Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A bird in the hand

The music industry lacks originality, this much is obvious. Success in one genre begets imitators and a crush to assimilate into the mainstream. Every niche is pummelled into a trend that could extend its shelf-life but is as likely to smother it in its infancy.

The status quo that prevails means slightly less of Status Quo (sorry) and more conventional pop and manufactured dance sounds, traditional four-piece bands playing rock are the novelty, trawling the undergrowth to collect a sufficient number of fans that they may have some kind of longevity. As I’ve often said, it was never easier to make and distribute your music, never harder to actually get it heard by a lot of people.
A few years back I wrote of seemingly deliberate attempts to confuse two pop-soul singers, John Newman and Sam Smith: same haircut, same artwork, similar dress, copycat collaborations and eventually the same kind of success. It didn’t harm Smith that’s for sure but did it damage Newman? At the time he seemed to think so.

Of late I’ve been perplexed by similar sounding band names to those that already exist or once existed, a process that’s beginning to suggest we don’t have enough nouns in the English language. This feeling was confounded by the discovery of a new act called Bird, who happens to be a female singer-songwriter, not to be confused with Birdy of course. As with Sam & John, Bird and Birdy are not dissimilar or certainly not individual enough and operating in significantly different musical spheres to avoid confusion.
Additionally the way we now find our music – often on streaming or search sites – will cause a confusion that must have been contemplated. I’m beginning to long for a system such as that which operates in stage and film, where to belong to the actor’s union Equity you must have a unique professional name. Clearly it’s too much to ask for, not only do the record companies want identikit sounds they also want brand confusion, it’s a clear or confused route to success.




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