The British music industry is broken and there is no hope of fixing it.
There's just no money left to go around. Unsigned artists are forced to beg for small change on street corners, just so they can afford to eat that day. Folk-rock trios are selling off their banjos in Camden market, hoping to scrape together enough money to record one final EP of stomp-rock blues covers. Bands have even resorted to leaving their bassists in doorways; they're unable to provide them with the food, hairspray, and attention that they so desperately need to survive, and so, they must go.
We can try to solve the problems, but where do we start? There's nothing we can do. Piracy has completely destroyed the music industry, absolutely all of our venues have been converted into flats, and singer/songwriters will soon be forced to audition before a panel of politicians and pen-pushers before they're allowed to busk on the streets of London.
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
Okay, so some of that might not be completely true. Still, though, there is a serious problem with how new and emerging artists are supposed to break through and be discovered by both major record labels and the British listening public.
It goes like this: record labels, as a rule, want to make money. That means that they want to spend the money they already have on artists who are going to make them even more money. This is good news for the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber; they're well-established superstars with huge existing fan-bases and a massive presence on social media, so it's safe to assume that quite a few people are going to buy whatever they put out next. The labels don't mind spending money on them, because they know that they're definitely going to make that money back when the artist releases their next album.
It's a sad, sad situation
Sadly, it's not good news for the likes of Soham De, The Tapestry, and Portalights. Who are they? Well, they're some of my favourite unsigned and under-the-radar artists. I can't blame you if you've never heard of them, though; they're not signed to a major label, or a massive management company, and none of them have ever had the weight of a multi-million-pound publicity campaign thrown behind them. Major labels aren't always willing to take a chance on artists like them, and that's because they can't be certain that they're going to make back the money they spend on them.
I can't blame the labels for this; at the end of the day, they're businesses, and it's only right that they want to make as much money as possible. I also can't blame the listeners: how are they supposed to hear about an artist when there's nobody spending money on promoting them?
There's more than enough talent out there
Still, it seems to me that there's something here that just isn't right. I edit a music website, and I know for a fact that there are hundreds - if not thousands - of amazingly talented young artists out there. So, what can we do to support them? Well, how about this:
After the 1996 Olympic Games, the British government created a fund to train, grow and nurture young athletic talent. It's safe to say that it's been successful; this summer's Olympics was our most successful ever, and that's even after we've enjoyed five successive years of medal growth. They invested in young talent, and it paid off.
So, why can't we implement a similar scheme for unsigned musicians?
It's nearly impossible for an aspiring artist to get spotted nowadays; promoting your music is a full-time endeavour for any young artist, and it's becoming increasingly tricky to find a venue to play at if you happen to live in London.
A grassroots investment fund, allocated specifically to hand-picked young artists, would make a huge difference, and would ensure that talented young artists are able to fully realise their potential. I'm not talking about giving them millions - just enough money to support them, to enable them to make music full-time for a while, and to help them with promotion/distribution costs.
Of course, it'd have to be regulated, and any awarding of funding would have to be carefully considered. I just think that a fund like this would give us more great music, and more great musicians, and it'd give even more talented young people an opportunity to break into a notoriously tricky industry.
It's got to be worth a shot.
If you want to hear some more fantastic unsigned and under-the-radar music, you could do worse than to check out Billy Lockett, Danny Starr, The Jacques, Brother And Bones, and Prose. And, um, my website. Ahem.