A New Direction for Music?


Olly Murs is about to take on a “major role” on the UK’s X Factor, and speculation is rife as to what exactly this means.  With Dermot O’Leary hinting that he may not return to the programme for a ninth year, could it mean Murs is about to step into the presenter’s role?  Other suggestions are that he will be added either as a fifth judge, or a replacement for Louis Walsh.

A source told The Daily Star newspaper,

“Simon has been incredibly vocal that The X Factor needs to see some major changes.  It is too early to confirm what they are yet but one thing is for certain – everybody wants Olly to be a part of the show.

“Olly’s become a huge international star off the back of the show, he’s well liked from his time presenting the Xtra Factor and is massively popular with the all-important younger fans. X Factor producers and ITV bosses are keen for him to replace Louis.

“They think Olly would be a much bigger ratings hit than Louis.”

Ratings for last year’s X Factor final were the among the lowest for a final in the show’s 10 year history, with the entire series being beaten on a regular basis by such programmes as Strictly Come Dancing.  Even before the final, Simon Cowell said,

“The X Factor needs to grow and evolve or viewers will get bored.

“I already have a few ideas of changes we could do next year.”

Are these low ratings a symptom of viewers’ tastes changing, or maybe a reaction the state of the music industry altogether?  As we’ve said, X Factor has been around for ten years.  During this time we have seen, not just in the UK, but on an international scale, commercial radio stations going from playing a variety of music to playing the same songs over and over, seemingly in a loop.  And once those same, say 15 songs, have been heard for three months, a new set is playlisted, and so on.  Established artists such as Robbie Williams, Madonna and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini have found that they are no longer automatically included in station playlistsWilliams and Madonna have both been being branded “too old” for Radio 1, despite having massive fanbases covering all ages.

Fernandez-Versini made news recently when husband Jean-Bernard took to Instagram to put his point across:

“I would like an answer on how come people don’t push people who deserve it.

“How come somebody as exceptional as my wife has to fight for being the best and even her own management, label and people that decide who goes on radio don’t move their a****?”

“And being less lazy to promote such an amazing, singer, person and creative inspirational human being! Question of the day!”

“Same goes for Capital. Marvin [Humes] is a great DJ but I am surprised I don’t hear more Only Human remix when it’s amazing.”

He’s been scoffed at, and dismissed as being maybe a bit awkward, if a loving husband, but might not he have a point?  At first glance, all three, Robbie Williams, Madonna, and Cheryl might look to have it all, but so far as the music industry appears to be concerned, their time has passed – in spite of their many fans who still love and support them, and who would probably enjoy hearing them on the radio.

Jedward found themselves in a position very similar to Cheryl, when their third album was neither promoted nor pushed to be heard on radio, despite the Dublin twins having a very loyal international fanbase.  Rather than lay down and accept it as a message that their time was done, John and Edward instead parted with both label and management, and set up their own label, “Planet Jedward”, keeping management and all other areas of their music production, in-house.  We’ve written enough on Jedward here for regular readers to know just what they’ve achieved since they went independent.

More and more artists are finding themselves facing the same thing: “the powers that be” have decided for some reason that their music isn’t radio- or label-worthy.  At the same time, more and more artists are finding new and exciting ways to keep following their passions, by producing the music that both they and their fans want.

Amanda Palmer, set free in 2010 from her contract with Roadrunner Records, launched a Kickstarter fund in April 2012, asking for $100,000 US to record and promote her new album, “Theatre is Evil”.  Palmer consequently raised $1.2 million, becoming the first musician to raise over a million dollars with a Kickstarter.  Amanda is now using Patreon, a similar crowd-sourcing fund, except that rather than raising money all in one go, each completed piece of work is funded by patrons, who have pre-determined a specific amount they will contribute per piece.  It’s exciting to see – because artists are taking control of their work, and (mostly) getting paid for what it’s worth.

Last year we spoke about the effect of social media on the modern musican, and how many are eschewing the traditional route and instead taking charge of their creative work.  The days when boy and girl bands could be put together by managers who followed a strict formula of “what worked” and dominate the airwaves are still upon us, but their time is drawing to a close with the rise of artists who are not only talented, but also educated in what they can and are able to do on their own.  Musicians, singer/songwriters are no longer restricted to having to sign to a label to get their work out there.  Social media and music sharing platforms such as soundcloud and YouTube means that artists don’t have to be played on the radio to know their music is being heard.  Even better than that, artists can self-release CDs and sell them online or at gigs.  It’s a grassroots way of doing things – and it works.

And perhaps this is the real reason why Olly Murs is being touted as a replacement for Louis Walsh on the X Factor.  With his reliance on a specific way of doing things, Louis isn’t speaking to the younger audience the X Factor wants to attract, who, let’s face it, don’t get their music from what they see on TV or hear on the radio anyway.  It seems people are listening to what music they want, made by artists who are doing it for themselves.  It remains to be seen what part Olly plays in this year’s X Factor and what effect it has on viewing figures.  In any case, with regard to what’s happening to music on a whole, we’re living in exciting times – we look forward to seeing what direction music takes next.


About the author

There’s a lot of music out there - good music. At Essentially Pop our remit is that we cover music that deserves to be heard, with a particular focus on independent artists. That doesn't mean we won't cover your old favourites - rather we hope to give you some new favourites as well.

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