Music and TV don’t always mix well – there have been highs (like The Tube and The Chart Show) and lows (like Top Of The Pops and anything with that smug looking orange bloke in the high waisted trousers). It’s high time somebody did something about it and that somebody is John W King! Here he explains his ideology and revolutionary strategy for Louder Than War readers.
Music broadcasting in the UK took a decided turn for the better in the 80s with the birth of Channel 4. After years of watching bands miming on Top of the Pops and viewing The Old Grey Whistle test with suspicion as it looked pretentious and muso to my young eyes and ears, shows such as The Tube and The Chart Show were like a breath of fresh air.
The Tube would put bands you’d never heard of alongside the popular bands of the day, sometimes they’d sound very different to how they did on record but that would only add to your interest in the show and prepare you for your first proper gig!
The Chart Show weren’t afraid to play the specialist charts – I’d never even heard of Indie before The Chart Show, but though the term has changed meaning over the years I still have a soft spot for bands with an independent spirit.
I know of other people in my age group who got into Metal or Dance after seeing the relevant chart, but no matter which type of music we got into, The Chart Show made us realise that there was life beyond the Top 40 – and exciting life at that!
Fast forward a few decades and we have hundreds of TV channels – so what’s the net total of music broadcasting in the UK?
Unchallenging televised karaoke in the shape of X-Factor and The Voice, formulaic music videos from safe, unchallenging Top 40 acts, festival coverage that shows the same bands and rarely strays from the main stages aside from Glastonbury coverage that always seems to have a token world music artist, and the once pioneering front man of The Tube acting like a kind of Boogie-Woogie Circus Ringmaster bellowing about whatever signed band the labels are pushing this week – in a studio that is so bland and far removed from a live music environment that even great bands can seem dull.
Why are there no shows featuring good lesser known bands playing original music?
Someone somewhere must have decided that people don’t want to watch bands they’ve never heard of. I’m sure there must be industry stats somewhere that back up that assertion. And yet … if you take a step back they can find decent sized audiences to watch strangers having a dinner party all because the show’s researchers have deliberately put together people they know won’t get on.
Even if it’s only musicians that watched it, surely a show featuring lesser known bands could attract at least as many people if not more? When XFactor and The Voice are on my Facebook and Twitter feeds tell me there are a lot of people looking for a more credible alternative.
Some would argue that in the age of YouTube television music broadcasting has become irrelevant – but I disagree. YouTube is great when you know what you are looking for or a friend forwards you a link, but it’s unlikely you’d go randomly browsing in the way that you can flip through channels and something quirky or interesting catches your eye.
In the somewhat optimistic hope that if we get enough likes then maybe a TV exec will wake up and realise there could be significant demand for a more challenging music show.
I must say I’m a little bit sceptical about all these viral campaigns – and I suspect they often have teams of professional bloggers and publicists behind the scenes, so can one person with virtually no budget nor marketing experience really start a campaign that makes music broadcasting in the UK a little better? Or are people more likely to think they’ll never get enough likes so no point in even liking it – well I hope to find out!