Where are the next big bands?

oasis_knebworth_by_purposemakerAs many of you may know I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life. Some would say I still do, but when averaging around 35 for both 2011 and 2012, I’d argue otherwise.

In 2010 I was at 79 concerts – which is more than one a week. 2008 was also in the 70s, so by comparison 2011 and 2012 were quiet which is why I say I don’t really go to that many gigs now. Not since I was 15 years old did I attend so few.

It’s not through a lack of want. Whilst work and life has naturally gotten in the way, I actually feel there has also been a drought in damned good tours this past few years. The big bands have toured less so, and there is definitely a drought of mid-sized tours. Although perhaps a sign of age (and the bands do exist I just don’t know them), I believe not so many great new bands are coming up quick enough to fill the ranks. I fear becoming one of those old farts who only goes to two gigs a year, both of which are for bands I loved 15 or even 20 years ago!

I do blame the breakdown of the record labels for much of this. I believe the ’them and us’ approach against the fans, the greed and arrogance against change vs. wanting instant gratification and ’big sales’ from ALL their acts led to their lack of investment in nurturing talent.

I am not going to discuss the blame the industry places on illegal downloads, and the cause / effect which they say forced them down this route. However, I do think that as profits fell the fat cats increasingly looked for quick hits, and dropped those acts who didn’t make the grade. This behaviour essentially stemmed the flow of future rewards. So many great acts with promising potential lost contracts and split as a result.

I do feel the over-reliance of talent shows in earlier years has also left a drought where young bands (of all styles and genre) should have been nurtured. I am not slagging off talent shows. They are great entertainment, and I love American Idol (brilliant television). However they shouldn’t be the main source of ’sellable talent’. Where are the super-bands, the truly global phenomenon to take over from the likes of Iron Maiden, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, KISS, et al? Why haven’t the record labels looked long-term and nurtured newer artists to take over once those bands, and their legions of fans move on? Is Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay enough? They’ve been around since the mid-to-late 90’s. But who has made (or are on the way to make) it really global since? Very few.

I love live music. If I only had enough money for a gig ticket OR to buy the band’s album. I would buy the ticket. Sure I could listen the album forever more but the joy of a live performance and the memory of that show will also be with me forever. Therefore this is why I feel passionately that the new emerging talent who used to tour relentlessly have much less opportunity to do so, as often and on a nationwide scale, without that record label investment.

The bands are out there, but it’s getting harder to discover those up and coming bands in my usual way. My wife and I talk about picking a small local gig a week (or nowadays possibly a month) and just going. It might be we don’t know the band very well, or if it’s a really small venue, then not at all. However I have a very prestigious long-list of bands who I have seen as the unknown support band who have become massive in their own right. Muse, Stereophonics, Coldplay, The Verve and most recently, The Lumineers come to mind.

At least by going to smaller gigs, I will see some good (and some bad) bands, support local talent, and have a night out too. It will also get me listening to more music, and my appetite for that and live shows hasn’t dissipated even if the attendance has waned somewhat.

Gareth Fraser
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