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Llangollen International Eisteddfod 'needs to modernise'

The Llangollen International Eisteddfod is facing a “particularly difficult” period, organisers have warned.

Its new musical director Dr Edward-Rhys Harry said the event, which runs until Sunday, needed to be more “modern and relevant”.

And the eisteddfod’s chair Dr Rhys Davies acknowledged ticket sales had been “disappointingly low” compared with 2018.

The annual week-long festival has been running for more than 70 years.

Last year it attracted 40,000 visitors to the Denbighshire town.

In 1955 a 19-year-old Luciano Pavarotti appeared at the event with a choir from his home town of Modena, Italy, and won first prize.

He said the experience inspired him to launch his singing career.

But the event’s latest financial report showed an increasing deficit in 2018 – from £5,860 in 2017 to £21,127 in 2018 – after “lower than expected sales” for some evening events.

The report states: “The trustees are very aware of the stringent financial restraints which will be necessary for the next few years and intend to monitor closely costs and sources of income to improve the financial status of the eisteddfod and secure its future sustainability.”

The festival has just received £75,000 from the Welsh Government’s major events unit to help with marketing over the next three years.

“Every year becomes a struggle I’m afraid,” Dr Davies said.

“[This year is] going to be very important because we need to engage with other supporters to make sure we can continue.

“It’s going to be a difficult [year] and I see the next few years are going to be particularly difficult.”

Dr Harry said he had plans for big changes to the event in future.

He warned some could find the changes “radical”.

“I certainly feel that the eisteddfod needs to come more modern and relevant to society in what it offers,” he said.

He added: “I don’t want to throw away traditional stuff, but I also feel that having had a look around at other festivals that are maybe not too far away in Liverpool and Manchester and places like that, there seems to be a more edgy quality to some of the offerings.

“And I think we can find a way of balancing the things that we do here traditionally alongside some more edgy acts if you like, or some more edgy events.

“There is no doubt that some people may feel that it is a bit radical.

Kylie Minogue: How our obsession is driving her success

Thirty-three years ago. That’s when Kylie Minogue first entered my life – and that of millions of teenagers – in the Australian soap Neighbours. It’s hard to believe it’s that long ago.

I watched her marry Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan) in 1988, alongside twenty million others.

I dread to think how many times I watched it on VHS. But looking back, it was early evidence that I, alongside the British public, had already taken Kylie to their hearts and that she had real marketing appeal.

More than three decades later, public affection for our adopted “pop princess” shows no sign of wavering after Sunday’s storming set on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage.

After appearing on stage to a blaze of Pride colours and mirrors – even Kylie seemed overwhelmed by the size of the crowd who’d come to watch.

“I’ve never seen a crowd like it. Ever. Everybody loves Kylie. You could feel it,” BBC Music presenter Lauren Laverne said after Kylie came off stage.

It’s exactly how I felt when I met Kylie last year when I was working at BBC Breakfast. She was as nice in real life as she appears on stage: kind, accepting and smiling.

But it takes more than niceness to achieve a music career that spans thirty years, an incredible feat when pop music can be transient and fleeting for many musicians.

To date, there have been; 7 UK Number 1 singles, 6 Number 1 Albums, 34 UK Top 10 singles.

How has she done it?

Building a career with such longevity is about more than just about pop music, it’s also about being a shrewd and clever business woman who is able to constantly reinvent herself.

Kylie’s career has seen many guises from squeaky teenage soap star, to a pop hit machine with Stock Aitken and Waterman (I Should Be So Lucky, Hand on Your Heart, Better the Devil You Know), to “indie Kylie” (Confide in Me, Where The Wild Roses Grow) and into “disco Kylie” (Spinning Around, Love at First Sight, Can’t Get You out of My Head).

The Glastonbury appearance was just her latest reinvention.

It hasn’t been easy the whole time. There has been music that didn’t resonate with the wider public outside of her fan base and periods when Kylie was simply not cool.

“She was unfashionable after Stock, Aitken and Waterman and at times it seemed like she was trying to find herself,” says Jo Elvin, Editor of You Magazine.

“But she has real resilience. That’s what people like. It took her a while to realise that being a pop princess was cool. When she accepted that, it’s when her own confidence evolved and everyone said ‘we love Kylie’ and she became a national treasure.”

The Glastonbury performance was partly about Kylie making sure she stays relevant, says Amy Thomson, a music artist manager and part of the Grammy Recording Academy.

“It was a triumph – but it also about her reinvesting in her future. People are talking about her again today. Brands will be talking about her again. Businesses will want to talk to her.”

Unpromising beginnings

But whilst I have always been a fan since her early days (my first seven-inch single bought from my local Asda was ‘Locomotion’!) not everyone was convinced.

“If you looked at the start of her career, on paper, it looked short lived,” says Eamonn Forde, a music business journalist.

He says her being picked up by Parlophone, alongside Coldplay, at the end of the 90’s sparked a huge change in how seriously she was taken.

By the dawn of the millennium Kylie reinvented herself again, with “Spinning Around” and her biggest single ever – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”.

It’s a reinvention that was well received when I witnessed her play at Privilege nightclub in Ibiza wearing those legendary gold hot-pants. “We loved it”.

But Mr Forde says these tunes weren’t just “throw-away pop songs” but the start of a new performance era.

“It began a very clever, well thought out progression and the start of huge shows that were and still are an incredible spectacle.”

For a majority of artists now, these shows are the main money-spinner out of everything they do.

People come to these shows and pay good money for their tickets, to see a performer – and that’s what you get with Kylie. I should know, it’s the reason I keep going back. I think I’m at twelve shows now.

“As much art is involved in writing songs as there is in performing them. Kylie might not write them all. But a great performer can take a great song somewhere else. People buy into that. And they buy into her,” adds Mr Forde.

Being a popstar is also about looking good, something that You Magazine editor Jo Elvin acknowledges Kylie has done – and continues to do very well.

But Ms Elvin says its Kylie’s professional approach to work which has really made her stand out.

“Kylie understands she is the pop person there to do her bit. She understands its business. There are no big pop star dramas.”

There are no reliable statistics, but being a pop star has obviously brought Kylie substantial riches. Music releases and arena tours have helped her amass sizeable wealth.

But her brand power is also a big part of her income. She has partnerships with opticians chain Specsavers and her own range of bedding, and has also done very lucrative private appearances for families and businesses in the Middle East.

Power secret

How broad the Kylie brand stretches was apparent in the crowd watching Kylie’s performance at Glastonbury.

A complete cross section of the population. Yes, the LGBT+ community were there in force who believe they have adopted her (we have!), but so were parents, children, guys and gals singing in the sunshine.

“In a music genre all about youth, she’s there and taking every audience with her all at once”, adds Eamonn Forde.

Taylor Swift v Scooter Braun: Personal or strictly business?

Taylor Swift has accused music mogul Scooter Braun of “bullying” after he bought most of the US pop star’s life’s work, thanks to his acquisition of her former record label Big Machine for $300m (£237m).

What is behind the dispute, and how do deals like this work? Let’s take a closer look a four key questions.

1) How can someone other than Taylor Swift own Taylor Swift’s songs in the first place?

When 14-year-old Swift moved to Nashville in 2004 to chase her dream of becoming a country pop star, she signed a record deal with Big Machine.

Label boss Scott Borchetta effectively gave the unproven singer a big cash advance in exchange for having ownership of the master recordings to her first six albums “in perpetuity” – in other words FOREVER.

This was fairly common practice in the days before music streaming and social media changed the industry. Tim Ingham from Music Business Worldwide explains: “The idea of a record company signing a new artist today and locking down all of their master recordings to copyrights in perpetuity is far less common.

“Unfortunately for Taylor Swift, she started recording at a time in the history of the industry when it was still heavily reliant on radio, where you needed a record company backing to get you on radio, particularly country radio in Nashville, where Big Machine was a huge player. And also, you needed to rely on physical distribution to get your CDs into stores. So she needed a record company to invest the amount of money that they had to invest to get her career off the ground.”

2) Why couldn’t Swift buy the rights to her own songs when she got rich and famous?

It seems she could’ve done – but this is where things get a bit murky.

Swift says she unsuccessfully “pleaded for a chance to own my work” for years. But Borchetta disputes those claims, saying she “had every chance in the world” to own her music, and that “she chose to leave”.

Ingham believes Swift could have afforded to buy back the rights. “She could have potentially raised some money, bought the label and then sold off the other masters, perhaps back to the artists [on the label] – or started her own label,” he says.

But the singer says the only opportunity she was offered to regain the rights was by signing another deal with Big Machine and “earning” one album back for every new one she produced. “I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future,” she says.

To add further spice to the story, Swift’s father is believed to own approximately 4% of Big Machine, a fact not lost on Braun’s wife Yael Cohen Braun. Some quick maths suggests Swift senior is in for around $12m of the Scooter Braun deal.

“Although she might be very personally upset about it,” says Ingham, “her father just had a an eight-figure sum added to his bank.”

Swift’s new deal with Universal’s Republic Records label – beginning with her seventh album Lover, which is released in August – is not likely to be anywhere near as onerous.

3) Is it personal between Swift and Braun? Or strictly business?

Aside from now owning Swift’s back catalogue, Braun also manages Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. Following Swift’s allegations of bullying, the Canadian singer leapt to his defence, saying Swift was just out “to get sympathy”.

Also in Braun’s talent stable is Swift’s old nemesis Kanye West, and a theory from Swift’s fans – aka The Swifties – on Twitter is that Braun bought the rights out of spite, after a feud between the performers that began when West stormed the stage when she accepted an award at the 2009 MTV VMAs. The rapper declared: “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you finish… but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

For Ingham this argument simply does not add up. “People do not spend $300m venture capital money with their primary motivation being that they just want to pee off a superstar,” he says.

Mark Sutherland, editor of trade publication Music Week, agrees that Braun’s bottom line would surely be the bottom line.

“All her albums have been phenomenally high-selling – some of the biggest-selling albums in recent pop history,” he says. “A lot of those songs are going to be a small goldmine in the streaming environment as they are enduring pop hits that are going to be streamed from now until the next 20, 30, 40 years.”

He adds: “A one-off hit doesn’t raise as much instant cash as it used to, but a hit that’s still being streamed decades into the future is going to pay for itself over and over and over again.”

Braun hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

4) Has a high-profile music rights case become so bad-tempered in public before?

For Michael Jackson, when it came to The Beatles, you simply couldn’t Beat It. So much so that he bought the publishing rights to their back catalogue back in 1985, but nobody knew about it until years later.

These days, very little remains private any more. “A few year ago, none of this Taylor Swift story would’ve played out in public,” says Sutherland.

“There would’ve been some legal letters flying around in the background and we’d probably have never heard of it. Obviously the rise of social media gives artists a much bigger platform than they’ve had before – and the executives maybe as well. I think it’s much easier these days to weigh in in public.

“Things that would once have been confined to legal offices are now much more out in the open. Borchetta’s published some of the details of their negations and I don’t think you’d have seen that even a few years ago.”

Ingham points to two other artists, Prince and George Michael, as examples of those who have taken on their record companies in the courts, to varying degrees of success. He suggests that had they had legions of online fans in those days, then the rich and famous singers might have got a fairer deal in the press.

“You might remember that very famous image of Prince with ‘slave’ written on his cheek,” he recalls. “The tabloids had a field day with that and there was almost zero sympathy for the artist. Now with social media, you get the undiluted un-spun message from the artists – they don’t need the mass media to get their message and their frustrations across.

“So if all of those millions of Swifties around the world are hearing direct from Taylor that this is an upsetting and unfair turn of events, then they’re going to tend to believe the person whose poster they have on their wall as opposed to the multi-millionaire in Nashville.”

Teni, feminist-humanist singer rises to stardom in Nigeria

A self-declared humanist, feminist, defender of the chubby — and a blossoming African talent into the bargain — Teni The Entertainer is surfing a superstar’s wave.

The 26-year-old Nigerian singer — full name Teniola Apata — is a breakout star whose performing and songwriting talents make her one of the continent’s hippest artists.

Nigerian singer and entertainer Teniola Apata aka Teni (C) takes part in a video shoot for a music video, in Lagos, on April 20, 2019. (Photo AFP)

Manager Edobor “Redman” is amazed to see how far Teni has come in a short time as he mulls over the hits she gets on her Instagram profile.

“Look! I posted this video on her Instagram account 30 minutes ago… and we hit 47,000 views already. It’s unbelievable!”

Few would have ever predicted such a meteoric rise to fame for Teni, the self-styled “vice-president of fat people association”, gleefully free from pressures dominating the entertainment industry to be slimmer or modelesque.

She prefers rakish headgear to the ultra smooth blow-dried hair extensions of other high-profile songbirds and jogging pants to miniskirts.

Strutting her stuff as a feminist tomboy and sassy superstar is not the easiest act to pull off in a patriarchal, conservative and strongly religious country — making Teni’s rise to fame all the more remarkable on the face of it.

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Yet for her, making it big time in the music business comes as no surprise.

Born into a family of musicians she was playing percussion from the age of just two. By four, she had performed before regional governors in Nigeria’s Yoruba west, from where she hails.

“If you take music away from me, I would die. Period,” she tells AFP.

Today, most of the country rocks to her hits such as “Case”, “Uyo Meyo” or “Askamaya”

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Her Instagram account has more than 1.5 million followers while her videos have been viewed around 10 million times on YouTube.

Domestic appreciation is one thing — but Teni has loftier goals, saying “wait till I fill up Wembley” stadium in London.

But she adds that real fame to her would be performing in South America.

“I want to go to a Latin country and they will sing my songs. Then you can say I am popular.

“God has given me a gift,” she says without false modesty. “He’s made me different for a reason. why would I rob the world of my greatness?”

– High heels v football –

And different from afro-pop stars she certainly is.

Her similarly successful sister Niniola more closely reflects conventional beauty ideals in Nigeria– often in trademark ultra high heels, fake eyelashes and long manicured nails.

“She’s always been a diva, very pretty, even when we grew up… (whereas) I would play soccer, basketball,” Teni says, speaking of her sibling with affection.

“The biggest fight a human being can fight is to be yourself,” she concludes — though that requires some guts in a country where “women are second class citizens.”

In ‘Case,’ a tale of street gang love, she tells the putative love interest: “I slap police for your Case, I go to war for your Case, I go to court for your Case … I punch the judge for your Case … anything you want baby, get for you baby.”

As part of pushing the envelope on cultural conventions, Teni doesn’t hesitate to portray menfolk as serving women — even as far as sending them out to buy sanitary towels in humorous videos.

Although that gives her an untypical image for a Nigerian woman she’s not sure it makes her a feminist.

“Is there a word for humanists?”, she asks to cover her world view.

“I just don’t want anyone to be treated badly — women, men, rich, poor… I don’t want anyone to be treated any less because they are less privileged.”

– ‘Just a regular girl’ –

Such talk is at odds with the kind of patter usually associated with the world of African music, where many singers prefer to show off private jets and bejewelled teeth than empathy with the less well-off.

Yet her approach goes down better than might be expected.

At this year’s Gidi Fest, one of the biggest festivals of contemporary African music which Lagos hosts annually, an audience of thousands roared its approval when, wearing trainers, she bounded on to the giant stage.

The cheers resounded again as she launched into some Shaku Shaku, a trendy street dance which has been dubbed Nigeria’s answer to Gangnam style.

Women profess to like her “because she is herself” while male fans say “she’s entertaining.”

“Teni is one of the hottest artists right now,” Gidi Fest co-founder Chin Okeke tells AFP. “She’s really great, super talented, with a beautiful voice and wonderful stage presence.”

“I saw her in concert in Accra, in Ghana, and Port Harcourt,” says Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, a journalist for Music in Africa.

“It’s really incredible — all you associate with Nigerian singers, she’s the opposite.

The Killers, Stormzy, Kylie Minogue, The Cure – who won Glastonbury?

The dust is settling, the debris is being cleared away and the cows are preparing to reclaim their rightful place on the Pilton pasture.

Glastonbury Festival is over for another year – but who came out on top as the weekend’s true superstars? We looked at the stats and the reactions.

The sales and streaming spikes

Kylie Minogue coincided her Pyramid Stage performance with the release of a greatest hits album, which is on course for top spot this week, according to the Official Chart Company.

Its sales will no doubt have been helped by her crowd-pleasing set – although it’s hard to know how many people bought it because of Glastonbury, and how many would have bought it anyway.

The Killers’ sales were certainly boosted by their electric headline set on Saturday – their Direct Hits album has jumped from 55 to number eight in this week’s chart update, with sales up 375%. And their debut album Hot Fuss is likely to return to the top 100 for the first time in two years, with sales up 357%.

Gang Signs and Prayer by Friday’s bill-topper Stormzy is on course to jump from 73 to 14, a sales boost of 314%.

The cut-off for the chart update was midnight on Sunday, so it doesn’t fully reflect any bump for that night’s headliners The Cure, whose Greatest Hits had seen a 137% increase by the end of the night and is also now in Apple’s iTunes top 10.

The TV ratings

Kylie had the biggest crowd of the weekend at Worthy Farm, and she also got the prime TV slot, with her joyous Sunday night performance broadcast on BBC One, guaranteeing it the biggest TV crowd too. It was the first time Glastonbury had been on BBC One for at least a decade.

  • 3.0 million – Kylie Minogue, 18:00 BST Sunday, BBC One
  • 1.4 million – The Killers, 21:00 Saturday, BBC Two
  • 1.2 million – The Cure, 21:00 Sunday, BBC Two
  • 1.1 million – Janet Jackson, 19:30 Saturday BBC Two
  • 800,000 – Stormzy, 21:50 Friday, BBC Two

Overnight viewing figures

The critics’ verdicts

A string of female stars provided highlights away from the main stage. US teenager Billie Eilish drew “the largest crowd I’ve seen at the Other Stage in years”, according to The Telegraph, and “delivered a performance worthy of a future Pyramid Headliner”, said the Evening Standard.

Pop party-starter Lizzo had “one of the most rapturous receptions of the weekend”, the Guardian declared, and “one of the most frenzied reactions of the festival so far”, according to The Independent.

Christine and the Queens‘ closing set on the Other Stage on Sunday set was “momentous” (Evening Standard) and “a new definition of what a headline set could be” (The Telegraph). And on the the John Peel stage, crossover Flamenco superstar Rosalia offered the kind of performance “a future headliner would provide” (The Independent).

But this year’s Pyramid heroes were also widely praised. On Saturday, The Killers‘ performance felt “genuinely victorious” (The Guardian). Their encore, when they were joined by the Pet Shop Boys and Johnny Marr, was “one of those elusive Glastonbury moments festivalgoers talk about so much, where the atmosphere and what is happening onstage collide to create something it is impossible to imagine happening anywhere else in the world”, the paper’s critic Alexis Petridis added.

The previous night, Stormzy‘s performance seemed “not merely a personal triumph but a victory lap for British hip-hop”, according to Petridis, while The Telegraph described it as “genuinely historic”.

The social media reactions

The Brit Award-winning grime star dominated the social media conversation, with more than five times as many mentions than the next most talked-about act, according to research firm Brandwatch.

  • Stormzy – 160,000 mentions
  • The Killers – 29,600
  • Miley Cyrus – 29,400
  • Kylie Minogue – 23,900
  • The Cure – 23,000

The company also looked at whether messages about the 15 top-billed acts were positive or negative. The artists with the highest proportion of positive mentions were:

  • Christine and the Queens – 96.3% positive
  • Vampire Weekend – 93.3%
  • The Cure – 91.9%
  • Janelle Monae – 90.7%
  • The Killers – 88.6%

Stormzy’s score was 64.27% – with the political content in his set accounting for many negative mentions, according to Brandwatch.

But some of the biggest winners weren’t musicians

Two of the breakout stars were not even on the bill.

Sir Lord King David Attenborough made a semi-surprise appearance on the Pyramid Stage shortly before Kylie Minogue’s set, and it was a close call as to who got the biggest reception.

Later, on the Other Stage, rapper Dave picked out one fan, who is now suddenly rivalling Sir David for legendary status. Alex Mann got up on stage to join Dave for his track Thiago Silva.

The performance even caught the attention of the Brazilian footballer who the song is named after.