Music. What do I know?
Perhaps not much, certainly when it comes down to the business side of music. I know it often screws and totally fucks up many an artist… that much is known as legend and law, but exactly how it does that, I don’t know.
What I DO know is this. Music says it all. Music is… to me, to you, to most, everything. It is, individually and uniquely, the soundtrack to our life, wherever we are from, whatever we know. It is our comfort, it is our friend, our solace, our uplift, our reminder, our party animal, our anthem… music, to the vast majority across the globe, is ALL.
Some of us may be limited in our tastes, some of us are wider reaching, and some of us will find our love of the craft so encompassing we never stop yearning for, and thus hunting out more more more.
Let me be clear. I’m not a musician. I play no instrument, produce no track, mix no mix (I may, possibly, be an accomplished lyricist but if so that has yet to be discovered). I am in no way involved in making music, but – OH – do I love music.
And, like a multitude, I love a hit and a smash; many a big star has my awesome praise. However, like many things in life, I love even more the ‘underdog’. Those singers, composers, players, producers, djs et al who – despite a gift unsurpassed – are not at the top of their game; I want them to be, of course. I want them to be heard, valued, appreciated, and I will fight as much as my individual self can do to make that happen, but in the interim I will feel deeply honoured to have ‘discovered’ them when so so many have missed out. Like I’m lucky.
I’m a writer. I write because, quite simply, I just love writing. Sure, I’d still like to make my living doing so though. And I have to remember, it is exactly the same with all these creators of music.
Here – at this point – is where the problem lies. Back to where I began: business. Big business.
Look – I know how it all goes, and no-one is going to change that. At least individuals are breaking out and pushing through and – sometimes – winning; the modern age of the internet helps this. Still, it is a tight fight though.
My point is, there are times when it should not be. And – ok, I’m picking on one now, but The Mercury Prize is one.
One, because it is one of the biggest annual awards and thus garners huge focus in the musical calendar. And secondly, more importantly, because, according to their own website: “The Barclaycard Mercury Prize exists solely to champion music in the UK, mainly through the ‘Albums of the Year’ competition, which celebrates recorded music of all genres by British or Irish artists… The music on the album is the only thing taken into account.”
I’ll state that last sentence again: THE MUSIC ON THE ALBUM IS THE ONLY THING TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.
That is great. Except it isn’t true. No. Before the music, what is taken into account, what makes an album qualify is the publishing deal – as in, which major label, even through a subsidiary company, has that singer/band/group in their pocket. (To be clear, I’m not dismissing past winners because of this).
Of course, as with every artistic endeavour, we know there are many out there who may well deserve some recognition but have yet to find it. Such is the way the old cookie has always crumbled. Wishful as is, it would be perhaps too ambitious to expect every unknown up and down the country to be taken into consideration.
Take one step up however, one big and impressive step up, and there you will find a fine and masterful selection who have, through blood sweat and tears, independently produced and released their efforts to a buying market: you can buy them on Amazon, you can download them on itunes, you can catch them live on the road. They are published. They are out there and available. They have arrived!
But The Mercury Prize – the body that prides itself on existing “…solely to champion music in the UK…” who stand as something “…which celebrates recorded music of all genres by British or Irish artists…” whereupon “…the music on the album is the only thing taken into account.” – they – who ever ‘they’ are, they’re just not interested. Nope. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve gained major hits in independent charts. You need a big industry publishing deal to be considered, otherwise you don’t exist.
And I know this. Because I’ve written and asked them, twice, why an independent label isn’t considered, and, twice, I’ve heard nothing. If I was a BIG name in something or other, perhaps they’d take notice, but again, no – The Mercury Prize just ain’t listening.
And, that folks, is the problem. Perhaps it is the foreword ‘Barclaycard’ that is the issue; after all, when does a bank listen?
We have a HUGE and RICH and VARIED music scene standing tall and proud here in the UK. Sure, I know everyone isn’t going to get the big break, but there is far more out there to enjoy than you can possibly imagine. I’d throw names at you but they’d just be my (well, and that of a few thousand others) taste. Please, don’t just accept what you are fed – get involved, dig around – discover the wealth all around you. And support them. Download their tunes, buy their albums. Trust me… musically – your life will be better for it.
And maybe, just maybe ‘The Independent Prize’ will begin to grow rightful wings.