As someone with all the musical talent of a bag of Brussels sprouts I've always been in awe of and also more than a little jealous of those who can make music. I'm sure there's tons of hard work involved in making music but there must also be an element of 'having a gift for it'. I tried to learn the trumpet years ago and after a couple of lessons & near lung-collapse gave it up as a forlorn hope. When my daughter asked if she could learn an instrument I gave her my old trumpet. She took to it like a fish to water and she's now taking her grades & producing sounds from it that don't set the dog howling. She seems to have the mystical 'gift' that I'm clearly so sorely lacking. Like any gift, it is something to be cherished and encouraged, which is why I was so saddened to see this on Twitter last night:
If you're not familiar with Drewvis and his gorgeous brand of acoustic ska then you really should be. His music is refreshingly different; gentle on the ears but not in a bland easy-listening sort of way. Check out the Drewvis website and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. You may also find your self asking, as I did when I first checked him out, 'why haven't I heard of this guy before?' Drew's lastfm profile shows a total of about 1,450 plays - 112 of which are mine!
Lastfm may not be the ultimate arbiter of musical trends but it is indicative of the state of things when abject shite like Jedward have nearly a quarter of a million plays on there and REAL talent like Drew's has so few. Which brings me on to 'the issue' as I see it: how to spread the word about great music? I read this blog post from Rich Mills this morning addressing this question from the artist's perspective and it makes for interesting if slightly depressing reading. From my own viewpoint as a music lover who is passionate about hearing & supporting new music I feel Rich is preaching to the converted to a degree; the truly committed music fan will already be exploring the avenues he mentions in search of new tunes. So I suppose the question I'm asking is what can I, as a fan, do to stop talented individuals like Drew packing it in?
First and foremost would have to be to buy the music! If you like it: buy it. Sounds simple and I know with pennies being tight it's tempting to copy a mate's cd, scrounge a rar file or rip a tune off YouTube, but if we all did that the ultimate outcome would be a musical landscape as barren and unappealing as Dawlish Warren in winter. There's a world of difference between downloading an ancient album off a long-defunct label and ripping off people who are still giving their time and talent to produce new music. Drew is obviously a thoroughly decent chap because he's giving away downloads on his website, but please don't limit yourself to the freebies. The album Disposable Pleasures & Meaningful Pursuits is available through Drew's website or from Do The Dog Records. I bought a copy and can't recommend it highly enough.
Secondly, if you like something tell your mates - but perhaps more importantly tell your radio station of choice that you want to hear it. Mainstream radio has become sterile and has an aversion to new music BUT, if enough listeners emailed them saying 'play something new or I'm off to internet-radio' and actually followed the threat through, surely they'd have to listen? Advertisers are particularly sensitive to listener numbers; a dip in numbers equals a dip in revenue, something all mainstream media outlets are painfully aware of. Don't limit your nagging to mainstream radio though - contact your friendly internet-radio DJ of choice and ask for stuff too. Be aware though that internet-radio is gloriously free of the constraints of mainstream radio, with nobody dictating what does and doesn't get played. Personally I have a simple rule: if I like it I'll play it, if it doesn't float my boat I won't play it - but I will pass it on to someone who I think might like it and play it. As an aside, I've recently read a few album reviews on blogs like mine where people have mercilessly slagged off albums by new or emerging singers/bands. I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, but just how small-minded do you have to be to take this attitude to someone's work? If you don't like something that's fair enough, but why not vent your spleen & spill your bile on the wannabes who took the x-factor route & are consequently earning buckets of cash for having very little talent? They have the media machine behind them and can take it - leave the real musicians alone. Sorry, rant over.
Thirdly, if you like someone's stuff - tell them! Musicians need to feel the love as much as anyone; for every brainwashed teenage girl tweeting their adoration of Bieber there should be a dozen real music fans telling real musicians that they're appreciating their stuff. Sounds Utopian I agree, but if we don't try we'll get nowhere. We have become a world of 'passive receivers' of entertainment, sitting on our arses digesting music with the same regard we'd give a bag of crisps. Crisp manufacturers don't need our encouragement - musicians do.
I'm sure there are dozens of other ways we can help keep music real and ensure people with the gift of music continue to share it with us and if anyone has any other ideas please share them. But for now I'm just going to use this post to send a personal message to Drew. I originally titled this post 'Don't Do It Drewvie' but then the ska-related-pun machine in my subconscious came up with the title above so here it is:
A Message To You Drewvie - Don't Give Up. Please.
You have a gift mate, people appreciate it & it would be a tragedy if that album you're working on never saw the light of day. My message to everyone else who listens to & likes Drewvis would be "Share the love - tell him!" Free Brussels sprout to everyone who does.*
* I was joking about the free sprout.