Tag Archives: live music UK

Is it time to reshape the music industry? Lucy Squire guest blog

On the weekend of the UK’s first socially distanced festival at Gisburne Park, the music industry is in a state of uncertainty and mass disruption. Rising from the ashes of the digital apocalypse caused by file sharing and damage to physical sales in the 2000s, last year the UK music scene had grown to one of the most lucrative in the world, contributing over £5bn to the economy every year. Where artists once gigged to promote their new music, there has been a shift to releases generating ticket sales and contributing up to 70 per cent of a musician’s income, as fans flock to concerts and to buy merch. The UK has incredible international standing for both its vibrant festivals and creative talent.

Gisburne Park, UK

Fast forward to today. Music events are cancelled, artists are struggling, the supply chain has collapsed and 90 per cent of music venues could face permanent closure. Many small limited  companies and freelancers have been completely excluded from any funding, grant or support, including being furloughed. There is no current live music ‘industry’, and navigating the future means dealing with multiple complex issues. It’s clear that by its very nature live music will be the last industry to reopen, so the question is – can the sector survive? And if so, how? No one saw this coming …

But is this an opportunity to drive change and reshape the industry, specifically regarding how streaming income is shared out between different stakeholders? Low payouts to artists have been a cause for concern since Spotify launched in 2008. The Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy have called for the government to intervene. The UK government’s Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has been called to “investigate how the market for recorded music is operating in the era of streaming to ensure that music creators are receiving a fair reward”.

We are a long way from the 1994 Monopolies and Mergers Commission’s Investigation of the UK Music Market, which was prompted over concern about the high price of CDs and the huge associated profits being made. Post the heady heights of HMV and Virgin retailing, the shutdown of live music is a good time to put the spotlight back on the value of music and address perceptions of it being “free”.

The creative process has been further degraded by recent comments from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on the rate of album releases, stating it isn’t enough for artists to “record music once every three to four years”. The industry has to be nurtured, it does not serve to churn out hits, but when it does there, should be a comprehensive mechanism for monetisation.

Without doubt, the future will see a blended experience of live music; there is no substitute for physical connectivity, but there are opportunities to engage new audiences using technology. Covid-19 has accelerated this reach. In the first instance, barriers and obstacles to physical attendance at gigs have been removed, with virtual events opening up wider access, inclusivity and diversity. This has to be a good thing.

Going forward, forms of virtual access could run simultaneously to live festivals and gigs for those that can’t or don’t want to attend, ideally with interactive elements. There is a sense of fatigue surrounding live streams but new ground is being broken by events that can really bring a sense of “live”. Step forward Lost Horizons (3-4th July 2020) a fully interactive festival attracting 4.36m viewers, from over 100 countries which took place over six stages built-in VR events platform Sansar. More than 70 DJs and artists, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Frank Turner, performed and those who attended the festival in Sansar could visit six virtual worlds, with nine camera angles apiece, purpose-built for the occasion.

While it’s not everyone’s bag, and there can never be a replacement for the energy of physical live music, my mind turns to next-generation gig goers, the ones more used to inhabiting virtual worlds. Video games have been an important platform for discovering and consuming music since the early 1990s, and there’s an entire generation of players that owe their music tastes to games such as FIFA, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Grand Theft Auto. Virtual concerts are the next logical step in the relationship between video games and music and there’s certainly an appetite with more than 12 million tuning in for Travis Scott’s ‘Fortnite’ event. Gaming platforms have the capacity to reach millions as well as generate creative new forms of consumer consumption.

There’s plenty of food for thought and experiments already underway, but the horizon can’t all be about tech. At some point, the industry needs to get back on its organic feet and we must ensure that the music industry ecosystem remains when the pandemic has finally passed. Creativity, determination and passion in our community have driven numerous successful campaigns during Covid-19 that raise awareness of the resolute need for more support from the government so that the industry survives in these desperate times. The huge societal response demonstrates just how important music is to our economy, culture, wellbeing and heritage. It can’t be sidelined.

#LetTheMusicPlay #WeMakeEvents #Forgottenltd #ExcludedUK

Lucy Squire is the Manager for Music and Sound at the Faculty of Creative Industries, University of South Wales, Atrium, Cardiff

 

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Cardiff haze pop trio XYandO announce Big Top residency!

To support the release of their new single ‘Shades of You’ on May 4 – and in celebration of surpassing 32 MILLION STREAMS on Spotify alone – Cardiff haze poppers XY&O have announced a spring residency of live shows at The Big Top!

Entry to all shows is FREE, and each gig features support from different artists (including Safari Gold, Jack Ellis, Sønder Choir and rising stars Hvnter and The Dead Method).

WATCH: XY&O – Low Tide

XY&O’s Big Top residency shows are:

  • April 19th: XY&O + Safari Gold
  • May 4th: XY&O + Jack Ellis + Blue Honey DJ Set [single launch show]
  • May 17th: XY&O + Sønder Choir [semi acoustic show]
  • June 1st: XY&O + Hvnter + The Dead Method [presented in association with the Forte&Project]

We caught up Skip, Nick and Tudor for a mini interview before their residency kicks off!

Q. Where and how did the band form? Introduce all the members and maybe tell us a bit about your musical influences

Skip. We met in Cardiff, I was at University there. Me and Tudor crossed paths down at a little studio in Cardiff Bay and almost immediately decided that we should write some songs together. Our tastes are styles when it came to writing where similar, but also different enough so that we could spin off each other. He yinged, I yanged.

I knew Nick because I was recording and producing some tracks for a band he was in at the time, he was only about 16/17 and had an amazingly original style of playing guitar and writing even then. I thought it would be interesting to rope him in and see how his musicality fitted with the songs me and Tude had started.

My musical tastes are pretty broad. I can usually find something I like about a track or genre. Some of my biggest influences would be artists like Prince, John Martyn The Cure, Sting, stuff my Dad was listening too as I grew up. When I hit early teens and started finding my own music, then it was all about Jimmy Eat World, Alkaline Trio and Blink 182 for a couple of years. I like heavy music, soft music and everything in between. Atreyu to Arianna Grande.

Nick. My influences constantly change, at the minute I’m listening to a lot of electronic soul type stuff as well as artists such as Mt. Joy and Jordan Mackampa.

Tudor. My musical influences are pretty broad and always changing. I love haunting and spacey music like Daughter, RY X and Sigur Ros. I’m also a massive Coldplay fan (saw them in Cardiff for the first time not so long ago and it only confirmed my obsession). I’m currently listening to a lot of traditional Colombian music (probably due to watching all of Narcos on Netflix in three days).

Q. Where are you all from originally? How did you end up in Cardiff?

Skip. I’m originally from the valleys, a little town called Abercarn. I came to Cardiff University though so lived in the city for 3/4 years at that time.

Tudor is from Barry and Nick from Whitchurch so they’re both Cardiff boys.

Q. What are your musical memories from being younger? What made you all decide to get into making music?

Skip. Most of my musical memories just revolve around listening to it. I sang in school and stuff like that but the most vivid memories for the first times I heard certain artists. I remember listening to REM, Led Zeppelin and Sting CDs in the car with my parents. I remember the first time I heard Youth & Young Manhood by Kings of Leon and amazing records like that. I used to sing and make up songs as a kid, and I guess I just never really stopped…

Tudor. Family BBQs that went late into the night with Bob Marley albums being played back to back. I’ve always been obsessed with how music makes people feel and I suppose I wanted to be a part of that process.

Nick. Listening to Jimi Hendrix in my dad’s car was a big one, I remember being pretty mind blown that those kinds of sounds existed (especially the solos in All Along the Watchtower). I think it’s that curiosity that got me into music

Q. What are your favourite music- related spots around Cardiff – venues / shops etc?

Tudor. We’re big fans of The Full Moon, Clwb Ifor Bach, Womanby Street as a whole really. Gwdihw is a pretty cool place and The Big Top of course. That’s a great venue for intimate gigs.

We’re also looking for a New York Deli sponsorship so will give them a shout out too!

Skip. Also, Bomber’s Deli…un-related to music, but if you’re in Cardiff and it’s lunch time then you need to check that place out.

Q. Tell us about the Ten Feet Tall/Big Top residency

It’s going to be a chance for us to experiment with all of our new lights, equipment and music. Our live show has evolved massively and we’re keen to show it to people in an intimate setting. We’re using the gigs to try out new songs, experiment with arrangements and just generally play some fun local shows because we haven’t really played in the city that much. We’ve made all the gigs free entry because we’d rather people just come and enjoy, critique or just listen to our new music

Q. What’s been the best gig you’ve played to date?

We actually played at Glastonbury 2016 on the BBC Introducing Stage. It was obviously pretty amazing so that always ranks highly. It was only out 10th gig as a band so very strange and looking back on it, it almost feels like a different band. Our live set up then was very different to what it is now. We played an amazing gig at The Phoenix in Exeter in the run-up to Glastonbury. It was a BBC show at a big sold out theater and the crowd were amazingly receptive to us.

Q. What are your plans and hopes for the future?

Our new single ‘Shades of You’ is scheduled to come out on May 4th so we’re excited for that. We’re shooting the music video for it next week actually.
We’ve just been picked up by the live agents Primary Talent so we’re keen to get out playing live much more. We’re hoping to use the residency to fine tune our live set too.

Tudor. We want to go over to the US and play for all the Americans that have been streaming our music for the last two years!

XY&O is the creative amalgamation of songwriters Skip Curtis, Nick Kelly and Tudor Davies.

It began in early 2015 – Skip (from the Valleys) and Tudor (from Cardiff) began writing music and songs with the intention of pitching them to other artists to use. Skip quickly roped in another Cardiff native Nick Kelly in hopes of bringing another dimension to the music. After posting some early demos online under the moniker ‘XY&O’ the trio started seeing their play count rise. They started receiving airplay on US Radio stations as well as gig offers from US promoters, some of whom assumed the band were from Cardiff, San Diego.

Early on, the boys wrote what would become ‘Low Tide’ – bringing with it the genesis of their unique style, coined by Skip as haze pop. ‘Low Tide’ was self-released and went straight into Spotify’s Global Viral Chart at number 7, reaching an audience worldwide, but was particularly well received in the US. The track has since gone on to accumulate over 20 million streams. The trio gained huge popularity on all online platforms, it was at this point the three had discovered that XY&O had somewhat unintentionally become a band.

The band slowed things down the second half of 2016 and early 2017, allowing Nick to finish his final year studies at University but have now re-focused their efforts into their live show and have recently been taken on by live agents Primary Talent. The boy’s story was picked up by the Wales Online in late 2017 which led to them being featured live on the ITV News at 6pm talking about their unusual story of being a little known Welsh band with an audience in the USA.

They hope to expand their live following over 2018 as well as release plenty of new music. New single ‘Shades of You’ is set for release on May 4th, 2018.

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