It’s that time of year when the BBC and others issue their ‘acts to watch out for in 2019’ but I was just wondering what does that *mean* anymore?
I suppose it used to be relatively simple. One hit and an appearance on TOTP or Ed Sullivan propelled a band or artist into the stratosphere. Now it’s changed. No one bothers with the charts. There is no pop telly to speak of (and ‘der kids’ probably wouldn’t be watching anyway). There are still successful acts out there but music is more fragmented than ever and bands or singers that many of us have never heard of can easily fill the Albert Hall without ever getting ‘a hit’ or registering with the broad sweep of the public in the same way as, say, T. Rex or Bowie once did. I keep thinking of Hepworth’s phrase- ‘it’s never been easier to play the game, but it’s never been more difficult to win’. By that I’m guessing he means that it’s never been easier for young artists to get airplay and exposure on places like the BBC but it’s never been harder to get beyond that box-ticking corporate support thingy and be ‘meaningfully’ great and truly resonate commercially and artistically.
So, as we await those ‘what to watch out for’ lists of young hopefuls for 2019 I wonder whether it’s worth pondering what success and ‘breaking through’ actually means these days. How do we measure it? What would make these young artists feel they’ve ‘arrived’?