Monday, 2 December 2013

The BBC Sound of 2014 - Some Thoughts

The BBC has today revealed its annual Sound Of Poll results. The annual list asked  “213 influential UK-based music critics, editors, broadcasters and bloggers to name their favourite new acts,” according to the BBC website. Each pundit chose three acts in order of preference. The result is the Sound of 2014.

If like us you listen to a lot of new music all year round then the artists on the BBC list will probably come as no surprise – you’ll probably be quite familiar with all of them. In fact one of them appeared on Breaking More Waves Ones To Watch 2013  list a year ago (Luke Sital Singh) and another four of them are on our 10 Ones To Watch for 2014 that we published last month (Banks, Chloe Howl, George Ezra and Jungle). But the BBC list isn’t aimed at obsessive new music bloggers. It’s for the general public and the sectors of the media that are less knowledgeable about new music.

The 15 nominees who received the most votes on this year’s poll are


Chance The Rapper

Chloe Howl

Ella Eyre

FKA Twigs

George Ezra



Luke Sital Singh


Nick Mulvey

Royal Blood

Sam Smith


Say Lou Lou

The next few days will no doubt find many journalists and bloggers discussing the list. Tick the following stories off your BBC Sound of 2014 bingo card as you find them:

1. The straightforward here are the stars of tomorrow article.

2. The it’s a self-fulfilling vehicle biased towards the major labels article.

3. The all the nominees are so predictable article (probably written by a music blogger – we very nearly did it at the start of this post didn’t we?) 

4. The article on where are the acts from past Sound of polls now?

5. The except for Royal Blood it’s not going to be a good year for guitar music article.

6. The this list is rubbish article eg: rubbish = doesn’t match my taste.

7. The rant piece about how the list is meaningless (our question – so if it’s meaningless why write about it?)

8. The it always misses some big acts article. (Probably mentioning Ed Sheeran or Bastille)

9. The why are Sam Smith and Ella Eyre included, they’ve both already had no.1 hits with other bands article. (However this one we have to refer to the rules on the BBC website which state “They must not have been the lead artist on a UK top 20 single or album by 4th November 2013. Featured guest vocalists are eligible.)

10. The who is going to win article? (Probably again mentioning Ella Eyre and Sam Smith)

11. The actually this list is pretty decent and also quite 'bloggy' isn't it' article. (That's the one we almost wrote - because it is - it could maybe just do with an extra indie band (Wolf Alice?) to make it seem complete.

It shouldn’t take you long to get them all.

We’re not featuring any of those here though, instead we want to pose another question, one that doesn’t get asked very often if at all (maybe because nobody cares about it except us, but stick with us as we try to come up with some discussion away from the standard bingo card headlines) and that is why are there never any ties / draws on the BBC Sound of List?

We ask this because as well as writing Breaking More Waves, with the help of fellow new music blogger Andy Von Pip of the Von Pip Musical Express, we compile an alternative to the BBC Sound of poll. It’s called the UK Blog Sound of 2014 and rather like the BBC list it asks voters to choose their 3 favourite emerging acts which are compiled into a list of the most voted for. The difference is that the voting panel is made up of only UK music bloggers. The UK Blog Sound of 2014 poll results will be published by some of the voting blogs, including us, tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8.30am.

We’ve run the poll for the past two years and this year and last year when the results have been totalled a number of acts have finished with the same number of votes. In 2012 both Savages and Pins came equal third and this year several artists tallied the same number of points in fourth place (which is why when the shortlist is published this year it will only contain a top 3). Yet remarkably, although it has run from 2002 (when 50 Cent topped the poll) when just 40 music critics voted, the BBC appears to have never had two artists sharing a position and has always managed to neatly shoehorn in either a neat 10 or 15 artists onto the list. Our experience of counting the votes for the Blog Sound poll indicates that this is highly unlikely. It suggests that someone at the BBC (a second panel?) is getting a casting vote for the photo finish situation or to round the long list into the round number every year.

Does it matter? Possibly - if you believe the poll matters in the first place. For example artists in the Top 5 of the list are likely to get more radio exposure than those in positions 6-15 and the artist that comes top even more. If you believe the self-fulfilling argument then more exposure means a higher chance of commercial success. So what if two or more artists had drawn in fifth place, or even for first? Or what about the artist who comes equal fifteenth with someone else but is dropped from the list? That casting vote (assuming there is one) could have an effect on the artists career and chances of earning a living from music. Of course, we’re probably putting too much weight and importance on the BBC poll, but irrespective of its influence and power, just in the interests of fairness, we’d like to see that if and when 2 acts draw the results of the poll acknowledged that to be transparent the BBC explained how a decision to place one above the other was made.

Now, has anyone filled up their bingo card yet?

Whilst we’re waiting for you to shout bingo, here’s a track from longlisters (and also on our own Ones to Watch list) Jungle. Will they also be on the Blog Sound of 2014 list? Check back on Tuesday at 8.30am GMT to find out.

Jungle - Lucky I Got What I Want


Anonymous said...

I don't get their rules, they seem rather contradictory.

"The successful acts cannot already be well-known to the UK public"

but they are allowed to have had a UK #1 single? They want to exclude TV talent show acts, but even the majority of them cannot achieve a #1.

What about the constant overlooking of certain genres?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

I guess that with so many new artists now being given initial exposure by doing guest vocals on established artists songs the BBC has tried to acknowledge that within the rules. However, yes it seems a bit ridiculous when someone has already had a number 1 (Sam Smith and Ella Eyre) through that route that they are included on the list. It would have made more sense to say if they’ve featured in the top 20 in any way then they don’t qualify. On the blog sound poll (which we’ll be revealing the results of tomorrow) we used this rule.

As for missing genre’s – the list is what it is. It’s not necessarily meant to be fully representative. Ditto the Blog Sound poll. Certain genre’s will always be under represented with a relatively small sample of voters.