Music: The Modern-Day Gamble
With a few of my favourite (new acts) calling time; I am saddened and shocked- although it is perhaps not surprising. So many new acts are coming through: given that, is the music industry turning into a giant gamble?
THIS past week has been a weird Hell-ride of varying different…
emotions and plans. On the one side, certain parts of my personality have done damage- the depression/anxiety coaxial; self-doubts and fears- looking at my bank balance have exasperated the issue. On the flip-side, the bad aspects have forced me to focus elsewhere: namely London (moving to and working in); and steady employment- a full-time score at a music P.R. agency- coupled with some charity work- would be awesome. When I consider the ‘plans’ part of the argument- doing what I SHOULD be doing; moving somewhere that is a lot more ‘me’- I have had my doubts. In addition to worsening neurological symptoms making my writing a bit sloppy- my social media statuses have more errors of grammar and spelling- I wonder if I am cut out (to be a writer). Having looked out the music world, I am throwing caution to the wind. There are so many great acts out there- some stunning sounds coming through- I cannot help but get involved; put pen to (electronic) paper and share the word- the best music needs eyes and ears dedicated to it. Something is making me sad, alas: many great artists are having to quit and pack things up; give up on their craft for various reasons- lack of commercial support; financial strains or bond-breaking within the ranks.
One of my favourite acts (from the last couple of years) is Crystal Seagulls: a London-based act fronted by the talented- and fine-looking chap- Jim Lawton. The band mix (or I guess it should read ‘mixed’) Indie-inspired sounds with stadium-sized choruses- their songs mixed everyday emotions with personal heartaches. On paper it may sound like a tried-and-tested formula, yet Crystal Seagulls superseded expectations: the workmanship and nuanced elevated them above their peers- songs like Play Dead and Stroked drip with quality and panache. Having reviewed the band (on several occasions) each new visit brought fresh surprise: every single song contained its own personality and drive; no weak links or moments- I tipped them for festival glory. Whether a death-kiss (I’d like to think I’m intuitive enough to know greatness when I hear it) the plain fact was, the band had to call it quits- these things do happen. Not wanting to push the agenda- and find out the specific reason behind the band’s demise- I know its members are looking around- Lawton himself is planning new music; he’s a talent too ripe to be left on the shelf. I was shocked when the band split up- back in March of this year- as things seemed so assured and set: their music was gaining recognition and support; the quality improved by the release- it was only a matter of time before greatness arrived? Sadly, no; the market forces and competition- tied to pressures of making music- made their mark; the band went their separate ways- at least we got the enjoy their music in the first place. I understand that bands/musicians- regardless of how awesome they are- don’t always go all the way; fulfil their full potential and make the mainstream- Crystal Seagulls seemed dead-set.
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Two more acts- that have sadly gone the way of the elephant in the room (or dodo; I’m getting confused here) are The Bedroom Hour and Bi:Lingual. The former were- in addition to being another London band- a great Indie-cum-Rock band. With phenomenal vocals and lush compositions- think a splash of Elbow tied to something symphonic; via some edgy electronics and swaying codas- the band gained huge following. Having crafted gems like Hinterland (their last full work) and Themes, the boys showcased huge qualities: the songwriting was relatable and inspiring; the performances tight and razor-sharp; the emotion dripped from the speakers- tied around anthemic scores and stunning stories. Another band I oft-reviewed, each assessment brought a smile to my face: coming away from their music, I always felt better and more uplifted- compelled to pen my own songs; look inside myself. Originality was never a factor: the band always produced unique and personal songs; never owing a debt to any of their heroes. Although the vocals possessed a mingling of Elbow-cum-Doves, the songs stood above prediction- each one was very much a product of The Bedroom Hour. A young and hungry act, it seemed like everything was laid-out- another act destined for the festival circuit. Being based out of (west) London, the guys had the capital at their feet; a wealth of fans and venues- perfect opportunity to show just what they could do. When the band decided to split, again, my heart was broken: I was looking forward to seeing the lads play; review their next release- watch them climb to the top.
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This week has been tinged with sadness: my old muckers Bi:Lingual have announced their resignation from the music world. Citing a lack of public support, I was shocked and shamed: the guys’ music is so rare and sparkling, how could it not gain a huge following?! What separated the band from their contemporaries? First of all, their style was fresh and innovative: fusing Hip-Hop and Rap, the boys laced in Hard-Rock and Metal- a veritable cornucopia of grit, rush and street-level Rap. Putting important subjects under the microscope- the ineffectiveness of a lot of (modern-day bands); society’s less-than-reputable characters- the band were a gang on fire- saying things we were all thinking. The lyrics were smart and sharp; the vocals frantic and impassioned- the band performances chocked with rage and style. If you imagine a lovechild of Rage Against the Machine and well, THEM. The boys (based up in the north-east called time due to personal issues; an inability to push their creativity forward- in essence public apathy can be added. Their music deserves huge plaudit and promotion, yet many were not turned-on and in-tune- not sure why there was such a struggle to get the music heard and appreciated. Maybe it is too vibrant and forward-thinking; perhaps a little too honest and raw- I am baffled to be fair. Shocked at their announcement- the band has a last tour date; yet there will be no new music- it was a genuine kick in the face. Speaking with Dylan Cartlidge- the band’s voice and lead- he has new ideas and songs; the man will be back and performing in the future. With plans to book the band (for a charity gig); being close-knit with Allusondrugs- Bi:Lingual and Allusondrugs had a brotherly bond- the guys seemed like a great booking. Whilst Yorkshire’s Allusondrugs continue to dominate, the equally-talented Bi:Lingual are nearing their final bow. Few would have seen it coming; many are unwilling to believe it- the Bi:Lingual boys will play no more.
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This is a subject I have touched on (well groped half-drunk to be honest); looked at in previous posts: a lot of great musicians are struggling to survive (in this current climate). A few other acts- who shall remain nameless- have spoken about their struggle and expectations- the sense they are not (as far along as) they want to be; feel they are failing- unsure why they are not further along. From superstar female artists to young bands, I hear a lot of the same thing: the public are not taking them fully to heart; their music is not getting full recognition- what is causing this? There is an issue with personal expectation and desires: many new musicians want to be at the top instantly; they have ambitions to be big names- when it does not happen (at least at the early stages) it can cause stress. The best musicians are always looking ahead; planning moves and aiming high- most want to be on the festival circuit; ruling the airwaves and dominate public consciousness. Feeling marginalised and overlooked, musicians are feeling the strain: the feeling they are climbing a mountain; will they ever fulfil their dreams? Away from personal goals, two other factors come into play: financial pressures and personal relations. When you are entrenched in music- and have such a hectic creative process- personal bonds can be frayed; if you are in a band, relations can often take a hit. That need to succeed and flourish demands huge time and effort; a lot of late nights and touring- inevitably things can become tense to say the least. If that was not bad enough, financial issues can be a, well, issue. It can cost- depending on which studio you visit- a hell of a lot to record a song/E.P.; many musicians have to work several jobs- just so they can cut a single. With social media/music-sharing sites in full flight- and most acts feeling they have to give their music away- the profitability potential is reduced. Unless you get gigs and sell music, where does the music come from? After you have collected gig/music profits; deducted costs and expenses, there is not a lot left- you then need to find money to record new music. When you work endlessly (at a job); spend what little time you have (recording music), it can become exhausting and devastating- leading to natural aging and decline.
Bands succeed and continue- the likes of Los & the Deadlines are perfect examples of groups showing no signs of slowing- and acts expand and succeed- graduating to the mainstream from the underground. It is easy to point fingers (and pretty fun too) but it is hard to pin-point one aspect: just why certain musicians fail or split; why others continue to grow- social media is one of the worst perpetrators. Still unregulated and compartmentalised (the likes of) Facebook and Twitter are chasms of randomness- no logical bonds and sense of organization. What I mean is, they are a big mess; the layouts of both are insane- essentially one long timeline; you have to endless scroll to see if you have missed anything important. Facebook and Twitter need a serious overhaul: with some organising and planning they can be a lot more effective and useful; make it easier to find the statuses/information you need. It may be easy for me to say- and in practice hard to actually do- but social media needs to spend more time and money on improving their service; rather than whatever they do with their profits (the mind boggles). Once this happens- and I’m not holding my breath the likes of Zuckerberg will do anything useful- we need a one-shop music website- something that tied together all the existing platforms. There are some good music/social media tie-ins, yet nothing that is comprehensive and detailed. If you had a Facebook-esque site for musicians/new music; channels for discovering new music/the best new acts (in addition to loads of other features) things would be a lot easier. I tossed the idea around in a previous post- and my all-in-one website Psychoacoustics is still in the planning; would love to get a music café/bar set-up in London- and think it is a relevant concern- can we reliy on modern social media? A contradiction in terms, social media is not pulling its weight; whether due to constraints- or people not being altruistic and thoughtful- bands are feeling the pinch. All it takes is a share/re-tweet; a few seconds to click a button- it can change a musician’s entire career.
Whatever happens in the future- with regards music sites and organising social media- I am sad at the modern culture: it is not fair certain acts fail whilst others flourish. As I bid farewell (to some great acts), my mind is racing; trying to figure something out- a way to make things better; prevent music-based tragedy from occurring. As Bi:Lingual plan their farewell moves, all is left for me is to wish them the best of luck- I am sure the boys will be back soon (in various other formations). I am always looking for ideas and inpuit; getting people involved- so we can all help and build something great. Soon, I will be re-pitching/posting my music website/café idea (Psychoacoustics) - as I look to set up a charity too- and always want to promote great music. It would be great to hear feedback- whether you agree with me; what the solutions are- so we do not have to bid farewell (to some bloody good musicians). Music is a scary industry; it is a risk that does not promise success. With success/the future being such a gamble, is it really worth the risk? Well, in short, yes: I guess there is nothing we can do (to override the bad stuff) in the short-term. For now, enjoy your favourite bands and acts; please share and promote their work- for God’s sake, it only takes a few seconds. If I have to see another great act split up, I will have to think about my writing/journalism career (and whether it is really helping musicians). When I think of that…
IT really does scare me.