Catchy titles never were my thing…
I am going to start this article with The Proclaimers, a band that I personally think are worth 1000 times more than their classic 1988 global mega anthem, ‘I’m Gonna Be’. For me as a fan of lyrics that focus on the issues at the heart of modern Scottish life, the album ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is in my top 3 of Scottish albums from back in yon day (Scared to Dance by Skids and Steeltown by Big Country being my other contenders). Anyway, the twins’ story of how their music made it mainstream seems simple if Wikipedia is to be believed; a demo alongside Kevin Rowland of ‘Come on Eileen’ fame that ended up with another established indie group, The Housemartins, and then bang the cycle of creativity began. It shouldn’t really be that surprising that collaboration between established artists and emerging ones led to the success of this iconic band, but to me, it seemed just that. Surprising.
The pre-internet world of music was far from idyllic I am sure, Ray Davies sings about it enough to shine a light on a world of nepotism, money-grubbing and in many cases abuse, but even so, the idea of cooperation between the old and new guards is something that really caught me. Why? Well, here is my wee story.
What do you do when you are an emerging artist and you have music to release? Well, previous to my new utopian dream of all independent artists working together to create a sustainable musical future post-Covid, I probably did what many people did; I sent my work to established artists and platforms who more or less reflected the kind of music I put out. This ‘Hail Mary’ approach had predictable results most of the time. An email to a submissions page/ promotion company or even to a fellow artist rarely elicits a negative nor positive response. In fact, the usual state of affairs is at best a no reply email reply, but normally just utter silence.
Social media, the apparent leveller of boundaries between emerging and established artists is much the same. Relevant tags, links, likes etc usually fall on deaf ears, the apathy palpable when most ‘made it’ artists accounts are clearly run by soulless promotion and global publicity firms. The moral; you can tag us all you want, but no one is going to tell you anything, not even that you are shite.
Anyhow, short of ganting on a wee bit of negative criticism from my peers, I decided to comment on the forthcoming Blondie feat. Garbage gig at Glasgow’s Hydro in November. To cut a long story short I questioned the impossibly high nature of the ticket price in a world where the pandemic has left music on its knees. If musicians can’t play and the public are dusting off overdrafts to account for a year of government ineptitude and negligence, then just who exactly is expected to fill the 14,500 seater arena at a minimum charge of £62.50 + booking fee?
Is this what we want the music industry to return to? All for those who already have it all, with no nod to the future? What this money pays for I will go into in another diatribe, but on voicing my concerns was when, for the first time in my twitter history (120 followers give or take, a number that I have been assured is shite) that suddenly my both the public as well as my ‘superiors’ in the creative industry began to respond.
I can accept the public getting mad at me for questioning the existence of a two global musical icons coming to Glasgow. I cannot accept that poverty should be a barrier for access to music, whether playing or listening. Indeed, if after a year of job loss, furlough pay (if you’re lucky) and cuts, you can afford to shell out over £100 for two tickets to a concert, then you find yourself in a position of privilege. How that privilege is used remains up to the individual, but to channel the Govan sage, Rab C. Nesbitt, ‘See you!’
One thing I am sure about is that no-one in this position understands the challenge of being an unsigned, emerging musician during this period. For those with the means, music is back, and I am a whining wee git, intent on bringing misery to everyone’s door.
So, chuffed as I was by the public’s response to the comment, I was left slightly aghast by the vitriol expressed by member’s of my own industry. Namely a cast member from Desperate Scousewives and finally, after much bandwith expended, Garbage themselves.
Hallelujah! After years of social media toadying, of one-way email cul-de-sacs, of pointlessly waiting for approval from the establishment, I had a response. Sure, said response was the act of tearing into my own creative output without any background research, but here it was. What joy!
So, from the pedestals of privilege, those already elevated express a laissez-faire attitude on the masses below. All artists are equal, but some are more equal than others, to paraphrase. Ignorance is bliss, and the only time you need even step down from the ivory tower is to step upon those who question the paradox of individualism and hypocrisy of groups that claim to be independent in spirit.
I think it is testament to the warped morals of the creative industry that the only contact I have had with established peers within said industry has been through them reacting to a perceived assault on their (relative to independent artists) vast privilege.
The Proclaimers, possibly the most iconic (or at least recognisable) of Scottish acts, love or loath ’em, came to be through a network of independent musicians collaborating; some established and some emerging. A scene of sustainable auto-perpetuation in which the old helped the new and vice versa. Of course they did it through 8-tracks and cassettes, but the moral of the story is the same. Independent artists working with other independent artists is, to me, the only sustainable way of returning to the music industry when the destruction wrought by the pandemic finally subsides. This is the future of independent music in Scotland. What do yous reckon?
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