BBC Sound of 2012's lack of Welsh voices
It's a thought I have every year when this list, celebrating some of the up-and-coming artists making waves in the industry, is published. Is there anything that makes Welsh acts unappealing to the "180 influential UK tastemakers who were asked to name their favourite new acts"?
- A$AP Rocky
- Azealia Banks
- Dot Rotten
- Dry The River
- Flux Pavilion
- Frank Ocean
- Jamie N Commons
- Lianne La Havas
- Michael Kiwanuka
- Niki & The Dove
- Ren Harvieu
I am not diminishing those choices (even though I have, by own admission of having only heard of two of the nominees, earned the slight disapproval of one of Wales' tastemaker generals John Rostron, of Sŵn Festival and the Welsh Music Prize). I am, however, wondering if there any factors that characterise music in Wales that mean that our new acts either aren't good enough, or don't make themselves known to those "influential tastemakers".
Certainly once upon a time the Rivers Severn and Dee were psychological as well as physical boundaries between Wales and the music industry. Massive strides have been made in the last 15 or so years to counter that. A&R departments became aware that Wales was but a couple of hours from their London lairs by train. The explosion of successful Welsh bands in the late-1990s and the early 21st century - largely born of fan power, not hype - assisted, as did the tireless work of individuals and organisations.
Small steps they may have been, but incrementally they achieved a definite shift in attitudes. But if I was to characterise the acts who were in those waves of success, they were guitar bands; rock acts, plugging into the worldwide surge in popularity of rock and metal of the time.
This type of music has never been 'cool'. And by extension, Wales has rarely been 'cool'. Wales is (a little like the West Midlands which I also know well) a hotbed of rock fandom. This is a country in which LA Guns could fill big venues in the depths of the valleys a few years back, when they'd struggle to elicit a raise eyebrow in London. This is the country which embraced The Darkness in a non-ironic way. This is the country of The Alarm.
In broad brush strokes, there are not a lot of factors about Wales which appeals to "influential tastemakers", but that's because influential tastemakers worth their salt aren't necessarily looking for nailed-on sales, they're looking for the indefinable ingredient that crassness labels 'the X factor'. For some, that's sales, but for others it's ingenuity, attitude, passion, politics or simple oddness. And Wales has lots to offer in all those areas.
They're not necessarily brand new, but I'll throw a few Welsh names out there 'for your consideration' as the film studios touting for Oscars votes say: Kitty Cowell, Akira The Don, Gallops, Los Campesinos!, Islet, Y Niwl, Bastions and Exit International.
All interesting in their own ways, and all off the top of my head. John Rostron suggests CRST, H Hawkline, Jodie Marie and Ifan Dafydd, while Adam Walton suggests Shy And The Fight, Cut Ribbons, Georgia Ruth and drmcnt among others (no doubt he'll be blogging some more 2012 tips in the coming weeks).
I don't think anyone has an answer as to how more Welsh acts could get into these kind of lists (and tap into the marketing juice this delivers), or even if there is a problem. John's take on it is simple: "I'd imagine some Welsh bands were in the mix - I'm sure Islet would have been in several. It's a tough list to get into - only seven spots from the UK this time around, and all of those from England."
What would be your suggestions for Welsh acts for the shortlist? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.