Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nobody's on Top Of The Pops

No matter how much – or little - music is on TV some will always have an objection to it. The objections may vary from the style to the quantity or even the delivery but all they really do is support the adage: you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Music TV has to hit some common denominators and try to satisfy some of the people most of the time. TV is the vehicle delivering content to the masses who, by their number, are not likely to share the same tastes.

The process for selecting acts for Jools’ Later must be a tough one given that it is arguably the most important music programme in the UK on any medium. It wasn't always this way. Before the fracturing of tastes and the severance of ties to what we now call ‘appointment to view’ TV there was Top Of The Pops. TOTP had fewer issues of selectivity and snobbery since its function was to reflect the most popular songs in the country at that time relying on the sole form of measurement available, the singles chart. The chart was a measurement of popularity reflecting six or seven-day sales of physical format recordings, or records to you and me. I put this explanation in only for my own amusement.

A documentary, clip-show, at the weekend reminded me of what a bizarre musical world we used to inhabit. It took as its base the year 1979 since this was when TOTP hit its highest ever viewing figures. This was due to a variety of factors including one of the three available TV channels being unavailable due to strike action. It was also the year when the UK was recording the highest ever sales of singles and what an odd range they were. The mish-mash of styles reflected competing trends in the UK from disco to punk and its sub-genre or variant ‘new wave’, this contributed to  a vibrant era  for music but it also threw up some oddities that are no longer visible (or viable?) today.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Start at the bottom

It bears repeating: it’s never been easier to make music, nor harder to make people listen to it. With mass media out of the reach of everyone except for the already famous and those who ride on their coat-tails it is clear that innovation is the key to creating and building an audience.

Others talk frequently about starting small, concentrate on converting individuals and with luck and perseverance the message spreads. This assumes that your ‘product’ is good enough of course; let’s go with that assumption for now.

I came across a band called Marmozets  recently. I happened to hear their single, heard that it was getting some decent plays from radio folk, noticed that they were on the Download bill and this caused me to mention it to my 17 year old daughter. She’s the target market and was already aware of them. The reason she remembered them so well was that she’s one of their Twitter followers – they also follow her. More importantly they’ve replied to her random tweets, they have a ‘relationship’. This alone means she speaks positively of them and is far more likely to support them in future. It sounds simple, it is simple – probably until the point that you get so famous that it’s difficult to have that ‘one on one’ relationship. In the short term that’s not a concern. Marmozets have got it right, they engage the audience and when the material is good enough then they have an ‘army’ of loyal supporters ready to ‘big them up’. The material is definitely getting there and they seem primed and ready for the next step.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Antique Record Show

Friday night and there’s f-all on television. It’s a bank holiday but the networks have abdicated responsibility clearly thinking that we’re all out celebrating the anniversary of Jesus’ death or we’ve all buggered off somewhere for the long-weekend. Perhaps they’ve projected their own lifestyles onto their viewing public. It’s a common enough conception; maybe it’s even backed-up by stats from previous Easter weekends. Whatever the reason it seems ironic that the best programme on television features a bunch of people watching television and making their own humourous and critical comments . Maybe this proves that TV, like pop, has finally eaten itself.

F-all on TV day is followed this year by Record Store Day. We have to forgive the Americanism as they invented the concept and it latterly became international. On the face of it the idea is great – create a reason for people to visit their local indie record store, host live music, stock exclusive product, job done. It’s a celebration of all things indie with a hefty focus on that genre that ensures that it’s largely preaching to the converted. The upside is that a lot of the converted also work in the media so it probably looks like a much bigger event. The pages dedicated to it in today’s Guardian, including this page three piece and the cover of the Guide with a feature lauding the indie labels alone would ensure that the event has served a great purpose.

As always though there are many detractors, including one on Twitter who coined my favourite phrase to encapsulate it all – product acquisition day. The queues outside indie stores this morning were there to hoover up the exclusive releases, the limited edition copies of tracks produced to commemorate the occasion. Yes, it has succeeded in getting these people in a shop but if their intent is just to sell the rare product on E-bay in order to profit then the rationale has been sacrificed to consumerism and greed once more. There may be no better analogy for the music industry as a whole.