The great music drought – the talent is there, but not being nurtured!

I read a news article this morning which had been shared by The Music Venue Trust. This article had been written by The Guardian and bemoaned the lack of new musical acts emerging in the UK. Now, putting aside the fact that the Guardian has has a history of declaring things dead when they are demonstrably not, the article definitely rubbed me up the wrong way…

“There’s nothing on the horizon, no music scene at the moment. It seems to be that the talent isn’t out there, [or if it is] they don’t know what to do with it,” says the label source.

… How dare you! As part of my wonderful job, I get the privilege of travelling the country playing alongside many different artists and I can categorically state that the talent most certainly IS OUT THERE! Which means the second part of the quote comes in to play “…they don’t know what to do with it”. I don’t know whether this “source” is talking about the artist not knowing what to do with their talent, or the industry not knowing what to do with the talent, so I will deal with both arguments.

1) The artist doesn’t know what to do with the talent…

This has ALWAYS been the case, musicians are notoriously bad at self promotion and making themselves commercially viable. Labels used to do things called “development deals” where they would help shape a band by teaching them the music business without expecting an immediate return, because they had faith that the band would learn and eventually become a valuable “asset” to the label. It was an investment in money and time. The label would nurture the band, make sure they were playing shows that would give much needed experience and get the band ready for “the big time”. Yes this lead to countless bands that “nearly made it” and the label made a loss, but without this valuable step there simply will not be any “big time bands” because you can’t expect someone to be completely polished out of the box.

Look at the UK chart scene in recent years, full of X-Factor/Britains Got Talent style acts, and you know what…? Regardless of my opinion of those shows (you can probably guess what it is), there’s no denying that a valuable part of those shows is MENTORSHIP, the acts on those shows get shown how to perform, and how to win an audience. That should be happening at grass roots level for all genres of music.

The business no longer invests at the grass roots, and legendary venues are closing left, right and centre because of it, leaving a watered down scene. Whenever I search for new venues for my (self managed) tours, I always come across at least a dozen venues that say they put on “live music” when all they really do is have an open mic once a week (or sometimes once a month). I don’t want to bad mouth open mics because they definitely have a place, but you don’t learn to craft an excellent show, or build a dedicated fanbase by playing 2 or 3 song sets and venues promoting the idea that open mics = live music is detrimental to the reputation of the music scene in general.

2) The industry doesn’t know what to do with the talent…

… Why the hell not? It’s YOUR business to know. As mentioned above, you cannot expect to have a full polished talent turn up for you to promote, and if such a talent existed they wouldn’t want to work with you anyway, because (given this is the age of readily available technology) they’d be doing very well on their own thank you very much!

It seems to me that the traditional model of “success” failed a long time ago as the sheer amount of choice increased. The music scene is more fragmented now than it has ever been and the industry has failed to keep up. Instead of searching for the “next big thing”, they should concentrate on the long tail. It may be more work in the short term, but it stands to reap greater rewards as they use it to reinvigorate a nation’s thirst for musical culture.

The industry has become so obsessed with the rise of the Internet that it has failed to grasp that online success/talent does not necessarily translate to live success/talent. Live music has always been about more than just the music, it’s a shared experience with friends and strangers. It’s an experience that the audience and the artist are SHARING TOGETHER, and that’s how you get “super fans”, those who are dedicated and become the street team “word of mouth” advocates which spreads a band faster than anything else. The Internet, for all its positives simply cannot replace the euphoria you feel when a band plays an awesome gig a few feet away from you and it will not generate “super fans” as easily. Social media has helped bands connect with their audience, but it cannot fully provide the live show experience.

The industry has been trying the same things over and over again and expecting different results, and as Einstein is often quoted as stating, that’s the definition of madness. It’s time to shake it up and do something different. The talent is most definitely out there, but it needs nurturing (yes, at the risk of making mistakes and losses) and gently bringing to the public’s attention. In order to have “big fish”, you need a body of water for them to swim in!

4 thoughts on “The great music drought – the talent is there, but not being nurtured!

  1. I used to think that the cream does indeed rise to the top; these days, however, I’m not so sure. So many good singers and so many good songs are not being heard. Ironically this is happening at a time when it’s never been easier to get your stuff out there.

    I’m not sure what the answer is. The showcasing of local talent is vital. Whether or not this is happening effectively in your area is always debatable. We all go to local gigs whenever we can, but maybe more artists need to hook up with like minded coves and, as brewers do with their ‘tap takeovers’, musicians should do a similar thing and join forces and present a united front!

    John

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