Is music becoming a niche interest?


There seem to be fewer and fewer people around today with a genuine interest in music. I have a handful of old friends that share my passion for music, but I’ve met a lot of people recent years who seem bemused by my enthusiasm for albums, gigs and new music discoveries.

It’s got me thinking that maybe music as an interest, is becoming far more niche than it used to be.

I’ve come across quite a number of people at higher profile gigs who are there to tick off the experience in their bucket list rather than being genuine fans of the band. They’d be unlikely to own their Greatest Hits let alone name their seminal album!

Access to music should be easier these days due to the internet, but perhaps there is too much out there for the casual listener to begin their music education? Record shops are closing by the day, so cities and towns are losing their music focal point and with that accessibility, particularly to enthusiasts, who can guide someone new to a genre or artist towards their next purchase.

Music on television in the UK is slipping from mainstream schedules. Top of the Pops was buried years ago, Later with Jools Holland seems to get later and later, while although BBC4 has music Friday’s, the programming is aimed at older demographics.

I find it quite unusual now to meet people in my everyday life who ‘get’ music, which saddens me, as someone who has been brought up with great music from my first days on the planet. And, without my virtual Twitter music friends, I’d have no-one to discuss music with regularly.

Is it just me who feels this way, or is this the way it’s going now?

BBC Playlister – Nice idea, shame about the ethos

The BBC are busy launching their new Playlister across their portfolio of radio stations. The idea is simple – collect songs you like while listening online to listen again later or build your own personal playlist. It’s the ethos of the Playlister that bothers me.

BBC Playlister

I’m a huge fan of music and have been for as long as I can remember and discovering music has always played a big role in my life. I’ve made mixtapes and scribbled down track names when I’ve heard something on the radio that intrigues me – not exactly unusual in a music obsessive!

My radio station of choice is BBC Radio 6Music, they play an eclectic mix of music which nicely fits with the kind of music I’m interested in. Many of the presenters on 6Music come from a long tradition of rifling through records at their local independent record store (sadly becoming harder to find as each day goes by) to discover and stumble upon little gems that make it all worthwhile.  With all that in mind, I struggle to see how Playlister fits into the 6Music ethos?

Pushing listeners towards Spotify and away from record stores is not going to help the artists or the music industry as a whole. Musicians need to make a living just like the rest of us, if they can’t make any money from their talents fewer talents will break through.

BBC 6Music have supported Record Store Day, which creates a flurry of interest in limited edition vinyl once a year but fails to provide enough footfall annually for the average independent record store.  That aside, what will the impact of Playlister be on this relationship?

I’d love to know how many of the 6Music DJ’s feel about Playlister, but I don’t believe it will sit well with too many of them?



Losing our record shops – what next?

Aberdeen is set to lose it’s last remaining independent record shop One Up on the 31st January, with HMV’s fate to be sealed in the coming weeks and months. The music-buying public in Aberdeen and the surrounding area will be without any proper record shop leaving only the supermarkets who only sell chart CD’s. Aberdeen won’t be the only city in this position, so what is the serious music buyer, who likes a tangible product, to do next?

The fate of One Up has forced me to think hard about how I’m to continue to get my music fix.

I don’t like Amazon – they don’t pay full UK tax and are at the root of the problems faced by existing records shops

I like a tangible CD or vinyl, I like to be able to read the album covers and a CD lasts as long as I look after it!

I will never go fully digital

So what can I do? I will have to save up my music browsing for cities that still have record shops and I will be looking into ordering online via independent record shops. Options are limited now and I have to admit it scares me and fills me with dread. Some of my most interesting purchases have been made while browsing or getting recommendations at the One Up counter.

I hope someone entrepreneurial may take a risk and open a record shop in Aberdeen in the future, but I fear I may be over optimistic.

This is a bleak time to be a music fan!

Five Reasons to Support Your Local Record Shop

Local independent record shops are so much more than just a place to buy music – here’s why you should support your nearest:

1. Supporting the Local Music Scene

New bands can take a chance, upload their music to a variety of websites: MySpace, Soundcloud, Spotify, Facebook etc, etc.. but nothing beats a nice “local music” rack, their tracks being played in-store and ticket sales for gigs around town.

2. Recommendations

Amazon may offer a list of recommendations, but they can never provide you with an interesting chat at the counter, background information on the artist and the passion of someone who has listened to it. They might even play it in the shop for you.

One Up, Aberdeen

3. Second-hand Music

You are far more likely to find a gem or two by riffling through the second-hand racks at your local independent record shop than browsing through eBay. Beats auto-generated recommendations any day!

4. They directly contribute to the local and UK economy

The closure of Brighton’s Rounder Records brings into focus the VAT avoidance of the likes of Amazon who do not pay tax in the UK because their European arm is based in Luxembourg, thereby avoiding UK tax. Rounder Records blamed their closure as a result of Amazon’s business practice.

5. Use It or Lose It!

In seven years the number of independent record stores in the UK has fallen from 900 to around 300, at this rate there will be none left!

Please shamelessly plug your local independent record shop in the comments!

Can I ask you a question?

People of Aberdeen, how many times have you been asked this when wandering through Union Square?  On one occasion, I was there for 30 mins and was asked this no less than 6 times by stall employees!

The stalls in question, please excuse the pun, are next to impossible to avoid, yet those that work on them continue to harass visitors to the centre.

Union Square, Aberdeen

During my short visit today, I was first shouted at by a man at one of the stalls, “Excuse me miss, excuse me miss”, my back was turned to him but he continued anyway!

Next up at the neighbouring stall, “Miss, let me show you something for your hair” and she was really shouting it and walking towards me.

I am tempted to complain to Union Square in an attempt to curtail this, as I see no other stalls in the centre resorting to such tactics. “Can I ask you a question?” is an ineffective sales tactic in any case, rule number one in sales technique is “never ask closed questions”! The fact that this has been going on for months leads me to believe that Union Square Management either haven’t been informed or have turned a blind eye.

Is is just me who is getting increasingly hacked off with this every time they go to Union Square to shop? Frankly, it feels like harassment.

Please feel free to add your comments as I would be interested to hear other opinions.

Fifty Shades of Grey, the Bret Easton Ellis version

Bret Easton Ellis’ Twitter feed has been full of Fifty Shades of Grey in recent days.  He has expressed a genuine interest in adapting the novel for the big screen and has high hopes that E.L. James will agree.

His Fifty Shades dream team is David Cronenberg directing, himself writing and Ryan Gosling starring as Christian Grey.  He suggests, unconventionally Lena Dunham as Ana, or conventionally Scarlett Johansson.

Bret Easton Ellis

I would be very excited to see a Cronenberg/Ellis collaboration, both men have not been afraid to court controversy in their careers and certainly thrive on it.

Cronenberg has the ability to attract leading and often mainstream actors into roles they may not have considered under the guidance of other directors, so if he is involved we may be in for some surprises.

If Ellis gets his way, this film could be a very exciting prospect indeed.

Who would be involved in your Fifty Shades film dream team?

Martha Marcy May Marlene – a study of life post-cult

What happens to people who escape cults and try to get back to a more conventional existence?  Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene explores the difficulties for one ex-cult member and her family.

Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen plays Martha who can be seen leaving a Manson Family style cult tucked away in rural Upstate New York in the early hours of the morning.  After an awkward encounter with a “family” member at a local diner she plucks up the courage to call her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulsen) who she has not contacted since joining the cult two years previously.  Martha may have escaped, but her problems really only begin at Lucy’s Connecticut lakeside house.

Martha’s paranoia and unconventional behaviour is in some way explained by regular cuts to experiences within the cult.  John Hawkes portrays the Charles Manson like leader Patrick who sexually initiates all new female members of the cult – the women are prepared for this by being drugged and left alone and drowsy in a room awaiting his arrival.  Martha was asleep when she was “initiated”.

Martha has trouble sleeping alone at Lucy’s house, largely because she shared rooms and beds with numerous people before her escape.  She climbs into bed with her sister and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) which highlights with great clarity that she has not adjusted to everyday life and no longer understands boundaries.

At a party hosted by her sister she believes someone from the cult has followed her – her paranoia had escalated since her departure.  It takes a number of episodes before Lucy and Ted recognise that Martha needs professional help.

This is a confident feature length debut for director Sean Durkin – character studies are no longer common place in modern cinema.

Elizabeth Olsen gives a strong, subtle and mature performance and leads the film with confidence. It is surprising that she is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  Elizabeth appears to have an indie career path ahead of her, perhaps following the lead of Michelle Williams.

The film could have better explained how Martha came to join the cult.  Some of the “family” members, as well as leader Patrick could have been developed further.

This is an intense film that keeps the viewer hooked throughout by it’s regular flashbacks to explain Martha’s behaviour.

Highly recommended.