Nations from around the world have been choosing musical outfits and sending them to the biggest music markets abroad in hopes of raising their international profile and generating export sales.
Sweden Attempts to Rock.
In 2002, the Hives, a calculated tailored garage-rock band from Fagersta, Sweden, seized the spotlight. Then came Division of Laura Lee and Sahara Hotnights. Their home country got the credit: â€œSweden Rocks,â€? declared Rolling Stone.
Canada Wants to Rock.
The year 2004 unquestionably belonged to Canada, which bred indie-rock bands like the Arcade Fire, Stars and Broken Social Scene just in time to draw praise from the emerging music blogosphere.
Could the Goverment’s Determine the Next Big Thing?
government trade and culture officials, attend American music festivals, organize junkets for critics and record executives, and arrange coaching and subsidies for their homegrown acts.
In Canada, artists can apply for an array of grants or loans to finance up to 75 percent of recording costs, advertising, marketing or touring expenses. Heather Ostertag, chief executive of Factor, the public-private Canadian agency that oversees music funds, said it controls a budget of roughly $12.4 million. Broken Social Scene and its label, for example, have been offered more than $140,000, she said. The Arcade Fire and Stars were also beneficiaries.
The government recognizes the importance of a cultural spend for a cultural identity,â€? Ms. Ostertag said. â€œI think that we struggle as Canadians for our own Canadian identity. American dominance is so prevalent wherever you go.â€? Part of maintaining the nationâ€™s place on the cultural map, she added, â€œis happening through identifying ourselves through the success of other Canadians.â€?
Australia Wants to Rock
In Australia state and federal governments offer a series of programs. The countryâ€™s main export program offers to cover up to 50 percent of an actâ€™s costs above the equivalent of $11,600. Over the last year trade officials provided roughly $1.8 million in grants to 80 recipients aimed at exporting their music.
The School of Rock – No Goverment Please.
Samuel Scott, a singer and guitarist in a New Zealand rock band called the Phoenix Foundation, sympathizes. â€œI think that image, that rock â€™nâ€™ roll is a thing of rebellion and that you should be flipping the bird to the government, is prevalent,â€? he said.
`We have an online music business which is strong,” Hennin said. “The more traditional music business, the distribution business, is suffering.”
Back to Square One – The Lack of Indicators.
Check out KOAR’s article we posted earlier this year regarding â€˜indicators.â€™
As previously discussed, the 2004 to present music game has been mainly about numbers. Especially when dealing with unsigned artists and A&R, in many cases a bandâ€™s worth has been measured by their stats, ranging from MySpace friends to page views to an overhyped show and radio translating to record sales. However, as our society becomes more technologically â€˜with itâ€™ we find some of the top rated unsigned bands on MySpace are among the worst out there. Anybody can purchase a spamming program. We raised the question sarcastically before, but feel it is time for a serious answer. Today, the A&R is left with little to no indicators. The internet exploded and forget about radio. Without relying on indicators like statistics how is anyone supposed to know if a band is worthy? good? or great?
Anthony Rollo A&R at Universal tells KOAR:
Â “It used to be much easier to correlate airplay and retail reaction.Â Less and less people are going into record stores, making it much more difficult to guage the marketplace.Â On the Rock side of things, the Rock radio stations just do not hold the same influence over the consumer that they once did.Â Getting a read on an Urban or Pop record is easier than trying to guage the impact of a Modern or Active track.Â With more indie shops closing everyday, the research resources on the retail side are dwindling.Â It’s tough to get a read on a local artist from a Best Buy or Wal-Mart.”
Relying on a bunch of kids to tell you what the public wants has proven fruitless. Buying into hype and fads has proven to not only be a waste of time, but has given labels a black mark with the record buying public. â€œListening to the market and trying to see which ones raise their headsâ€? is, again, burning up the precious little resources labels have anymore. Overall, letâ€™s say that outsourcing your opinions is a bad thing.
Good ear: adjective. The natural ability to predict the potential success of a given song or artist. Ability to identify â€˜hits.â€™
Once upon a time, A&R guysÂ were the ones with the good ears. They could hear a band or a song andÂ could predict theÂ success of that act. Today, they fly out to see bands because they have high MySpace numbers. They werenâ€™t buying into the hype, because they didnâ€™t have to. They didnâ€™t have to go to the streets and ask kids who to sign. They were hired specifically to know who should be signed and who shouldnâ€™t. If thatâ€™s who labels are going to for advice, why not just cut out the middle man and hire a staff of teenagers? In reality, teenagers donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on other than their ‘small universe.’ Rememer, Teenagers are in highschool learning about George Washington.
Weâ€™re aware that itâ€™s slim pickins when it comes to brilliant unsigned music, but there is no reason why any A&R executive should say, â€œthere are more and more records on our release schedule that donâ€™t have a snowballâ€™s chance in hell.â€? Some of this failure can be attributed to poor marketing strategies, but most can be attributed to the band not deserving to be signed in the first place. Relying on indicators to tell you what is good will always fail you. Youâ€™ve got to have the ears.