Thursday, 10 December 2009

BBC Sound Of 2010

This year Breaking More Waves blog was invited by the BBC to vote on the BBC Sound Of 2010 list, which was published earlier this week. Considering that the blog in this format has only been seriously operating for just over a year, this was a pretty big honour, effectively the BBC recognising Breaking More Waves as having some degree of expertise in new music. Of course when it comes to views on music, opinions are always going to be subjective, but it's nice to see that someone appreciates your views. It seems that this year the BBC asked a greater number of music blogs to participate in the voting, recognising the ever increasing value of the format in identifying and promoting new music. Of the blogs that voted, I can recommend every one of them, do check them out. The full list of voters is here.

One of the misconceptions about the BBC Sound Of list is that the voters are asked to pick who they think will be ‘the next big thing’ in the future year. Articles such as this written by the editor of Drowned In Sound, who is on the voting panel, bolster the misconception. Yet instructions issued to those who are entitled to vote from the BBC are very clear. They ask voters to vote for three new acts who they consider to be the best and most exciting new act, irrespective of record deal or marketing campaign. One also cannot vote for X Factor type contestants, soap stars, friends or relatives.

In fact there are many misconceptions about the BBC Sound of List. One only has to read some of the comments placed on the BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ section of their website here since the publication of this years list to see this. The number of negative comments are startling, ranging from the totally blinkered to the uninformed. However amongst them it is good to see the odd ray of positivity such as Andy from Romsey who says "I must say I am astonished at the level of hostility on this board. Well OK, I did expect it from the any-music-since-1980-is-awful brigade, but all the criticism of the BBC and the record industry for "telling us what to think" seems ridiculous to me. No one forces you to look at the list!I for one greatly enjoy these lists each year, picked by people who know the industry inside-out, and find that I am introduced to some great new artists that I hadn't previously heard of. Well done BBC." Well said Andy.

Ultimately the BBC Sound Of list intends to promote what music ‘tastemakers’ (and we use the word tastemakers reservedly as we are not so egotistical to think that this blog forms peoples tastes, but hopefully it does push them onwards to explore some of the bands we feature) consider to be the best new music out there, irrespective of if it is the next big thing or not. If it fulfils that ideal is somewhat arguable. As Sean Adams of Drowned in Sound correctly identifies in his article we linked above, the list is nearly always full of acts who have major label backing, despite the request to consider artists irrespective of record deal. However look carefully at this years list and there a few artists who have not got such backing in the bag.

Of course the irony is that the artists who come top of the list, when the short list is published in the new year, are then more likely to become the ‘next big thing’, even if they weren’t before the list is published. However is that such a bad thing if a collective of individuals, who are considered supposed experts in their field have voted for the artists they really believe are the best. Maybe this is a good thing for great new music ? Well, that’s the theory anyway, and given that in the current climate where unless you’ve appeared on X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent your chance of gaining mainstream exposure is very limited, any chance to get your music heard has to be of some value. Doesn’t it ? Well possibly. For a relatively small indie act such as Everything Everything, getting a nomination on the list probably provides more exposure than they have ever had, and will lead to further bookings for shows and festivals for example. Of course over exposure can also lead to dangerous levels of expectation and cynicism. We have written before here about the dangers of expectation that the BBC Sound Of list can possibly create. However throwing cynicism aside, we would rather hear the likes of Stornoway and Marina and The Diamonds, both on this years long list on the radio than Jedward or Susan Boyle thank you very much. The BBC Sound Of list may not be perfect, but ultimately it is a good way of showcasing new acts to the public.

So having been asked to cast three votes, how did Breaking More Waves cast them? Our difficulty was there was almost too much choice. We could easily pick any of the acts on our Ones To Watch list and several others beside who didn’t qualify for our own list (such as the aforementioned Marina and the Diamonds) or acts that weren’t named in our Ones To Watch but were considered (Run Toto Run and The Cordelier Club for example).

But here’s the problem. If we chose a new unsigned act that we particularly like, unless that act has a chance of being voted for by others, then the Breaking More Waves vote is effectively wasted. It’s rather like voting for a minority party in the general election. You may be sticking to your principles, but if you are the only person to vote for that person then those principles will not choose the winner. This is where exposure becomes important, again. For an artist to stand a chance of being placed onto the BBC Sound of List and gain more visibility, they already need to have had significant exposure to the 100+ so called music tastemakers.

So, to ensure our vote wasn’t wasted we first considered artists who we like who we believed had a chance of getting on the list. So artists who have been building profiles through the media, have record deals in place, have been gigging constantly to build an audience, have created a buzz in the blogosphere or have already had success in other countries are all likely contenders. Any of these methods of increasing profile could put the artist in with a shout.

From this list we then chose two of our favourite acts that we thought could possibly get on the list, but would need every vote they could get to help them on. Effectively these were the acts that we considered to be the ‘borderline’ acts in terms of possible vote numbers. Using the election analogy if a particular seat was likely to be a close run thing between two political parties we voted for the party that were running the second in the polls. It may just help tip the balance. For our third choice we decided to take a different approach and choose an act that we believe represented the blogosphere and particularly the new music blogosphere, with significant blog buzz pushing them forward. It was an easy choice, particularly as it was an act that we fully expected to be on the Sound of 2010 list. It was a case of backing a favourite that we loved and hopefully cementing what we fully expected anyway. Of the three acts we chose, one is signed to a major label, whilst the other two were as far as we were aware at the time of voting unsigned, but very close to getting deals.

And then the long list was revealed. Of our three choices, two had made it. The favourite was of course there, as to our delight was one of the other artists we had voted for. Of the fifteen acts that appear on the BBC Sound of 2010 list, four of them also feature on our own Ones To Watch List. So who did we vote for ? Ah we seem to have forgotten to mention that. Well, if you read our own Ones To Watch list, you should be able to hazard a pretty good guess ! Our choices were Ellie Goulding (the favourite), Stornoway (the dark horse who made it on) and Unicorn Kid (who didn't make it ).

Since the list has been announced Ellie Goulding has now gone on to be announced as the winner of this years Brits Critics Award as well, so expect to hear plenty of Ellie on the radio next year. Of course there's always the chance of backlash against artists such as Ellie Goulding as the UK's passion for cynicism creeps in, but as lovers of new music such cynicism is largely not part of our agenda. It takes only a few easy minutes to write some harsh negative words on the internet, but it takes artistic skill and months or years of hard work to get the exposure the artists on the BBC Sound Of 2010 list get. We celebrate this and look forward to seeing how the Sound Of 2010 develop as the year progresses. Certainly this years list is pretty diverse, and with no overarching style or obvious star leaping out unlike 2009 where Florence, La Roux, Little Boots and Lady Gaga dominated the nominations, it looks like it could be an interesting year for new music.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see one of the judges coming forward and offering their thoughts. I think you are right about this years list not having any stars like last years and also there is a lot of negativity about the list. Sound Of Guns were a big omission.

Anonymous said...

Call yourself an expert and you voted for Ellie Goulding. She is fuckin shite man.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hello first Anon. Thanks for the comment. I did actually consider Sound Of Guns (if you read my piece on my own 10 Ones To Watch for 2010 you will see that I initially drew up a very long list and they were on that list, but I have to admit I quickly discarded them. Sorry. That's the beauty of music though - we will all have different tastes.

Which leads me to Anon number 2. You have different taste to me. That's just the way things are. I didn't call myself an expert at all. The BBC have used words such as 'tastemakers' in their publicity for the Sound of 2010, and if you re-read my blog you will see that I don't claim to be that (although I have had much fun with people who know me the last few days dropping the word 'tastemaker' into conversation wherever I can) :)

I do however believe that music blogs are playing an ever increasing roll in promoting new music to the public. The art is to find ones that you enjoy / have similar tastes or a similar philosophy as you, and then stick with them.

Breaking More Waves may not be for you if you dislike Ellie Goulding, but have a look at our other posts and see if there is anything to your taste. However we haven't put any posts about Jedward on this blog ;)

adorno said...

Laughing My Ass OFF!

They invited thousands of blogger and readers to vote, you douchebag. It wasn't an honor.

What a fuckwit.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Adorno

Sorry, you've got your facts wrong.

165 voters were asked to participate. The majority being from the paid music media such as journalists, DJ's, show producers etc.

Just a handful of bloggers were chosen.

Here is the full list of those who were asked to participate

You may not think it was an honour, but as someone who obsesses about new music, for me it was.

Anonymous said...

All these lists do is hype artists before they are ready for it. Hurts for example only have one song so far. How can the 'experts' choose a band based on one song ? They must be paying paid by the record company.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your comment and views on the idea of when an artist is ‘ready for it.’ How do you judge when someone ‘is ready for it’ though? That’s a difficult decision. We’re sure that you are right and sometimes artists get pushed forward before they are ready, but others have been slowly developing their talents and skills over a significant period of time before they arrive on this list, so one could argue that they are very much ready. For example this time last year we named Marina and the Diamonds on our Ones to Watch for 2009 list and it has taken her a further year to develop her profile enough to get a place on the BBC Sound Of 2010 list. Maybe she wasn’t ready when we put her on our list, but is she ready now? We would judge so, but we could be wrong. That’s the fun of these lists. Voters are asked in a snapshot of time in November who they consider to the best and most exciting new acts, but over a longer period some of those choices can seem ludicrously wrong - that’s always going to be the danger of a poll such as this. It’s not a perfect list - it’s always going to be open to criticism as everyone has their own opinion, but to our mind we would still much rather see and hear the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Stornoway, Gold Panda and Hurts than Jedward or other X Factor style blandness, irrespective of if they are ready for the hype. We may be in the minority, but that’s our position.

Incidentally you mention Hurts being chosen on the basis of one song. Well that is not necessarily the case. There are other Hurts songs such as Unspoken and Illuminated floating around which we have heard, and so we expect those who voted for Hurts have also heard these songs – for example if you have a look at Paul Lester (Guardian journalist) feature on the band from back in July 2009, he mentions some of the groups other material, and he was one of the voters. Here’s the address Of course sometimes choices are made on a limited amount of information, but in the case of Hurts they do not just have one song as you suggest.

Finally, with regard to your statement that voters have been paid by record companies is a highly cynical view, and would be a very disappointing reflection of the music industry if it were true. Certainly as a voter, nobody paid or influenced us in any way.

Fatboy fat said...

Why no rock bands on the list ? It's very pop 18-25 ageish


Nice to hear your views on taking part. It worries me that you put this much time, thought and effort into deciding your three nominations though!

Particularly if you wanted to vote for someone who you thought others would vote for, so it wasn't a 'wasted vote'. There's a lack of integrity if you start doing that mate. Whether it's a general election or the BBC poll you should always follow your inner beliefs and not worry about what others are thinking.

The BBC just asked you to name three bands you think will be hot in 2010, nothing more complicated than that, (remember I too was asked to vote!), yet you've gone into some deep, complicated thought process. What confuses me even more is you then you went and selected Unicorn Kid!?

Anyways, you seem to have had way too many hating comments on here by 'Anonymous', which always annoys me, so I won't have too much of a pop at you. At least I leave my name when I comment anything negative.

These commenters seem a little cynical too. Ellie Goulding is fucking fantastic. And although I wouldn't personally call it an honour to be asked, they didn't ask thousands of bloggers and readers, only 165 as you said, so I don't know what Adorno is on about. I'm guessing they didn't ask him.

As for that comment about us being paid to vote - please fuck off quickly.

Anyway, in my opinion, your final votes were decent. Like your excellent writing, I hope it came from you heart more than any other drawn out influences...


Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Mike. Thanks for not being an 'anonymous'. You are probably right, I probably put too much thought into who I voted for, but honestly as just a humble blogger I did consider it an honour. I love the BBC Sound of List, as a follower of new music I always look forward to its publication, and the ongoing debate (such as on this very blog) so to be asked to vote,for me , personally, as a lover of new music did feel like a big honour. Can't help how I feel about such things. Sorry.

Ultimately, despite my long winded thought process, (my personality is very analytical) I would have probably still ended up voting for the three I voted for even if I hadn't gone through the elongated brain process. I'm actually very happy with the three acts I chose and in no way think I lost integrity. As you say ultimately it came from the heart. It's more a case of I would have liked to have voted for more acts than just three, for example, Hurts, Run Toto Run, Claire Maguire, Mirrors, and all the artists on my Ones To Watch list....Three just didn't seem enough !

Sorry if it worries you that I spent so much time thinking about who I chose, but please don't worry - I'm fine :)

Finally Mike, I don't see your comments as being negative at all. Like me you are passionate about new music - sometimes our tastes will be similar, other times different, but like me you are a genuine enthusiast about new music, and that has to be a good thing !

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hey Fatboy Fat. Why no rock bands ? Maybe because not enough people voted for them.

The question is why didn't enough people vote for rock bands. But that probably deserves a blog of its own....

Phil said...

I've got to say both that, as usual, that was a very well written piece, and also that, broadly, I agree with you. Whatever the analysis says, whatever you uncover when you dig a little deeper, you just can't escape the fact that all the Sound of 2010 does is promotes original and interesting artists.

You're completely right to feel honoured as one of only 5-6 blogs that were asked for their opinions!

And as for all of the anonymous commenters, well I wouldn't be surprised if they are all the same person. And if they aren't then my faith in people is destroyed.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks Phil. Yes, agree, the Sound of list helps promote original and exciting artists.... a good thing.

James said...

So who wil be the Top 5 any guesses ?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

OK, we'll hazard a guess...

In no particular order we think the BBC Sound of 2010 shortlist will see

Ellie Goulding, Marina and The Diamonds, Delphic, Owl City and The Drums.

We'd love to see one of our votes Stornoway make it on, but would be very surprised if it happened. Likewise Hurts who we featured in our own Ones To Watch list.

Anonymous said...

Adam F here again

I have been having a good listen to the longlist acts

Here is my prediction for the top 5 in the following order, it's pretty much the same as yours, albeit a different order.
1. Marina and the Diamonds
2. Owl City
3. Ellie Goulding
4. Delphic
5. The Drums

I reckon Marina may get the top nod as she has such a flamboyant appeal about her as well as her talented quirky songwriting. I would prefer Hurts to be in the top 5 over Owl City as they remind me a bit like tears for fears with their melancholic new wave sound, but the 'Disneyfied' sound of Owl City is most likely to be a fixture in the Top 10 in the year ahead. I was impressed with Delphic on 'Later with Jools Holland' and they are playing a small gig in Wolverhampton aronud 3 weeks time so i will check them out.

It should also be noted that the Brit institute shortlisted Ellie Goulding, Marina and Delphic for the Brit Critic award that was won by Ellie, so those 3 acts are most likely to be in the top 5 as Florence, Little Boots and White Lies were in last years list.

Good luck to all new artists trying to make their name with their own unique sound.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Well, my 5 is in no order !

Of the 5 we have both listed, that we think will make the BBC Sound of Shortlist what we think will make the Top 5 and what we would like to make the Top 5 are somewhat different.

Here are our 'would like to' Top 5

1. Stornoway (We voted for them after all)
2. Ellie Goulding (As above)
3. Hurts (Seductively brilliant sophisticated pop music)
4. Gold Panda (We've written about him on the blog before, and love his disjointed DIY approach - it reminds us in spirit a little of one our all time favourite artists - Aphex Twin. We were actually very surprised to see him on the list - but pleased.)
5. Marina And The Diamonds (She's worked hard to get this far, she's producing wonky pop that has a degree of credibility, has a great voice and can perform.)

Clive Hamilton said...

Well I've listened to all of the bands and with the exception of Stornoway and Rox they all sound awful to me but then I live in an age where the Beatles, the Kinks and The Stones are the three greatest bands ever and will never be surpassed.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks for your comment Clive. Well, at least you had a go at listening. And you set the bar very high with those three bands !

Ultimately not every band can go onto great heights, but as far as we're concerned that isn't necessarily important. We'd even go as far to say that sometimes talent isn't important - sometimes we just want a good trashy pop song. You can read more about our theories on this in an article we wrote this time last year about the BBC Sound Of List here :

Tazzyman TL said...

Great post and great thread to read.