GMA: Is This the End?

Another GMA week ended for me about an hour ago. As I sit here in the Panera Bread restaurant in downtown Nashville that has been my satellite office this week (the day these guys set up shop in the UK, my days of using Starbucks as my ‘office away from home’ are over – or at least numbered), I can’t help but wonder where it all went wrong.

I’d already written my post-GMA blog/note in my head months ago, back when I had the initial signs that this GMA was going to be a bit of a problem. It was to be an open letter to John W. Styll, the President of the Gospel Music Association. I was going to ask him if he remembered me, the British reporter who’d interviewed him the previous year – an interview that was heard across London and the rest of the UK on Premier Radio.

Then I’d point out to him that I’d been unable to do the same thing this year because he and his crew had come to the conclusion that us reporters weren’t covering their precious convention and so were now charging us something in the region of $200 for the privilege of doing our jobs (jobs which don’t pay a great deal, to be honest). By charging us to work (in the midst of a credit crunch), the GMA were, in my mind, cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Well, there’s no need to publish that letter now. Turns out us journo scum weren’t the only people getting short shrift from the Association – or the only people voting with our feet/wallets. Attendance figures here were down to about a third of the usual figure. Only 40 media outlets paid for press passes (I’m told). There were journalists here – but like myself, they’d all refused to buy passes, and simply contacted publicists directly and set up their own interviews, completely bypassing GMA in the process.

Independent labels turned up, found an empty space in the lobby at either the Renaissance or the Hilton, and networked as usual. Like us journalists, the other industry people discovered that they could make things happen for themselves without GMA’s help. In trying to milk us for money, GMA just showed us that we really didn’t need them in order to do business. On the “Disastrous Own Goal” scale, only Andres Escobar at the 1994 World Cup could possibly rank higher. And like Escobar’s, this own goal has probably cost the GMA its life.

But I don’t want to bury the GMA just yet. All week, there have been rumours flying around that this is going to be the last GMA ever. It would be a shame if that were the case. Yes, we all now know we can do business with or without them (in an age where just about every contact or business tip you need is freely available on the Internet, how did it take us this long to figure that out?), but one thing GMA has consistently done is provide a space where we can all meet. Not via email, Skype, phone or video conferencing (or whatever), but in person. And it would be a shame if we lost that.

Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I still believe there’s a place for in-person, face-to-face, smell-the-other-guy’s-breath-on-your-face meetings; for human contact. As someone who could easily do most of his work without ever setting foot outside his flat, I for one do appreciate those times when I can combine work with a little socialising. If that’s the only function GMA ends up serving, then so be it. But the organisation definitely needs a re-think of its purpose. If it doesn’t learn that from this year’s abysmal turnout, then maybe it does deserve to die.

Delhi: It’s All About the Boom-boom

Well, I’ve now been in Delhi four days. And I’m pleased to report that I’ve had no tummy problems at all so far – despite the fact that I’ve been deliberately eating the spiciest food on offer in an attempt to shift the cold symptoms that have bugged me since I landed here.

It’s an interesting time to be in India – and especially in Delhi. The country goes to the polls on the 7th of May, so there’s a lot of electioneering going on. Meanwhile, Delhi is preparing to host the Commonwealth games next year, and so huge chunks of the city are under construction. It’s kind of disconcerting when you can see the massive amount of work being done to extend the Delhi Metro, just across from the squalid slum you’re standing in the middle of. That aside, Delhi is a vibrant, lovely place, full of zindagi (life).

On Tuesday, we started painting Asha’s community centre in Zakhira – under the watchful eye of Claire, who works in an art gallery back home. We did a little more painting on Wednesday, but in the morning I had my first up-close look at slum life when five of us visited Zakhira. Ranee (the lady who runs things in the centre) showed five of us round.

One of Ranee’s many jobs is training up CHV’s (community health volunteers) who then pass on their knowledge of hygiene and basic health care on to the slum dwellers. Asha’s achievements here have been amazing. For example, the number of TB sufferers in Zakhira is now just three, as opposed to 35 when they set up shop here. Asha also does a lot of advocacy on behalf of slum dwellers, and on many occasions have prevented them from losing their homes.

On Wednesday afternoon, there was a prayer meeting at the community centre. After it finished, I got to have a go at Indian drumming. I think I handled the drum okay; I was channelling every bhangra track or Bollywood tune I’ve ever heard! In Indian drumming, it’s all about the “Boom-boom”. That’s the base. Boom-boom. A-boom-boom. Boom-boom, taka-taka, boom-boom. Acha!

Well, we’re busy painting the centre’s IT Room today – which means I’ll have to unplug this computer in a minute so we can get to the walls. So I’ll sign off for now – and will most likely be back at some point during our Easter break.

Swaziland: Day 6

Saturday, sometime…

We checked out of Maguga Lodge this morning and headed south to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland. Tomorrow we’ll be in Manzini, not too far away, where Zakes’ church is situated. For the rest of our stay, we’ll be based at the Emafini Conference Centre, a hotel/conference facility owned by a Christian family who’ve been in the hotel business a long time.

On the way to Mbabane, we passed by Teen Challenge’s Hawane Life Skills Centre and HIV/Aids care facility. Teen Challenge is one of SP’s partners in Swaziland; the centre has a set of homes in which children affected by HIV/Aids live in a ‘normal’ family setup (i.e. in a home with house parents). There’s a clinic and hospital and lots of other stuff.

After visiting the Teen Challenge place, we stopped in Mbabane’s town centre and had a look around two enormous malls facing each other from opposite ends of the street. The new one may have been more flash, but we reckoned the older one had more character.  I bought a few touristy things in the mall; it had a shop called African Fantasy, which sold some interesting stuff. I also located several music shops and bought a few CDs. Couldn’t find a decent Kwaito compilation, though; maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. But I did find a CD by a South African artist I’d never heard of before with yet another cover of ‘Here I Am to Worship’ on it. I didn’t buy it. I love Tim Hughes to bits, but do we really need another cover of that song? In Africa, of all places??

After the shopping trip and lunch, we visited Swaziland’s national museum and the Memorial to King Sobhuza II. It was interesting seeing King Sobhuza’s cars: a couple of Cadillacs and a Buick. The Caddies looked really dated; thankfully, they weren’t as tastelessly ‘pimped’ as the last Caddy I saw in a museum (Isaac Hayes’ shiny blue, sheepskin-carpeted, golden-rimmed jobbie in the Stax Museum of Soul Music, that was. That car is the reason for the phrase “too bloody much!”).

I have to say I felt a bit sorry for the guard who has to spend hours in the blazing heat guarding the mausoleum the King was laid in state in when he died. He’s not there anymore (buried in the sacred mountain nearby, along with all the other previous Swazi kings), which made standing for hours in the sweltering heat seem even more pointless. It’s a culture thing, I guess…

Things I’ve learnt from watching ‘American Idol’ auditions

1. No matter how rubbish a human being you are, your mama will always love you. Which makes her the wrong person to go to for a brutally honest appraisal of your abilities…

2. Science and music don’t mix – unless you’re Brian May.

3. No-one with a normal family life (parents stayed married and are still alive with no terminal illnesses) ever made it in the music business.

4. Obama may be President, but if you’re slightly ‘ethnic’ your chances of making it as a pop idol are still very slim…unless you decide to become a Hung – I mean a clown.

5. One of these two statements has some truth to it:
i) “Women love men who are mean to them.”
ii) “American women love guys with British accents.”
I’m just not sure which one it is…

6. Only Janis Joplin can sing a Janis Joplin song. The same goes for Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin… and nobody should ever attempt the high note in Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’.

7. There is a strange sort of pleasure to be derived from watching other people make fools of themselves (please note – I’m not saying that this is a good thing!).

MIDEM ’09: Day 4 – final thoughts…

Wednesday, Nice Cote d’Azur airport terminal; just past 7pm:

Well, that’s it for my second MIDEM. A very intense, very interesting four days. Before I go into summing up my last bits of business, a recap of yesterday – which was, for the most part, a fun day. Busy, but fun.

On the concert front, my two highlights of the day were Ndidi Onukwulu and Duke Special. Ndidi played at Magic Mirrors in the afternoon; a lovely, slightly quirky, very uplifting set. If I were going to do the lazy comparison thing, I’d call her a Corinne Bailey Rae with a little country music and Negro spiritual thrown in. At the press conference after her gig, Ndidi admitted that her musical influences were primarily North American, having been born and raised in British Columbia. But then when she and I had a little chat afterwards, she explained how a little Nigerian-ness does work its way into her music… but I’m saving that for when I write a proper interview piece on her.

Duke Special played the Méditeranée in the early evening, as part of the ‘New Music from Northern Ireland’ programme. Before I go on, am I allowed to make fun of the Irish? It’s just that I overheard this really funny conversation between a few Irish blokes on my way to see Duke Special. Here’s what happened: I’m walking towards the venue when the guy walking behind me sees two friends of his coming out of the venue and heading towards us. So he says to them, “Hasn’t it started yet?”
They reply, “It has. We’ve just popped out for a fag.”
He replies, “But there’s a smoking area up there! You didn’t need to come down all this way just to smoke.”
To which they reply: “Yeah, we know. But we wanted some fresh air!”

Maybe it’s just me. But wanting to smoke and have fresh air at the same time just sounds like a very “Irish” thing to say (look – I know I’m in trouble already, so I might as well just say what I thought and wait bravely for the ‘Paddy-slap’ I’m going to get for this).

Where was I? Yeah, Duke Special gig. Only half an hour long, but fantastic – that combination of mad theatrics and heartfelt, touching songs that shouldn’t work together but do. It ended with just enough time for me to go back to the exhibition area and do a quick set of voxpops amongst the American delegates (and hangers-on) who had congregated around the A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) stand for their Obama inauguration party.

That was yesterday. The only real bit of work I did today was attend the Press Breakfast with Dominique Leguern, the Director of MIDEM. Dominique’s overview of the event confirmed a lot of what people had suspected… and displayed a rather interesting take on the industry’s challenges.

First, the figures. A total of 8,000 people from 23 different countries attended MIDEM this year. That’s 1,000 less than last year’s attendance was. There were 250 exhibitors and 300 artists performing at various showcases. When asked what she felt the reasons for the declining attendance were, Dominique gave a quote from Chuck D of Public Enemy: “This is not a music industry crisis; it’s a CD crisis.”

According to her, the biggest fall in attendance was amongst people who deal in more ‘physical’ forms of music production – CD manufacturers, for example. In fact, of all the industry heads who spoke throughout the conference, Dominique came the closest to saying that the CD was on its way out. “The industry has turned a page,” she said. “Here in France, physical music sales have dropped by 60% over the last six years. What’s happening here at MIDEM is just mirroring that.”

Other reasons for the fall in attendance were companies sending fewer staff members, and record companies with no new releases simply opting to stay at home until they had something to sell. And while attendance might be down amongst those selling music the old-school way, those involved in digital distribution were going from strength to strength. Dominique had glowing words for the new acts showcased via MIDEM Talent – especially Charlie Winston. I met Charlie yesterday, and can confirm that he’s a cool bloke – and I have an exclusive CD of his!

Yes, it’s definitely been worth my while coming out here. Numbers may be falling, but MIDEM is still an overwhelming event in terms of its size and scope. And according to Harvey Goldsmith, the falling numbers aren’t necessarily bad news. “I don’t worry if there are 8,000 or 8,000,000 people at MIDEM,” he said. “It’s the quality of the attendance that interests me.”

I can kind of see Harvey’s point. I’m certainly taking less unwanted rubbish home with me this time round than I did the last time I was here! And it would also explain why I didn’t see any of the thing that bothered me the most about my last MIDEM: the Bio In The Bog.

Last time I was at MIDEM, I noticed that whenever I visited the Gents’ loo, I was always finding someone’s bio or demo that had just been discarded there. Some even had hand-written covering letters addressed to specific people! I spend a fair bit of my time telling would-be artists to put real effort into the bios and demo material they pass on to people. And to see someone go through all that hard work, then pay the ridiculous amount it costs to come to an event like this, give their hard work to someone, only for that person to dump it in the loo (no pun intended)… it just seemed wrong. Still, when I ran out of cassettes to record press conferences and interviews on, I knew where I could find some spares! So that’s been one big change between my last MIDEM experience and this one. Also, at my last MIDEM (1995, if I haven’t already said when it was), Jonathan King was one of the guest speakers, and he really seemed to enjoy his role as the major labels’ Rottweiler. There’s no chance of that happening again…

Of course, now that I’m sitting here typing this, I’m wishing I’d interviewed the bloke who came up to me in the Press Club this afternoon as I was trying to stick my MIDEM photos onto Facebook, and introduced himself as a representative of the Pan-African Film Festival taking place in Cannes in April. Still, I’ve got his email address.

Home, here I come…

MIDEM ’09: Day 3 – morning…

Tuesday morning, 10.15-ish:

It’s still looking dreary in Cannes this morning – but at least it’s not raining. I have at least two and a half hours before my first big appointment for today, so I’ll recap on the rest of yesterday – starting with the gigs I saw.

Best of the evening had to be Monica Giraldo’s MIDEM Talent showcase at Magic Mirrors. Monica’s from Colombia; a new act and a recent Latin Grammy winner who sings, plays guitar and can handle traditional Colombian (read “African”) drums very well indeed. She sang with a three-piece band and was absolutely fantastic. Estoy totalmente enamorado – with her music, that is… Earlier in the day, I’d met a guy from her record label and he’d given me a copy of her debut CD. I will be playing that quite a lot, I reckon…

About eight or so British acts played as part of the ‘British at MIDEM’ line-up in the Ambassadeurs and Méditerranée venues in the Palais des Festivals. In the end, Paolo Nutini didn’t make it to Cannes, but Seth Lakeman was blazing! Pity I had to leave early to catch the last train home – only to discover there were no trains going my way anyway! So since I would have to take a taxi home (and therefore it didn’t matter when I left) I headed back to the Palais to see Jamie Cullum, who was headlining the British line-up. Halfway through his “swingified” version of Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music, I began to think that my more hardcore jazz-loving friends might have a point when they say he’s a one-trick pony. I stayed for a couple more songs, then left. Prior to arriving at MIDEM, I’d been all stoked up to see the Bomb Squad. But there was no way I was going to hang around here until 3am, or whatever unearthly hour the Electronica night was scheduled to finish.

I met a few more interesting people yesterday (the cocktail parties different exhibitors put on are great for that). Hanging around the Norway stand, eating chorizos and having my first taste of Linie (how does anybody drink that stuff and stand upright afterwards?), I met Jan – a friendly Canadian who runs a record label, an online radio/TV channel, and also works as a voice coach to singers. This is his 19th MIDEM; his first one coincided with the Gulf war kicking off (“Our plane in to Nice had a military escort,” he recalls). Jan confirmed yet again that MIDEM has scaled down this year – and that it’s not just a new thing because of the world’s economy, but that it has shrunk steadily over the years. And speaking of money – or more precisely, the lack of it – the issue of who gets how much was a big talking point here yesterday.

The first thing you see as you walk in to the Palais des Festivals is the enormous Napster banner draped across the front. It’s even bigger than the “Welcome to MIDEM” signs next to it. Many of us can remember the days when the music industry regarded Napster as Public Enemy No. 1. They may have gone legit (and, let’s be honest, totally overshadowed by the monster that is iTunes), but the file-sharing that made Napster’s name is still regarded as a problem by many in the industry. But the industry has had to learn to live with it. Which brings a new problem: How does the industry make money if they’ve accepted that people want free music, and more and more platforms are opening up to provide them music for (apparently) nothing? That was the issue under discussion at the Mobile Entertainment Forum’s workshop titled Music That Feels Like It’s Free – But What Does It Actually Cost?

Eric Nicoli, a former EMI boss, summed the industry’s predicament up pretty well. “Any company that relies on music sales will be exceedingly challenged,” he said. But Tim Clark (Robbie Williams’ manager) didn’t have much sympathy for record companies. “How can the major record companies justify taking 90% of the revenue and leaving the artist with less than 10%?” he asked. Then he had a go at the guys who provide the technology that helps people get free music, pointing out that the richest man in the record industry today is Steve Jobs (of Apple/iPod/iTunes fame).
Away from the heated debate, there are some people here with a more hands-on approach to helping both artists and their supporters gain from making music. Yesterday I had a chat with the CEO of Sellaband; today there’s the launch of NoMajorMusik – a new company with similar to Sellaband and with a ‘fairtrade’ approach to what they do. More on those later… but I will just throw in my own 2p on the “free music” thing. Music can’t totally be free. It takes a lot of hard work to make good music, and the guys who put in those long hours should have some reward for their efforts. Making music costs money, too. A couple of years ago, I met the guitar maker Matt McPherson. He let me hold and play one of his creations… and then he told me how much the guitar cost, and I nearly dropped the thing in shock! A decent guitar can easily set you back a grand or two – so how can music be free?

Anyway, that was most of yesterday’s goings-on here in Cannes. Along with all that, I also met a guy representing Chile’s number 1 hip hop act, who gave me the guy’s CD and some of his merchandise – which included a handful of condoms in packets with the guy’s picture and branding on. I had a chat with a friendly Norwegian singer – then lost the note with the venue of her gig on it, so couldn’t see her sing! I’ve had breakfast courtesy of the press club; I’ll post this, then head down to the exhibit area and hand out a few more CDs before the showcases and press conferences start.

MIDEM ’09: Day 2 – afternoon

Monday again – later in the afternoon:

It’s been a good day so far. I went back to the South Africa stand, and had a more fruitful time meeting people. The American guy’s “just go up and talk to ‘em” advice from this morning clearly worked! I visited a stand where a new French rapper called Poison was being plugged. I had a chat with his producer and gave him one of the Ground Level mixtape CDs I’d been asked to give to people. As we spoke, his producer explained that Poison was originally Congolese, and played me a track he’d done rapping in Lingala as well as French. A possible Sounds of Africa candidate, I thought.

I’ve also managed to make a lot of Latin/Spanish music contacts. Ferran Perez is from Spain, staying in the same hotel as me. He used to play accordion in a Mediterranean Celtic band called Dealan; now he’s gone into management and is representing them at MIDEM (which, he tells me, he’d never heard about until a couple of months ago). We both took the bus in to Cannes this morning, and he gave me an invite for a cocktail party organised by the Catalan music contingent. We chatted over drinks and Catalan food (various types of sausage/ham/chorizo thingies, cheese and ‘pan tomate’ – bread with tomato – really nice!). He said going into management and even coming to MIDEM were all risks for him, but he’d learned in life that you need to take risks – otherwise “you just stay at home and end up doing nothing.” Life is like standing on a travolator that’s moving in the opposite direction, he reckons. “You might think you’re standing still, but you’re actually going backwards and being left behind.”

The unexpected fun bit of today was when I was walking up to the Press Club and passed by a bloke walking in the opposite direction. I glimpsed his badge very briefly and thought I saw the name Oliver Cheatham. Was it? I went back to get another look… and it was! He was a brilliant sport. He agreed to an impromptu interview (which needed two takes, thanks to you-know-who forgetting to release the pause on the recording machine), and then took a picture with me. For the rest of today, I’ll be singing “I like to party, everybody does…”

MIDEM ’09: Day 2 – morning…

Monday, just after 10.30am:

Had an interesting bus ride in this morning. I bumped into a few other MIDEM attendees who happen to be staying in the same hotel as me. We talked about all sorts of stuff on the way in: how overwhelming MIDEM can be for a first-timer; the weird Russian acts who’d showcased the night before; what a great bargain we’d got on the hotel, and the best way to make MIDEM work for you. “Forget setting up meetings via email. Just go up to people and talk to them.” Good advice from an American dude who’s over from Ireland and hasn’t met the rest of his team yet! I’ve already been doing that; I think I’ll do a bit more after this…

Okay – I’ve just checked my programme and it seems I’m late for the “Music that feels like it’s free” seminar I’d wanted to attend. I think I ought to go and see what’s left of it and pick this up again later…

MIDEM ’09: Day 1, Part 2

Sunday night

Well, Day One wasn’t a bad start. Johnny turned up right on time and we chatted for about an hour. Things haven’t gone as well for him, though; Delta Airlines seem to have sent his luggage to some other country, so he’s having to conduct his business meetings with no product to give to people. He’s only got one day left, so we’re praying his bags do turn up…

Johnny confirmed what I’d been thinking about this year’s MIDEM and have overheard a few other people say about it; it’s a lot less busy than usual. It’s been scaled down (four days instead of a week) and fewer people have come. Just as long as we’ve got the quality, I’ll be happy, I think. Had my first look round the exhibition area after my chat with Johnny. As far as picking up contacts for the radio show goes, it was a bit disappointing. I did meet one guy at the South Africa stand who gave me his card and a few CDs. Now I’m listening to the CDs and not liking them at all. They’re all house music… and they’re terrible! Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against house music from Africa when it’s done right (the Martin Solveig remix of “Madan” by Salif Keita is absolutely brilliant – as is just about every track on Afroganic’s album). This just sounded very badly made. On the other hand, the Vallenato and Reggaeton tracks on the Urban sampler I got from one of the American companies exhibitingg were so good, I’m tempted to go back there tomorrow and grab a few more copies. Good music needs to be shared! Oh, never mind; I’m sure there’ll be more people (and better music) tomorrow.

I wasn’t in the mood to learn a new route home tonight, so I spent about 40 minutes at the PRS For Music cocktail party in the Martinez Hotel and then headed for Rue de Serbes to get the bus home. The train runs a lot later than 8pm or whenever the last bus is – but I just wanted an early night. I was beginning to feel really tired.

I’ve now had a proper look at the contents of my MIDEM bag and am holding in my hands a pre-release copy of Hello Kitty’s debut album (that’s right – Hello Kitty, the Japanese cartoony thingy loved by girls all over the world). I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. But one thing’s for certain: I’m not listening to it right now. I’ve had more than enough sugar for one day.

Bizarre/mildly amusing (in a “so-wrong” way) sight of the night: a couple looking the other way as their beautiful white poodle had a wee on the Louis Vuitton shop window. I’m sure there’s some deep anti-materialism message being made there somewhere…

MIDEM ’09: Day 1 – arrival in Cannes

I’m in Cannes for a few days, attending MIDEM – the international music industry conference. In between working, schmoozing, blagging and all the other stuff people do at this thing, I’ll be reproting here on whatever catches my attention. Just arrived, so let’s begin…

Sunday, 2.45pm(ish): Ah, well – I’m here. Sat in the Press Club in the Palais des Festivals, and it’s strangely overcast outside. This weather had better improve; I know I’m only here three days, but I’d expected it to be warmer and packed accordingly. Right now I’m wearing the hoodie I flew from London in – the warmest item of clothing I’ve brought!

I’m staying in an apartment in the Eden Paradise Hotel in Golf Juan, a few miles away from Cannes. Actually, it’s a hostel and I’ve booked a private room. It’s cheap and cheerful; concierge/manager guy’s extremely helpful, and the bus into Cannes and to the airport only costs one Euro (having said that, the last bus is at 8pm, so I reckon it’ll be 20 Euro taxis home each night, or maybe the train).

As usual with these things, the networking started back home on the way to France. It’s funny how you can just tell by looking at the other passengers who’s going and who isn’t. There’s the usual mixture of seasoned old grey blokes (the managers, CEOs etc who are making the real money in the music biz) and excited young guys (aspiring new artists about to be thrown to the wolves). I love watching the wildlife…

I’ve got about three different hats on this MIDEM. Apart from keeping you all informed via this blog/these notes (depending on where you’re reading this), I’ve got a couple of articles I’m writing – for UB1 and UKG Presents. Also looking for acts to interview for some other magazines (still waiting to hear whether The Bomb Squad are doing interviews or not). And then I’ve got my radio producer’s hat on, and will be scouring the place for all the African/World Music contacts and material I can find for the in-flight programme.

My first appointment’s in an hour’s time with Johnny Mendola – a guy Larissa Lam put me in touch with. This is his 15th MIDEM (it’s only my second; my first was in 1995). After we’re done, I’ll hit the exhibition area and do some networking, then at 6pm I’m off to the PRS/MCPS cocktail party. There aren’t any concerts on tonight that I’m particularly interested in, so I might just go home after that.

I’ve been looking at the bags we’ve all been given, and wondering what it tells us about the music industry. It’s got the MIDEM logo in a corner on the front, but then it’s got a great big Napster logo right in the middle. Then when you open it up, there are two labels. One’s the Fairtrade logo; the other one tells me that the bag’s made from “certified 100% organic cotton.” Hmm, let me see… “Hi! We’re the music industry! We’ve finally caught up with new technology – and we’re ethical too!”

Maybe I should just stop being so cynical…