Year zero: 1976. The time that punk was acknowledged as a genre and its formative bands made their great advances. We had Anarchy In The UK and the biggest selling single was.......Brotherhood of Man’s twee-Eurovision ditty, Save All Your Kisses For Me. Abba’s Greatest Hits was the best-selling album.
1977. Sid joined The Pistols, Nevermind The Bollocks was released. The best selling single? Wings,
Of Kintyre. 7” singles were a punk-staple but no punk singles featured in the
fifty most popular. Other artists represented more than once were the likes of
David Soul and Showaddywaddy, even and Palmer featured.
Once again Abba had the biggest selling album. Emerson
Fast forward in a random fashion to 1990, the best-selling single? Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, Phil Collins had the best-selling album. 2001’s top three? Shaggy, Hear’say and Kylie. If there’s a pattern to be derived from these random years it is only that the music you remember may not be the stuff that was most popular. Seismic shifts in culture, music in particular, are not always reflected in sales.
I was pointed towards The Telegraph web-site for a repetition of my own views that the BBC’s Sound Of and others are essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. They seem to have taken the concept a little further though into the territory of individuality, self-determination and Beeb-bashing.
What the BBC do, similar to the BRITs/awards/best of polls and other helpful aggregators and compendia of tastes is provide sign-posts, a guide. They tell you what’s likely to be big and you can choose whether you like it. The Telegraph guys may suggest that you should make up your own mind but you’d have done that anyway.
The problem is that most people are so conservative in their tastes that radio stations increase their audiences by provide less choice and variety of music – despite often claiming the opposite. This piece from the Wall Street Journal is specific to American stations and audiences but relevant worldwide, it is utterly depressing. At a time when we need a revolution in music we are sadly faced with more of the same. Perhaps it was always this way, just not as obviously.
The music that is most influential is not always that which is successful. You can make up your own minds but a little help to navigate the mass is always worthwhile. The Telegraph could do this for their readership and it might make a difference. The probability is that we'll carry on as always but it is better to try and fail than fail to try and moan about others doing so. Their point may have been made to promote Luke Sital-Singh but they only succeeded in pointing out that they could've praised him earlier. Nice work.