How to get ahead in the music business

It seems the only way to get ahead in the music business this year is to be named Sam Smith or to feature on someone else’s very-poppy, dance-crossover Euro-smash. Better still to be called Sam Smith and also appear on a couple of poppy-dancing-smash hits. Smith, it seems, can do no wrong.

Smith recently topped the BBC’s Sound of Poll for this year as well as being the Brit Award winner for act most likely to – or whatever it’s called. Previous recipients of either award have tended to do quite well for themselves, the dice being heavily loaded in their favour. To win both is just greedy though and it seems as though that problem I have about distinguishing Smith from Newman is unique to me and certainly not holding Sam back. If you can be bothered to read most of this piece about ‘collaborations’ you’ll see that Newman doesn’t seem too impressed by the comparison though. 

The media have their claws into Smith, clinging to his coat-tails for the ride. They’ve even cottoned onto the minor detail that these ‘collaborative’ songs are a pretty clever route to success for all the parties concerned. If you’ve got a song that needs a decent singer then it seems there are plenty out there in the queue. The return of TV’s The Voice this weekend also seems to back-up this reasoning. Lots of artists, precious few songs – a point I’ve covered many times before.

If you can’t be Sam Smith then finding a collaborator seems the best way forward. The music industry loves a trend and since half of the top ten and more than half of the top 40 biggest-selling singles in the UK last year featured guest vocalists you can safely assume that they’ve found one. It’s a fantastic route to market for fledgling artists and one that greatly benefits pop/dance acts and producers who may be without a recognised (or talented) vocalist of their own.

Can it work for non-pop acts? There’s no good reason why it shouldn’t – collaborations often stir the creative juices and take you in different artistic directions. I’m inclined to think that in the current market you need to produce as much music as you can and throw it all out there to see what gets a response. It may require a conduit or an unlikely spark, such as Michael Jackson getting Eddie Van Halen to play on ‘Beat It’. A spark of this nature could be the thing that re-ignites rock music; it’s hard to see what else will do. Failing all of that of course you just need to get introduced to Sam Smith, I hear he’s going to be quite big.