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Behind the music: Does Music Matters really matter

A new initiative is highlighting the value of music to a generation that thinks it should be as freely available as tap water

Yesterday saw the launch of the industry initiative Music Matters. It's a two-pronged project with a range of short, animated films, illustrating how musicians have inspired and influenced people over the years. Currently, the artists featured are Blind Willie Johnson, John Martyn, Kate Bush, Sigur Ros, Nick Cave, Louis Armstrong, the Jam and the Fron Choir (who gave a beautifully moving performance at the launch).

The second part of the initiative is a trust mark, which will help music fans to identify if a site is legal. In a previous blog, I have advocated a Fair Trade mark for music sites that treat artists fairly. Though the Music Matters trust mark will not go that far, it's a step in the right direction. I sometimes meet fans who assume that professional-looking sites are legit – especially ones that charge a fee for downloads. This is not always the case.

But for the trust mark to work, we must first establish if music does, indeed, matter. If it does, it has an intrinsic value. I can only assume that, since you've taken the time to visit, then music matters to you. I became a musician because music was source of pure joy when I was growing up, and the first thing I turned to when I felt misunderstood and lonely.

That's why it surprised me to learn that 56% of the UK population didn't make a single music purchase in 2008. Does this mean that, to the majority of people, music is just not that important? According to the BPI's latest figures, the highest percentage of music buyers are aged between 30 and 39 (52% of them bought music in 2008). Only 34% of 12-19-year-olds bought music, but the ones who did spent the most on average.

It's true that music has to compete with many other forms of entertainment, more than ever before. Still, figures released this week by the Entertainment Retailers Association show that the recession has hit music less than other forms of entertainment retail. Volume-wise (ie, in units), music sales (including music DVDs) went down by 0.6% between 2008 and 2009 while videogames went down by 9.5%.

But music sales statistics don't necessarily say how much music matters to people – the value is also in how we listen. In Piers Morgan's recent interview with Simon Cowell, the music mogul admitted he would never sit down and just listen to an album, giving it his undivided attention. He just couldn't see the attraction in it. He obviously would not follow the instructions on Gil Scott-Heron's latest album (turn off your mobile phone, don't listen on a portable player or in the car, get rid of all distractions and listen all the way through). In a recent Panorama special on the Digital Economy Bill, the parents of teenagers who downloaded music illegally shrugged their shoulders, saying: "Well, it's just music, isn't it."

In the last few years, many "experts" have been saying that the music industry (note, by that I don't mean just the record industry) should make up the loss of revenue from recorded music by making money from merchandising, branding and synchs (advertising, games etc). Music manager Chris Morrison, who's involved with Music Matters, disagrees. "Try telling Damon Albarn and Grace Jones that they're brands."

The Music Matters initiative is trying to highlight that music has a value in itself. Morrison – who manages Blur, Gorillaz and Grace Jones – mentions the Radiohead In Rainbows pay-what-you-like model. "How offensive it would have been for someone to not pay a penny. Why do you want to have it if it doesn't hold any value to you?" he says. "It's not about how we slice the cake, it's about if there is a cake."

Some believe that because music is much more available than ever before, like water from a tap, it has become disposable. Many people who have tens of thousands of tracks on their hard drives barely listen to a fraction of them. When I was growing up I'd save money to buy an album. That gave music value in itself, and I'd listen to the same record for months, years even. I rarely bought merchandise – just music. So admittedly a campaign trying to establish that music matters seems, to people like me, like a campaign promoting breathing (Popjustice has already responded to the Why Music Matters campaign: "How about 'because it's fucking amazing'?").

Not everyone will have grown up with this relationship to music, however. Music Matters plans to show the short films in schools. If watching them inspires children, it would accomplish something important – it would remind them of music's intrinsic emotional value. It's a value that isn't mentioned enough in debates about the future of music, but it's why music matters to me.

Staggered music releases: time to close the window

The music industry is finally reassessing the custom of servicing songs to radio months before the record is legally available to download in a bid to combat piracy

Music downloads

The long pre-release window pushes fans toward piracy before an album is legally available to download on sites such as iTunes. Photograph: Martin Ruetschi/Corbis

A year and a half ago, Behind the Music brought up the problem of staggered releases, and how the custom of servicing songs to radio months before the record is legally available to download drives music fans to use illegal downloading sites. Last summer, I pointed out that acts like David Guetta lost sales to cover artists who released their own versions earlier than the original versions. Last week MusicTank organised a discussion involving Radio 1, NME, indie labels, the Official Chart Company and artist managers to discuss this issue. The event was called No.1 With a Bullet: Is Pre-Release Killing Our Business? Who says the music industry is slow to react to the internet?

To most people it seems obvious that fans will use any means available to them to get a track they like. So why do record labels still wait months to release a record that is gaining momentum? The labels say they're just doing what they have always done but blame the media for jumping the gun. Emily MacKay, reviews editor at NME, says they won't consider reviewing a single weeks after its been all over the internet. They're not the only ones. Newspapers, magazines, music bloggers and specialist radio shows: they all want to be the first to feature a new single. If they're the only place where fans can hear the record, even better.
The Guardian has had success with exclusive streams of Gorillaz's Plastic Beach and Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back, and there has been talk about how, in the future, every review would give you the chance to stream the record as you read it, providing the labels allow it. This would be a step in the right direction, though the fact that people often still have the option of downloading these records illegally to listen to them when they're offline remains.
Another reason the labels wait to release records is the power of the charts. Though George Ergatoudis, head of music for Radio 1, maintains that his station doesn't rely on the sales charts when they work out their playlists he says the majority of commercial radio stations do. "They look at Radio 1 and, secondly, to the charts." He says commercial radio stations decide when to add songs depending on what would gain the biggest audience. They want to minimise the risk element.
Getting an artist into the top 10 in the charts is the holy grail for labels, not just because of revenue (albums are still where labels make a decent return on their investments), but as it guarantees inclusion on the radio playlists. If a single enters the charts in the nether regions it's deemed a flop by radio and won't get playlisted. Without radio exposure there's much less chance of the record selling well, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company (OCC), says that today you have to sell 65% more units to become number one than in 2004 (17% more units than a year ago). Compare that to the US, a country with five times the UK population, where you can get to number one by selling just twice that amount.
This is a bigger problem for new artists than established ones. "It's important for new artists to build up familiarity," says Ergatoudis. "Established artists should probably release early." The hunger for a new Jay-Z or Coldplay record could easily push it to the top of the charts without any marketing build-up.
Sometimes it seems this marketing build-up gets longer and longer. At the end of last year, Radio 1 touted Ellie Goulding as being the newcomer most hotly tipped for stardom in 2010. She's had a high media profile ever since, yet her first single wasn't released until the last week of February. Pendulum's new single, Watercolour, was Zane Low's single of the week, last week – it's not due for release until 3 May. But if you Google the track you'll find that you can download it today from at least six different torrent sites.
The problem of pushing fans towards piracy also only applies to the first single of an album. Once the album is out, people can use à la carte music services like iTunes to download single tracks, sometimes dictating to the labels what the next single should be (Lady Gaga's Poker Face being an example, as the label had, allegedly, planned on releasing another track as a single at the time).
These are all valid reasons to close the pre-release gap, but just as the internet has opened up fantastic opportunities, piracy has changed the rules of the game. "What's going to happen when the first kid is up in court next year accused of falling foul of the Digital Economy Bill?" says Jon Webster, chief executive of the Music Managers' Forum. "If the pre-release window isn't closed they will be able to plead 'not guilty as I couldn't buy the music anywhere'. How's that going to make the music business look?"
So what can be done? If record labels work collectively to close the pre-release window it would go against the rules of free competition. Webster proposes a change to the chart rules. If there were a rule saying that as soon as a track goes to radio it's considered to be on sale, then everyone would have to adapt.
This, however, is a solution that the OCC is not too keen on. Will the record industry adjust itself without any intervention – or will we be having the same discussion again in another year and a half?

Net piracy puts 1.2m EU jobs in peril, study shows

Report reckons that in 2008 piracy cost the sector £10bn in lost revenues

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said that the growth of streaming of copyrighted works is a major threat to jobs in the creative industries. Photograph: Martin Argles/Guardian

A quarter of a million British jobs in the music, film, TV, software and other creative industries could be lost over the next five years if online piracy continues at its current rate, according to a study backed by European unions and the TUC.

Across the EU, as many as 1.2 million jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015, unless regulators can stem the flow. In 2008, the creative industries contributed €860bn to the EU's GDP – almost 7% – and they employ 6.5% of the EU workforce, or 14 million people.

As well as a clampdown on peer-to-peer filesharing of unlawfully copied material, the government has agreed with the Conservatives to put a new clause into the forthcoming bill that will deal with websites and online repositories used to store unlawfully copied material.

The survey, commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce, followed the publication by the Conservatives of their technology manifesto last week. The party pledged to create the fastest high-speed broadband network in Europe, creating 600,000 jobs and setting Britain up as a "European hub" for the digital and creative industries.

The survey, by independent Paris-based economics firm TERA Consultants, shows that Britain will be worst hit of the leading European countries not least because the creative industries account for more than 9% of GDP, a higher proportion than in other countries.

The core creative industries – film, TV, music, publishing and advertising – in the EU's 27 states added almost €560bn to GDP in 2008, roughly 4.5% of total European GDP, according to the report. The value added by the all industries connected with the creative sector – which includes distribution, logistics and hardware companies such as TV and set-top box manufacturers – was €860bn in 2008, an estimated 6.9% of total European GDP. In 2008 the core creative industries employed 8.5 million people, while the entire sector's workforce was 14 million.

Across the EU, 'Building a Digital Economy: The Importance of Saving Jobs in the EU's Creative Industries' reckons that in 2008 the creative industries most hit by piracy – film, TV series, recorded music and software – lost €10bn in retail revenues which contributed to the loss of more than 185,000 jobs. In the UK, retail revenues lost to piracy last year topped €1.4bn, with the creative industries shedding 39,000 jobs.

The survey has been endorsed by the British union groups including the TUC, Unite, Equity, the Musicians Union and Bectu as well as global arts union UNI MEI and the European Coordination of Independent Producers. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said the study stressed that "the growth of unauthorised downloading and streaming of copyrighted works was a major threat to the creative industries in terms of loss of employment and revenues. The scale of the problem is truly frightening now". – let alone in the future if no firm actions against illegal filesharing are taken. If there was ever the proof needed to demonstrate why the Digital Economy Bill is imperative for the protection of our creative industries, this report is it."

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the UK music industry body the BPI, added "we're approaching a tipping point where investment in our talent will dry up due to mass illegal downloading".

"That won't just be a problem for the music industry, or even the entertainment sector as a whole. It will do serious damage to the UK economy and destroy huge numbers of jobs."

The report comes after research from Skillset, the industry body which supports training in the media, warned that half of British media companies believe they have a 'skills gap', with a shortage of talent in crucial areas such as digital technology and broadcast engineering, as well as a lack of commercial knowledge in some areas.

Its report, Strategic Skills Assessment for the Creative Media Industries, shows that graduates now make up 73% of the workforce, compared to 66% in 2003, and more than half of their degrees are in media. But the proportion of people with relevant technical or vocational qualifications is a mere 7%.

One in four employers say more training is needed in multiplatform content and new technology, while one in 10 argue that greater management and leadership skills are a priority.

Contemporary music festival leads awards field

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival leads the field for this year's Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Music Awards with three nominations.

It is up against events including Jorg Widmann Focus, at London's Wigmore Hall, and Sounds Venezuela, at the Southbank Centre, for best festival.

Big names from the classical world on the shortlist for the live music awards include pianist Stephen Hough.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 12 May.

Completing the shortlist for best festival or concert series is the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's (CBSO) Stravinsky celebration, Igorfest.

Huddersfield is also nominated in the education category for a performance of Kristoffer Zeggers' Piano Phasing which featured 50 local pianists.

Un clou, son marteau, et le beton, by Canadian composer Pierre Alexandre Tramblay - premiered at Huddersfield in November - made the chamber-scale composition shortlist.

The CBSO, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Wigmore Hall all received two nominations each.

Hough competes against violinists Alina Ibragimova and Leonidas Kavakos for best instrumentalist.

Briton Oliver Knussen is up against Ukrainian Kirill Karabits and Latvian Andris Nelsons for best conductor.

Nominees in the best singer category will be announced the day before the ceremony.

Jack Bruce has ruled out another reunion

Jack Bruce has ruled out another reunion

Former Cream bassist Jack Bruce has said there won’t be any more gigs with the supergroup.

Speaking about his newly published biography, Composing Himself, Jack said he has moved on from his time with the outfit, which rose to heights before splitting in 1968 – after just over 2 years together.

The book details the highs and lows of his career, which spans over 5 decades; looking back on life on the road, his family tragedies and battles with drug addiction.

It also concentrates heavily on life in Cream. Jack explained that when the group began, they wanted their sound to be ground-breaking

“I think we were trying to forge a new musical language using what we knew – and what we were beginning to find out about music – for example blues and jazz.”

Despite writing and singing a lot of their big hits, including Sunshine of Your Love and White Room, he never felt like the frontman: “I think in the studio I had a lot to do with the production; but in the live shows, whoever took the lead, took the lead and we all tried to keep up. It was very competitive as well.”

“There’s a new story now – Cream is over.”
Jack Bruce

While Jack admits that spirit of competition spilled over into arguments, he says it was never as bad as it was made out to be: “It’s become a myth and a legend. I think that with lots of rock bands that if you’re sitting in a van or on a plane, you kind of disagree a bit.”

He also said that tension from the early days was still evident during the reunion gigs of the last decade; “There was one argument where I mis-remembered the phrasing of one of the songs. Ginger said ‘You’ve got that wrong’, and I said ‘No I haven’t’.

But Jack says his approach to conflict was different this time round; “I thought about it and realised he was right and I apologised, so everything was alright.”

While the band last played together in 2005, when they reunited for a series of shows, Jack is adamant there won’t be any in the years to come. “There’s a new story now – Cream is over.”

Jack Bruce was pleased to reveal he has other plans on the horizon, although he was tight-lipped on the details.

“I’m doing something very exciting – so much so I can’t even talk about it. It’s the most exciting project I’ve ever been involved in.”

Chilis star wins Axe Factor

John Frusciante beats Slash and Johnny Marr to be crowned modern guitar hero

John Frusciante

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has topped 6 Music's Axe Factor poll to find the best guitarist of the last 30 years.

Frusciante, who left the group in 2008, beat Guns n' Roses star Slash, Muse's Matt Bellamy and Johnny Marr of The Smiths to the top spot.

Prince, Jack White, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and REM's Peter Buck were also near the top. But Noel Gallagher, The Edge and Kurt Cobain did not make the top 10.

Some 30,000 people voted for their modern guitar hero from a list of 40 contenders.

6 Music breakfast host Shaun Keaveny said of Frusciante: "His range, from minimalist melody lines, through choppy Hendrixian chord voicings all the way up to 11 with wailing metal tinged blues, gives him the edge over many in the list. For that I salute him."

And 6's Steve Lamacq said the list proved that "you have to be a little unhinged to be a true guitar hero".

"There's an underlying madness about their work, but with the renewed interest in these guitarists, thanks to various computer games, this is a very timely and revealing litmus test of who our audience really admire," he said.

Frusciante released his 10th solo album last year and is also part of the band Swahili Blonde with Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and vocalist Nicole Turley.

"I'm just very grateful and try not to screw up."

Johnny Marr

Slash, who came second, is releasing his debut solo album, featuring contributions from Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop, Dave Grohl, Kid Rock and Fergie from Black Eyed Peas.

"All the guys who I consider guitar legends are the pioneers of electric guitar, rock 'n' roll guitar and blues guitar as well," he said recently.

"So I'm still struggling to keep up. I definitely don't put myself in the legend category."

Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who was also on the list of 40 contenders, said his vote went to Johnny Marr.

"I used to just sit in front of the TV and video everything - whenever he was on Top of the Pops or The Tube," he told 6 Music.

"Whatever he was on, I just freeze framed it and saw, well, his hand's there. There are a million different tricks he used to do - it was a massive education for me."

Marr came fourth and said it was "incredible" to be considered one of the greats. "The greatest accolade is for people you respect to respect you and to influence you," he said.

"But I can't think about it too much because you would need to have some gargantuan ego to analyse it. I'm just very grateful and try not to screw up."

Blur record new material

New track to appear on limited edition vinyl to support local record shops


Blur have gone back into the studio to record their first new material as a four-piece for eight years.

A new track will be released as a seven-inch vinyl single for Record Store Day on 17 April, and will be limited to 1,000 copies.

Damon Albarn said: "We want independent record stores to continue - they're an important part of our musical culture.

"Music is a simple way for Blur to show our support and I hope people like it."

Record Store Day is intended to support independent record shops and the single will only be available from participating outlets.

Recent figures showed that there are now just 269 independent record shops in the UK - a third of the number there were five years ago.

Blur's record label EMI said further details would be released next week and that there are currently no plans to release the track on any other formats.

The studio session comes after the band's successful reunion last summer, which saw the group play major shows at London's Hyde Park and the Glastonbury and T in the Park festivals.

It will fuel speculation about a possible new album from the Britpop favourites.

"It's literally two weeks from being recorded to turnaround to being in shops - I've no idea how they're going to get into shops."

Spencer Hickman, Record Store Day

Spencer Hickman, who runs Record Store Day and the Rough Trade East shop in London, said the release would be a big boost.

"Blur went into the studio a couple of weeks ago," he told 6 Music. "It's so close to the wire - it's literally two weeks from being recorded to turnaround to being in shops. I've no idea how they're going to get into shops. But we're confident that they will.

"They obviously think the track is good enough to release, which is exciting in itself, especially as nobody had any inking that they'd gone back into the studio.

"For bands of that stature to do something like that for record store day can only help us grow."

The single will be part of a series of limited editions released by Parlophone Records to support the event.

The records, in vintage-style wrapping, will also include tracks by The Beatles, Bat For Lashes, the Pet Shop Boys, Hot Chip, Babyshambles and Lily Allen.

There will also be exclusive UK releases by The Rolling Stones, the Flaming Lips, Jimi Hendrix, the Stone Roses, MGMT and Goldfrapp.

Record shops across the UK will also be hosting in-store gigs by the likes of Ash, Laurie Anderson, The Paddingtons and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Tributes to Malcolm McLaren

New York Dolls will pay tribute at shows this month

Malcolm McLaren

New York Dolls frontman Sylvain Sylvain has told 6 Music the band will pay tribute at live shows to the Sex Pistols' former manager Malcolm Malcolm who died on Thursday, aged 64.

Pistols frontman John Lydon and McLaren's ex-wife, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood led the tributes yesterday.

Lydon signed his note using his band name Johnny Rotten: "For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that.

"Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you."

Dame Vivienne described him as a "very charismatic, special and talented person".

McLaren died in a Swiss hospital on Thursday, after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma, last October.

McLaren and Dame Vivienne's son Joseph Corre said his father was "the original punk rocker" who "revolutionised the world".

"He's somebody I'm incredibly proud of. He's a real beacon of a man for people to look up to," he added.

"Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk."

Journalist Jon Savage

Sylvain Sylvain confirmed New York Dolls will be paying tribute to McLaren at their London show on April 19th:

"We have to dedicate (to him) just for his great vision and inspiration to introduce this music to the whole world.

"I think we'll do Jet Boy. He was the Jet Boy with the personality crisis... god bless Malcolm and light a candle to him so he can shine like a star." 

The music industry has been vocal in its tributes, with Creation Records founder Alan McGee describing his late friend as a "visionary".

Sylvain agrees: "Malcolm wasn't out to shock, personally, but being in the clothing business and all that, you have to be a visionary. You have to be like five to ten years ahead of anybody else."

Music journalist Jon Savage said: "Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk.

"He's one of the rare individuals who had a huge impact on the cultural and social life of this nation."

Savage, who wrote a definitive history of the Sex Pistols and punk, England's Dreaming, said McLaren was a "complex" and "contradictory" character who had influenced British culture in many ways.

"What he did with fashion and music was extraordinary. He was a revolutionary."

David Johansen, also from New York Dolls, said he was "a marvellous amalgam of exuberation, sensuality, culture and literacy".

"All of this was salted with the essential recognition of his own rascality. He was the perfect preservation against stuffiness and a lack of humanity. We are going to miss him terribly."

Anti-piracy law passed

Serial file-sharers could be suspended from the internet under new powers

Feargal Sharkey

New anti-piracy measures are to become law after the government's Digital Economy Bill was approved by Parliament.

The bill, which has been passed by the House of Lords and House of Commons, will include powers to send warning letters to file-sharers - and suspend their internet account or throttle their bandwidth if they do not stop.

It could also see websites hosting unlicensed music and films being blocked.

The music industry has hailed it as a victory for the rights of artists and record labels, but opponents say it is draconian and will be impossible to police.

As well as introducing the anti-piracy rules, the government has told the music and internet industries to give fans more attractive legal alternatives to file-sharing.

Innovative legal download services must be developed urgently, according to UK Music chief executive Feargal Sharkey.

UK Music represents record labels, songwriters and managers, and Sharkey said all sides must now get back to hammering out such deals.

“Over the next couple of days I would like to genuinely reach out to the ISPs and technology companies – we need to sit down as quickly as possible and start developing these new services,” he told 6 Music.

“Personally I’m very happy to give people whatever music they want on whatever platform they want it.

"I’m throwing down a gauntlet to all of us and I hope that really quickly we can now get down to business."

Feargal Sharkey

“It’s going to take all of us – the music industry, the games industry, the film industry, the ISPs, the technology companies.

“It’s a challenge and I’m throwing down a gauntlet to all of us and I hope that really quickly we can now get down to business.”

But plans to offer unlimited legal downloads for a flat monthly fee remain stuck on the drawing board.

Virgin Media is among the ISPs that have tried to launch an "all you can eat" offer - however that has stalled because record labels are worried about how big their cut would be.

Some companies were waiting to see the progress of the new Digital Economy Bill, Sharkey said.

“Clearly the legislation disrupted things because some people wanted to sit and wait to see what the outcome was going to be,” the former Undertones singer said.

“I’m hoping that very quickly we can get back to doing what should be the most exciting thing we should be doing over the next nine to12 months – making sure we can press whatever button we want, turn whatever tap we want and all this extraordinary music will come out of it.”

In October, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said anti-piracy laws would “only ever be part of the solution”.

“The best long-term solution is there in front of our noses. It’s the market – but it has to be a market in which those who love music and film, for example, can find a deal that makes breaking the law an unnecessary risk,” he said.

“I know how complicated building these networks and services can be, but in that respect, the industry needs to move faster in a much more agile, commercial and market response orientated way to help itself.”

Edison Chen still a favourite with youths

Perhaps time does heal wounds. Two years since his online sex photos frenzy, Hong Kong actor-singer Edison Chen's popularity with college kids shows no signs of waning, or at least recovered since the 2008 scandal crashed his career to a halt.

Currently based in Los Angeles, the 29-year-old recently guested on Taiwanese variety Da Xue Sheng Le Mei, a talkshow catering to university students in the country, where the warm reception proved his seemingly unperturbed status as an idol to youths, regardless of gender.

The female undergrads in the audience switched from their usual lacklustre get-ups to mini skirts. When host Matilda Tao invited one of them to sing the classic ballad 'Listen to the Sea' at Edison, she blushed so much she couldn't continue after two lines.

The male collegians, on the other hand, were in awe of the man and crowned him "fashion god". Some revealed they own clothes from the Chinese-Canadian star's fashion label, which prompted Edison to invite the students present to the opening of his new Taiwan store.

And he kept his word. His manager later asked for the namelist of all the undergrads who were at the recording from the show's producer.

Sources said Edison wasn't as uptight as his previous public appearances since the 2008 incident, believed to be due to a studio being closed to the media. His management had requested for reporters to be barred.

Jay Chou's not invited to Patty Hou's wedding

Jay Chou might have indicated his willingness to attend his ex-girlfriend's wedding, but Patty Hou confirmed that the superstar will not be invited to the "simple affair".

Appearing at a Shanghai event with her mother on Wednesday, a glowing Patty talked candidly about her recent engagement to Ken Huang, a vice-president at Citigroup.

She said, "I've gone through a period of time when all eyes were on me (referring to her past relationship with singer-actor Jay which ended in 2006). Now the elders and I feel we should keep a low profile."

The 32-year-old declared that she would update the media about her marriage and requested privacy for her fiancé, who is not a public figure.

Wedding plans are "still in discussion," but it should happen in the next few months and only relatives and close friends would be invited.

Reporters were of course curious if former lover Jay would be present and she straightforwardly remarked, "He's too big a star, better not trouble him. Moreover, we're all busy, so the wedding will not have celebrity friends."

Another reason cited for an affair void of star power is that Patty hopes the attention will be on the couple.

When questions inevitably ended up on the topic of her rumoured pregnancy, the former news anchor flatly denied it, saying plans for a kid would start only "after one or two years."

"I love my job, and I wish to continue working." Patty quipped.

Although she has no plans on being a domestic goddess now, Patty reassured that her child would rank top on her priorities-when she has one.

Hacken Lee welcomes second son, Rex

A second son has arrived for Hong Kong Cantopop singer Hacken Lee.

Hacken's wife, Emily Lo, gave birth to the 3.3 kg baby boy named Rex by Caesarean section last week. The second-time father emailed the media to share his joyous news earlier this week on Tuesday.

In the email, he wrote, "Like the last time when 'big boss' (his two-year-old firstborn, Ryan) was born, I was in the delivery room to support [my wife] for the birth of the 'second boss' (Rex) last week."

He shared that both mother and child are fine. Emily was discharged last Wednesday.

The 42-year-old married his longtime girlfriend Emily, who is also 1992's Miss Hong Kong, in 2006. The actor-singer will resume work in May.