Today’s agenda, barring something quite extraordinary, will be dominated by chatter about new bands and lists. The BBC’s Sound of… poll long list was announced overnight, and already Twitter is awash with opinions. Yes, everyone has one.
That’s fine. These things are there to be debated. What I find more interesting (or perhaps confusing) is the way many - especially those who spend their lives searching for the next new act - see this as something like the end game.
I guess if you take the opinion that the bands who tend to make this fifteen strong hype train tend to have the requisite industry backing and bank balance, then yes, they can be self fulfilling prophecies. But on the counter, we can all play bingo with the acts who don’t make it (and there are always a couple). Last year alone proved that a new band can fail to make the list and go on to dominate the mainstream musical agenda - neither Bastille or London Grammar, for various and different reasons, found themselves on a Sound of… list.
The BBC list, it’s worth noting, is compiled of loads of judges from different backgrounds. Clearly it’s not going to stick to one niche or genre, and won’t be ‘right’ to any single person with individual tastes. If you’re after that, you’re best finding a critic or publication that matches what you think more closely.
To me, as an editor, our annual Class of… feature, which has been running for YONKS now, is anything but a full stop. We’ve not revealed anything yet (the magazine is out on Friday), but it features a lot of bands. Like, a lot. More than ever before. That’s entirely intentional. It isn’t an example of a scattergun approach, but rather the musical landscape we find ourselves in. Last year we featured ten acts (it would have been twelve, but - behind the scenes info alert - time fell through on tight deadlines with two we wanted to interview). The thing is, 2013 felt a lot more together than 2014. Those claiming they guessed the Sound of… long list deserve respect - nothing on there is a surprise, sure, but I reckon I could give you another 20 names minimum that would sit just as easily too. Beyond a few at the top of the tree, there are a lot of acts who, with a fair wind and good judgement, will have a great year.
The acts in the Class of 2014 are all artists we’ve supported; especially through Neu, our new bands section. However, as a lot of this is done online, it’s hard to create the same statement you can in a magazine. That’s no slight to the format I cut my teeth on, either - online is just more of a flat hierarchy than you’d find in print (or print like) publications. We give eight pages in both the monthly and weekly to Neu, but even that’s not enough for the amount of new music that buzzes around these days. I see this as a chance to announce something to the people who don’t pour over the blogs, and who find the conveyor belt of fresh names a bit too much to keep track of. These are the acts you’ll be hearing more about from us this year. You might have seen them hanging around, but this is a formal introduction. This is who they are. Get acquainted, you’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.
We follow through on it too. Last year eight of our ten acts from 2013 graced a DIY cover in some form or other, and I’m sure at least one of the others will in the future, because they’re definitely an office favourite. That isn’t about external stuff, but rather setting a large part of our editorial voice for the year. It’s the warming up to the big number, not the nice lady in the pointy horned hat delivering the final bars. But, equally, they weren’t the only bands to feature heavily. Things keep moving. It’s not like a band can only get through that gate in January - more that some of the industry prefers it that way.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, it’s a perfectly good Sound of… long list. Under the criteria of picking favourite acts, two out of my three missed out, but that’s fine. It’s not as if it actually means much, anyway.