Tuesday, 7 July 2009

USA: Bland Of Opportunity?

I was lucky enough to be in New York last week and ended up chatting to someone who works in local radio. A point they made stuck with me which basically boiled down to the fact that new and up and coming talent in the USA stands little chance of breaking through due to commercial pressures. No one wants to be first to play new track in case its fails, all is about money and advertiser satisfaction.

It makes me so glad that we have the likes of the BBC in the UK. With no advertisers to please and the funding from the British public through the license fee, DJs have infinitely more freedom it seems. Yes, daytime radio on Radio One can seem commercial or cheesy at times but look at the wealth of alternative music peppered throughout the daytime schedule and the likes of Zane Lowe who has the freedom to pride himself on breaking new music during every evening show.

Yes, there is also XFM to champion new and alternative music but, aside from that, precious few radio stations break new music, or indeed can afford to. Just look at what has happened to Kiss FM over the past 15 years, the only trace of its original pirate roots can be found during the early hours, if at all.

So whatever you think of public service broadcasting, and it is by no means perfect, it may well just form the lifeblood of the UK music scene. Its ability to take those risks away from the commercial line means our ears are exposed to far more cutting edge, exciting music compared to other radio outlets where no music makes it on air unless it makes financial sense. We are lucky to live somewhere where creativity has more sway than cash.

Having said all of this, the internet may well serve a similar purpose but with the web you have to know where to look in the first place to be able to find anything whereas radio is there as a constant, easily located and ready for mass consumption.

Useless music fact #6: In 1983, Clubhouse released 'Do It Again / Billie Jean' which was a mash-up between Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' and Steely Dan's 'Do It Again'. Frankly it was sacrilegious musical murder but reached the loft heights of number 11 all the same. More amazing things could have been done with that 'Billie Jean' bassline by my Nan than was managed by Clubhouse.

Originally posted on http://blog.ianroullier.com on 7 July 2009.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Intelligence and appreciation

The recent, bizarre Mike Patton gig brought up some thoughts that often whirr around my head when I’ve experienced something ‘out there’, ‘challenging’ or ‘avant garde’.

There’s much room when it comes to high art for people to scoff at anyone who criticises it and dismiss that listener’s opinion as being indicative of their lack of intelligence. This is merely narrow-minded arrogance though. It is your right not to like something, just as it is other people’s right to like anything they want to. Whether this applies to modern art or music or architecture or literature, everyone is entitled to an opinion even if it doesn’t tally with the accepted wisdom of the majority. I have as much right to say that some of the Aphex Twin’s music is unlistenable, self-indulgent rubbish as I do to say that some of his music is inspired, beautiful, challenging and verging on musical genius.

Anyone that denies someone else that right, whether it’s someone dismissing someone’s opinion as ‘arty farty crap’ or someone dismissing another’s opinion as they ‘clearly don’t have the intelligence to grasp the inherent meaning’ of a creative work, are merely closed-minded snobs (whether inverted or not). It pays to remember that their opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s and that whether you prefer reading Dostoyevsky to watching the X Factor or like going to a football match rather than going to the opera, your preferences make you no more or less stupid than the next person.

Useless music fact #5: The Aphex Twin said he used to dream a lot of his music while snoozing, which is exactly how Sir Paul McCartney came up with 'Yesterday'. The Aphex Twin may have been lying though, as that has always been one of his favourite pastimes.

Originally posted on http://blog.ianroullier.com on 6 July 2009.