THE BLOG

A New Clear Fusion: How to Save the Music Industry

09/01/2014 14:35 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Another year is upon us like a wildcat and we must seize it by the throat or else by the throat it will seize us. These are times to test even the stony-hearted among us as a recession creeps by stealth into our lives, deep London pockets suddenly very shallow, the only wealth upon which we can depend that of the artists who decant through their fingertips their genius.

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Right, that's the drama out the way. This is the mean season and the battle to seduce art's patrons has reached a critical phase, what Walter Tevis once wrote of as "the clutch". This is the moment when artists must force nerve and sinew to carry on and create in a world that looks the other way, uncaring.

And only the artist can save a music industry that is dying. To those who disagree, I say take a look in HMV and tell me what you see. For while the conveyor belt of the craven book publishing world rolls on, the art world preens and lumbers in search of the next concept, and our once glorious world of music has had its guts ripped out by the internet. Yet the musician persists in his efforts to have the cloth-eared hear his songs.

Take a two-piece band like The Sufis (pictured: Evan Smith, left; Calvin Laporte, right) who, steeped in the history of popular music, craft songs and sounds as they see fit, joining bands like Kindred Shins, Puppet Rebellion, The Quangos, Merrymouthband, The Watchmakers, Glass City Vice, The Bohicas, Dexters, Kontiki Suite, Monkeeman, The Last of the Troubadors, Parlour Flames and the Smoke Fairies in the joyful making of music, all having long ago realised that record labels - staffed by bean counters and terrified of individuality - will play it safe with the plastic fantastics of TV land until the end of days.

All these bands are intelligent enough to have realised that only by stepping up a gear - in their songwriting and fusion of musical styles - will they win over a bored public and, consequently, the record labels. The tougher things get, the harder these bands work, their appreciation of the diversity of music the world over and the borrowing of such influences helping elevate them out of the three-chord rock thrash that has for too long passed for the totality of popular music.

Inventions, The Sufi's latest and second album, is "our attempt to make an outsider pop record," says Laporte. "The focus was on the songs and the words. We tried to keep them as direct as possible."

The band has assumed the outsider position from the off which has freed Laporte's and Smith's songwriting, the same freedom that is being enjoyed by the bands cited above. Only freedom comes at a high price: that is, no access to funds with which to invest in bolder future projects.

Laporte says that "independent record labels have become a bigger part of the music business because of easier international distribution and the internet. It's good for bands like us. I don't think music should have any parameters. Approaching music with fixed ideas of what it should be isn't the way I work." Smith concurs: "I don't really need a giant campaign to convince me to buy a record."

For now this is the ideal stance to take, but artists will soon desist from creating if they can't meet the rent. Impoverishment is one thing, outright poverty another. The artistic spheres will dwindle and vanish if that vast reservoir of money that is helping the puppets of the mainstream cannot be diverted to those of genuine industry and talent.

This year has begun with a whisper, but one heavy with sedition. We are all in search of the satiation of our artistic appetites, but starvation will ensue if this cultural drain is not addressed by the artists themselves. The consequences of not doing so are too terrible to consider.

It seems that all that is good in the music world is rejected in favour of all that is bad and ugly, the meanest impulse of our age to disregard that which is difficult to understand, and thereby, all that may be great.

This mean season is long and taxing of our nerves and patience. When will the upturn begin? Will it be in tandem with the economy, and can we really wait that long? The probable answer is that, yes, we will have to.

But all artists, musical or otherwise, must bring a fusion of styles and energies to their work to defeat this confederacy of dunces. There must be no absence of purpose. All artists must screw their courage to the sticking place.

Without a fusion of musical styles, songwriting techniques and copper-bottomed business sense of inclusivity at the entrepreneurial end of the industry, darker days lie ahead. A new fusion will see life return to a moribund music world that trades listlessly on the memories of a golden age.

"Nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it." These were the words of George Orwell (The English Revolution, 1941), and should we choose to ignore them, then one of our worst fears will be realised; a future when the British music industry, like the British Empire, will have become a rumour.

Photograph courtesy of Ben Ayres at Ample Play Records & Rough Trade Records