During a lull in my day, (which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like and usually when it does it’s when I’m sat on top of the 345 to South Kensington, trundling down Cedar Avenue towards Lavender Hill), I considered why, when the internet had supposedly opened up the world, known universe and beyond* to us aspirational musicians it was actually harder to get our songs heard than ever before?
(*The Stone Roses’ controversial record contract …)
Back in the day, (whenever that day literally or figuratively existed), a simple cassette tape, (ask your parents, kids), black and white photograph and covering, handwritten letter, (again ….) would normally be sufficient for the attention of a cloth-eared A&R man (they were usually all men so please don’t shout at me) at a major record label.
Having said that, a university friend of mine once had the holiday job at such a label – his laborious task being stuffing letters in envelopes – letters which said: “Thank you for your interest in our company. However much we liked your songs, and indeed, they are the finest songs known to man, we cannot possibly record them at the moment, having just spent our entire budget on signing ****** ******** and fired half our staff as we can no longer afford their wages due the advance ****** ******** has pocketed.”
Agreed, piles and piles of small, manilla envelopes may well have been ignored by A&R folks and who knows whether the next Beatles, Smiths, Kinks, T-Rex, Bowie, Kate Bush or Ronan Keating may have slipped through the net, but at least the net was there – dangling precariously over the lake of tears shed by skinny indie kids, the puddles of sweat left by marauding hard rockers, layers of eyeliner discarded by Whitby-bound Goths or the furrowed brow stencils of earnest singer-songwriters etched upon Nick Drake songbooks and Jeff Buckley bedroom wall posters.
Nowadays the net, (being the internet), is more like a giant sieve – with an infinite number of holes but clogged up with sticky porridge oats letting nothing through except the most turgid, gloopy mess imaginable.
My own music is in there somewhere, trying to seep through, trying desperately to move and breathe in amongst the airless stodge of mainstream, indigestible pudding. It’s not that I ever craved success in the form of fame or fortune; more recognition for achievement. When ‘Taxi’ nearly were it was the closest I’d come to realising that ambition – although bouncing up and down on a pink, day-glo podium on children’s TV was the furthest from imagining myself as some sort of John Sebastian character – leading the choruses at Woodstock.
I will never be a pop star – that much is true – and was probably never destined to be one either. These days, a few humble plays on a social media site is the best I can expect. But bitterness evades me … the business is just that, a ‘business’. Music should come from the heart and the soul – during the ‘Taxi’ years that didn’t always happen and contrivance took over.
Still, a few more extra ‘plays’ would be nice …