Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Birmingham Bands - does their music travel?

We have great music, great musicians and great bands - but is there an open door for them? 

I just got off an online chat with Mike, a US radio pal. We talked music as always. When working abroad, I’m always happy to push local talent, and that’s just what I did, pitching two bands to Mike a few years back when he graduated to mainstream radio. These were the New Blacks and 360. The New Blacks – not sure if they’re around anymore – were/are a fine bunch of hard rockers from the Black Country, and they went down just fine with Mike. But I struggled with 360, which struck me as completely insane. The main reason, of course, is there is no such thing a receptive mainstream music format at most US radio – the material HAS to fit certain criteria. And Ska/Funk/Punk with a dash of brilliant pop, to my dismay, wasn’t being snapped up at US radio.

Yesterday, as usual, we talked music. Mike wondered what was cooking locally. So I gave him a whole list of web links. They’re listed further down the post, after the jump. As I did, I was struck by the individuality of the acts I was asking him to check out from a US perspective. It’s a good and a bad thing.

I love all these guys. These acts are all British/English in the widest, best and most individual sense. They’re all fabulous, all uncompromisingly powerful and inventive…but I just wonder how easy it will be for most of them to get the smallest toehold across the pond. That they deserve recognition is beyond question.

Here’s the names I gave him:
The Destroyers
Alternative Dubstep Orchestra
Jo Hamilton
Mellow Peaches
Vijay Kishore
Mistys Big Adventure
Goodnight Lenin

I could have added several dozen more. Of the above list of sparkling inventive talent, only Jo Hamilton has had some acceptance in major US markets, and then only after some skilful and intelligent plugging.

This is not, repeat, NOT, a criticism of any of the above bands. Nor is it meant to discourage anyone looking speculatively across the pond. What it does show, to me at least, is that three processes have been taking place:

Firstly, from the beginning of the noughties, and maybe earlier, the last remnants of Brit music credibility in the US shrivelled up and died; no easy rides were to be afforded to UK bands thinking they could waltz into stateside success. It cuts both ways – some huge US acts (John Mayer, Bruce Hornsby, Dave Matthews, guys like that), don’t mean a thing over in the UK, where once they would have, or did.

Secondly – and a good thing too – Brit bands have largely stopped trying to be American, and vice versa.

Thirdly: with the collapse of the old-style record industry, and the rise of web tools, bands have increasingly followed their own creative drives, without making any compromises to please a dodgy record company. That is a wonderful thing. Long may it continue.

But life doesn't get any easier for musicians... does it?.

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