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TV ‘is failing new music stars’

It’s ‘In The City’ week again, the annual state of the nation which was created by the late Tony Wilson and addresses trends and issues in the musical world. There can be a lot of chaff at this event, but there was a bit of wheat in the speech given by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, who is a politician, obviously, but we will gloss over that for the time being.

Broadcasters must “promote and champion new music in this country, rather than having just very safe options on prime-time TV”, he told executives.

And he’s right. What are the mainstream music shows? Later….and Transmission./ And both are very decent at what they do – though like most human beings I could do with rather less of Jools honky-tonk piano and obsequious interview technique – but both go out after the watershed to specialist audiences. In other words, they present new music to people who are the most likely to be aware of it already.

Burnham correctly asserts that we ‘need a programme like Top of the Pops’ because it introduced new acts to a primetime, mainstream audience. And you can’t quibble with that. He uses the example of The Smiths, a band millions fell in love with when they appeared on TOTP to play ‘This Charming Man’. You simply wouldn’t get that exposure today, and how a band like, say, The Cribs would benefit from it.

Ah, but there are so many other options, I hear you say. There are dozens of music channels on digital TV, and that is correct, there are, but they are mostly the equivalent of commercial radio – for f*cktards by f*cktards. Their playlists are so boring and conservative they could run for Governor of Illinois and probably win. The BBC have the space, remit and ability to make discerning programmes.

And here comes another stage of the problem. the Beeb have, in recent years, become bafflingly allergic to being innovative in music. There are good things in it’s digital output – 6Music and 1Extra are excellent stations – but they have all but given up on Radio 1. Song pluggers will tell you Radio 1 are now more likely to get behind a new release if it has a big budget behind it – i.e. a record company splashing the advertising cash to ensure a hit. So instead of creating stars, the BBC now simply promote existing stars. That means so many great bands don’t reach anywhere near the audience they could.

The BBC could easily create a mainstream, pre-watershed music show showcasing exciting new talent – they’d simply need to rebook 90% of the acts who do a session for 6Music – but they are too scared, too conservative and too dull to do so. Instead, we get an hour of Jools once a week for 6 weeks at a time three times a year.

It won’t do, and it is so obvious that a politician has noticed it. And that says it all.

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4 Responses

  1. It is a tough one. BBC woudl argue that they do break ‘new’ music but it’s not music that ELM likes! The Guardian fawns over new bands but they’re all crap.

    I am quite clear that my own music taste is never going to be represented on TV. Like with football, if you follow Enfield, Albion Rovers or Aberyswyth then you won’t be on SKY any time soon. But sometimes it’s better to dig your own hole.

  2. This is a shameful post. If the alternative scene was to become more mainstream through greater television exposure, as one most conclude would happen from your post, then what people like us have left to feel smug and superior about?

    What an appalling vista to have to contemplate!

    Therefore, I call upon thee to withdraw those remarks sir!

  3. Another good point. We are sonic pioneers; Stakhanovite shock troops working the coal face of the avante garde.

  4. Can you imagine; Neds (Chavs) playing post rock through tinny mobile phone speakers at ear splitting volume down the back of every bus in Britain – “That Slint are fuckin’ magic, by the way man”.

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