Is anyone actually listening to new artists anymore? Sure, there's a lot of people listening to Spotify's New Music Friday playlist, but as great as this can be, the last few weeks of that playlist has sounded, in the main, exceptionally stagnant. There's been very little variety. Has everyone, from new music makers, to people making playlists, to listeners become too conformist? It's a real shame if we have. You would think that, with streaming services opening up musical doors, enabling people to be able to listen to a much broader spectrum of music than ever before that we would be less conservative, more open to the new and wider influence, but it seems to me that almost the opposite is occurring.
If we have become closed in our musical mindsets, a band like Xylaroo don't stand that much of a chance do they? Their new single, Danger has at the time of writing been on line for a couple of days but has picked up less than 100 plays on Soundcloud. Of course there is no one central reason for this, and there’s a discussion to be had about Soundcloud’s declining position, but there's a grim reality that it's getting harder and harder to break new acts. Earlier this month the UK Official Charts Company revealed The Biggest Selling Albums of 2016 so far and it didn’t make pretty reading for new artists. With the likes of David Bowie, ELO, Adele, Coldplay and Justin Bieber all present, there were hardly any debut records in the 40, and worryingly for my own country there weren’t any debut records by UK acts. Ironically Bowie's final album was anything from conformist, so maybe there is hope that we are listening to interesting and challenging music still. But the trouble is Bowie is no longer alive. He won't be making any more records. That's why new artists need to be heard.
Maybe the lack of engagement with new artists is best summed up by a comment I heard from a teenage girl walking past the BBC Introducing Tent at this year's Glastonbury Festival: "BBC Introducing? Is that where... like....they introduce new bands? That's weird. Why would anyone want to go in there and watch something you know nothing about when you can go and see acts that you've already heard?'
Perhaps that's why for the last few weeks Spotify's New Music Friday playlist feels so safe and risk averse. And perhaps that’s why new artists simply aren’t breaking through the way they used to. Is it that most people only want to hear things that sound familiar to them?
Xylaroo - Danger