Thursday 5 December 2019

Beta: Power to the people

Niall Byrne

The cliché of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is something that is widely described in the biographies of famous musicians of the past and it also applied to those at an executive level. The level of debauchery attributed to Walter Yetnikoff, former CBS Records boss from 1975 to 1990 was similar to that of Jordan Belfort from The Wolf Of Wall Street.

The man who had began his day with vodka and continued it with coke, cigars, hookers and a lot of yelling, is a far cry from the majority of the music industry executives today.

Yetnikoff's tactics of degradation mixed with no-nonsense business acumen helped build the careers of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. Today's new artists are built with data rather than corporate egomania.

Social media engagement and numbers, video views and sold-out live shows are what the big remaining labels (Universal, Warner and Sony) look for. There is less risk involved in signing a band in 2014 than 1984 as the numbers are there to back up the potential.

However, that also means that bands who are signed are given less chance to develop. Major labels prefer to wait until a band has shown progress before offering their services: large-scale distribution, marketing, PR and radio – which can all take a band to the mainstream and is hard to do independently.

On a local level, bands like The Riptide Movement and Hozier are taking advantage of that clout to get to the next rung of the ladder.

Major labels utilise a host of platforms: SoundCloud, blogs and Shazam among them as a real-time barometer for breaking new songs these days. People power is where it's at, if people are responding to a track enough to take out their phone and ask Shazam what it is, then there's a very good chance that song will be a future hit.

It also means that predicting the next big thing can become anyone's game. You just have to look at the numbers, the activity and the real-time charts.

At the time of writing, Shazam is telling me that songs from Vance Joy, Kiesza and a track from Faul, Wad Ad & Pnau are trending in Ireland, meaning they'll be hits imminently – if they're not already.

That's something that couldn't have been predicted in Yetnikoff's day.

New artist of the week - Wolf Alice

This London four-piece like their rock music. Featuring songs that move from 90s-sounding indie to synth-wave to grungey rock, Wolf Alice have become one of the hottest new bands coming out of the UK.

It helps that their songs so far, Bros, Bliss, Every Cloud and She all have a grounding in pop melodies.

Last month at South By Southwest, the music industry showcase festival in Texas, the band picked up lots of positive international buzz.

Off the back of that, the band will release their second EP, Creature Songs, in May. The lead track Moaning Lisa Smile will please fans of rollicking grunge-rock. It's pleasingly old-school, like an invigorating slap in the face from a nostalgic 90s teenager.

You can be on the receiving end of that aural slap in person when the band plays the Longitude Festival on Saturday, July 20.



Tracks of the week

Chet Faker – Talk Is Cheap

Look around you in the street, there are hordes of bearded men upsetting razor sales all over.

You can blame the likes of Aussie man Chet for that: he makes such gawjus R&B electronic pop that it's hard not to like him.




This London singer makes 80s electro-pop with nods to the dubstep klaxon and harmonic acoustic folk at the same time, an impressive feat. Beanland pulls it off with her dreamy voice bringing it all together.




Everyone is learning how to make good pop music from the Scandinavians these days and LA duo Kat Ostenberg and Skyler Stonestreet have come closer than most to the quality mark. Their new single has all the hallmarks of Robyn at her finest. Dancing around your bedroom is mandatory.



Videos Of The Week

Game Of Thrones Death Supercut

Every death that has occurred so far in George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic show compiled and lasting just under three minutes.



A beautiful line-drawn animated film commissioned by Pivot Dublin and Dublin City Council to help make young people think about design.


Dr Dre as a kid

Even back then he was a 'playa' with three older girlfriends and a high level of braggadocio.


Day & Night

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