With the advent of MySpace, Lastfm, social networking sites and MP3 downloads it seems that anyone and everyone could end up being the next big thing. Sign up for a MySpace account and you will be inundated with a slew of friend requests from a plethora of young, eager hopefuls, all ready to bound onto the scene like a hoard of over-enthusiastic puppies. Similarly, despite the live music licensing laws which have hindered some smaller UK bars and clubs from staging live acts, many venues continue to pay the price of the licence because they understand that performers are a simple means to significantly expand their clientele.
However, whilst the new music scene may be vibrant and exciting, it is not prone to creating profit. At least not for the music industry executives or those promoting their agenda. We have seen this recently with the BBC's tentative decision to axe both its 6 Music and Asian Network radio stations. 6 Music, especially, caters to rising stars and under-the-radar artists whereas Asian Network provides its listeners with access to music not commonly found on mainstream radio. Both would be a tremendous loss to the UK radio landscape, and yet the BBC has determined that the stations' listenerships are not extensive enough to merit further investment and are cutting them, along with much of its website content and its youth scheme Blast, in an attempt to reduce costs.
Thankfully, the outcry following this announcement has been unprecedented. From broadcasters to artists and the general public alike, no one seems to be in favour of the BBC's decision beyond the BBC executives themselves. This provides us with proof that the demand is there for new music, but not the willingness by the music business to invest. So where does that leave the future of new music in the UK?
Whilst the mechanisms may be in place for new artists to establish themselves, there is a definite lack of support to help them survive in what can be a cut-throat industry. How many of those MySpace hopefuls ever make it past playing at their local pub, or recording their first few demos onto their computers? Not everyone can make it to the big time, and not everyone should. There are MySpace demos out there that should be confined forever to the vault of no return. However, for those hopefuls worthy of consideration, there needs to be better structures in place for them to take their talents to the next level.
So where do we look to for these support systems? The simple answer is, not the big corporations. Yes, it is important to fight for companies like the BBC to retain their left-field programming and push for more exposure of smaller acts in the mainstream. But the real strength will be when we support smaller labels and artists who are following the DIY route. We need to connect with each other and make the underground a solid network which is focused on supporting innovation and taking risks. This is the way to ensure that new music continues to grow and thrive in the UK.