Economics? Nah mate, this is rockonomics… 09/10/08
It’s been pretty hard to miss talk of the credit crunch these last few weeks and as it continues to worsen it persists on taking up more column inches than the sex lives of the Manchester United squad and Girls Aloud combined.
But is it all doom and gloom?
Well yes, but let us both humour ourselves and take solace in the fact that stereotypically the music and other entertainment industries aren’t usually affected by economic downturns and in the past have even proven to be the fulcrum of some of the most important musical movements of the past century.
In the great depression of the 20s/30s various sources state that the movie industry boomed and arguably could be considered to be one of the contributing factors to Hollywood’s golden era (that and their Fordist approach to movie making).
This rather enjoyable read from Tom Towshend argues that the rather sullen political and economical climate of the late seventies spurred on the onslaught of Punk and everything it stood for.
In the early eighties when unemployment engulfed the country, music was a channel to release the frustration being felt by the country. With UB40’s One In Ten (regarding the then rate of unemployment) echoing the thoughts of a country in dejection and a certain gladioli-swinging bequiffed Northerner caught the eyes and ears of a melancholic youth.
In said article Towshend states “It’s often been said that The Smiths couldn’t have come from anywhere but Manchester, but it’s also true that they couldn’t have come from any other time in British history.” And even allowing for some poetic license, if Britain was as depressing as The Smith’s songs of the era suggest then I can only thank the powers that be that I was in nappies for the majority of the eighties (due to my youth, not my incontinence).
So will the current economic climate spurn another movement of similar or greater magnitude as punk? Or will it be the catalyst for another band as historically important as The Smiths?
I would argue not as I personally don’t believe there will ever be a movement with as much significance as punk, glam, mod, teddy boy etc ever again due to the way we consume our media in this day and age. The choice available for a youth to pigeonhole themselves as is so vast these days that the niche is now the norm.
So how about the music? Is there anyone as capable of encapsulating the feelings of a despondent nation as lovely old Morrissey?
Again, I can’t see where they’d come from (but arguably that’s the beauty of it) and I’d be surprised if in twenty years time we’re talking about someone like Glasvegas in the same way we talk about The Smiths now.
On the flip side of things if you’re an independent/unsigned artist should you be worried that the economy is going to quash any chances you have of getting signed to a big-money deal?
Well yes and no according to the sources you read. According to this report from the Beeb regarding the topics discussed at this year’s In The City then record labels are signing far fewer artists than they used to be to help minimise the risk of spending money on drivel and are only going for artists who have seen success on a smaller scale already.
It would appear that labels are far less likely to take a punt on artists these days than they used to do in the not so distant past (bands such as Coldplay and Keane were signed on rather small publishing deals compared to what would be demanded now) but whether or not this is a directly influenced on the current economy is debateable. Maybe labels were just realising they were spending money on tosh? For every Coldplay there were 10 other artists who didn’t recoup so why not just put two healthy bets of £125,000 each on a couple of ‘dead cert’ artists and save £50,000 for your troubles? Not the most entrepreneurial of spirits but frugal nevertheless.
The music industry as a whole shouldn’t feel the crunch too much though if history is anything to go by. Although Joe Public may have significantly less disposable income they’re most likely to cull their trip abroad than they are their cinema visit or purchase of the new Oasis album (over 130,000 shifted already and it’s only Thursday? What credit crunch?!)
Music is an escape. It can sooth a looming overdraft or crippling credit card bill for half an hour and allow you to forget your worries and troubles. No matter how financially screwed you are you’ll always treat yourself to a little somethin’ somethin’. From the student going out for a nice meal to the tramp spending his last pennies on a can of special brew, human nature is inherently too selfish not to look after number one.
All in all I try to live by my humble Sheffield mantra: “It’ll be reet”.
Just a quick note on my In The City shenanigans this year:
I had a disappointingly brief ITC due to me moving flats back in Liverpool but I did manage to catch a few highlights which included Jarvis Cocker presenting a lecture on the importance of song lyrics in music which included a few acoustic performances (cue fantastic rendition of ‘Babies’) and a panel on the concept of free music where the ever knowledgeable Steve Purdham made some rather interesting points.
Artist wise kudos should go to:
Soft Toy Emergency – Liverpool’s self-proclaimed ‘Casio Kittens’ show us what the Ting Tings would be like if they grew a pair of balls. Definitely worth checking out live, even if it’s just for their cracking cover of Justice’s DVNO. Electro.
To The Bone – Bolton’s answer to Queens of the Stone Age. Rock.
Skeletons – Sheffield five piece who are causing a bit of a fuss in the Steel City gave an energetic performance and are the proud owner of a rather cracking front man. Entertaining.
Grammatics – Yes I’m mentioning them again and I shall continue to do so until they stop being so damn good. Refreshing.
Twin Atlantic – on record they sound a bit like Hundred Reasons to me which I assure you isn’t a bad thing (‘Ideas Above Our Station’ was a cracking album!), these guys won’t stay unsigned for long. Scottish.
What I’m listening to this week: all of the above and Eugene McGuiness’s debut album which is rather nifty.
What I’m Reading this week: Bill Bryson’s Mother Tounge.