Why the music industry needs new ways to break new artists under lockdown


It’s boom time for boomers. Bob Dylan and Neil Young are at the top of the charts and everywhere you look, back catalogue classics and Greatest Hits sets are dominating what’s selling and streaming right now.

Indeed, last week’s Top 100 Albums chart contained no fewer than 31 hits compilations, as well as numerous classic albums from everyone from Fleetwood Mac to One Direction. There were only 22 albums of original new material released in 2020 on the same chart.

There are, of course, some unique circumstances causing this. Lockdown has seen many major releases pushed back, while the furloughed millions have been turning to comfortingly familiar material in times of trouble. And a change in chart rules means more streams are now being diverted to certain Best Ofs.

Breaking new artists – already the hardest game in the world – has become nigh-on impossible.

Music Week

But all of those things have exacerbated the trend, not created it. And, alongside the changed media landscape under coronavirus, it’s fuelling a climate where breaking new artists – already the hardest game in the world – becomes nigh-on impossible.

With the year now half over, very few 2020 debut artists have come close to breaking through, with only recent Music Week cover star KSI (pictured) – a man with his own massive online platform – creating an album with real staying power.

But most new artists still rely on getting out and gigging, playing key festival slots and securing concerted media backing, rather than YouTube vlogs and boxing matches to secure their big break. TikTok is great for producing hit records but, as yet, nothing has really come through to fill the vacuum when it comes to making the public buy into a complete new artist proposition.

All over the biz, emerging artists are losing momentum, while the launch plans of countless more are on hold, as labels and managers ponder the best plan of attack. With the summer written off, soon it will be Q4 and any fresh faces will be up against that surfeit of major releases that have been pushed back. How many of them can wait until 2021?

Of course, radio and a beleaguered print media are still fighting the good fight, strong social media can help secure a fanbase and even streaming services – despite benefitting from the catalogue boom – are invested in pushing new talent.

But we badly need new plans and new platforms to help exciting new music break through, and fast. After all, not even boomers can listen to Bob Dylan forever.

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