James Beeson casts his watchful eye over the malaise of modern music and offers an analysis few could argue with.
Another day, another casualty in the dog-eat dog world of the music industry. This month has already seen the demise of London based Indie bands Chapel Club and Tribes, and on Wednesday (14th November) New Yorker rockers The Virgins also announced they would be throwing in the towel after six years together as a Quartet. What exactly is going wrong in the industry, and why are these talented artists failing to get the recognition they deserve?
There can be little doubt that these unfortunate bands had a great deal to offer. The Virgins had previously opened for the likes of Lou Reed and The Killers, and were recently signed onto Julian Cascablancas’ record label. However, it is no coincidence that all three bands decided to call it a day after releasing just two albums. Even more significant is that in each of the three cases, the 2nd album received a far more lukewarm public reception than the debut offering, with Chapel Club’s 2013 offering Good Together failing to even chart in the UK. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the music business, with many critics labeling it the ‘Second-album Syndrome.’
However, in the cases of the aforementioned bands, the second albums were critically well received. Strike Gently by The Virgins was rated 8/10 by NME, whilst Good Together was described as ‘blissfully tranquilised ’80s funk.’ I thoroughly enjoyed the most recent offerings of all three bands, particularly Wish to Scream by Tribes. Clearly, Second-album Syndrome is not the only reason why many new bands are failing to take off.
It is clear to me that a hugely significant factor in all of this is the changing taste of UK music consumers. The failure of influential radio stations, particularly Radio One, to adequately promote new guitar music is playing a huge part in condemning talented artists to failure. The preference of mainstream radio for repetitive, generic pop artists over real, passionate and meaningful music is incredibly painful and frustrating to see. A major factor in many bands’ decision to split tends to be financially based. The lack of radio exposure and the emergence of illegal download and streaming sites such as Spotify have forced bands to tour excessively in order to stay afloat financially. This can be extremely physically demanding, and limits a bands ability to produce new music and hone their abilities. In my opinion, it is lack of finance which is strangling new music the most in the UK and overseas.
Having said this, I think the artists themselves must take partial responsibility. Two albums and 5/6 years struggling to make it in the industry is simply not long enough. David Bowie didn’t become a superstar overnight, taking ten whole years before reaching any significant level of commercial success. I would like to see bands showing more perseverance and desire to succeed, rather than simply ‘giving up’ when they are not immediately recognized for their talent. The demise of Tribes, Chapel Club and The Virgins undoubtedly makes the music scene a much poorer place. However, action must now be taken in order to prevent other new bands suffering a similar fate.