opinion

Viewpoint: Carpé Publicity founder Fiona Frimpong on why perseverance is key in independent music

Since starting independent press agency Carpé Publicity in 2017, Fiona Frimpong has helped put Afrobeats at the centre of UK culture, orchestrating blockbuster campaigns for Mr Eazi and more. Here, she argues that going it alone in the music business can ...

Time For Plan B-Side: Why now is a good time for artists to raid the vaults

Be it for reasons of timing, vibe, sample clearance or [insert your own causal factor here!], sometimes even the most beloved songs fail to find a home on an album first time around. 2Pac’s incendiary Notorious BIG diss Hit ‘Em Up? Pearl Jam’s legendary live set closer Yellow Ledbetter? Girls Aloud’s indie band lampooning Hoxton Heroes? B-sides, one and all. It used to take years for these and other disembodied gems to be lassoed together for collections/greatest hits, but this process appears to be accelerating of late…     While the all-conquering Future Nostalgia is still lighting up charts, Dua Lipa has already confirmed a remix album and, notably, when a fan asked for a Future Nostalgia ‘Side B’ project on Instagram, she replied: “Hold tight I’ve got enough to hold you all the way through ’til 2022.” Maybe we’ll hear her Nile Rodgers collaboration from the Future Nostalgia sessions yet! Carly Rae Jepsen, meanwhile, has become pop’s studio off-cut queen: with 2016’s Emotion: Side B and 2020’s Dedicated B-Side. As for Biffy Clyro? They have six full B-sides albums for fans to pore over. Collections like this are not new, but they may arguably be more important than ever.   Such is the rate of consumption, many believe that artists must now release two album’s worth of music in the time previously reserved for one album cycle, with Spotify’s Daniel Ek recently claiming that acts “can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough”. Many aggrieved musicians were quick to point out that great art cannot always be constructed in line with the needs of an algorithm. This is certainly true. But perhaps this is where the B-Sides approach could at least help some artists out. No, we don’t need a flood of half-baked outtakes. But take time to collect, curate and apply quality control and the results can be pure gold. Lest we forget, one of Nas’ best albums is his 2002 Lost Tapes set.     Increasingly, it seems artists/labels are viewing unheard/under-represented material not as something to save for a rainy day or a reissue, but as rocket fuel to keep a campaign going or to maintain visibility among the rapid digital churn. Hell, even one well-timed re-purposed international song can have a huge impact. Earlier this year, Britney Spears added her excellent Japanese bonus track Mood Ring to her 2016 album Glory on DSPs and updated its cover. That, folks, is how you get a four-year-old album trending again. We’ve already seen the power of live archive footage during lockdown. Perhaps 2020 is a good time to take inventory and see which dormant songs from the past have the potential to erupt.

Who's Zooming who? Why the music industry still needs human connection

I did my first in-person interview since March last week, at the interviewee’s request, a sure sign that the music business is finally inching back towards normality. Despite the social distancing and extra precautions involved, the resulting chat was a reminder that, sometimes, you can’t beat a bit of good, old-fashioned human interaction. Despite all the sterling work done over Zoom, Teams, Hangouts et al over the last few months as the music industry continues to work from home, some of that connection inevitably gets lost when the person you’re talking to is on a phone screen rather than in the same room. Nonetheless, the restrictions aren’t about to go anywhere, and – with fears of a second wave of coronavirus growing across Europe – the industry is taking steps to virtually replicate some of its essential functions. With proper gigs still off the agenda beyond the odd experiment, and even those now pushed back, I’ve enjoyed the recent trend for virtual showcases (particularly the ones where they deliver snacks to accompany your viewing). But, despite the delights of Melanie C sending round a pie and a pint, it’s still not quite the same as crowding into an intimate venue, catching up with the industry and experiencing the music exactly as it was intended. The longer we stay apart, the bigger the danger that the industry’s vital human connection becomes a thing of the past Music Week These are the obvious signs of the changing music industry under the new normal but, in truth, the human side of the biz was already being phased out of many sectors. The rise of streaming platforms means algorithms usually win out over personal recommendations, and you can expect AI to play an increasingly prominent role in composition and songwriting. Even in A&R, once the industry equivalent of putting everything on a single spin of the roulette wheel, many decisions are now guided as much by raw data as they are by gut instinct. That's not always a bad thing, but the longer we stay apart, the bigger the danger that the industry’s vital human connection becomes a thing of the past. How many innovative ideas or game-changing strategies have been lost due to dodgy WiFi or the lack of spontaneous water cooler conversation? We’ll never know but, as we wait for restrictions to finally ease, it’s important that the industry remains in touch with hearts and minds as well as eyes and ears. By all means continue to Zoom in, just make sure you don’t zone out. * To read our Working From Home tips special, click here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, sign up to our digital issue by clicking here.

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