Monday, 1 December 2014

The BBC Sound Of 2015 - Some Thoughts

Last year after the BBC Sound of 2014 list was announced we published a bingo card of sorts, which listed out the things that journalists and commentators would be likely to discuss in the inevitable debate afterwards. Sure enough pretty much every one of the items we suggested found itself into print / the internet somewhere. Seeing as the Sound of 2015 list has just been announced we thought it was worth revisiting that list again, modified for this year’s acts:

1. The straightforward ‘here are the stars of tomorrow and everything you need to know about them’ article.

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

3. The ‘all the nominees are so predictable’ article.

4. The article on ‘where are the acts from past Sound of polls now?’ (Fun fact: 2010 long lister Daisy Dares You who we wrote quite a nasty piece about (here) didn’t have a very long lasting pop career but she’s now gone quite rock and is in a band called Pink Lizards, which you can hear (here). They played in a pub in Brighton the other day apparently.)

5. The ‘it might be an OK year for guitar music, what with Wolf Alice, Slaves and Sunset Sons’ 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 is Years & Years included, they’ve already had a hit with The Magician?’ piece. (Simple – read the rules before writing the piece you amateur).

10. The’ who is going to win’ article? Probably mentioning Years & Years again.

11. The ‘actually this list is pretty decent’ article. 

12. The ‘my favourite band isn’t included’ article.

If you haven’t seen the 2015 list yet, here it is:

George The Poet

James Bay




Rae Morris







Sunset Suns

Wolf Alice

Years & Years

It was probably a little harder to call this year than previous years, with no obvious big hitters like Haim and Sam Smith from the Sound of 2013 / 14 respectively, although Years & Years were the one guaranteed inclusion; pretty much every single person we’ve spoken to about the list in the last 3 months has named them as a prediction for the list. Whilst we’ve seen Years & Years a couple of times live (and they seem to be developing a pretty large fanbase) we’ve yet to be moved by their music. 

However, we’re very pleased to see the likes of Wolf Alice (a year after they were on the Blog Sound of 2014 poll), Låpsley (one of our Ones to Watch) and Rae Morris (a blog regular) on the list. Låpsley seemed very likely having gained lots of play on Radio 1 in the last few weeks.

Construct your own it’s so predictable / it’s rubbish / we like some of it but hell it’s tough for new artists these days isn’t it etc etc article now or refer to the above list.

Last year we didn’t use the bingo card though. Instead we compared our own Ones To Watch list to the BBC list (for the record this year just 1 of the artists we featured on our 10 Ones to Watch 2015 are on the BBC list) and then talked about the transparency of the voting and how we were surprised that in all the years the BBC poll had been published there had never been a tie for positions. This was partly brought on because we had advance notice of the Blog Sound of 2014 results, a smaller but similar poll where the pundits are just UK music bloggers, and knew that there had been a tie for 1st place.

Since writing that piece Jacob Rickard, the producer of this year’s BBC Sound of list got in touch with Breaking More Waves and explained that one of the things he was working on was trying to help the voting process become more transparent and clear to the public, to try and avoid some of the criticism that the BBC always gets when the list is revealed. 

As a result this year the BBC has clearly stated how the results of the list are calculated.

Here’s what the Sound of 2015 website says:

“The pundits vote by email, choosing their three favourite new acts in order of preference.

There’s only one panel of voters, and only one round of voting. The 3 nominations from each of the pundits on the panel are counted, with a pundit’s favourite artist getting 3 points, second favourite getting 2 points, and third favourite getting 1 point. In the fairly uncommon event of two artists getting the same amount of points, the order is decided by which artist had the most votes as a pundit’s first choice. Only the shortlist of the top 5 artists (which is announced in early January) is listed in order of the amount of points they received; the artists who are placed 6-15 are listed alphabetically.

The numbers of votes/points for each artist are not published, and the BBC doesn’t publish a list of who voted for what.”

So there you have it. From our experience of running the Blog Sound poll we’d suggest that the reason that artists who are placed 6-15 aren’t listed in order of the amount of points they received  is that there are quite possibly are some ties in those positions, even with the ‘first choice’ rule. If the BBC list is anything like the Blog Sound list there will probably be a very wide spread of votes and therefore even at the bottom end of the Top 15 the number of votes for any one artist could be pretty low. Last year’s Blog Sound poll had 50 odd pundits voting for their three favourite acts and at the bottom end of the list the artists had as low as 3 votes. Therefore logically an act chosen at the bottom end of the BBC list probably got there with a very minority vote.

One further point of note and a very small criticism of the way this year’s BBC Sound of list has been compiled is that for the first time in a number of years there are no amateur / hobby bloggers invited to vote. We find this a little surprising as music bloggers are some of the most genuine, passionate and knowledgeable people out there when it comes to new music (for example long-lister Låpsley first cropped up on Hype Machine listed blogs in November 2013 – way before the mainstream media cottoned on), but this year one of the criteria for selection as a pundit was having a day job in the music industry. Obviously the involvement of a few bloggers would have been unlikely to have radically affected the outcome of the poll but having invited bloggers to vote in previous years, the reason for an about turn and non-inclusion seems somewhat mystifying.

If you want to see how the BBC list might have varied (or maybe it wouldn’t!) if amateur bloggers had been involved, on Tuesday, Breaking More Waves, alongside a number of other blogs, will be revealing the Blog Sound of 2015 long list. Check back from 8.30 GMT to see if there’s any similarity with the BBC list.

The BBC Sound Of shortlist (top 5) artists will be revealed in a countdown between 5th and 9th January 2015, on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show. 

For more thoughts on end of year tip lists, take a look at this piece we posted recently called End Of Year Tips : Are We All Bored Of Supporting Artists For The Long Haul (here).

In the meantime let’s enjoy a bit of BBC Sound of 2015 long listed Rae Morris – her album is out next month.

Rae Morris - Under The Shadows


Anonymous said...

great that you/bloggers were supporting Lapsley for 2014, but would there have been any point in her being in the poll last year, when she's only "ready" now?
Aren't too many artists thrust into limelight too early, potentially damaging careers?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

This is a very valid point.

Personally I agree that it would have been too 'early ' for Lapsley last year to be thrust into the limelight.

Unfortunately these days the music industry creates windows of opportunity for artists and if they're not 'ready' when that window opens they can soon find themselves staring at the artist trash can.

More on that and the danger of tip lists here: