In short this is a blog post that says, yeah so the BBC Sound of List features lots of mainstream artists. Does that bother you ? If it does, get over it, go and look at your alt. blog or website that nobody except you and your indie snob friends reads. The Sound of List isn't really for you.
Still with us? Ok, read on....
Everyone has an opinion, right? And the internet is the demon tool for letting people express it, particularly if it’s negative. It’s so easy. Go on You Tube watch something you don’t like and type “This is sh*t.” Bosh, done in 5 seconds and now you can feel smug and self-satisfied that you’ve made your view known worldwide, irrespective of if anyone will value your insightful and well thought out argument. You’ve made your headline and that’s all that counts.
So it is every year with the BBC Sound of List. “The BBC Sound of 2012 list aims to highlight the most promising new music for the year ahead. The artists on the list were chosen by 184 UK-based tastemakers, who each named their favourite three new artists, with the top 15 artists making our longlist,” states the BBC website as it opens the floodgates of criticism.
This year the nominated acts are
Every year, the pattern remains the same. The angry mob is unleashed as soon as the BBC list is announced. For the 2012 list, amongst the usual ‘never heard of any of them they must be rubbish’ comments that have appeared on the internet one of the main criticisms was that the BBC list features too many mainstream acts. The Association of Independent Music Chairwoman Alison Wenham featured in a lot of the music press with her quote that the list was ‘completely meaningless’ and that she didn’t think it had much to do with music.
So let’s take a step back here and consider it a little more. Is it really meaningless? Does it really have very little to do with music?
To answer this question it’s important to consider the process of how the BBC Sound of List is created. First look at the ‘tastemakers’ who vote. They are chosen to represent different sectors of the UK music industry. Included amongst them are a number of pundits who could be considered likely to vote for independent acts. Yet as anyone who is a fan of independent music will know, as people move further away from the mainstream culture their tastes and knowledge become more diverse. It’s therefore unlikely that the tastemakers who vote for independent artists (if they choose to do so) will vote for the same artists. It follows then that independent artists are less likely to get on the list.
Secondly a high proportion of the tastemakers write, broadcast or work for mainstream media and are therefore likely to choose potential mainstream acts. This is what the BBC Sound of List is – a list that may interest the mainstream public and media. It raises the profile of the artists featured, just like any other piece of press does.
Yet that’s all it does; raise the artists profile for a short time. It doesn’t as some journalists suggest every year become ‘a self-fulfilling prophecy’. If it did, why are the likes of previously nominated Gemma Fox, Air Traffic, Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong and Kubb not household names? (Actually, one member of Kubb went on to form La Roux, so that BBC selection could at least be said to be half right).
If an artist creates music and puts it out in the public domain, it’s a reasonable assumption to make that the artist wants their music to be heard. The BBC Sound of List is one way of helping this to happen. It is therefore not meaningless. It is about the music and helping artists be heard.
The Association of Independent Music, who Alison Wenham represents states that it provides a collective voice for the UK’s independent music industry and ‘promotes this exciting and diverse sector globally and provides a range of services to members, enabling member companies to grow, grasp new opportunities and break into new markets.’ Maybe rather than bleating on like a bad loser, the Association could consider how it could achieve its objective of grasping new opportunities and break into new markets by giving good advice to its members on properly promoting, with targeted marketing, on limited budgets, their artists so that in 2013 the BBC list does contain more independent artists?
“I think it's very inconsequential because, even going back years, this list has not proven to be particularly accurate," she told NME. "The independents will do what they do, and I'm not all that bothered about these sorts of polls. I don't think it has very much to do with music, to be honest with you. They say 100 tastemakers put it together, but it essentially cannot be that those tastemakers manage to avoid an entire sector.”
They may not have done so Alison, but if all those that voted for independent artists voted for different artists they are not going to be recognised on the list. It’s the way committee votes work – the most votes get on the list. Obvious huh? If those who are likely to vote for independent acts vote for the same, they get on the list. Rather like when Esben and the Witch, an independent band, surprised everyone and sneaked in on the Sound of 2011 list. Read a very interesting view from their co-manager as to the impact of the BBC list a year on at this link. As he says “the Sound of… alone will not turn ambitions, dreams and talent into pound signs, into an upgraded tour bus or a slightly higher standard of hotel room. The general public still decides – the people who buy records and gig tickets.” And it’s these people – the general public – who the BBC list targets.
So let’s not criticise the BBC list, but accept that it’s a mainstream list (as most of the general public are) and it does what it does. This years was list was incredibly predictable – but only if you spend a lot of time in the world of new music. For the majority of the public at large these are still very much new artists and its profile helps introduce those artists.
*Footnote – As part of an experiment to see if a bunch of independent bloggers (many of whom cover non mainstream music) could come up with an alternative to the BBC list, 32 UK based bloggers, including ourselves voted for their own Blog Sound of 2012. The blog list contains a number of independent artists. Breaking More Waves would love to know what the Association of Independent Music thinks of thats? The 15 acts nominated included 2 on the BBC list and 13 that are not. Breaking More Waves own Ones to Watch list, which we issued in the run up to the announcement of the BBC list contains 5 acts on the BBC list and 3 on the Blog list. (You can see that list, obviously our favourite, here) Streaming below is the one artist who appeared on all three lists - Lianne La Havas.Lianne La Havas - Forget (Live in LA)