FEATURE:  How to Win Fans and Influence People: 2017’s Trends and 2018’s Promise



How to Win Fans and Influence People



2017’s Trends and 2018’s Promise


I am looking forward to 2018…



because it provides a chance to shed off the bad of this year. That sounds all-negative but there have been some bleak times in 2017. In terms of work, personal life and happiness – as I have revealed before – it has been a very challenging and forgettable one. I am not prone to the tradition of resolutions – they get broken and it seems rather meaningless if you do not enforce them every day of the year – but having resolve is a different thing. Rather than a promoted, cliché list of well-meaning, half-arsed resolutions; it is better adopting a utilitarian, sentient approach that looks at the entirety of life – rather than narrowing down to diet/love etc. It is good having aims for a fresh year: the desire to change is something few of us are compelled to do. Sticking with those aims is harder than one might think. I feel, given the Satanic-sized log of 2017; I have no choice but to take a rather drastic and severe approach to the year ahead. Few of my concerns and goals revolve around anything as poultry as dieting and exercise. Music has been the saving grace of my year and something that has brought pleasure and fulfilment. I am going to dedicate my time to journalism, of course, but take a different approach.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press Association

Rather than spend hours at a laptop typing pieces; the need to get out and engage with the people is paramount. Having London on my doorstep means there is an easy and convenient link to all the biggest venues and artists coming through. With drive comes ambition – I am keen to include bigger acts into my repertoire rather than fledgling acts with less of a visual eye (and music that has fewer fans and will get me less exposure). Making my site more multi-media and cross-platform is not only a good way of adding social catalyst and meaning – it means my work gets to more people and is afforded a more visual/audio angle. I love the way my site looks but I limit myself in terms of scope. I will include more videos and features; looking at classic albums and launching a new interview feature; plotting a new all-encompassing website and trying to rival the big sites in music. Personal development is on a par with personal enrichment – something that is evident in the wider music industry. Whilst it is important to aim high and be ambitious as you possibly can; looking after your health and mental well-being is equally crucial – one cannot be a sustained and energised success if the mind and body are flagging. Health and happiness are solid goals but prone to entropy and the unpredictable winds of life. One need not take big steps but making small changes here and there can make a big difference.



One of the things, to me, that has defined 2017 is a sense of exhaustion and strain. I have heard a lot of great music but, worryingly, there have been so many social media statuses that border on suicidal. Artists are being pushed/pushing themselves to the ragged ends and that is creating scars (mental and physical) that makes me worry too much pressure is being put on the shoulders. I am determined to give myself more downtime and care less about numbers, visibility and popularity. To remain relevant, one must remain prolific and consistent: if that comes at the expense of your passion and health then that means the long-term repercussions will be telling. It is counterintuitive taking a more relaxed approach to music but, for musicians and journalists alike; quality will increase and you will be healthier and more relaxed – if it means you are not mega-massive on Spotify and on BBC Radio 1’s playlists, then so be it! Although the modern market suggests an every-hour-of-the-night-and-day mandate is the way to get big and noticed – we need to collectively counteract and highlight the effect it is having on the mind and body. I feel, creatively and intellectually, music is as hungry and curious as it will ever be. The biggest aims for 2018 should revolve around the work-life balance and ensuring there is adequate room for relaxation and recharge. I will come onto the trends (musically) of 2017 – and where next year’s music will go – but want to highlight why small, grassroots personal improvements can go a long way.


IN THIS PHOTO: Flinders Street station, Melbourne/PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

Among my smaller goals for next year (not resolutions; part of the overall plans) concern relocation, travel and sociability. I want to move to London or Manchester – both have their own advantages but it is a case of whichever bites first! – and see more of the world. I have not been abroad for years and, among my go-to locations, are Melbourne and L.A. Both are expensive trips but ones that, for musicians and writers, are essential. So few artists I know are holidaying and giving themselves chance to see the world and detach from the industry. Travel, as they say, broadens the mind: the creative portals are replenished and cleansed; you get chance to unwind and get a greater understanding of the world. The 2017 Brexit/General Election debacles, in part, have arisen from a lack of understanding – not realising how different people live and why the issue of immigration is not really an issue (that negatively impacts our togetherness and identity). Other plans I have (next year) revolve around personal relationships and love. I want to be in a relationship and prioritise those who have been there for me – discarding and ignoring those who offer nothing but stress, hate and annoyance. Too many artists/people are concerned with making big changes and racing too far ahead. Addressing smaller things that are impacting life negatively need to be tackled and remedied.


IN THIS PHOTO: Rews are tipped for big things in 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Elaine Hill

This year has been a good one for music but one that has been defined by a certain rigidity. There has been, like all years, a variety of wonderful albums from all genres. What I have found is little to suggest Rock, Alternative and Indie sounds will claim any stronghold next year. The Pop scene has got a lot of press but I have found the sort of sounds coming out pretty dour and threadbare. Apart from promising artists like Lorde; there is too much infantile, commercial and cliché Pop sounds dominating the charts/radio. Hip-Hop has had an impressive year and given more weight and attention – Grammy nominations and some stunning L.P.s mean it will continue to grow and inspire next year. One of the best things I have seen come out of 2017 is the sense of variety, ambition and quality of newer artists. The mainstream has been good and produced stellar work but it is the fresh acts – getting play on the finer radio stations and making their presence known on social media – adding promise, health and vibrancy to the music scene. I am seeing more Electronic artists splicing other genres into the mix; Post-Punk/Alternative artists revert to the 1970s and 1980s – even though they have not reached the giddy heights yet – and a pleasing blend of progressiveness and heritage. Artists are not abandoning physical formats and sticking rigidly to Spotify: I have seen a lot of C.D./cassette releases and (artists) putting their music onto vinyl.



If the dogma of the mainstream is to continue as normal; the maxim and mission statement of the underground is transverse and expansive: push boundaries and take bigger risks regarding sounds, convention and limitations. I will not get into all the trends we have seen regarding the business side of the industry – I will write a piece touching on that this weekend – but there is a definite split between the mainstream and underground; one which leads me to believe, ironically, there is going to be greater integration and balance in 2018. I have mentioned health and mental improvement: how we need to take more care and not be slaves to the digital demands and whip of music. There is no stigma attached to detaching (slightly) from music; finding the opportunity to see more of the world. There has been a lot of isolation and division in the country: creating a more inclusive and connected music world has to rank high in the collective psyche. Whilst there have been some interesting anomalies and patterns emerge from 2017: I am more interesting seeing how much will change in the coming weeks/months. There is an inherent and inescapable link between politics and society – how they have fared, changed and charted – and how musicians react. This one has seen some bad decisions and terrible decisions by those elected and nominated to rule – I feel this year’s most consistent and coherent sounds have come from those artists slightly under the radar.

I hope next year will see greater prominence given to personal development and reconnaissance of the mainstream – so there is an easier path and access for new artists to get their music heard. I feel the hegemony of Pop and commercial sounds will wane: more innovative and ubiquitous Pop artists will make a bigger dent. I have mentioned Lorde as a Pop exception rather than a rule – more like-minded artists will come through and steal some focus from the hollow and streaming-focused (more concerned with notching up numbers as opposed to creating something meaningful). Not only has the likes of BBC’s Sound of…2018 suggested Pop has overtaken Grime/Rap (when it comes to the newcomers) but those included are not your average chart-pining type that need others to write their songs and leave no memory in the mind. I am excited seeing how Pop evolves and what kind of music is coming through. Female musicians are going to have a big say in how 2018’s music mutates. Hip-Hop/Rap stars such as Cardi B, SZA and Princess Nokia have the talent to create year-defining music – it will be encouraging seeing these male-dominated genres shift (slightly, mind) in the right direction. Whereas some genres might take a bit longer to revive and strike – Rock and Alternative among them – I feel quality will be a defining trait for 2018.



Not only will the mainstream Pop newcomers place more emphasis on durability and meaning: there will be, I reckon, less dependence on the biggest mainstream stars and greater faith and belief in the new generation. The biggest shifts that need to occur – and I hope will – is to provide a bigger focus on genres like Hip-Hop; the improvement and diversification of Pop; women having a bigger say in music – parity, equality and compassion being right at the top of the tree. Maybe I am naïve but I know there is that will and desire for change – how much of that will be fulfilled has yet to be seen. The rise of new Pop; the stronger role Hip-Hop will play; the speculated albums of 2018…all things to look forward to. Apart from Jack White, Billie Marten and Cardi B; there are rumours of new Florence + The Machine material. Popstars like Tinashe will bring new stuff out whilst Tom Misch, Robyn and Jorja Smith are signalling – speculation concerning Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines and The 1975 releasing are rife.  Those aforementioned artists, between them, are making me excited about 2018 already: throw into the fact we always get out-of-nowhere surprises and epic albums arriving means it will be a fascinating, versatile and quality-focused year. It is hard to predict which of the rumoured albums will worry the poll-makers this time next year (as they announce their favourite albums of 2018). I feel Jack White will be near the top – that urge for mainstream Rock/Blues is palpable; he always provides something strange, delightful and genius!



If this year hasn’t been quite as strong as 2016 – the best albums of that year are finer in my view – there have been some important discoveries, trends and albums released. It has been exciting, unpredictable and ever-moving; artists treading new ground and some fantastic future-stars revealed. I am hopeful for the New Year and know there will be some important shifts and big accomplishments. It is important, for myself as much as artists out there, to concentrate on the self: music will only be strong and at its very best if you are healthy and happy (as can be). It may sound idealistic to suggest some positive-thinking is all one need – when I know the reality is far more complex. As we bid farewell (almost, anyway) to the eventful and memorable 2017: a fresh year arrives and, with it, plenty of hope and prediction. It is impossible to know exactly where 2018 will take us - but I have every confidence we will see big improvements, shifts and steps…



IN the right direction.