In For A Penny, In For A Pound

Photo: Paul Revans

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, I was always told. Well, according to this article from the BBC Magazine, the pennies could soon be dying out.

They argue that people simply do not have the time to collect pennies anymore and would prefer to be charged in full pounds. The article continues to say that, despite the recession, no-one is penny-pinching because their time is all the more valuable. You would have to be paid £1.20 per hour for stopping 30 seconds to pick up a penny to be worthwhile, or in a more realistic figure, if you were paid minimum wage then six seconds is the most reasonable time you should have to wait for a penny to be handed over at the till.

For starters, who is paid that precisely for the seconds they work? Even if you were paid in such an anal manner, the argument is still redundant. The time you are most likely to be handling pennies is your lunch hour or your leisure time, and that cannot be quantified by an hourly wage.

The article continues to show how many stores are phasing out 99p pricing in favour of the more honest round pound value on goods. This is much more logical, since consumers have long since come to see through this thinly-veiled attempt to subconsciously make items seem cheaper than they are.

But as for the humble penny, I think it’s callous to overlook its importance. Even if you just toss it to a beggar sitting by the supermarket exit, it can make a difference. My university halls collected up all the loose change in its vacant flats last summer and gave the total sum (a little over £60) to charity, and that cash can go a considerable way towards changing lives for the better. I’d like to think of myself as a case in point – I counted my penny jar the other day and I have saved £3.72 over the past nine months, which will convert into a nice tasty pint at my local. As long as the penny is still legal tender, then it should not be taken as worthless.

How Placebo trumped Spotify

Let me start by apologising for the paucity of posts this month. (I could more-accurately say complete lack, but paucity is just too great a word to pass up!) Two things have been keeping me otherwise occupied, one is working full-time as an intern for the lovely people over at the Independent on their university guide, the other is doing freelance music reviewing for

PlaceboWhen reviewing gigs I do my best to brush up on the band in question before seeing them, so in the spirit of things I decided to splash out on the new Placebo album before seeing them at the iTunes festival in Camden last night. It’s a rare event that I actually buy a CD these days, what with Spotify fulfilling most of my PC-based needs for new music, but I felt compelled to pay full lick for a CD copy of Battle For The Sun. Partly because the artwork (above) is brilliant, but partly because Placebo provided Spotify with only a tantalising ‘sampler’ of the album. Instead of the full 13 tracks, there are six on offer for Spotify listeners, and I believe this was a very smart move from the band. It gives you enough music to get a real taste for the album, such as you couldn’t get on MySpace, but it doesn’t give the entire game away and leaves you wanting more.

At the core of it all is a fantastic album, which is what all of this relies on of course. Straight from the jagged opening chords of Kitty Litter, which invoke the band’s 90s hit Pure Morning, Battle For The Sun is a consistent stunner of a record with the ambition turned up to 11. Out go the posey snyths that have cropped up on earlier Placebo records and in come the epic, sweeping string arrangements of the title track and the sassy brass of recent single For What It’s Worth (which includes a sample from the Tetris theme at 1:48, I believe). The main departure from previous records is that Brian Molko is much more open and emotional with his lyrics, and the result is enticing and surprisingly romantic. Placebo fans keen for more can read my live review of the band playing the iTunes festival at the Camden Roundhouse.

Placebo have set an interesting precedent with this Spotify sampler, and I am yet to come across another major band to do so. A quick Spotify search yields only one result for ‘Spotify sampler’. Given the ambition of Spotify, I wonder if they will crack down on bands and record labels only giving away half of their albums – if Spotify samplers become more widespread they could undermine the whole essence of the online juke box, but equally it could throw a lifeline to the ailing CD industry. So what do you think? Have Placebo played a blinder or are they Luddites who are failing to fully to embrace the free music revolution?