Ridicu­lous gongs sound the death knell for clue­less mu­sic in­dus­try

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

Just how aw­ful were the Brits on Tues­day night? Well, The Spice Girls, who used to have trou­ble walk­ing and lip-synch­ing at the same time, won an award for the best per­for­mance at the Brit in the past 30 years, and the short­list for the best Bri­tish al­bum of the past 30 years in­cluded Phil Collins’s No Jacket Re­quired at the ex­pense of Mas­sive At­tack’s Blue Lines and Ra­dio­head’s OK Com­puter.

You wouldn’t trust the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for th­ese de­ci­sions with your fast-food or­der, let alone run­ning a multi-mil­lion-euro in­dus­try.

How­ever, all the nom­i­na­tions and win­ners don’t mat­ter a jot. The Brits is merely a rare op­por­tu­nity for cer­tain record com­pany types to reac­quaint them­selves with cham­pagne and char­lie (their sta­ple diet of the 1990s, be­fore those pesky il­le­gal down­load­ers called a halt to the 24-hour party). The only rea­son the ter­mi­nally clue­less mu­sic in­dus­try still schleps its way to the Brits is be­cause the “thrilling mu­si­cal per­for­mances show­cas­ing the very best of Bri­tish tal­ent” will help them flog a few more of boxes of CDs to Tesco.

With Ire­land’s own thrill-aminute Me­teor Mu­sic Awards, which take place tonight, you could be ex­cused for think­ing that all the mu­sic in­dus­try is good for th­ese days is threat­en­ing young peo­ple for file-shar­ing and throw­ing in­creas­ingly de­mented award shows. Whether it’s a Grammy, a Brit or a Me­teor, the only rea­son the in­dus­try still both­ers (while their busi­ness col­lapses around them) is that gong shows are one of the few sales pro­mo­tions that ac­tu­ally work.

Out­side Christ­mas, awards sea­son is the only time of the year when al­bum sales ac­tu­ally in­crease to some­thing like pre-down­load era lev­els. Al­bum sales may be down year-on-year by 10 to 30 per cent, but they will sud­denly go up by about 25 per cent over the next six weeks.

The big Brits win­ners will see their al­bums out­per­form their ri­vals’ by a ra­tio of eight to one; nom­i­nees and per­form­ers will en­joy a to­tal sales lift of around 80 per cent. At the 2007 Brit Awards, Snow Pa­trol were up for three awards and won none. But they per­formed at the event and their al­bum sales went up by 121 per cent the fol­low­ing week. This is why so many of the star­lets burst into tears or start thank­ing God when ac­cept­ing their award – they know they’ve saved them­selves about six months of hard pro­mo­tional graft.

That’s why th­ese awards are al­ways try­ing to in­vent some new cat­e­gory to tack on to the usual run­ning list. Even get­ting a men­tion at a big awards show means your record com­pany can plas­ter one of those ap­palling “Nom­i­nated for a Mu­sic Award” stick­ers on your al­bum in the hope that HMV (or who­ever) will give it front-of-shop rack space.

The big cat­e­gory th­ese days is of the Best New Act or Best Un­signed Act va­ri­ety. The Brits call it the “Crit­ics Choice”, and this year it went to El­lie Gould­ing. Now, it’s true that Gould­ing is a fan­tas­ti­cally promis­ing tal­ent, but she now has two awards (the Brit and a BBC Sound of 2010 gong) and her de­but al­bum has yet to hit the shops.

This hype has less to do with the act them­selves than with record la­bels and in­dus­try bodies go­ing into mar­ket­ing over­drive while in some cases, the artist isn’t even half­way through record­ing the al­bum.

Tonight at the Me­te­ors, they’ll be pre­sent­ing a new “Most Promis­ing Ir­ish New Artist” gong. The five short­listed acts (Ama­sis, Ever27, Colm Lynch, Jody Has a Hitlist and Susie Soho) are all bright young things of dif­fer­ing mu­si­cal worth who haven’t been signed by a record com­pany and don’t yet have a pub­lish­ing deal.

It’s fan­tas­tic to recog­nise and pro­mote new Ir­ish tal­ent but, re­ally, throw­ing an award at an un­proved and un­signed act can cause more prob­lems than it solves.

How­ever, there’s only so much shoring up the la­bels can do. By con­tin­u­ing to fid­dle away at awards shows while the in­dus­try burns, the mu­sic la­bels are not fac­ing up to the re­al­ity of an ir­re­vo­ca­bly changed busi­ness model. Surely this is noth­ing short of neg­li­gent?

Jump­ing the gun? El­lie Gould­ing and her Brit

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