OPINON: Spotify could be the saviour of independent music, instead it chose to help the big boys

Mark Roberts – The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King

Words by Mark Roberts – from The Mothers Earth Experiment

£9.99. That’s all it costs for you to rent all the music you could ever want every month. A steal you say, an absolute bargain, slap me silly and call me Brenda, it’s magnificent. This is all very true; at no point in music history has music been more accessible or cheap. This is the nirvana of the music listener, an endless supply of different bands and different styles, but is it the nirvana of the music creator? Is streaming the best delivery system for artists and listeners? 

You see, there’s an underlying inequality with streaming services and that is based in how they pay their artists. I’m going to use Spotify as an example because it’s the largest and because I know Spotify in and out, but this is symptomatic of all streaming services and isn’t meant to attack one business.

To calculate royalties, Spotify take all the money from all the subscribers in the world and divide it up based on individual plays on the service – ergo, the more listens an artist gets, the more money they get. You may be sitting there thinking “seems fair enough, what’s the problem?” but let me show you why it isn’t necessarily fair.

Imagine I’m running a massage parlour (the normal kind you dirty bastard) and I put a relaxing meditation album on… twelve hours a day, five days a week. Each song is three minutes long, that’s twenty songs an hour for twelve hours, 240 plays a day, 1200 plays a week, 62,400 plays a year. One single account can play 62,400 songs in a year for £120. The chances of a regular listener ever playing this much music is nigh impossible (if anyone has listened to this much music in the last year I’d love you to get in contact cause I think I’d like to give you a medal). This essentially means that business accounts, and what they listen to, are worth more than the average listener. Is it necessarily fair to base the money given to this meditation album on how many listens it gets when they’re all coming from one person, me?

This means that the reach and scope of your music is irrelevant it’s all about how many times it gets clicked on. It also means that the shorter your song, the more streams it can get in a year. This rewards short songs and penalises epic songs purely for being what they are.

One of my favourite people in the world, Jack Stratton of Vulfpeck, realised this incredibly early on. Vulfpeck decided to make Spotify their bitch and released an album they called Sleepify. It contains ten songs at 31-32 seconds each, all of which are… absolute silence. They asked fans to play Sleepify whilst they slept; with the songs being such a short length, over one eight hour sleep one person could rack up just under 960 plays a night. If you really loved Vulfpeck you could just keep it playing all day, which would equate to roughly 2880 plays. Sleepify was, you guessed it, pulled by Spotify for breaching terms and conditions, which term or condition however is still unknown today. Jack said, “it was removed under the terms violation that the artist shan’t make money” (basically they realised they’d gamed the system). Sleepify was estimated to have earned Vulfpeck about “$20000 in royalties” before it got taken down, which they used to fund a tour to the places that played Sleepify the most.

As you can see, Spotify and streaming services like it reward short content as well as content that’s played on repeat. They also reward bigger acts with bespoke deals, meaning acts like Pink Floyd – who wouldn’t join Spotify for years – get more than say The Orielles per play. I don’t think that’s fair, but unfortunately that’s capitalism in a nutshell (don’t get me started on capitalism).

You may at this point be wondering how the hell anything can be done about it; what can we do to avoid the pitfalls of streaming music and the way it affects smaller bands and larger songs? Well it’s actually rather simple. Right now Spotify takes all those £10 subscriptions, adds them together, and divides them between every play on the service. What if it was done the opposite way around though? What if Spotify took each person’s £10 subscription, calculated which bands and artists they listened to, and distributed their £10 out by the percentage of time they listened to each artist over a month? For example, if I listened to Radiohead for 30% of my listening time, The Grateful Dead for 30%, and Portishead for 40%, then Radiohead and The Grateful Dead would get £3 each and Portishead would get £4. Obviously Spotify would need to take a cut of that ten pounds to make a profit, but you get the point with the simple use of numbers.

Firstly, the fact that you would be calculating actual listening time and not ‘plays’ would mean that whether a song be long or short it wouldn’t matter; each second of music would be as valuable as the next. Secondly, by taking your £10 subscription fee and dividing it by what you listen to, it means your money is going directly to your favourite artists rather than going to artists that other people streamed a lot that year. It also means that if my massage parlour is listening to that meditation album all day every day, the meditation album will only get the full £10 a month subscription fee I pay, not some ridiculous amount of money.

If it’s so simple, why don’t they do it? The answer, I suspect, is money and influence. Can you imagine artists like Beyoncé or Arctic Monkeys to be over the moon about losing some revenue? They would most likely just say no to the new terms and leave the service. Spotify fears that above all else. However I fear that if Spotify could just play the game, hold its nerve and grit its teeth, eventually the big artists would blink first and come back, realising the mistake they’d made by leaving.

Maybe revolution is just around the corner; maybe we just need a new service for smaller acts, maybe we don’t. All I know is that currently small acts are getting shafted and it’s the fault of the streaming services. If you want to support a small band you could game Spotify to try and give them more revenue, but I’d say just go out and see their shows and buy their merch for now. Maybe one day we can bring egalitarianism to streaming, but for now it looks like nothing will change soon.

Mark Roberts is the lead guitarist/vocalist for The Mothers Earth Experiment. For more on The Mothers Earth Experiment, visit www.themothersearthexperiment.wordpress.com


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.


Words by Ed King

Ed’s note…

I first wrote this back in March, a few days after Shrove Tuesday, in response to stories of sexual assault and misconduct that I had heard about that week. It was born out of frustration – I write to clear my head.

Then more stories came my way, and more, until there were so many that these words weren’t enough. Something needed to happen. So we talked to each other at Birmingham Review, we talked to local musicians and promoters. Then we talked to West Midlands Police, the Rape & Sexual Violence project (RSVP), and some local venues that could help us formulate a plan of action.

NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is our joint response, ‘a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.’

To join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

N.B. If you have been affected by sexual assault, misconduct, or any of the issues raised in this article, you can find details for West Midlands Police and RSVP – a regional support agency trained to deal with sexual violence – by clicking here.

The ‘message from West Midlands Police’ mentioned towards the end of this article can now be found on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website, click here.


“Yeah, they’re alright… just be careful if you’re alone with them.”

I was told this in passing, at the tail end of a conversation with a local band about local band stuff. It wasn’t prompted, they weren’t in distress; we weren’t talking about #MeToo, Operation Yewtree or institutionalised abuse in Westminster. We were just talking. And this chilling seed fell into the conversation with an almost as frightening acceptance that it was just ‘one of those things’. That it was normal. Or even worse, that it was OK.

Incredulous, then angry, then curious, I begin to pick at the scab. The story unfolds. It had been at a gig, and after the show the person in question had groped one of the band members – which falls under sexual assault in a court of law. And the feelings left by this situation, to group of friends who just wanted to perform their music on stage, are clear. They felt mistreated, angry and threatened.

This all came at the end of a troubling week too, where a promoter of a popular music venue had posted an absurdly misogynistic comment about the girls that attend their events and pancakes. You can imagine the metaphor. Or hopefully you can’t, because you really don’t want to. But it’s childish, aggressive, potentially incendiary, and beyond sexist at all points on the social spectrum. And now it’s in the public domain as a badge of what this promoter (and this club) feels is either funny or acceptable. Again, of what is normal or OK.

The silver lining from this poorly chosen ‘joke’ was the immediate outcry from many other people via the drum banging platforms of social media. I saw it because someone had reposted it in disgust, asking for some solidarity and shaming of the original author – a backlash that was far more erudite than the disturbed playground rhetoric that spurned it. The promoter in question claimed it was “a joke” that had been “taken out of context”. The public domain told them this wasn’t good enough and everything fell silent.

Then by the end of the week I am hearing about a case of sexual assault. And the more I asked around the more stories came back from our live music scene, in a frightening deluge of stories about sexual harassment, coercion, abuse, and assault happening in venues across Birmingham – from dressing room to dance floor, immediate and widespread.

I know many venue operators and promoters that are committed to the care of everyone in their building – whether they are performing, attending, or working there. And I’d be happier to see support networks in place than a campaign of naming and shaming. But the rules of engagement are quite simple and perhaps some people need a reminder:

No one, of any gender, should ever be objectified, coerced or abused. And no one in a position of power should ever use that power as a bargaining chip for sexual conduct. No one. Ever. At all. Told you it was simple.

So, what do we do? Firstly, I believe we all need to recognise our roles in this – overt and aggressive, or silent and tacit. The fact this problem exists means that none of us are without blame. And that includes me. I don’t want to believe this is a side of people I know, work alongside, or share common interests with. From the fact that it turns my stomach to think it’s happening in Birmingham venues to the cold reality that I need some of these people to support my own endeavours – put quite simply, it would be both personally and professionally easier for me to say nothing at all. I’m not proud of that last sentence but it’s a brutal truth I must own.

I’m not a huge fan of campaigning either, with self-aggrandising so often masquerading as a good cause these days. But maybe here, though, there’s a place for something we can all get behind – a vehicle to promulgate a message and provide support to those who need it, emotional, legal and otherwise. And to educate; to remind people of what is acceptable and what isn’t. A campaign of compassion and care, but also one to redefine what is ‘normal’ or ‘OK’ for those who seem to have forgotten their meanings.

So, this is what we’re doing. Birmingham Review has joined up with West Midlands Police and some key figures in our local entertainment industry to see how we can help shake a little sense into some, and support some others. We will keep you fully updated with this campaign through the Birmingham Review website and social media, and there is a message from West Midlands Police at the bottom of this editorial (this message can now be found on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website).

Because after all the bile that’s been seeping into my system after a week of words I never thought I’d be hearing – about a scene and city I love, and the people I love within both – I can land on at least one thing with absolute certainly. I never want to hear them again. Perhaps three things.

This is NOT NORMAL. This is NOT OK.

Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which publishes Birmingham Review and other titles.


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

To find out more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, visit www.notnormalnotok.com

OPINION: Shouting in the dark

Words by Ed King

There is a side to me I don’t like. A small boy stomping his feet through the halls of men. It comes out in conversation first, then in the tone of my voice, and if we’re all really lucky I’ll stand up to underline my point. Adult churlishness born from a child in need and a lifelong trait that can be surmised in two words.

Hear me.

I was out drinking the other day, at a local pub with enough familiarity for me to know both the people in my peripheries as well as those at my table. It was a sunny afternoon, in every sense of the expression; the sky was clear and the beer garden alive, and I was happy. I am happy. And sitting with a relatively full pocket and belly I was better than happy, I was content. Then someone I don’t know mentions a man I’ve never met – a public figure prominent in certain circles – and my options cascade across the picnic bench with that-oh-so-tired rising inflection, like an acerbic stand up when they no longer care for their audience.

My point was valid and referenced, sure, as Bill Hicks said, “you can’t be this much of an asshole without the truth on your side.” But my delivery was tinged with the desperate cries from that bottomless pit where I assume no one is listening to me. So I didn’t stop, becoming more exasperated with each empty reply, when all anyone around me wanted to do was play nice. Sunny afternoon, pub, friends, you get the picture. I knew I was doing it too. I knew then and I know now, and I’ll know every time I do it again. But I’ll do it again.

Please, hear me.

I also know why I do this, which is the real kicker. Years of sober analysis had made this pretty clear to me. But that’s a different op-ed. This is about my frustration at myself, and that the only thing worse than putting your hand back in the flame is knowing it’ll hurt when you do. This is the side I really don’t like, my narcissistic self harm – a perpetual commitment to fucking it up, with an incredulous scorn as the earth doesn’t stop turning when I do. I’m being unfair to myself here, perhaps; I’d honestly hate to have that attention or focus. And it’s probably not as bad as it is in my head. Anymore. But I dislike myself intensely for still shouting in the dark and even more for wanting the whole world to listen. It’s my ego and it hurts me. It hurts others. It’s the child of my youth banging his small fists on the table. It’s the loss of security, and it’s a dark corner that I simply do not need to escape from anymore.

I need you to hear me.

It’s also why I write, my chosen form of expression from an early age and across both my adult and professional lives. I can play with words when I write; I can use them accordingly, or twist them for humour and simple pleasures. I can use them loudly or quietly. I can sharpen them to such a point that you won’t be aware of the attack until they’re impaled in your midriff. But with the written word you get stop, you get to edit, and there is no audible tone of voice. Things ‘work’ in a way that they don’t when I speak, which makes my time in the rest of the world often fraught and unnecessary. I like myself more when I write, and I sense other people like me more too. And greatest of all, for everyone, I don’t have to shout. I don’t have to steamroll a conversation. What I wanted to say will sit there, stoic and silent, until you arrive at it without me having to stand up or open my mouth. Joy, all round. And breathe out.

I read an interview with Anthony Hopkins a few days ago, hooked onto his performance as King Lear but delving a little further behind the curtain; Hopkins has a history of ill temper and aggression, one that cost him two marriages and a relationship with his daughter. And whilst I’m not sure I fully believe him, it sounds like something you practice saying because you need to, but I’ve been trying to keep the following words in my mind:

“I don’t get into arguments, I don’t offer opinions, and I think if you do that, then the anger finally begins to transform into drive.”

This is what I would like you to hear.

The man across from us, the one with steroid stained muscles and strained eyes, has taken his shirt off. His friends are still arguing with the bouncer, a curiously small man, and have begun rolling both their shoulders and the bottles in their hands. I can hear the voices raise but I don’t think anything will happen, there are too many families around and it’s not that kind of afternoon. It would be too unpleasant. And I don’t get the sense that any of them, not even the man who is now literally beating his chest, actually want it to escalate. It’s just posturing; it’s just alcohol, testosterone, and honestly it’s a little dull. So I tune out, letting the angry declarations fall short of my eardrums.

Even his friends are starting to turn their backs now, I don’t blame them. It’s a beautiful afternoon, we’re surrounded by people who care for us, and who wants to listen to nonsense like that.

Ed King is a Birmingham based writer and editor. His book, Snapshots of Mumbai, is set for release through Review Publishing in August 2018 – featuring pictures from Paul Ward. Follow Ed King @edking2210

For more on Snapshots of Mumbai, visit www.snapshotsofmumbai.com

OPINION: The making of European English

OPINION: The making of European EnglishWords by Johnny Kowalski / Pics by Sarah Tohin

N.B. Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos play at the Hare & Hounds on Sat 20th May – celebrating the run up to their third album, European English – out this summer. For direct info and online ticket sales, click here.

It all started in 2014. We’d just made and released our album Kill the Beast, and to anyone who was listening (which wasn’t many people) we were selling that album. Inwardly though, we were already groping towards the album number 3. Our first album had been cobbled together DIY style. Our second album, Kill The Beast, was made in a ‘big name’ studio, and although Gav Monaghan (Editors, The Twang) did a great job, it pointed us in the direction of the album we wanted to make next. Which was something more fucked up.

So we set off on a five week tour of Europe. The phrase ‘five week tour of Europe’ sounds impressive,  but it was a crowning children’s crusade in a surprisingly long litany of daft adventures. We’d managed to book around 12 gigs for that entire period, and though we had sporadic lodgings sorted we were effectively condemning ourselves to periods of pointless homelessness.

The first show was in Paris where we narrowly avoided a fight with some children on the way in, and played in a tiny, packed basement to an audience who seemed to take me very seriously, observing us as if they were at the theatre. After playing in Orlean we had a 14 hour van journey to the French Mediterranean to play in a steak bar by the sea. We stayed a few nights, met a guy who could balance a bike on his face, bought cannabis off a police officer and dreamed of bank heists. From there we went on to a squatted football club near Milan, and then eastwards across Italy. We spent a sweaty night in the van near lake Garda drinking cheap wine, a night so bad I had to remind myself being in the Sexy Weirdos isn’t compulsory. This was followed by a weekend of spontaneous gigs in beautiful Verona, then onto Trieste, stopping in Slovenia and Austria, before landing in our temporary home of Josefov.OPINION: The making of European English / Sarah Tohin

Josefov is an Austria Hungarian fortress town near the border of Poland in the north of the Czech Republic. It has over forty kilometers of tunnels beneath its surface, and a wall around the outside so thick that goats and sheep live on top of it. It’s under populated, inhabited only by a small group of Romani gypsies and a few artists – one of which is a classical sculptor that rides his horse bare back around the town every day. All of this, as well as the preceding tour, meant that the Sexy Weirdos were feeling pretty God damn epic when we set up our equipment and played whatever was going through our stupid heads.

I’ve got to admit it; at first it annoyed the hell out of me. It felt like everyone was self indulging rather than composing, and there didn’t seem to be a discernible gap anywhere for vocals. I had no lyrics prepared, and was spooked by having to sing them in front of everyone without obsessing over them in private for months on end first.

However, something was emerging.

So that’s the romantic genesis story behind European English. The middle part of the story involves us slowly improving and adding to the tracks we wrote in that Austro Hungarian fortress town over the next couple of years, in OPINION: The making of European English / Sarah Tohinrehearsal rooms and on stages. Being of limited financial resources and having poor organisational skills has meant that the recording process has been incredibly trying at times. Hell, it took us far too long to even start recording. Multiple deadlines have been missed. We’ve screwed it up; other people have screwed it up too. Tempers have been frayed, and at times, harsh words have been spoken.

However, no blood has been spilled. And the end is in sight. At present, we have mixes being finalised, two potential covers being argued over, and several pieces of video to launch at you in the near future.

We also have a limited edition E.P featuring two entirely new tracks (‘Megahorse’ and ‘Flight Of The Juniper’), backed with remixes and collaborations that have not been given a physical release before. This will only be available at our gig on Saturday 20th May at the Hare and Hounds (Kings Heath). We hope that you join us for that gig, buy a copy of the E.P and support the album when it’s finally released.

I’d like to leave you with the reasons for choosing the title European English.

The album is called European English for three reasons:

A) A reference to the dialect of English spoken between European people using English as a necessary second language.

B) An acknowledgement of the bands’ wider musical influences (see tracks such as ‘Serbian Rumba’ and ‘Sicilian Silian’). The cannon of cool guy bands we’re all supposed to like has been too narrow for too long.

C) A gesture of solidarity with those individuals from mainland Europe who have touched both our individual lives and our existence as a band, which includes our Greek percussion player, our violin player’s half French children, those that helped us stay at the Czech fortress town (Josefov) where we wrote most of the album, alongside many others from many different European countries. There is a good chance that without this support coming from overseas, our band may not exist today.

Our idea of Europe is wide enough to include anyone who comes here and peacefully makes it their home, of whatever persuasion, from wherever they may come.

This album is not a statement about the European Union.

‘Megahorse’ (taken from European English) – Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos. To play, click here or on the image below:










Johnny Kowalski & the Sexy Weirdos play at the Hare & Hounds on Sat 20th May. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Johnny Kowlaski & the Sexy Weirdos, visit www.sexyweirdos.bandcamp.com

OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas…

OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas... / Ed King




Words & lead pic by Ed King

‘As long as that’s here, I’ll be OK. I can drink that; by the time the line gets below the bottom of the red shield, past the emblems, the cursive and the thick bold type, I’ll feel OK. I don’t need a mixer but I have orange juice or lemonade. There’s even ice in the fridge. If there’s time.’

I would have this conversation with myself at least once a day. Usually at lunchtime or as I’m lying in bed. I had no bedtime anymore. I woke up earlier too – an odd by product of addiction – with an inbuilt alarm clock running on fear or necessity. Life was a drawing of Gin Lane and it’s a cold Tuesday morning when you’re waiting for Victoria Wine to open.OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas...

In the end, the precise cut lines of the Smirnoff logo turned into the rounded edges of Grants. The world became numb. Anesthetized. The colours stayed the same, as did the schedule and as did the fear. But the necessity got worse as the price tagged dropped, like some symbiotic downward spiral. My ability to ration found levels almost as frightening as my denial. It was around this time that I began to question my drinking.

Vodka and orange in the morning, first thing. Then another. I’d make one for the shower and have a forth with toast. With a healthy pour, this could be a third of a litre gone by breakfast. Then I’m ready for the day. I’d struggle through the morning, taking a half-and-half bottle to work and hiding behind the same masks as everyone else, and then get back on track at lunchtime. Or just before if I could conjure a meeting. Order a beer, drink it quick, pretend you don’t notice, then order another one before your colleagues have time to say “…but you hold it well”. We all knew I didn’t. But I could order a shot at the bar both times, and there was always the vodka – hiding and ready should oblivion ever be needed.

I was eighteen years old. I kept this going until I was at least twenty two.

It started with abuse, neglect and aggression. As many acts of obnoxious self destruction will. Locked in a house with a sexual bully for a step brother and the ‘Ice Queen’ for a stepmother, although pantomimes were ultimately a lie. I was six, when Andrew made me play the games I never understood. The ones that always ended with me getting beaten up and made to hide under his bed. The rest of the house was even less fun – three floors of cold anger, radiating from our weekend matriarch as she stalked from once acerbic non sequitur to another, threatening my eight year old sister like a violent hybrid of Sylvia Plath and Cruella de Vil (I would honestly like to find something positive to say about this time and place in my life, and I guess it’s either ‘Mojo’ or ‘Chris’. But one was a cat, the other was ten, and neither has sanctity on their job descriptions).

I remember my childhood best by houses and the ‘weekends at Leamington’ were when, and where, it all came together. Or undone. But eventually every weekend became every fortnight, before sliding into the forever to be blessed ‘occasional days’. The wild stab of parenting poking fun at itself with an oddly honest moniker. I didn’t care. With every step I was freer than before.

By the time I was fourteen I never had to go back, and had already discovered blotter paper acid (my wings of mercy, then hell) and smoked much more than I drank. But when peer platforms and public expectations/acceptance kicked in, around that sweet sixteen spot, I found alcohol much more than reliable. It was legal, kind of, and I could sit on a park bench with a clearly visible reason. I could share it, even if only to dilute the guilt. But no one would call the police and a bottle of Bulgarian Cellars was the same price as a Blue Penguin. I probably wouldn’t have even have been expelled. And I could eat.

I functioned highly for several years – an existence not as fun as it sounds. You get away with very little. But I was earning money, having sex, and being successful in interviews; I grew up, of sorts. I built things, I destroyed things, and I still have friends left. I even gave up drinking. Twice. I went to AA, Aquarius and numerous third sector councilors, before my mother locked my in a room with nothing but a bottle of Jacob’s Creek and my own face to stare at. Three months later I emerged like a shaky butterfly, torn and frayed by still just about able to fly. I still remember the first time I went into the town centre sober.

Now that broken boy is a long way behind me. The wounds are scars. And although I can knock back the shots, and the angry is ‘still there mum’, I am nothing of the shadow I once was. It’s Boxing Day and there’s alcohol all around me, but I’m not drinking. I had two glasses of Malbec at Christmas dinner without realising, and the champagne on OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas...arrival is still sitting half touched on the window sill. The cheap French stubbies are unopened and there’s a bottle of rum in my kitchen I’ve used only for baking. Tonight I’m staying in, watching The Goonies and Gremlins back to back. I’m not thinking about New Year’s Eve until New Year’s Eve and I’m already scaling back my ideas for that.

It’s also on days like today that I remember one of the ‘moments of clarity’ from my early twenties – a man who had come to speak at an Aquarius meeting I once attended. He was ‘an inspirational speaker’ who had ‘survived’ the ‘disease’ that is alcoholism. He was very animated and very angry, and wouldn’t walk on the same side of the road as a pub beer garden (or even an off license) because of the ‘blind addiction that is ruining society, being sold and taxed by a government that doesn’t want to care about its people.’ He didn’t care about us, and even then, as I dug chewed nails into weak skin, I could at least see that. There was nothing in this man to admire or to aspire to be; he was ‘full of shit’ and still ‘broken’ by his ‘personal choice’. The Feudal System. The East India Company. The National Lottery. Your own life. His was no more a freedom than my previous daily routine.

I’m writing this to get ahead of New Year’s Eve Resolution #3 – be more honest with my writing. And start at the start, right? But in this time of orchestrated celebration and endorsed excess, I say find your peace. Your peace. Be merry, if you can. Don’t be me or that man. Be happy.

And if you can be a happy drunk, one who’ll wake up sober with just the right amount of regret, then I’ll raise a glass, deck the halls and sing along. Hogarth be damned.

Ed King is a writer and editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him @edking2210