I write this shortly before I head off to Nashville for a few days. The home of country music is perhaps the ultimate example of how a local scene can grow to influence national and even global tastes.
The UK may lack a regional music capital on quite the same scale, but the under-the-radar rise of AWAL-supported Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Cinnamon, covered in our news section this week, shows a local fanbase can still provide a springboard to bigger things.
It’s easy to look at the globalisation of the music business and the transcontinental power of streaming playlists and assume the future is all about the big picture. But many of the most important musical revolutions began as small-scale local movements.
The Madchester scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s saw even cynical London music journalists drawn up north before The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and, later, Oasis went on to superstardom. And the Latin music currently dominating global streaming has its roots in Puerto Rico’s late ’90s reggaeton scene, the originators of which probably never imagined their music could go around the world.
Many of the most important musical revolutions began as small-scale movements
It’s been a while since anywhere produced a regional scene to rival the likes of Seattle’s grunge, Coventry’s two-tone, Chicago house or Merseybeat. The decline of the music press – always keen to name and codify such scenes – may be a factor, while the internet makes it hard for even the most remote locations to develop in glorious isolation. Meanwhile, the crumbling grassroots circuit means musicians outside of the established music hotspots may not even have anywhere to play.
But the modern music business can also sometimes be so busy looking for international appeal, it misses local potential. The British music scene has always punched above its weight due to its originality and ability to compete with external influences (hence the post-grunge reaction that was Britpop). With the streaming environment reminding us just how small our population actually is in the great scheme of things, it’s more important than ever that UK music sets trends rather than follows them.
So, by all means think global. But don’t forget to act local as well.