BBC Sound of 2019

As we are beginning to approach the end of the year, we will soon be deluged with the inevitable lists of the best albums of 2019 and then the lists of the most exciting acts coming up in 2020. The BBC has been doing “Sound of…” for about 20 years. In their words The Sound of… lists the most exciting rising stars for the year ahead”. Here is their video montage for The Sound of 2019.

The Sound of 2019 list has a total of 10 artists headed by a chap called Octavian; a “Drake-approved, genre-defying rapper”. I turned 42 this week and it shows. I do dip into this music from time to time and at the risk of sounding like the parents and politicians that criticised acid house in the 1990s for being repetitive, I just don’t like the music these kids are making. -The production makes them all sound the same to my ears and I just can’t even take them seriously. That autotuned balls that they have been doing since Cher’s Believe which came out in 1998 is still a thing. 20 years of samey-ness. For those in a certain age group that remembers Victor Meldrew. I don’t believe it! I also don’t know or care to know what it means for a rapper to be “Drake approved”. It is all very Radio 1 and with every tick of the clock I am getting further from their targeted demographic of being a 15-29 year old.

Although I do not care for this stuff, I have noticed for many years now the lack of Scottish acts that populate these lists. That includes the NME’s 100 100 of which only 1 band, Free Love are Scottish – from Glasgow. Thank Christ for the Lewis Capaldi bomb. Otherwise the Scottish stats would be terrible. As it is they are… Well they are still terrible despite Bathgate’s finest properly swaggering onto the scene at Glastonbury earlier this year. Lewis Capaldi made it onto the list of 16 artists on the Sound of 2018 with a lot of help from his record label, Universal who had been waiting to drop the bomb for a few years. A lot of time and money were invested to create the lad’s overnight success. Good luck to him, he seems like a nice chap.

Here are links to all of The Sound of… lists since its inception in 2003. I have noted all of the Scottish artists that I could identify. If there are any that I have missed, then do let me know.

10 in 2019
16 in 2018 Lewis Capaldi (Univeral)
15 in 2017
15 in 2016
15 in 2015
15 in 2014
15 in 2013 Chvrches (Universal)
15 in 2012
15 in 2011
15 in 2010
15 in 2009
10 in 2008 Glasvegas (Columbia/Sony)
10 in 2007
10 in 2006
10 in 2005 KT Tunstall (Relentless Records -distributed by Universal)
10 in 2004 Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
10 in 2003

So there have been 221 acts on the Sound of… since 2003 and of those, 5 were Scottish. To put this in perspective, there are 10 people living in England for every person living in Scotland. So if 200 acts were from England, we should have 20. If 100 acts were, then we should have 10. Although the lists are supposed to be “International”, by far the majority are based in England, of those, mainly in London and thereabouts. I didn’t look at the number of Welsh or Northern Irish or the specific English regions but you can be sure that the numbers for the other UK Countries and many English regions are likely to be on the low side.

For example, from 2003 to 2008 inclusive, we had 3 acts out of the total of 60 which is large enough to not feel ignored but still probably a little lower than it should be. In the following 11 years we have had only 2 acts out of 161. This is not a blip and as long as the major labels are not signing many Scottish acts we can expect it to continue. Older folk like me naturally do not care too much about Radio 1 and what they play and this is a mutual indifference between Radio 1 and us older listeners. Older people do however have a little more power and hopefully wisdom and with that in mind I do care about why young musicians in Scotland are struggling to be heard and have wondered if anything ccan be done about it.

As Marvin would say. What’s goin’ on? Well music trends do come and go but as far as the Music Industry is concerned London is where the trends begin. There is a lot of talent about and if there is plenty on your doorstep why look any further? All of the money is in London and the major labels don’t often venture up here to find talent. But this does matter, as when the decades pass there will be both a gap in cultural legacy and a significant economic gap too. The music business in the UK has been consistently worth £4.5 billion per year and we need a bigger piece of that pie.

Gross value added of the music industry in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2012 to 2017, by thematic grouping (in millions GBP)

So there is a lot of money in the music business. In order for more to make its way North, we need some help from the BBC in finding and promoting our best talent. This is an enormous and difficult task and will ultimately need political support from all parties. I am approaching this from an entirely non-party political stance. Too many musicians I know have thought of calling it a day due to the difficulties of getting heard but then feel compelled to continue. They are artists so this is what they have to do. Make art, get it out there. I have long wondered why it is so difficult to be heard and have been doing some investigating. This blog post is the beginning of an exploration of the difficulties faced by the Scottish Music Industry. There are many inter-related Music Industry things that I intend to write about in the coming weeks and I hope something constructive can come from it.

Criticism of the BBC’s Sound of… is nothing new.

Some sentences from Wikipedia:
It has been commented upon that the Sound of… survey, together with other polls, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Guardian critic Kitty Empire wrote in December 2007: “Many of us are editors commissioning, and journalists writing, our own ones-to-watch forecasts. In order not to look like idiots, we tend to tip acts with records coming out rather than some lad with a tin whistle we found on MySpace.”

The same issue was again raised in 2011, upon the publication of the longlist for the Sound of 2012. The Daily Telegraph’s Joe Burgis wrote “the Sound of 2012 project faces criticism that it is too heavily weighted in favour of mainstream performers.”

The head of music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra response to the question was “The list will inspire debate for sure, but most importantly, it will lead to discovery of artists and musicians trying to stand out from the ever-expanding crowd, and that can only be a good thing”.

The Head of Music’s response was of course bollocks. Here are the pundits that picked the 2019 list. 135 names. I know 4 are definitely Scottish and that they will almost certainly answer a tweet or an email. But looking through the others you can see why it might be difficult to get nominated for the Sound of… list without pretty significant Industry (with a capital “I”) contacts that really only come through major-label backing. To see if I am right, until you are signed to a major label, just send a link to your music with a short bio to the Head of Music at Amazon, MTV, YouTube and the Chief Executive of the Official Charts Company or even the Music Booker for The Graham Norton Show or Made in Chelsea and you will maybe, just maybe, make it on to the 2020 list. More next week.

Abbie McCarthy Broadcaster BBC Introducing Kent/Radio 1
Adam Ryan Curator The Great Escape
Al Smith Head of Music Capital Brand
Alex Baker Broadcaster & Writer Kerrang! Radio, Magic
Alex Critchley Talent & Music Label Director MTV
Alex Hoffman Head Of Music VICE
Alexandra Patsavas Founder Chop Shop Music Supervision
Alison Howe Series Producer Later… with Jools Holland
Ami Bennett Exec Producer Somethin’ Else
Andrea Madden Music Supervisor Made In Chelsea
Andy Copping Executive President UK Touring Live Nation
Andy Malt Editor CMU (Complete Music Update)
Anna Karatziva Head Of Talent & Music MTV Networks
Annie Mac DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Azi Eftekhari Head of Music Content Partnerships (EMEA) YouTube
Benji B DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Bethan Elfyn Presenter & Producer BBC Wales
Cai Trefor Editor Gigwise
Cameron Leslie Co-Founder Fabric
Caroline Sullivan Freelance Journalist The Guardian
Catherine Grieves Music Supervisor Faber Music (Killing Eve)
Chantelle Fiddy Urban Editor Mixmag
Charlie Ashcroft Head of Music & Broadcaster BT TV, Amazing Radio
Che Chumber Music Editor BBC Asian Network
Chris Price Head Of Music BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra
Chris Sawyer Producer, Greg James BBC Radio 1
Claes Olsen Head of Booking The ØyaFestival
Clara Amfo DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Danny Howard DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
David Coull Group Content Director UKRD Group
David Mogendorff Artist Services EMEA YouTube Music
David Smyth Chief Rock & Pop Critic Evening Standard
Dean Jackson Broadcaster BBC Introducing in the East Midlands
Derek Robertson Editor-In-Chief Drowned In Sound
Diederik van Zessen Content Manager 3FM (Netherlands)
DJ Charlesy Broadcaster BBC Radio 1Xtra
DJ Semtex DJ, Broadcaster, Author Capital Xtra
DJ Target DJ & Broadcaster BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Dominic Wallace Global Pop Editor Deezer
Duncan Allen Head Of Music Programming MTV
Ellie Goulding Musician, Songwriter, Publisher
Emily Eavis Co-Organiser Glastonbury Festival
Emma Swann Founding Editor DIY Magazine
Emma Zillmann Programming Director From The Fields (Kendal Calling / Bluedot)
Eve Barlow Journalist and Contributing Editor GQ, Pitchfork, Vulture and Q
George Ergatoudis Head of Music, UK & Ireland Apple
Glyn Fussell Director East Creative, Sink The Pink, Mighty Hoopla
Greg James Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Hannah J Davies Writer The Guardian, Q
Harriet Jordan-Wrench Founder Secret Sessions
Harrison Stock Assistant Producer, Annie Mac / Broadcaster BBC Radio 1/ Transmisson Roundhouse
Hattie Collins Freelance Journalist and Author i-D Magazine and ASOS Magazine
Huw Stephens Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Jack Saunders Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Jacob Rickard Producer BBC Radio 1
James Cabooter Showbiz Editor Daily Star
James Curran Director of Music Magic and Absolute Radio
James Foley Team Lead, Music Culture and Editorial, UK Spotify
Jane Beese Head Of Music The Roundhouse
Jarri Van der Haegen Founder & Editor Disco Naïveté
Jason Grishkoff Founder Indie Shuffle & SubmitHub
Jeff Benjamin Music Writer and Columnist Billboard, Rolling Stone, Forbes
Jeff Smith Head Of Music BBC Radio 2 & BBC Radio 6 Music
Jez Welham Broadcaster Capital Xtra
Jim Gellatly Broadcaster / New Music Columnist Amazing Radio / The Scottish Sun
Joe Dougan Live Music Promoter Belsonic, The Limelight Belfast, Shine
Joe Gardner Head of Content & Production Grape
Joe Walker Broadcaster, Music Writer Beats 1, Reprezent
John Rostron Chair/ Co-Founder Association of Independent Promoters / Welsh Music Prize
Jon Mcildowie Festival Booker Reading & Leeds
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson Senior Editor Complex Magazine
Julia Killer Director, Artist & Label Services Soundcloud
Julie Adenuga Host Apple Music’s Beats 1
Kate Davy Producer, Annie Mac BBC Radio 1
Keith Cameron Contributing Editor MOJO
Lana Webb Freelance Music & Talent Producer Remedy Productions, Endemol Shine Digital UK
Laura Snapes Deputy Music Editor The Guardian
Lee Tyler Editor Blues & Soul Magazine
Lily Walker Editor Wonderland Magazine
Ludovic Hunter-Tilney Pop Critic Financial Times
Luke Hood Founder UKF
Malcolm Jack Music Editor The Big Issue
Mark Findlay Group Head Of Live Music Global
Mark Lampo Music Editor Amazon Music
Martin Talbot Chief Executive Official Charts Company
Matthew Schnipper Executive Editor Pitchfork
Maximilian Domma Head Of Booking Reeperbahn Festival
Mel Lewis Music Team Producer BBC Radio 1
Michael Cragg Music Writer / Editor The Guardian & Q / Beat
Mike Walsh Head Of Music / Deputy Programme Director Radio X
MistaJam Broadcaster & DJ BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra
Nick Grimshaw Broadcaster BBC Radio 1
Olly Alexander Musician Years and Years
Paul Bridgewater Editor-in-chief The Line Of Best Fit
Paul Firth Director Amazon Music
Paul Hourican Artist and Industry Marketing YouTube Music
Paul Malone Music Booker The Graham Norton Show
Paul Pittico Co-CEO Secret Sounds
Paul Scaife Editor-In-Chief Record Of The Day
Peter Robinson Founder Popjustice
Phil Taggart Broadcaster/DJ/Label owner BBC Radio 1 / Hometown Records
Rachael Bee Managing Director ILUVLIVE
Rachel Holmberg Editor BBC Music Introducing
Rafe Offer Co-Founder / CEO Sofar Sounds
Raphaella Lima Global Music Marketing, Partnerships & Supervision Electronic Arts
Ric Blaxill Music & Content Director Bauer Media
Richard Smirke UK Correspondent Billboard
Rigsy Broadcaster & DJ BBC Radio Ulster
Rob Da Bank Co-Founder Bestival
Rob Ronaldson CEO The Whitelist
Robert Meijerink Program Director & Booker Eurosonic Noorderslag
Roisin O’Connor Music Correspondent The Independent
Ross Golan Songwriter/ Broadcaster And The Writer Is…
Rowan Faife Co-Founder & Managing Director Don’t Flop Entertainment
Russ Tannen Managing Director DICE
Sam Ajilore Founder & Editor That Grape Juice
Sarah Beaumont Music Lead BBC Radio 1Xtra
Scott Hastie Founder/Music Officer Student Radio Music Network (SRA)
Scott Lapatine Founder / Editor-in-Chief Stereogum
Selim Bulut Music Editor Dazed & Confused Magazine
Sigrid Artist BBC Music Sound Of 2018 Winner
Stephen Ackroyd Editor Dork Magazine
Stormzy Rapper
Talia Kraines Music Curator Amazon Music
Tallah Brash Music Editor The Skinny (Scotland)
Thomas Hannan Editorial Manager Amazon Music
Tim Ingham Publisher Music Business Worldwide
Tim Vernon Deputy Head Of Music Absolute Radio Network
Tom Baker Founder Eat Your Own Ears, Field Day
Tom Connick Staff Writer and Freelancer NME
Tom Cotton Music Producer Absolute Radio
Tuomas Kallio Co-Founder / Artistic Director Flow Festival
Vic Galloway Broadcaster BBC Scotland
Will Hodgkinson Chief Rock & Pop Critic The Times
Zoe Ball Broadcaster BBC Radio 2

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