In Britain, we are fortunate to have produced some of the world’s most impactful, and influential popular musicians. From Adele and Amy to The Beatles, Sade and most recently, Sam Smith, Britain has a track record of producing globally relevant, successful artists.
Nearly a year since it’s release this is still in the top 40 both in the U.K. and around the world.
We are, for the most part, an inherently musical country where creative heritage bursts from the musical subcultures of every city – where globally relevant stars are celebrated and creativity is encouraged. We are able to walk through our cities and pick out points of musical relevance – indeed, anyone who lives near Warwick Avenue in London will vouch for the fact that a week won’t pass without someone attempting a Duffy vocal not too far away. From The Beatles in Liverpool, to Amy Winehouse in Camden and Oasis in Manchester, our cities are defined, for some, by the artists that hail from them.
It’s not just contemporary music either; historically, music has united people. Religious music managed to survive the sacrilege of religious culture brought about by the Reformation, and music continued to grow and develop in both religious and secular spheres to bring about the rich and versatile selection of music we have today. Thus, if music has a history of shaping our culture, and bringing together the people within it, we must ensure that music remains inclusive.
When I was younger, I was able to attend a music school during the school holidays that allowed me to make friends with similar interests, develop my skills and travel the world to perform.
Looking back, it was clear that whilst these courses were not extravagantly priced, they were still an expense to be factored for my Mum whenever they were announced. Luckily, I was able to attend the courses, develop my skills and, most importantly, get those all-important extra-curricular activity points that made up my university applications and allowed me to go on and on about ‘teamwork’ and ‘transferrable skills’. For many however, the cost of musical tuition, or even the cost of a gig ticket, is too high a financial barrier to jump. How then, can we address it?
We must commit ourselves to the basic premise that music, and cultural engagement in general, should go beyond simply rewarding, and engaging with the work of those who are already successful.
This week, the great and the good of the British music industry descended upon London’s O2 Arena to celebrate the best of British music. Among the winners were the AMAZING Paloma Faith, the brilliant Taylor Swift and the king of catchy melodies, Pharrell Williams. Here are artists who have sold records by the bucketload – undeniable commercial success stories that have dominated our charts over the last year.
It was slightly disappointing, however, to see the likes of FKA twigs, CHVRCHES and Jessie Ware go away empty-handed; the artists who may not have sold the most, but have been responsible for some equally amazing bodies of work.
Jessie Ware – always and forever.
Yet, whilst this event rightly celebrates the achievements of our most commercially successful and critically acclaimed artists, there is no equivalent for those who are making music, unsigned in their bedrooms, or at their local music groups. We’re all too ready to celebrate the achievements of those who have, quite rightly, achieved success as a result of their music, but we fail to provide many real stepping stones for those who are struggling to be heard in the overcrowded industry.
Sure, we have the Mercury Prize, and BBC Introducing that do a wonderful job at championing and celebrating new music from otherwise unknown artists, but it’s mostly luck – a process that allows for some to manipulate the system to success more than others.
FKA Twigs – an artist who has benefited from both BBC Introducing and the Mercury Prize.
Music is wonderful – it inspires, excites and encourages us to do things we would not otherwise do. We must, at all costs, make more efforts to preserve the creative meritocracy that has allowed people from all walks of life to deliver music to the world thus far. The best sets of music have character, wit and versatility – something that cultural homogeneity will struggle to provide us with.
James is the Editor of MUSIC at PTL. Apart from a love of pretty much all things music, he also enjoys watching Question Time on Thursday nights, going out on Fridays and watching as many awful films on Netflix as he can. If James won the lottery, he would create a musical based on the works of Janet Jackson. Expect a lot of the Velvet Rope to feature.
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