For this month’s blog, I thought I’d tell you about my latest live music adventure. On Friday 2nd June, I had the pleasure of seeing Olly Murs, at Market Rasen.
It had all the ingredients which I expect from a great gig, hit songs, a Stevie Wonder cover and someone paragliding in the distance. Well, I don’t think that last one was technically part of the show, but it added to the experience anyway.
Early on in the evening, Mother Brien turned to me and announced, “ He (Olly) is good live.” There is a well-known saying, “Mother is always right” and in this case, she was. I was impressed by the quality of the vocals and musicianship.
Of course, it makes sense that Olly Murs would perform well live. The singer was runner-up on The X Factor 2009, which would have given him experience singing live for judges and large audiences.
I realise that The X Factor divides music fans. Some people see it as an opportunity to hear undiscovered talent. Others have a slightly less positive view.
The main criticisms of The X Factor are that the show is an easy route into the industry and that many acts on the programme don’t go on to make an impact in music. These criticisms are quite confusing because both can’t be true. I also don’t think either of them are.
For example, I wouldn’t say that the The X Factor process, of auditions, facing judges, live performances and public votes, sounds particularly easy to me. Appearing on the show may give acts some publicity, but being well-known doesn’t mean you are popular. Music is a notoriously difficult industry and there are no guarantees. There are plenty of bands and artists who are tipped for huge success, but seem to disappear. If any contestants from The X Factor do struggle , then that is not an issue unique to the show.
There seems to be a rule that you need a difficult route to success. If an artist’s path into the industry appears easier, then it is viewed as unfair. I can’t see what is wrong with helping undiscovered acts.
The first major X Factor -style show in the UK was Popstars, which was broadcast in 2001. Since then, there has been a drastic change in the way that we consume music. Back then, CD singles were widely available. Now, downloads have increased as a way to buy music and streaming is included when calculating the Official Chart. A couple of years ago, I witnessed one friend lending another a CD. I felt like I was watching a scene from a period drama.
At first, the inclusion of streaming may sound like it would help new and unsigned artists. If free plays of songs online can contribute to sales figures, then it should lessen the need for the backing of a record company.
However, it has become clear that many online playlists favour established artists. In 2016, there were only eleven different number ones, and many of those were by internationally recognised acts. If breaking into the music industry was difficult sixteen years ago (when Popstars aired), it is possibly even more so now.
With the rise of streaming, many have questioned the relevance of shows like The X Factor. Yet, if streaming has made the situation harder, then any show that focuses on new artists is of great importance.
Various circumstances will stop some of The X Factor contestants breaking into the industry. Still, some do and find themselves on a summer tour, providing fans with a fantastic evening of entertainment.