Thursday, May 31, 2007

The president no longer loves the kids

Alan McGee is "winding down" Poptones because nobody was interested ("because he no longer believes in record labels"), he's told The Independent. (Actually, he told the Independent back on May 11th, but nobody noticed until it was picked up by an Italian radio station today.) Bands nowadays, he's spotted, don't really need labels:

The story of how I met The Sessions is simple and, not surprisingly, it was online, through MySpace, after the front man, Taz Allie, messaged me. They caught my attention the first time I saw them and I couldn't believe that they weren't doing more, in terms of playing live and promoting themselves.

I started to put them on more and more at my London clubs, Death Disco, The Queen is Dead and Now We're Off To Rehab. It was through my clubs that I became mates with them and now I DJ with Taz, too. That's when the labels came knocking, offering them all these record deals.

It wasn't long before I told them that they could do all these supposedly great things being offered to them themselves. When Taz worked out what he could do with a bank loan, I offered to advise him. I'm not their manager but once I got talking to Taz, he was so genuine and sincere I offered to help as a friend.

You have to respect them for taking out a loan and putting their balls on the line. They deserve every bit of good press they get. They're all ordinary guys - the drummer is a window cleaner - and I like them because their expectation of the music business is zero. They have been on the go for three or four years, but I think that because they aren't an obvious band they fell on deaf ears for a while and no one seemed to care. Since they have started playing at my clubs they're becoming increasingly popular.

In terms of what's happened with their single, "What Is This Feeling?", I offered to try to get it into a couple of films in order to pay for it, as synchs are a good way to make money. They then took out the loan, made the video for a grand and went about pressing 500 singles, and it's barely costing them anything. Following that, Cherrystones came in to remix the track as a favour and the end result is world class.

The Sessions' version is great, being influenced by The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Happy Mondays (and they remind me of Curtis Mayfield doing Sweet Exorcist in 1974), but how Cherrystones have reworked it with Taz's song writing is amazing. The media are going to be all over it. So with no major, and some balls, The Sessions are going to show everyone how it's done.

We know it's currently the done thing to suggest that getting on film or TV soundtracks is the perfect solution for new bands to flog a few tracks, make a few quid, add a few fans, but is McGee really suggesting that the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack is going to take up all the slack from the Big Four? As it becomes more and more obvious how helpful it can be to get a song playing in the background as actors stare at each other across studio-set operating theatres, won't there be more and more people trying to get in on the act, forcing down prices and creating a market where a whole new slew of music industry intermediaries are going to pop up. It's a fair bet that the production teams on films might be less keen to do deals when they're getting thousands of CDs sent to them; and if there are 500 bands trying to soundtrack the prom for Veronica Mars, why would the TV company want to pay anything?

Indeed, if I ran a top-rated TV show, and kept reading in the paper how the music slots on my show are letting bands build an audience and secure sales, I might start to wonder if, perhaps, I should be auctioning off the slots instead of paying to fill them - especially if I'm already taking dropsy to determine what car the hero drives, or which brand of cola my talent is seen slurping on-screen.

Indeed, if I were NBC, and owned by a company which also owns Universal records, I might wonder how long it will be before my bosses are asking why the music that Abbie has crises to on ER comes from any label other than Universal's fine roster of musicians.

The soundtrack slot, Alan, is not the way ahead. It's a small bubble, and one which will burst incredibly soon.