Chris Moyles thinks that unsigned bands are crap – according to the media, who have reported a storm of outrage. Many in the music industry are choosing to react publicly by accusing Chris Moyles of seeking publicity through controversy, although those music industry figures are obviously above seeking publicity. Probably.
We should always be suspicious of a media outrage. Especially if it’s about what Chris Moyles thinks, or if it’s being reported that Chris Moyles thinks at all. Is he just firing out random bullshit in a bid to retain some hint of notoriety? Probably. Does anyone care what he thinks? Probably just enough to pen a few clickbait articles (ahem).
Shall we attempt nuance? Risky, but let’s dive in. Okay class, today we’ll be discussing to what extent is Chris Moyles’ “attack” on the music industry correct, does it matter and, if so, what should we do?
We should start by asking if he’s right. Home recording technology has made it cheaper and easier than ever to make music of an audio quality comparable to studio recordings of yesteryear. One might say it’s been democratised. Unsigned acts can put their music on Spotify, YouTube and the rest relatively easily, without anyone really quality assessing the music. So what’s a crap band? There are plenty of artists publishing music who can’t play an instrument well, or even sing without electronic pitch assistance. The thing is, that goes for signed bands too. There are plenty of artists releasing music that’s so derivative, unoriginal and unambitious that it slides out of the brain, leaving not the tiniest impression, like moral qualms off a Tory politician. That’s equally true of signed artists, too, though. There are plenty of unsigned acts that are rough around the edges, need to spend a little more time on the subtleties of their craft, need some good production advice. That’s where the pool of signed artists comes from. “Crap music”, of course, can be a very subjective term. If you’re not simply referring to technical execution, yes, there are some unsigned bands releasing music that lacks polish, lacks musical ambition, or that just ain’t your kind of thing, so you’d be tempted to write it off as crap. Others wouldn’t, though, and it’s more or less impossible to define “good music” or work out what percentage of signed and unsigned bands are making it. So, predictably, Moyles is partly right, in a very specialised way, mostly wrong, entirely devoid of nuance and still irritating. Honestly, with modern media as it is, who’d have thunk it?
Does it matter?
Well, grassroots music is under attack like never before. Moyles may be a dinosaur, lumbering Godzilla-like towards a crudely rendered model Tokyo, as relevant to the future of music as Kaiju movies are to the 2023 Oscars, but there are a lot of straws being piled on this increasingly strained hump. Unsigned bands, especially those not pandering to popular taste by banging out drunken singalong favourites, are facing a catastrophic loss of venues, incredible difficulty in arranging tours in the EU since Brexit, increased costs meaning that it’s harder and harder to fill a venue, a lack of support from government (over all of the above issues), a general decline in gig-going as well as the ever shorter attention span of audiences and a general unwillingness on the part of purported “music lovers” to actually pay for music. So for someone with a public platform like Moyles to use it for a clumsy, pointless swipe at unsigned bands is really unhelpful, especially when we can be pretty sure that the MSM won’t be using the story as an attempt to shine a light on some of the real issues facing grassroots music. The UK music industry was estimated to be worth over £4 billion in 2021 – way more than the figure reported for the fishing industry, which apparently was such a vastly important figure for Brexit. But it’s grassroots venues that are taking it hardest after the pandemic and recent energy surges, and little is being done to protect them. At the same time, grassroots artists get way less from streaming platforms than the big players.
Here’s a question for civil engineering students who’ve snuck into the class. What happens to a structure if you allow its foundations to crumble? Think of the best British bands of the last fifty years. The ones that took risks, redefined sounds, the ones that inspired another generation of kids to want to learn to play an instrument. Look into their backstories – they all cut their teeth on their local, live circuits, then started playing venues further afield that would put on unknown bands because they could afford to. We’re all standing on the shoulders of the bands that schlepped around the live circuits before us. Without grassroots bands and venues, eventually, the whole, creaking monolith will come crashing down.
UK music needs protecting – not just from the hideous, slobbering apparition that is Chris Moyles. The foundations need shoring up. Support your local scene; go and see a live band when you can. If you like them, then buy something. A CD, a tee shirt. Follow them and interact, send them a kind word. Get involved with the Music Venue Trust.
And ignore Chris Moyles.
 Democracy, of course, is named for Democritus, who also postulated the first atomic theory, by suggesting that everything is made of tiny, irreducible particles, thereby suggesting a sort of lowest common denominator for matter. And if lowest common denominator doesn’t describe a lot of modern chart music, I don’t know what does.
 It’s a brave reader that clicks that link… for so many reasons.