‘Got a feeling ’21 is gonna be a good year’
So goes the refrain from The Who‘s seminal 1969 album, ‘Tommy‘. The track in question is simply titled ‘1921‘. Since the end of this guff year, this tune, or at least the main motif from it has been rattling round my head like the broken action of a stricken snare drum, carrying with it something that hasn’t been seen for a wee while in the world of independent music; hope. ‘It’s hope Jim, but not as we know it’.
Such is the subjectivity of music to the listener, that a song that fundamentally talks about the act of covering up a murder to a young boy who has witnessed it, the psychological trauma of which leads said boy to lose his ability to both speak and hear, can indeed be deemed ‘hopeful’. Though he subsequently develops a world-beating ability in pinball, it’s arguable whether this is recompense enough. Anyway, I divulge, and the fact that the Tommy’s manipulative, homicidal parents see a brighter future, mainly due to the only witness’ physical inability to shop them for their heinous crimes, is what I took from the song.
That’s the beauty of music, it speaks to everyone in different ways. The socially dominant amoebae who made up my school’s higher echelons of sporting prowess indeed believed that the Nirvana’s era-defining track was of course ‘Smells like TEAM spirit’, and thus became some kind of inspirational anthem to prelude a few hours of Saturday morning mud. Aye, they were wankers, stupid ones at that, but such is the power of music. They got what they wanted out of it.
So if ’21 is gonna be a good year, what is the plan? What do you do when the option of live music has not only been denied, but also seems quite a long way off in the hazy musical future. I spent the lockdown, like many other independent musicians, delving into the world of live streaming ‘gigs’ and being turned down for funding applications by various creative bodies, whose jobsworth, tick-box culture of pretending to support grass-roots music does more to damage it than allow it to thrive… whoa! We will deal with the joys of that particular rant in another blog entry. No 2021, at least the start is going to have to be about recording, but maybe what we do with those recordings is where things can change.
It used to be simple, you record, put it online/CD/tape whatever, thus when adulation is forthcoming post-concert, you can direct people to a website or sell them a CD. Those halcyon days are temporarily shafted, so it’s up to us as independent musicians to find a way to keep our music in circulation. Trying to get onto streaming service curated playlists is about as charm-filled as an inebriated pants pissing episode on a cold day; the few seconds of warmth quickly washed away by a tide of frustration, self-loathing and existential dread. This is no way to go forward.
In order to create something sustainable in the world of independent music, the answer is far closer at hand than mainstream music would like us to realise.
We are the Future
Cut out the middle-man, every fucking streaming system gatekeeper or playlist guru is just another degree of separation between the musical community and the music itself. This year, if I have learned anything, it is that the only people who are looking out for independent music are the musicians themselves. We have the power to propagate our own music, to directly support others in our field especially given the ease of communication provided by social networks.
In Scotland, where an idealistic me sees this grass-roots revolution taking hold and providing a real alternative to the individualist approach to modern music making, there is already ample evidence of this theory in practice. Alastair Braidwood’s ‘Scots Whay Hae’ is THE hub of modern Scottish independent music culture. CamGlen Radio offer new artists a space to both air their music but equally as important, talk about it too. Jim Gellatly is the absolute champion of new Scottish music. Fiona Liddell’s #shoutoutsaturday series, as well as the podcast ‘Line Check’ with fellow musician Jack Hinks, interact directly with new Scottish music and use their knowledge as independent artists to help other independent artists. What a concept. There are so many more.
I don’t think it’s too idealistic to take a collective approach to new independent music, a kind of united we stand sort of thing. Divided, we certainly fall, trapped by the enormity of an industry intent on sucking every last penny out of new music. Even listening to someone else’s tunes and communicating with them is a start. The silence between musicians is endemic of the individualism that the modern music industry has afforded us, I for one, have been hitherto very guilty in playing a lot, but never listening. That has to change.
I wanted to use this space as an update to how the musical year was going, not just for me, but also for musicians that I listen to and I like. Therefore, I will put my ill-informed opinion alongside, reviews and reaction to what is going on in the world of new Scottish music. if you want to get in touch, just send me a message @louisrivemusic or by email.
Got a feeling ’21
Is going to be a good year
Especially if you and me
See it in together
The rest of the verse goes like that. Then it gets really dark etc. Still, from the point of view of two murderous maniacs, playing out a grim love triangle in Pete Townshend’s mind in 1969, it’s a start.
Happy New Year.