Anyone heard of The Men They Couldn’t Hang?
Back in 1988 this UK folk rock band had a few minor hits and a couple of well received albums. The band split up in 1991. But then in 1996 they reformed. And they have been playing gigs and recording ever since.
An ancient obsession
I was a bit of a fan back in the day. And, thanks to the internet, I could discover that they were still active today and book tickets to see them in London just before Christmas. However, I can no longer make the gig, so I sold the tickets (face value I might add) to another fan. The entire process: discovery that the band is still gigging, buying the tickets, reselling the tickets – all of this took place online.
Rebirth for a generation
Bands never split up anymore. 53-year-old Rick Astley had one of the most acclaimed albums of 2018. 61-year-old Nik Kershaw has just been played on the radio station we are listening to. I am off to see 65-year-old Neil Tennant and 60-year-old Chris Lowe (AKA The Pet Shop Boys) in concert next year. They are selling out shows at the O2, Manchester Arena and Glasgow SSE.
I am not saying it’s entirely because of the internet that these 80s artists are still sustaining a successful music career, but it has certainly had a huge influence. Pet Shop Buys have 1.3 million followers on Facebook, Rick Astley has 500,000 likes. How much more difficult would it be for these artists to connect with their global audiences without the internet? The advertising cost alone would be hugely expensive.
Victims or beneficiaries?
The music industry was one of the first alleged ‘victims’ of the internet. Music execs complained that piracy was killing music and choking off creative talent. But that was only the first battle. Next came MySpace, effectively democratising creativity and enabling anyone to have a platform to express their creativity. From MySpace we discovered the Artic Monkeys, Kate Nash and Adele. Bandcamp helped unsigned artists to monetise their creativity. Facebook enabled further global promotion. Artists might not like the royalties paid by Spotify, but I imagine they prefer it to nothing from illegal downloads and streaming.
The reality is there has never been more opportunities for exposure in the music industry. The middlemen previously required to be a success in the industry have all disappeared. People can discover new artists or, like me, reconnect with former obsessions, in music or outside. And if a musician, artist or writer knows how to use that, it is a massive advantage.