Showing posts with label music industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music industry. Show all posts

Friday 15 June 2012

Would Dylan Get a Record Deal Today?

Today the Industry would put Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny, Rab Noakes, Paul Simon – all the great legends and outstanding talents of the 60s and have them in ‘backrooms’ studios to write for singers such as – Frankie this, or Johnny that, or Elvis shake your hips – so they can sing ( as Dick Gaughan put it) about what it is like at summer camp – I despair! 

Fortunately in the 60s there was more creative freedom, and artists were able to stand up for what they believed in. There were several reasons for this –

There was a lot more money in the music industry; bands played at club nights and social venues; solo artists played residencies at bars and clubs. 
I know there still are wonderful venues in places like London (the Troubadour, Bedford, RegalRoom, ) and Glasgow (Oran Mor, King Tuts, Nice n Sleazys ) and there are still many promoters who care about independent music. 

My son’s band played recently at a ‘Grease the movie’ party and had so much fun covering those classic songs of the 70s. They also played some Motown and such great bass lines for him to play. They played an 8 song set and everyone was dancing and having a great time. After the DJ set came back on and it was so dull by comparison to the ‘live’ band. They could easily have played for longer. I told my son that’s what it was like at the clubs back when. There would be a DJ in one room and a live band in another room. The live band was so much better ( well usually) than the DJ.

It’s all about a fast profit today though and DJs are so much cheaper - and all the cheap club nights now.

The sad thing is now bands feel its’ a performance with the audience standing to listen. When I saw Aloe Blacc here last year – he attempted to make a path in the audience for those who wished to dance. Folk singers used to simply play in bars while ‘audiences or rather customers simply sat and chatted. It was all less rigid and formal – it’s all so formal now.  I’m talking here about learning the craft of live music. Once a band or artist is established and people pay to hear them, that’s a different ball game. It seems that developing artists now spend much less of their time playing live.   

It is just as well there were guys like John Hammond who was willing to take a risk with Dylan - after all he didn't look or sound quite right but he had charisma.Now the music industry simply can't afford to take any risks, its too expensive. That's why it is important that we support independent music.   

 I listen to young artists today and many lack any substance behind their songs. 

 John Hammond was an American record producer, Civil Rights activist, non-musician and music critic from the 1930s to the early 1980s. In his service as a Talent scout, Hammond became one of the most influential figures in 20th century popular music. Hammond was instrumental in sparking or furthering numerous musical careers, including those of  Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Bassie, Pete Seeger, Aretha Franklin,  George Benson, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen,
He was largely responsible for the revival of delta blues artist Robert Johnson's music (who was a big influence on Dylan) .  He also strived for racial integration, not only in the musical frontier but in the United States in general.
Where are the free thinkers today.......? 

Wednesday 16 March 2011

*Routes into the Music Industry

I've been following music many years - and very closely the past few. It never ceases to amaze me...! Puzzling over why some artists may receive 'huge critical acclaim' yet not the publics endorsement - while others the reverse! I attend many big event festivals here in Scotland - as well as live gigs by both major artists and up-and-coming artists in Glasgow mostly. .I recently attended Celtic Connections Glasgow, which attracts people worldwide. I try to make the Danny Kyle open mic stage for new artists and the festival club. I've been to many rock, folk and pop gigs here the past years.  

I watched X Factor a bit last season.. and what is there to say! It seems a very limited here-today-gone- tomorrow- route' into the industry. I am just listening to Adele's soul voice singing Dylan's 'To Make You Feel My Love'- who says his songs are depressing (!) they need to listen.... I love Adele's new song 'Someone Like You' and her new album is full of co-writers on both lyrics and music. Yet other young artists I follow can get criticised if they haven't written their entire album? Adele came through the Brit School of music in Guildford - and I've seen her perform on Jools Holland several times - and it occurred to me there is a ton load of 'politics' in music.

*There are several main routes into the industry. 
I Popstar. Firstly the reality route via X Factor, Idol or other tv shows. Leona Lewis, Britney, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson. All hghly Americanised rather artificial shows, where the performers are tightly controlled and artists are signed to major labels and it all feels highly superficial. Artists who come top on these shows are marketed usually to a clear niche market - 10 year old girls often - or the mature granny. It's the gran and granddaughter audience! (the boys are too busy playing video games!)

II Pop Label Route: Justin Beiber, Clare Maguire, Ellie Goulding. Labels pick up young artists via A & R men and online networks. They are then 'groomed' over several years for hit 'stardom' via music magazines and by working with LA writing teams. Sometimes for the huge Tweenie' market - the 10 to 12 year old girls.  Image is also carefully developed.

III Music College. Amy Whinehouse, Adele, Keane, Newton Faulkner.  Through the Jools Holland route and via music college. In particular the Brit School at Guildford and a lot of networking goes on between these colleges and the music industry itself. While of course music colleges get invited to the reality shows too. Clearly a lot of coaching does on here also, but in a more sophisticated and expensive way.
V Folk Festivals. Julie Fowlis, Cara Dillon, Kris Drever, Karine Polwart,  Thirdly the folk music scene, where young artists can perform 'Open Mic' stages and the many low key festivals. The folk artists tend to use smaller labels. With the live gigs bringing more revenues in music these days, this must be good news for the folk scene- although there is still less money in folk as it is often older tunes compare to the royalties in pop/rock music. 

VII Publishing. Many iconic artists have broken in this way - Elton, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, more. Oddly I was thinking many are piano players and the piano is possibly the best instrument for songwriting on. Keys can also be awkward for a band onstage though, when the keyboards can't moved be around in confined spaces and also be often a block between artist and their audience - compared to the favourite guitar. Publishing deals give artists the much needed time to develop their writing and also performing skills.  

V Online. New route. Some artists build a following online through one of the networking sites - simply by putting up a few songs.
VII Rock band. Radiohead, U2, Coldplay, more. Lastly the Rock band route via NME or Q tours etc. Things start through small venue gigging - the 'Breaking' stages at festivals, where the A & R men hang about eyeing up the new talent for the next big thing. Most indie bands prefer to sign to indie labels where they are allowed more creative freedoms.  In today's music world there is now no longer room for mistakes in the public eye the way there used to be, even back in the 90s. Once you are 'online' on Youtube or myspace etc. it is make or break - and things have to be exactly right with image and sound.

And who are the reviewers (myself included) and judges of music? My impression is that some follow what is considered 'cool' 'sophisticated' or 'hip' regardless. I try to ignore the 'hype' - and certainly there are many artists out there who are 'pushed' at us. I've studied and listened to music all my life (and I'm not so young, I have lived through the decades of pop) and I play and write myself. I try to follow my heart in the first instance and I'm a big fan of what works live.
As the genres are blurring more and more - I often wonder as I watch rocky folk bands at Celtic or pop singer songwriters what is the 'real' difference between these routes into the music business. Often it is one of perceptions - and the Jools Holland and rock band routes appear to lead to a wider ranging and longer-term audience.  
PS Sometimes in art the slate need to be swept clean, in order to make way for the new. Towards the end of the seventies we had 'over-stylized glam-rock' - and along came punk in the early eighties to strip things back to basics and renew things.