Show caption Nanjizal beach near Penzance in Cornwall - believe the hype. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Planning a staycation? My 12 longed-for days in Cornwall shrank to four thanks to a certain virus we are to be living with, sans restrictions, as of tomorrow. It was a tantalising micro-break. Two surfing lessons, one indulgent poach in a hot tub, one portion of fish and chips and one absurdly scenic hike. Nanjizal beach – believe the hype – was deserted apart from two very patient geologists.
Then the app pinged a family member, who later tested positive. We had been ascribing his mild symptoms to too much fun. We debated options – self-isolate in an Airbnb we were due to leave or risk a hefty fine to drive home to best ensure biosecurity. A wild guess suggests this may happen to a few people this summer so I offer up my experience, with the deep understanding that these are, absolutely, first-world problems. Many minutes on hold to 119 resolved our dilemma. Yes, we could go home if we didn’t stop and ate only at drive-throughs and used petrol pumps with pin pads. Reader, we peed in a nettly layby. I can exclusively reveal that Stonehenge from the A303 looks like a Styrofoam mock-up. There could have been something in my eye.
The holiday that wasn’t was soundtracked by Book of Rules , a great, seven-hour dub and roots reggae mix compiled by MC Taylor of ace Americana outfit Hiss Golden Messenger. Key track: Right, Right Time by Johnny Osbourne, one rewound over again, a blend of mellifluous soul, minimal instrumentation and righteousness. “Whatever we sow on creation, we shall surely reap,” Osbourne sings. “We will get paid in the right time.”
Self-isolation brought plenty of comfort-watching and comfort-listening. While everyone has been fussing over the Friends reunion, it’s to reruns of the peerless Frasier I have turned for my 90s kicks. Out of all the things I should be listening to, getting across or appraising for work purposes, one album has stood out. Chapeau, as they say on the Tour de France highlights programme (another peerless distraction), to Welsh electronic producer Koreless for the fidgety, arpeggiating wonder that is his debut album, Agor. Ten years in the making, it matched my internal weather strangely well.
Last week, the cross-party groups of MPs investigating the economics of streaming published an eye-opening report. Most of us know that streaming is absurdly unfair to artists, but the extent of it remains breathtaking. You know something’s amiss when the co-founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek, can find £2bn down the back of his sofa in a renewed attempt to buy Arsenal.
The report spoke of “pitiful returns” for the creatives who compose the soundtracks to our lives, while exposing a vast superstructure of middlemen skimming off their percentages – not much reaping for a heck of a lot of sowing, if you’re a tune-maker. A “complete reset” of the market is needed; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recommends referring the entire industry to the Competition and Markets Authority and a “broad and comprehensive” range of legislative reforms.
Ah, legislative reforms. Over to the government, whose simpatico for musicians and the wider UK entertainment sector is famous. You know, the government that denied adequate Covid support to artists, music festivals, small venues and freelancers, the “Philistines” whose Brexit deal makes it ridiculously difficult for bands to tour Europe. Those guys. They’re really going to dismantle an unfair system and build back better, curbing the power of the major record companies to ensure talent and hard work are justly remunerated.
• Kitty Empire is the Observer’s pop critic
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