Simmer slowly for one Sunday article: taking a closer look at the people (and companies) behind the beleaguered Boiler Room…

Last year, several companies in the dance music world ran into trouble. This shouldn’t be a surprise – a pandemic with an uncanny ability to effectively close down huge swathes of this sector will do that. So when Arts Council England announced a fund was being launched to effectively bail out the sector, lots of companies applied.

One of the companies which got what it wanted was Boiler Room (UK) Limited, to use their corporate name. They got £791,652 from the British taxpayer to continue streaming mixes. Incidentally, they only started paying the DJs who appeared on their platform back in June 2020 – something no doubt made easier by the fact no sod was appearing at the time.

Questions were asked at the time as to how Boiler Room was actually eligible for the money. One of the things businesses applying to Arts Council England had to prove was that they had a future – something I suspect they had difficulty with, given they posted a net operating loss of £1,299,656 up to 31st December 2019. The picture in 2018 was even bleaker, with an operating loss of £6,633,752.

Nonetheless, they were able to sway Arts Council England to give them some lovely British taxpayer money to help them out. But couldn’t their own shareholders help out? I headed over to Companies House and downloaded a PDF of their latest confirmation statement. It lists the shareholders in the company. Whilst there’s obviously nothing unusual about companies having shareholders, Boiler Room has a total of twelve – most of whom are in fact other companies.

Most of the shares in Boiler Room are owned by a Blaise Anthony Valentine Bellville, one of the site’s own founders. This public school boy from an artistocratic background mentioned in an interview with The Independent some years ago that he’s been involved in “far more businesses than I can count”. Which just raises questions about how successful those ventures actually were, and why he hasn’t got any money he can invest in his own company.

Another company in the list only came into existence last September – Sherbet Mirror Private Fund Limited, who are based in Jersey. In 2019, the Tax Justice Network rated the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey some of the most “aggressive” tax havens in the entire world.

Another company on the list called Connect Ventures Two LP claims to be a “thesis-led, pan-European seed stage VC”. The term “seed stage” presumably means investment from an early age – a bit of an odd statement given that Boiler Room is now over a decade old. And the “VC” bit? That stands for venture capital. Which is the same as what New York based Conegliano Ventures also do.

Mazdak Sanii is an investment banker who was previously involved with the company. He was a director at the company from October 2013 to October 2018. Jodie Nicholson was, for two years, the Managing Director at Boiler Room. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was personally responsible for eight different departments within the company at that time. She left in early 2020 and recently took a job as Head of Campaign Marketing at the Universal Music Group behemoth.

And as for Caius Pawson? He runs a record label called Young – who had to change their previous name Young Turks due to its unfortunate connotations with Armenian genocide.

Since Boiler Room got their grant money last year, I have still seen no valid explanation as to why they deserve it. Nightclubs had to stay closed and couldn’t have people in them. In comparison, Boiler Room could continue to put on events. Most of their business appears to consist of online streaming.

And plenty of DJs have managed to stream live sets during the pandemic from their own homes – Judge Jules gets knocked on this blog occasionally, but he turns up every week for his fans.

They could have even used clever computer software to add a crowd afterwards if they’d really wanted…

Are Universal, Warner and Sony facing an anti-competition probe? If a UK parliament’s streaming enquiry has its way, major label bosses won’t be sleeping easy!

The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee have filed their report on streaming, and my goodness – initial impressions are that it doesn’t hold back. 50/50 pay for artists and labels, equitable renumeration, issues with metadata – it’s all there. But what is the Government going to do now that it has a copy?

I’ll be reading the entire report for myself later. No doubt there are bits that haven’t been picked up yet. The things I do for my readers, eh? In the meantime, an MP has tweeted out the main points of the report below…

Point 13 is an interesting one. Brennan says “There is no doubt that the major music groups currently dominate the music industry. We recommend that the Government refer a case to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), to undertake a full market study into the economic impact of the majors’ dominance.”.

The prospect of a competition inquiry is going to have the majors terrified. Whilst the parliamentary committee was doing its work, more than one witness accused the majors of trying to blackmail artists into staying silent – saying their careers would be punished if they spoke out. That would be called tampering with witnesses anywhere else. I think people are entitled to know why none of the majors ever denied this very serious allegation…

It also explains why the British Phonographic Industry are doing their utmost to keep a calm front when replying to this report today. In reality, the idea of a competition inquiry has them spitting feathers – and a quick look on Companies House reveals just how closely involved the majors are with the BPI. It’s nothing more than their lapdog, and it senses its owners are scared their cosy little arrangement is under threat.

As I said, I’ll be reading the report in its entirety later today. I suspect I’ll be coming back to this one…

Get the entire Traxsource Top 100 for $20 and all you can listen to for $25 – but silence on this question: how is House Music Record Pool legal?

The tagline of Amateur’s House clearly states that I write about the stuff in dance music that others won’t. And here’s another one of those subjects that affects music producers all over the place, yet the dance music press seems curiously reluctant to cover.

Websites that, in exchange for a subscription, give away the music of artists and labels without having the rights to do so. One of those is House Music Record Pool.

Run by someone called Dominic Lewis, (otherwise known as DJ Sky Trini) the site claims to be “an online digital record pool, providing access to pre-release records, effectively playing and promoting new songs, getting the songs to ’break’ or catch on in your market”. Whoever wrote this stuff either doesn’t speak English very well, or they’ve done a weekend course on mastering word salads.

For those DJs who cannot be bothered actually paying for music from the stores, they offer three subscription packages. Starting from $25 per month, and go all the way up to $200 per year, they claim only to be available for “DJs” – yet there is no explanation as to how this rule is enforced or what they categorise as a DJ. Anyone stupid enough to hand over their money, perhaps?

Sky Trini poses as a person who loves “house music works”, according to his personal Facebook page – whilst seemingly denying one of his favourite labels the chance to make some money by selling over 500 acapellas in a single pack. Or his recent boast that he’ll sell you the entire Traxsource top 100 in any number of categories for just $20.

The website has no details on whether its services are legal. Are the artists and labels whose music is inside the record pool adequately compensated for the use of their music? And how do they obtain all this music that hasn’t been released yet? How many subscribers does this service have? How much money does he personally make from this service?

House Music Record Pool have been contacted for comment – they have not yet replied at the time of going to publication…

How are they still even in business? Mixmag’s owners own accounts show a loss of almost £5million – and that was BEFORE the pandemic hit

Here’s another story that you won’t read on Mixmag, or on any of their competitors. For some reason, there’s some kind of code in place which means they don’t say anything negative about each other – luckily for my readers, I don’t subscribe!

Mixmag’s owners, Wasted Talent, filed accounts with Companies House last year – and they don’t make nice reading for the beleaguered magazine. In 2018, they made a loss of £1.4million. In 2019, they exceeded themselves by managing to lose £4,828,988.

To give you some context, that’s enough money to book Peggy Gou for some 190 odd gigs, and you’d still have change afterwards. Or enough to get you some 2 million tracks on Beatport.

The most recent group of companies statement reveals that £3million of new money was invested into the business during March and April 2020. Accounts to the end of last year are not yet available – but I’ll be very interested to see how much the situation has changed for Mixmag’s owners.

All of their accounts can be found here, if you want a more detailed look.

Derrick May described women as “the conduit of life” last year – so why did he tell a 15 year old girl in 1989 that he’d kick her arse for five dollars?

A quick note before I begin – I thought it was time for a little change to the graphic that accompanies Derrick May posts on this blog. There’s just something about this one that really speaks to me. I just can’t put my finger on it…

Anyway, you might remember that May’s lawyer (who he hasn’t paid yet, by the way) released an utterly laughable statement claiming that women were the “conduits of life” and that anyone questioning his actions was a racist.

Yeah, that one. May wasn’t always the respectable soul towards women that he likes to portray himself as. Ask Matthew Cogger, who May signed to Transmat in the late 1980s. He sadly died in 2014 from cancer, but not before leaving us a whopper of a story.

According to an account given here before his death, Cogger and May were walking over to a shop when they came across a girl, whom Cogger believed to be around 15 years old. She told them that she would perform a sexual act for the sum of five dollars.

May’s response? He told the lady that he should be paid five dollars to kick her in the arse before calling her a bitch.

Real classy…

909 is the name of the machine, not its price! The depressing yet predictable tale of how Derrick May sold a stolen Roland drum machine to Frankie Knuckles to pay his rent

Derrick May is a master at telling stories. He’s remarkably good at it. Whether it’s because he genuinely believes they’re true or just because he knows he has a fairly charismatic personality, I don’t know.

Back in 2004, May gave an account of how Frankie Knuckles bought a Roland TR-909 from him. According to the DJ History archive, courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy…

How much of this story is true will almost certainly never be known. The one other person involved, Frankie Knuckles, sadly died in 2014. But there is one detail that I can confirm was omitted.

Derrick May had stolen the 909 from Juan Atkins and sold it to pay the rent. According to Eddie Fowlkes…

“Derrick was my roommate at the time. At one point Derrick stopped working so I was the only one to pay my half of the rent. One day I get home and Juan was there. I was tired and wanted to get to sleep. Then Juan wakes me up and says: “Fowlkes, Fowlkes! You know what this motherfucker did? Derrick went and gave away the fucking sound! He couldn’t pay his rent and sold his 909 to Frankie Knuckles in Chicago!” Juan was very protective of his sound and Derrick didn’t understand this.”

Not that I have much sympathy for Atkins at this point – it’s somewhat tempered by the fact the so-called Belleville Three purchased most of their equipment in the 1980s with their “earnings” from a credit card scam…

As Mixmag gets a pat on the back from The Drum, managing director says they don’t “shy away from telling the truth” – but is that REALLY so?

I see that Mixmag won some awards last week. Good for them. It’s always nice to be told you’ve done something good, although I find it highly curious how media organisations seem to want to be given awards for doing their jobs.

The awards they’ve won are in two categories. One is for the work they’ve done, courtesy of Funk Butcher (real name Kwame Safo), who highlighted how the Black Lives Matter movement related to dance music and the wider industry.

There are no qualms from me on this one. The work from Safo on this was nothing short of exceptional. I believe the issues were approached in a sensitive manner aiming to raise understanding. I do, however, question whether Mixmag has the bottle for what could be a very long campaign.

The second award is for an article by Annabel Ross which basically exposed how Erick Morillo got away with his appalling behaviour for so many years. You can read it here. What I found most shocking was not the details, but how long this had been going on for.

Whilst not directly quoting Mixmag’s managing director, the Drum’s article says:

“Mixmag’s Managing Director Nick Stevenson said the Morillo investigation was very much in the public interest. While it may not have the same infrastructure or budget as mainstream media outlets, he believes it is an editorial platform that does not shy away from telling the truth.”

Really?

So why does Mixmag have nothing to say about plague raves? Why do they never ask any difficult questions in any of their interviews? Why do they have nothing to say about serial abusers like Derrick May?

No, the truth is that Mixmag, like most of the dance music press, are failing in their duty. Their job is to hold the dance music world to account. It is not simply to tell us about drugs or about the latest release from an artist. They have a duty to inform their audience on what is really going on.

Yet the matter is – and this is not a situation unique to Mixmag – they are too close to the industry in order to report on it with any real objectively. If they run an unflattering article about an artist, nightclub or whatever, they run the risk of losing access to them.

Scared of being put on a blacklist, they’re cowed. It’s the same with most of the dance music press – they rarely bother to practice journalism anymore. There should be distance between those making the music and those writing about it, and it’s time that fact was remembered.

Yes, the exposé from Annabel Ross is extremely powerful work. The same with Kwame Safo. But this should be the norm in dance music, not merely the exception to what is a very dull magazine playing it safe.

EXCLUSIVE: Just what was the setup for Derrick May’s orchestral shows? Technical rider comes to light – but with no mention of whether the man himself can play

With May’s recent failure to complete a challenge where he had to prove that two instruments playing in a different key on the same song wouldn’t result in a horrific mess, the question has to be asked. Just who has been in on this?

The dance music press are probably aware of it, for starters. But I imagine there was more money in propagating the Belleville Three myth than in telling the truth – and I suspect that’s still the case.

Conductor Dzijan Emin would almost certainly have been made aware of the fact May cannot play. What is in question is when he found out. Was it at the very beginning, or did he only find out late in the day?

A number of emails have gone out to try and get these questions answered. I’ll hopefully be coming back to that one soon.

In the meantime, an anonymous friend (oh, how I love my anonymous friends!) has sent me this document. It makes interesting reading. It tells you what instruments are needed for the orchestral show, where they should be tuned to and so on.

The show is quite complicated to put on. Around 80 microphones are switched on at all times, with an orchestra which can have no less than 40 members, but no more than 67. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of monitoring that goes into doing a show of this size.

But what exactly does Derrick May do? Well, I was disappointed to learn that the rider does not stipulate that he uses a Fisher Price keyboard. No, the rider states he must be provided with a Yamaha Motif XF6 and a Nord Lead 3.

They must be also be wired into channels 48 and 49 – apparently part of a small stage desk. Presumably because May doesn’t actually do anything. He just seems to bash the keys randomly like an overexcited toddler, thinking he’s the next Miles Davis.

And what’s even more of a mystery is that May doesn’t seem to know the basics about how an orchestra works. In an interview with Mixmag in August 2019, he said:

“They [the orchestra] will not play over 90 minutes, most people are not aware of that. That’s the law in the orchestra business. 90 minutes. If they go any longer than that, it’s virtually impossible. They just will not do it.”

A cursory Google search reveals that this is nonsense. The majority of orchestral shows are between 90 minutes and 2 hours long, with an interval around the middle. Not for the first time, Derrick May is talking out of his excretory organ.

These shows were big, complicated juggernauts. A lot of people would have been involved. It’ll be interesting to see whether any of them wants to talk. My details can be found on my Contact Me page