When you step away from all the negativity that makes up the world today its a pretty wonderful place for a lot of us. Here in North America we have access to so much that we really are spoiled. But this isn’t about what we do or don’t have in that manner. It is about the world of music and what we have at our fingertips this very second. let me start by going back in time a bit.
In the late 1980’s when I worked in terrestrial radio, I was a music director for a station in Canada at one point. It was a mid sized market, and we got a lot of music in every week. Through the week record companies and independent artists would send us their music. In those days we received it almost always in the form of the 45 RPM single. Once in a while full albums came through, but the record companies were looking to promote one song, not an entire album. The idea being the album sales would be generated with a song on it becoming a hit. It was a good formula and for the most part it worked. Now in this station we would receive probably 75 to 100 songs a week. Let me do a bit of math here, just imagine with the 75 songs each one was only 3 minutes long. They tended to be closer to four, but I am rounding everything low knowing that the issue was actually worse than I am displaying. To listen to each song entirely with those numbers would require 3hrs and 45 minutes, per week, and thats if each record played fully back to back with no breaks or discussions. In the 1980’s Radio stations didn’t generate huge amounts of money, and now in 2016, it is in many ways an industry that is dying.. With all of that said, while Radio DJ’s jobs can be glamorous in some cases, there generally is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that nobody outside the building sees. Most do other duties as well, from production, to music or program directors. To add 4 hours at the very least to the schedule each week was impossible.
So at Radio stations all over the world I am sure we all did the same thing. When you played a song, if it didn’t fit your format it was gone. What that means, if you played rock on the radio station and it was a country song, it was no good to you. Those were the easy ones. In Canada we had to play a certain percentage of Canadian music, which wasn’t really that difficult because there are so many well known Canadian artists and band around the world. What it boiled down to though was literally only a few seconds to make an impression to the person or persons listening. Once the song started, it had to grab you by the time the vocals come in. Remember I am not talking about big name bands or singers here. They were somewhat different, in they had an established history, and often the songs are already being played on other stations depending on how the song was released. At this point I am sure you are ready to bail and stop reading so I will stop with the stats from the past.
The point to consider, at that time computers were nothing like they are today. Your basic phone now has more capacity and options than computers did at that time. So the average person had no way to hear all this other music, unless they were playing at a bar or an opening act for a bigger band etc. This is where the difference in time is so evident. If your friend or someone says to you, hey have you heard about the new band called The Phantoms, (@Phantoms_the) you just grab your phone or tablet or pc, search the name and the world opens up right than and there. In the 80’s, if someone said that to you, your option was to hopefully see them live or know someone who actually had a record or theirs, or catch them on the radio. In other words, it was little to no chance.
Now don’t take this next part the wrong way, but in the world today, anyone can and offer music. There are so many forums online to display and promote your talents that there truly is no way to hear everything that is available. I run a small online station, basically a podcast at this point that broadcasts live like a standard radio station but only 3 hours a day, and than is available after as well to listen to. Even being this small cog in the giant entertainment wheel, I get emails etc every day with new music to listen to. The numbers compared to back than are nearly 10 times what they used to be, and that is just the people out there pushing the music. Their are another 100 times more artists and bands, that you never hear of for the same reasons in reverse. So the chances of new artists making a dent into the music world in a big way are so small you cant calculate them. Much like making it big in sports. We all are just one needle in a extremely large haystack.
None of this meanwhile should be interpreted as a complaint. What I am doing, I don’t get paid for and it is entirely a labor of love. Would I like to get to a point to make money off this, sure, but its not a deciding factor in whether I continue or not. I am blessed to be able to hear so much great music, and only wish there was the time or opportunity to showcase it all for people to listen too. But its just not realistic. At this point I suggest you do some things for yourself. The next time you are on YouTube or Soundcloud or any service look around for someone you have never heard of. You may be shocked at what is available to listen to and how good it is.
Over the past 72 hours I have had what I think has been an extraordinary opportunity drop into my lap. I was contacted by a couple of people offering for me to check out and listen to one singer and the other a band. What has happened over the past two days is funny that it happened twice in a row. In both instances I was blown away by the music I heard that I spent almost 3 hours reading and researching about each, and in fact although two different genres, I have both playing as I write this. Do you remember when you were a kid, or maybe you have kids today who do the same thing. When they like a song, they play it over and over and over. That is whats happening, but its not just one song, its all their music. I realized yesterday that what I was listening to were the next to huge acts that were going to blow the world of music up. IF? If after reading the beginning of this blog you understand just how tough it is to be heard and make a name for themselves. Even though in the case of this blog, It is still in its infancy as far as writing I had decided when I created the site, that I wouldn’t promote individuals. I even took down my page of independent artist because their are so many that I just couldn’t keep up with all of the requests and didn’t want to be leaving people out. Maybe I was wrong though. Maybe I should be promoting those I have heard to maybe help in even a small way. Thats why I am writing about these two.
Lets start with the band called The Pantoms from Scotland. They are considered Alternative, Indie & Rockers, but you can decide for yourself. I invite you to also read another piece entirely dedicated to this band. This was my introduction to them, and also includes links to their music. The link will be at the bottom of the page. I don’t know what to say about them at this point. I sent a message to their Manager, that I now feel kind of stupid about. It was a quick first impression of the music, which was good, but subsequently every time I listen again to songs “Lost” or “Wasting Time” I can hear different influences in their sound. But what is best is this is “their sound”, and it is incredible. I took one of their songs out for some friends to hear, and they all did the same thing. It was remarkable, they listened, to the entire song, and than said, “Hey, play that again will you”. I will let you decide who they sound like, but for myself, it is uniquely their own. I was looking up some of their schedule for playing and am envious to those who have heard them live and will hear them in the near future in venues like King Tut’s. Take away from those shows what you can, because this band is going to be big. Just like you have heard the old stories of a band called the Quarymen and those who say they saw them in those small venues, seeing The Phantoms live these days will indeed be something you will share in the future.
The other artist is a solo musician over on the Country Music side of the dial. Jake Anderson @jakeandersongs came to me the same way, by introduction from somebody who knew him and wanted me to check him out. This was approximately 24 hours before I heard of the Phantoms, and was the start of another big dive into one performer. Jake just recently released a 5 song EP entitled “Comeback Kid”. I sent him a message that says what I am about to write here. I put the music on, and listened, and it just played through to the end. I had enjoyed the first cut so much I hadn’t even stopped it part way. This pattern repeated itself and by the end I had finished all 5 songs and was blown away. Those of us older likely more so remember putting on entire albums and listening to both sides. You don’t hear about that type of thing much these days, but when you played them there was always a song or two that wasn’t that good, and you ignored or did something else while it was on, or lifted the stylus and moved it over one track. (Look that one up youngsters)
I couldn’t recall the last time I had done just that. Listened all the way through. Jake has a great Country sound. In a time when so many songs crossover to the pop charts, the music at some times is indistinguishable, his is not. The music isn’t overproduced, but has all the sounds it needs. The first track “Die Young” has what you could call a haunting quality to the lyrics. As you listen even the first time, the words and the meaning stick in your mind, and I am sure many many people could truly relate. When you read about him, you see he is doing the small venues right now as well, and again, this is someone to check out in that type of environment. I believe that very soon he will be riding a huge wave of success and the days of small clubs will be gone.
I don’t write this about these two easily. I am after all just one person, and I am sure they have heard words like mine before. But what they both have is incredible talent, and the drive to make it. The other part of each days 3 hours of research and listening was interaction with either the performer or a representative. Many others could learn from them that if you want something you have to work for it. You can’t just record a song, and than wait for the world to come to you. I thank those people for the interaction and look forward to more down the road. I truly hope I am right also, because I would be thrilled for their success, as I said, so few get the chance to reach that level.
Links and references
The blog/story I mentioned earlier. Please read: https://r8singer.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/the-phantoms-work-hard-to-put-up-walls-of-brilliant-sound-phantoms_the/