Imagine a talented child living in a very restrictive, traditional family. For some reason unknown to you, everything’s been done a certain way for generations, with no room to deviate. Baths have to be taken within a certain timeframe, clothes and looks are set out for you months in advance, and dinner always has to be at a pre-ordained time.
Now imagine that child performing for some neighbours and knocking their socks off. The community want to hear more, they want to make the most of this talent, and someone raises the notion of immediately casting the child to perform for the wider public. But the family say a vehement no: everything about that child has already been decided, and they can’t bend under pressure for fear of setting a bad example to all the others.
OK, so it’s a bit of a laboured and melodramatic analogy, but that’s essentially been the plight facing Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars‘s Uptown Funk after The X Factor this week. It’s a problem that’s been prevalent throughout the UK music industry as of late, where release dates are bafflingly discordant from international schedules and we’re usually the last to hear something on the radio (and even later before we see it on TV).
Whether UK labels like it or not, there’s a massive problem here. We live in a world where music is all about immediate consumption – people hear something on the radio or online, and they want access to it straight away. For some reasons, labels seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by denying a lot of people that. The fact that an ‘on-air-on-sale’ discussion isn’t even happening proves how broken this model is.
What Fleur East and The X Factor also highlighted – surprisingly, for a show that most people view as regressive – is how little other TV shows know how to present music, and how much they underestimate the public. To put a relatively unknown song on prime-time Saturday night is something that would be laughed out of a TV meeting (we’d know, we’ve sat in them), but what a glorious risk this was. People don’t necessarily want to see the same, tired old Olly Murs act on every show – they’re happy to be served something fresh and exciting, and they’re happy to go and buy it straight away.
Going back to our analogy, labels very much feel like the dominating parents in this setup. They’re so stuck in their ideas of scheduling and campaigns that they’re generally reluctant to change, for fear that it might expose their jobs as ultimately a redundant game of chance (something we’ve mooted before, but it was quickly dismissed because it was a fringe act like Angel Haze). Given the change in release for Mark Ronson, it’s clear it’s something that can be done, but something that’s chosen to be avoided.
Our thoughts? Radio and TV, take more bloody risks and give people something new on prime-time. Labels, take the pulse of the online chatter and start having some serious discussions about distribution. Because Uptown Funk just gave it to ya, and y’all have no idea what to do with it.