Tuesday, 29 April 2008

False Start

It has long been a pet theory of mine that the route to success is not paved with unbroken success but more likely stained with failure, or at least some sort of initial setback. This apparent paradox can be seen in the music business time and time again. No sooner do record companies drop or fail to sign an act than they get picked up by a rival and are immediately successful.

A good example is the Sugababes who were unceremoniously dropped by London records just before achieving global mega-status for new label Island. Of course, there are always famous cases of future stars being turned down at audition by unsuspecting potential employers. I dare say that Decca are still kicking themselves over those four scousers called, what was it? Oh yes, the Beatles – I wonder what happened to them?

But often, success of a different flavour can follow disappointment. In the mid 1990s, Julian Cope was dropped by Island after his masterwork, ‘Jehovahkill’ was considered too uncommercial. But since then he has carved out a low key yet successful multi-career by releasing his own albums and writing learned books about ancient stone monuments as well as his own idiosyncratic autobiography.

More recently, a favourite artist of mine, Nerina Pallot has just returned to the fray with the brilliant ‘Fires’ album, released on her own independent label, Idaho, having been dropped by Polydor after just one album, and it is the best work she has done to date. Why can’t artists be given room to grow? Let’s face it; ‘Sgt Pepper’ was the Beatles’ eighth album. How many bands get the opportunity to release eight albums these days? Commercial shortsightedness is the bane of the music industry. How many companies these days would tolerate the experimental dabblings of the Pink Floyd before ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (also album number eight)?

But let us not be too hard on the companies who see fit to let their potential stars go, as there is an upside. It is often the enforced change of direction that such setbacks bring about that precipitates the improvement in fortunes, something that may not have happened in situ. I, however, like to think that there is a strong element of two fingers to the perpetrators that spurs artists to thrive elsewhere.

Succeeding at a new record label after being dropped by another is a bit like scoring the winner against your old club, having been transfer listed the previous season– hugely satisfying.

No comments: