Let There Be Love:
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Why Music Needs to Look to the Past to Move Forward
AS I type this…
IN THIS PHOTO: A still from A Hard Day's Night/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I am watching The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night. It is a festive favourite that shows what a majestic force The Beatles were – their best film and one of the finest moments on film. There is an innocence and endless charm that makes you smile. The script and concept are great; the acting is brilliant and the songs, of course, are faultless. The entire film – shot in black-and-white- takes you back to a time when there was more optimism and love in the air. I could have called the feature All You Need Is Love – in honour of The Fab Four – but I thought that would be a bit too much! I am not going to claim the 1960s were innocent and free from any problems: they had blights, political chaos and crisis. Whilst the world has not moved on in many ways – the corrupt politics and fear hanging in the air – I feel there have been lacking progressive steps. I look at bands like The Beatles and the 1960s. I was not alive then but know people who were; the sense things were better, in the music industry at least, always come through. Could we ever have a modern-day Summer of Love, in our society, that promoted freedom, liberation and togetherness?! It seems almost inconceivable but, after the last few years we have had, there is that desire to create a unity and peace.
IN THIS PHOTO: Unsplash
I have written about this a few times throughout the year – but I feel things have not really changed. Away from the scandal and disease that has plagued the film industry this year – the allegations against figures like Kevin Spacey – there are questions in music that need to be raised and tackled. Specifically, I am thinking about sexism and racial imbalance. With every month we go through; that problem keeps coming up. The disparity is there and, although there are small developments, there is a gulf that does not need to exist. We hear about more women coming into the studio and finding opportunities. The studio has always been seen as a boys club and somewhere few women find acceptance and a natural. More are coming into the studio and reversing trends – although there is a long way to go. The same can be said for the charts and the artists getting number-one songs. Earlier this year; Dua Lipa because the first female artist since Adele to get to the top of the charts (with her sing, New Rules). The irony of the song’s title suggested a fresh order was coming in: the need to get rid of the discrimination and division we find is paramount.
IN THIS PHOTO: Dua Lipa/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I was pleased when she got to number-one and, whether you like her music or not (I am not a fan); it was a landmark and important step through. The fact that was the first number-one by a British female artist in a couple of years was a shock. Is it the case people are going after male-created music and ignoring and female alternative? Is the scene primed towards promoting the men and providing less attention to women? One cannot look at stats – like the Dua Lipa case – and assume there is no issue and everything is fair-minded and even. That is clearly not the case and whether there is deliberate sexism or not; it is baffling and peculiar it would take THAT long for a female artist to climb to the summit of the charts. Look at festivals and big music events and I hear voices that highlight the lack of women on the bill. The headline spots are given to men and there is an embedded ignorance and predictability that goes after commercial, male artists. It is not only sexism that seems to linger and infect the music industry: there is a racial bias and a need to augment more black and minority artists. It is not only sexism that seems to linger and infect the music industry: there is a racial bias and a need to augment more black and minority artists.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
One of the best things I heard this year (in music) was the number of black artists who were nominated for Grammys. Hip-Hop is getting the respect it deserved, and with it, artists like Kendrick Lamar and SZA have been included. Problems surrounding race will not disappear in 2018 but the time has come for the music industry to have a good look inside itself and ask why there is a distinct imbalance. Words and meaningless if they are not backed by action. Many industry figures say they will make changes and promote minority artists but how much are we going to believe?! It is not a case of making exceptions and pandering: changing the way artists/genres are promoted and, like women in festival slots; make more available for the finest minority artists around. If the white man continues to promote white men; it will send out the message everyone else is excluded. I have seen some fantastic, world-class music made by black and female artists, new and existing, that deserves festival coverage in 2018. I wonder whether that is a reality or whether, like years past, the commercial white artists are going to steal all the limelight. I know there are other concerns away from race and sex but these are the most visible and troubling. Venues are closing and the fabric of music is weaker and less sure than it has been in a while.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
The government are not willing or prepared to make decisive changes and take action to benefit the industry. It is down to those in charge within the industry to ensure there are positive step forwards and preservative measures put in place. I am troubled by the continuing sexism and racial bias; the way commercial sounds are muscling out others. Returning to a 1960s, free-love style of thinking would be horribly naïve and idealistic considering the way the planet has changed in the ensuing five decades. It is not only music issues that we are finding. The political crap and growing global-warming crisis mean now, in an age defined by technological advancement, human beings are retreating back into the mud. It will take small steps and a lot of internal administration but I feel a declaration and desire to make changes can go a long way. So much negativity is flying around it can be hard finding any light and hope among all that. I can hardly judge myself – without making changes and being active myself – but I am looking at the music industry and finding too much discrimination and issue. The fact the film industry has been tarnished by a select few male figures means many are wondering how far the problem extends – and how many other people will be accused in the New Year.
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Music is not immune and already has enough burden without falling down the same slippery slope. Of course; this year has seen a lot of good and love but not enough for my liking. Although the 1960s had more than its fair share of problems – racism and sexism was pretty prolific and unabashed – but there are aspects that we have lost in the ensuing decades. There are other problems that have been covered in various articles. One, seen here looks at live music and how hard it is for touring musicians to sustain a career – whilst keeping up their day-job:
“Ask just about anyone how musicians make their money these days, and they will say, "live music." In fact, ask anyone who never pays for recorded music how they support the musicians they love, and they'll say, "I go to their shows."
Now, that's all well and good. And, it's true—live music is where it's at these days financially for musicians. However, there's one major disconnect—playing live costs musicians money. A lot of money. Yes, even more than that. Sure, going down to play your local venue for the 80th time is a piece of cake financially, but that a music career does not make. To really build an audience, a band has to go out on the road”.
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There are some brilliant articles that break down the various issues in the music scene – from streaming and record labels to albums and royalties. Ranging from small to immense; there is a long list of considerations that need to be discussed in 2018. I have, several times this year, how we have not really developed and ways we can improve. It is going to be impossible to stamp out every slight but I wonder whether, as I have proffered in a previous post, someone should be assigned to take a governmental approach to music. It is clear there are lots of easy-to-solve things that can be solved: the bigger, music-wide problems definitely need action and exposure in 2018. There has been so much good and productivity; some real strides and world-class music and I know that will continue. A pragmatic, proactive and positive approach needs to come out next year. Not only do the divisions need sorting and list of faults need proper scrutiny: a much more balanced, welcoming and inclusive industry needs to make its voice know. It is what musicians want but, as music becomes more business-minded, I wonder whether suits and money-grabbing men are thinking more about their wallets – less about the artists and creating a balanced and less problematic industry. If we continue to ignore the visible and worrying cracks in the pavement; it is going to get worse and get to a point where it will be impossible to fix. Love might not be all we need but it is…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
A pretty good place to start.