2012 - What kind of year has it really been for music? A few weeks ago it was reported that Gwen Stefani's come back hit with No Doubt had notched up a measly 680 sales in its first week. Meanwhile Mumford & Sons rise and rise continued with their difficult second album not appearing to be that difficult at all with first week sales of 600,000, four hundred thousand of which were downloads.
In other areas, Emeli Sande came out of nowhere and became the breakthrough act of the year, memorably performing Read All About It at the Olympics, whilst her scruffy jumpered male counterpart Ed Sheeran equally sealed his place in hearts and minds and identified himself as a career artist with songs that strike a rich chord in these need for a torchsong times..
Robbie Williams stormed back with memorable performances at the O2 just last week, whilst brother in arms Gary Barlow deservedly scooped his OBE (surely the Knighthood is next!) for his exceptional work in pulling together the Jubillee concert and his endless charity projects and all-round good blokery..
The Mercury prize somewhat predictably, but never the less deservedly, also went to a band no-one had heard of at the beginning of the year, Alt-J who will have to develop their sound beyond the limits that The XX restricted themselves to and look unlikely to break out of, if they're to go beyond this initial success.
Plan B has probably had THE standout year of everyone, proving that given the right support and backing true multi-media music stars can emerge. Who knew that this first album gangster rapper from South East London, would have then turned into a Soul singer and then turned into a movie star with his debut onscreen appearances drawing great reviews in the Sweeney and his own masterpiece Ill Manors, which he wrote and directed. This week I was at the Artist and Managers Awards at the wonderful Troxy Music hall, where I was nominated in the Breakthrough Manager of the year category for my work with Skinny Lister. Plan B's manager Sam Eldridge picked up the Manager of the Year award and the affore mentioned Plan B (Ben Drew) stepped up to present the award, praising Sam and his label Atlantic Records for their vision and belief in his dream, before collecting the Artist of the Year Award himself.
One other thing that has emerged in the industry is a new acceptance that the reality tv route is now an almost credible option. See One Direction and look out for Lovable Rogues in 2013. Now the veil of secrecy around fast-tracking of artists into the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent has been lifted, it is now seen as a viable route for artists and managers to reach a huge tv audience and a potential mainstream shot at the big time.
Sadly another 12 months has gone by and the reality tv route and the 'half a slim chance in hell's' option of getting a slot on Later are still the only outlets for music artists on TV. As a point of interest and an aside, my band Skinny Lister made their UK TV debut this year, performing on a daytime ITV show. Great, you might say..and it was, but guess how much time they got to perform their single. 3 minutes? 2 Minutes i hear you cry? Try 45 seconds. The producer sided with me and told me there wasnt more they could do, because their viewers switch as soon as a music act comes on they dont instantly recognise! Something needs to be done about music options on tv, we need a major label to fund a tv show or an independent tv show to emerge from online onto our screens.. and please make it soon!
On another front, it's now the time of year that everyone looks forward to next year's big hitters, the end of year polls and the tips for 2013, a process which in my opinion is about as pointless as a trying to get an A&R person to come to a gig.
The truth is, as in the case of Emelie Sande only one or two of those tipped ever come to anything.
What I think will be interesting to see though in the next twelve months is whether the guitar band prophecy comes true. Recently, Universal Music Chairman David Joseph was interviewed by the BBC with an insight into where he sees the next twelve months going musically. He talked about the re-emergance of more traditional guitar bands, away from the dance/beats domination of recent years, which to many of us will be music to our ears. Radio 1 chief George Ergatoudis has also been making the same noises, saying he will support new bands on the station when they breakthrough. I've seen a few great bands in the last 18 months who could take the initiative and lead the charge The Chakras for one - a great band with songs like U2, without the wrap around coloured glasses, a band called Dry the River who if they can come up with a couple of big songs, could step up to the mark. Then there's Films of Colour who ply Athlete-Coldplay-Keane grade songs with epic guitar layers, have paid their dues and are ready for wider appreciation. Then there's a brilliant band called Toy, who really are something live.
I'd love to see this happen, I think the general public are ready for it and it will just take one band to step up to the mark, to lead the way. Whether there is anything like as brilliant as the Arctic Monkeys or Muse around the corner, I'm not sure, because overall it feels that over the last 12 months, the difficulties that the industry is facing, (lack of investment at the grassroots end, minimal tv and radio outlets and fewer and fewer chances for acts to breakthrough), is making the music people are having to make more and more generic, so that it is acceptable to the narrowing range of meaningful media outlets and routes to the mainstream market.
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