin project where upon Richard expanded the idea suggesting a series of albums of various artists, under the banner ‘Produced By George Martin’. George Martin is a huge star in his own right and as previously mentioned fans tend to purchase keepsakes after their idol’s demise so I thought the project would receive urgent attention. As with all these things timing is everything and it we were going to exploit the idea it should have been sooner rather than later.

Stuart replied that the idea was certainly something Warners could look at but they would have to canvass interest, which would take several weeks. Richard and I were quite shocked that the record company didn’t feel the same sense of urgency as us and a month went by before another email advised me that “Tim from Nigel’s team would have some sort of proposal that week”.  Richard and I were interested to see what he came up with but the fact was he didn’t. I wrote to Stuart again on 13 April saying that I’d made the proposal on 10 March and that Richard and I could have put the running order together and produced a master in a week. I felt there was a reason to strike while the iron was hot.

Stuart’s answer came that same day saying that the global A&R team had been looking into it and he had to check with them. He asked if in the meantime I could let him have what I thought was a good track list. “I like the concept a lot, but it seems George produced a lot of your fathers work so I am slightly concerned how different the track listing would be to any other best of? I believe it's important to make a point of difference and therefore have something fresh for retail.”

The following day Richard and I submitted a list of tracks in chronological order - that featured songs George had either written for dad (mainly under the pseudonym Graham Fisher) or tracks he’d arranged and conducted and the reason behind the choice.  The current running time came in just a smidge over 78 minutes and by no stretch of the imagination could it be deemed a ‘Greatest Hits’.


You Keep Me Swinging
Made under the name of Fred Flange for Peter Sellers LP. 1st Recording with George, who also wrote it!
Love Walked In - 1st Single recorded with George under the name of Matt Monro
Portrait Of My Love – 1st Hit
This Time – Single B side written by George
Can This Be Love Single A side Written by George
No One Will Ever Know – Piano Demo. Written by George and his favourite recording of Matt
Softly As I Leave You
Major Hit
Tahiti – First time Stereo Release
My Love And Devotion  
I Get Along Without You Very Well
– From Matt’s most critically acclaimed LP – “Sings Hoagy Carmichael”
One Morning In May – From Matt’s most critically acclaimed LP – “Sings Hoagy Carmichael”
A Few Tender Words
One Day
– Not Currently Available
Without The One I Love – Not available on CD since 1991!
The Girl I Love – Not Currently Available
From Russia With Love
– George’s production tricks at their best
If This Should Be A Dream – Written by George – Not available on CD since 1991!
Once In Every Long And Lonely While – Written By George and not available on CD since 1991!
As Long As I’m Singing – Not Currently Available. Made for US market
Yesterday - Arranged and Conducted by George
How Do You Do
Sarah’s Coming Home
- Arranged and Conducted by George
First Of May - Arranged and Conducted by George
Michele- Arranged and Conducted by George
Ethel Baby - Arranged and Conducted by George
I Am In Life – From the last Session produced by George
I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten – Produced by John Burgess  BUT - Arranged and Conducted by George – Never released on CD

 

Five days passed before I got a response on the 19 April saying he was waiting for his commercial guy to return from holiday so he could discuss. Their priority was to get supermarket distribution to maximize the potential and get this (are you sitting down?)
“ With that in mind we may need to look at trying to get a few more hits into the track list”

As I write this I still haven’t had a reply so you can understand why the music industry is all but dead and buried. Even if we finally do score a victory with Warner and get a Matt Monro product released, you will appreciate that dad is not here to go on tour, make a personal appearance or sign merchandise. The royalties are so low that even with healthy sales very little money will be earned but this is more important than dollars and cents, the release will ensure that the legacy of music dad left behind is around for that bit longer and that the man and his music will still be enjoyed for a few more years to come.

 

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature, I know so many of you enjoy them. Because of recent events, this month we look in on the ever-popular songsmith Prince.

Having suffered from pneumonia for the last two months I haven’t achieved as much as I’d hoped while I was home.  I changed my scheduling this year so that instead of going away and then having five days at home and then away again to have 10 days at home, I thought it would be better to string more cruises together. That way although I am at sea for longer periods the same applied to being at home. I’ve been in Telford for nearly two years and I was determined to finish the garden and go through all the unopened boxes in the garage and clear that out as well.

Several friends of mine who made a house move still had boxes that they hadn’t unpacked after three years and I thought it was ridiculous to leave things that long. Their excuse of not finding the time fell on deaf ears but I take all my malicious thoughts back. I just haven’t found the time, that and it has been too cold for me to tinker around outside in the garage. I still have a month at home before I go back to work so I’m still hoping to achieve something.

The one thing that swayed me towards this property was the fact that I had a maintenance free garden. What a stupid thing to think. The whole ground was filled with small stones instead of grass but I didn’t take into account how undulating the ground was and every time I went out into either the front or back garden I fell because the stones constantly moved underfoot and I’d lose my balance. The first thing to tackle was to level the ground in the back and if memory serves me right that meant nearly 160 tons of soil had to be removed and that was just for starters. I also had a wall built which wrapped around the property and then had a wheel chair ramp put in so I could access the top level of the garden as well as the bottom.

I actually never allotted a budget for the garden. Silly me. It is even more expensive that decorating a room inside the property, in fact I would probably own up to the fact that it has cost me a fortune. It doesn’t help that the ground is awful, with tons of clay-baked soil that made it impossible to grow things in certain areas. Even digging five foot down the earth was water-logged and my plants literally drowned. My aim is to finish sealing the patio slabs, re-paint the garden wall and finish transforming my shed into a Caribbean cabana, somewhere that I would keep all the strange things I have bought whilst on my travels over the last six years.

The front garden is a huge area, also filled with small pebbles and because my property is much higher up than my neighbours opposite the ground has a steep slope. The one thing I did get done last year was the build of a low wall that surrounds the front garden and thus stops all the stones ending up in the central driveway. The front wall meant the ground had to be built up and so tons of topsoil was put in at least giving me a good area to plant. It has taken all of my time here to plant up and get trees and bushes established. Once again I lost several hundreds of pounds worth of plants because they drowned. The whole exercise has been one of trial and error but I feel I am winning now. I don’t like nicely manicured gardens; I wanted a Caribbean oasis, one where the plants can grow as god intended. I wanted to look out and not be reminded of England. I’m finally getting there. Someone stopped my neighbour last week and asked if I was a nursery!!!! Anyway I am still hoping to finish the garden in time to enjoy whatever good weather is thrown at us in the short periods I am home.

 

My new dates for 2016 have been confirmed as follows.

Cruise Calendar 2016

6 June – 1 July – Fred Olsen – Boudicca
9 July – 23 July – Emerald Princess (TBC)
23 July – 6 August – Emerald Princess (TBC)
26 August – 3 September – Celebrity Eclipse
3 September 17 September – Celebrity Eclipse
17 September -30 September – Celebrity Eclipse
30 September – 3 October – Celebrity Eclipse
3 October – 16 October – Celebrity Eclipse
16 October – 29 October – Celebrity Eclipse

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them and I’m sticking to the subject of this update and focusing on George Martin

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month.

Warmest to you and yours
Michele
x


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