Have you ever asked an individual whether or not they are interested in ‘the arts’? Or discussed the importance of a nations creative capacity to the overall health and economic vitality of that nation. You would likely receive a set of varied responses. ‘The Arts’ is a term that associates itself to highbrow conversation. A luxury reserved for the academic community, perhaps. Take a small step to the left and ask them about the latest craze to hit the charts (Mika), or the surprising hit movie of the year (Little Miss Sunshine). The responses will be equally varied, but I would expect them to be informed, colourful, and often forming, quite meticulously, a stringent position.
This week saw our attentions turn to the British Music Industry. The Brits 2007 was on the telly, and it was live – or was it? All the best bits seem to be cut out. An artist’s message, although it was probably rubbish, was filtered from the world’s ears. This debate is important, especially in the world of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 prides itself on unfiltered messages and opinions. The content is unmediated. Unmediated to the extent where the community judges it to be acceptable. This, as a medium, is a lot more exciting than the mediated alternative. We can possibly replace the host – Russell Brand, with someone styled to our taste. Russell is loved by many, but loathed by a similar number. Why watch something you loath?
I am suggesting alternatives. This blog attempts to do that as often as it can, but we have to admit that The Brits, in its current format, gets the nation talking. We all have an opinion. We have our favourite artists and we would have been impressed by one or two acts on the night. We have a strong position on our likes and dislikes within ‘the arts’. For me, I was struck by the changes emerging in the music industry. There were some great acts on show – Amy Winehouse, Snow Patrol, and possibly Corrine Bailey Rae. Each very different and possibly unlike anything we have seen over the last ten years. Groups like Oasis, and even The Red Hot Chilli Peppers looked, and sounded, a bit obvious. I have always liked the Chilli Peppers, but were they offering anything new? They are just a rock group, rocking it in typical fashion. But what about Amy Winehouse? She is very difficult to define and far from any music type. The Fratellis and The Artic Monkey’s are equally difficult to define. They do not easily fit a genre.
But, there was the change. Scroll down each of the artists in the following BBC list, and ask about their background. Were they launched by a record company, or did they emerge through myspace, youtube and other Web 2.0 sites? Let me know your findings, but I would suspect that at least half of the nominations emerged from the web. Their audience came through traditional gig circuits, yes, but the viral affect was generated through the web. One web recording can reach millions. A one-off gig can only reach the few in attendance and if you are lucky a record company manager.
My proposition is that Web 2.0 enriches our entertainment experience. The industry benefits from greater variation and more challenging artists. This proposition is very difficult to prove. In the end, it is a matter of opinion. I am not sure how we judge this, but one measure might be the rate at which an artist appears on our radar and then disappears. Perhaps fame diminishes quickly in the world of web 2.0. Each artist plays to their core audience and enjoys mainstream notoriety when and if it arrives. Even when it does arrive… do they really care? The Artic Monkey’s have yet to attend the Brits, but they have won at least three awards over two consecutive years. Perhaps we don’t need big supergroups anymore? We just need good music, accessible music, challenging ideas, and variety. Web 2.0 is flexible and amenable to this. The record industry is not… but, the Brits does get us talking?