A few months back I attended a live show. The headliner were White Lies, the then major label cut-and-paste indie band de jour, and had sold out the mid sized venue with ease.
As I watched in a mood of indulgent and slightly bored bemusement, a number of things struck me: - Firstly the band were ok. Not great, not inspiring, not life affirming.. just ok. They were just about musically competent and they had one or two decent tunes, but to be truthful, the whole thing was a little dull. The second thing that hit me was the crowd. It was quite extraordinary. They behaved like robots who had been told that this was something they should like, but to a man they seemed more interested in looking around at the other members of the audience to see which other scenesters were present and what they were wearing.
It was truly bizarre.
After about 30 minutes I had had enough and I left, musing that if that was the best that our major labels had to offer, then no wonder they were in such deep trouble.
Fast forward to early July and I attended another show by a band who have not been industry darlings for the best part of a decade and a half - if ever. Thunder (for it was they) have decided to call time on a distinguished career after 20 years of being largely ignored by the vast majority of the mainstream press, radio and TV, and this was their farewell headline show at a totally sold out Hammy Odeon.
The contrast could not have been more marked.
The audience was not so much cheering as worshipping, with a dedication and fervour that was genuinely moving, even to a cynic like yours truly. The band were astoundingly good live (as in fairness they have been for their entire career) and at the end everyone in the audience was handed a petition put together by some of the bands more dedicated fans begging them not to quit. As I left, a journalist came up to me and in all seriousness said "You know, I think this is one of those bands we have all taken for granted, and that none of us will really appreciate until they are gone"... to which my response was a barely civil "you think?".
I went home wondering how on earth we consistently get it so wrong.
The reason our record industry is in the toilet has nothing to do with illegal downloading, the internet, CD pricing or indeed any of the other spurious excuses the labels love to trot out. It is because the people who have run it - the labels AND the media - have made consistently bad judgements about what music to support and invest in as well as catastrophically lazy assumptions about what their consumers would like to hear.
I for one will not shed a single tear when the business of music returns to the hands of the fans and the bands, where it belongs.