Created in Birmingham – time to move on

Is it just me or is Created in Birmingham in danger of slipping into nothing more than one of a series of moderately useful listings websites for Birmingham. That is of course maybe all it’s meant to be but didn’t it used to be so much more? Didn’t it used to have more of an edge?

Didn’t it once hold to account those charged with funding the arts and challenge those who seemed to be ripping off artists? There’s a bit of back-slapping creeping into the comments that makes Brum seem a bit too cosy; as if we have an arts scene that’s not really worth getting worked up about.

I reckon a period of guest editing might spring it back into life. Give it to Pogus Caesar for a week and see what he says about Brum’s cultural scene. Rhonda Wilson would really kick some life into it as would Mohammed Ali. Whichever way, some thought into its editorial stance is certainly needed.

There’s an existing mini-discussion about my views on CIB needing to take more of a position over at Pete Ashton’s blog:

“[CIB should be] an agitator for, rather than simply advocator of, the arts. As it looks around at what’s happening in Brum perhaps it should be brave enough to point out what’s lacking, or at least be up for critiquing that which doesn’t make the grade. We’re keen for this sector to have a voice but until that voice is prepared to step outside the comfort zone it all feels a bit well, safe.”

In posting up my thoughts here I’m really saying that that time has come. Time to move on CIB – let’s start getting edgy.

Support your local music enterprise…

Musing on the Surface Unsigned thang on the Birmingham Post blog from which this is reproduced:

Today was an at-desk day. Actually quite a lot of days are kinda that way but generally I’ve got something in the diary that gets me out the building for a bit. Today though I had a proposal I was supposed to start last week, but didn’t, that had to be done by 5pm today, which it was. 

In between constructing paragraphs about why the Delphi method rocks in research terms I was struck by the unfolding drama in my RSS reader. In fact I now realise how differently I use the internet from 12 months ago when I would probably have completely missed the row over whether or not Surface Unsigned are screwing unsigned bands and acting like dunderheads over the use of Cease and Desist notices.

It was fascinating to watch the Birmingham blogging community come together to support what it still the city’s key resource for knowing what’s happening and who’s who in the creative and cultural industries. I’d presumed that they were fighting some corporate numbskulls who go out of their way to track down the mildest of criticism.  So, delighted to be distracted from proposal writing, I used the power of Companies House to track down the mighty Surface Unsigned Ltd. 

To my surprise it turns out they’re a small start-up from Walsall incorporated in February 2007. If you pay a pound you can get their last company report (and accounts if they’d filed any but they aren’t due until later this year) which will tell you that there are two company directors. One of them, Jon James (Jay) Mitchell also runs JJM Studios from the same address as Unsigned (and has the Unsigned link on its front page to confirm the connection). Andy Mabbett digs a little deeper and finds that Jay does some guitar tuition as well. Andy used whois rather than Companies House to find the details.

So it turns out he’s a local music industry entrepreneur. The pay to play concept he’s pushing may seem a little dodgy (although Dubber notes when pay to play can work and in the comments Gigdoggy points out that competitions as such usually always come with entry fees: “People pay to enter competitions, and in this case, its simply the fans who pay”) but I wonder if this is just a case of a local businessman trying new models for making money in the music industry and then acting all corporate when someone has the gall to diss their new product. Trouble is he chose to target a blog that’s way more than a blog to most of us.

This might have any number of outcomes and probably has a bit to run. Jay could come out of the woodwork and make a response but we might get another Dubber vs the BPI post which makes for great reading but even worse PR than Unsigned is already getting. What I find quietly amusing though is that what Unsigned have done is made themselves look and feel a damn sight bigger than they already are. A small company from Walsall is more than able to look like the big boys and, as it turns out, act as clumsily as them. Oh and my bet is all these email addresses on their contacts page go to the same person – Jay’s got a very full inbox…