Where are the new music megastars?

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters at Wembley The Foo Fighters can sell out Wembley - but where is the next generation of stadium acts?

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There are more young songwriters in the UK than ever before, so why are all the biggest live acts over 40?

It's called the YouTube boom. The number of registered songwriters in Britain has topped 83,000. That's a 62% increase in just five years.

They are performers like Birdy, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was introduced to a song by her aunt, recorded her own version, posted it online and then found that six million people had watched it.

She now has a two album deal with Atlantic - home to stars like Bruno Mars, James Blunt and Flo Rida - but it's a tough market for new artists.

Britain's Performing Rights Society (PRS), which collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and musicians, says there is a crisis brewing.

The number of young performers breaking through in terms of album sales is down by 30% compared to 2009, it says.

The industry is increasingly relying on aging heritage acts and failing to turn this huge resource of young songwriters into stars who will actually make money in the long run.

PRS chief economist Will Page says: "You've had an explosive growth in live music to the point where it's outselling recorded (music) for the first time in modern history.

Birdy talks about her album and the runaway success of her YouTube videos

"I think it's right to point out the imbalance of heritage bands dominating that music sector and ask the question who's going to be selling out the stadiums and festivals in 2025?"

That is exactly what Birdy would like to be doing.

"I hope to be getting my own music out there and travelling round the world playing huge concerts, because that's what I love - performing," she tells the BBC.

But the chances are getting smaller every year, says Elliot Kennedy - a music producer, songwriter, and this year's X Factor talent director.

"It's incredibly shortlived," he says. "Many artists aren't surviving more than 12 months".


"It was Bryan Adams who told me he didn't have a hit until his third album.

"Think about that. That's a huge investment. Nowadays, if you don't have a hit with your first single you're dropped. It's over."

The problem, he says, is that there are thousands of young people who can sing but "an artist is someone who has transcended from being able to sing into being a 'singer'.

"It takes a long time to graduate to that status, to know what you're doing, to relate to people, to be sustainable."

Bon Jovi Bon Jovi were the top-earning live act of 2010, taking $201m (£130m) worldwide

There are, of course, exceptions to the trend of high turnover pop acts. Brit award winners Elbow did not achieve success until their fourth album The Seldom Seen Kid, for example.

But the market is increasingly cut-throat, and bands are being allowed to fade out when they should be at their commercial peak.

The situation is highlighted in a study by Deloitte of the biggest selling live acts in America over the last 10 years. Forty per cent of the bands had a lead singer who was 60 or over. Only one act in the top 50 was in her 20s, and that was Britney Spears. A stunning 94% of the top 20 was aged over 40.

The problem, according to PRS economist Will Page, is the collapse of the record market. Established bands can easily make money from touring but new acts used to rely on income from albums and CDs to fund a tour and build up their fanbase.

"What you're seeing now is fewer labels are willing to give tour support because fewer fans are willing to buy the CD. Hence it's tougher for bands to get on the road and develop a fanbase and become the heritage acts of the future."

That decline in album sales for new acts is marked.

In the five years to 2009, about 25 homegrown acts in Britain managed to break the 100,000 sales barrier every year. Last year it was down to 17.

This year the total has reached 16 and, of those, two of those are new bands led by Oasis's Gallagher brothers. Not exactly new, youthful, emerging talent.

In a presentation to Britain's top music venues, PRS said 2010 had already seen a 7% drop in live revenues, with a shortage of big names touring.

The Society says this will only get worse in years to come as the "classic rock" generation head into old age.

Rock music's biggest earners are approaching their twilight years. "Who," asks Will Page, "is investing in the heritage acts of tomorrow?"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Do we need new megastars and stadium bands? I would prefer more creativity and reasonably priced live music. I would like it if artists could make a modest living again without people digitally stealing their work and therefore their income. There will always be a tension between accountants and creatives. The former will homogenise and the latter seek new routes to market. No more heroes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    It is a great shame that there is less major support for emerging artists but let's not forget the huge support indie labels provide. There are so many brilliant risk taking labels like Hyperdub, Triangle, Warp, Domino and Type to name but a few. Not to mention countless net labels & music blogs. Rich pickings for music lovers. Maybe less so for artists. But the latter will carry on regardless...

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Years ago there were only 2 TV channels to choose from in this country, so if you could get onto a popular music programme you were guaranteed nationwide coverage, ergo superstardom. The same is not so today, music programmes have been diluted by the sheer number of available channels and even specialist music channels (which few people watch). The days of the supergroup are over. Ironic really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Do you think it could be that all the good music has already been written?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    The record industry used to take an art form and market it to make a profit. Now the industry's marketing plan has taken over and the art form is artificially created. Everyone knows (except for the record industry) that this is doomed to fail and the record industry will change, morph or cease to exist. But the real art form will still be there - waiting to be marketed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Maybe today's big bands & their fans aren't interested in ego inflating stadium tours & prefer the intimacy of smaller venues? "In my day" I certainly prefered smaller venue tours to the big ones - if I want to be in a big crowd I go to the football, but music is a personal thing that that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    OK there's a current trend. There have been trends before. There are still plenty of potential long-term stadium fillers out there. What about Arcade Fire, whose award winning year happened with their third album? They've already been around 10 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    But don't forget, discernment comes with age and we are getting to be a younger society so the rubbish of today's bands spreads a long way. Besides how many tunes can you get from a 13 note octave. Certainly there are some very talented musicians and it is a joy to see them in action but new songs/new tunes; I'm not so sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    p.s. so not true that most are old...the Mars Volta rock...but then so does Lou Reed! And The Flights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    2 acts spring to mind who I think have broke through with good songs,and live performances.Adele and Seasick Steve.Just shows with Steve,if a 65-70yo playing a 3string guitar can make it,there is still hop,And of course Adele,not a manufactured skinny blonde bimbo,but a unique voice and great live singer,plus "someone like you" is a classic that will still be played in 20 years time

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I have to say I have a friend who has played with Chad from the RHCP who is brilliant, plays bass in a band and who r making there way 2 the top the old way - not expecting anything and gigging their way around the country and Europe. The bands of today are chart-poppy and have never sustained prolonged longevity. The bands that make it the 'old' way will be the ones that stand out and survive

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    If it's not 4/4 time, with a loud base, and a pointless drop it just won't sell. People are spoon fed crap, and can't understand music they're not used too... I mean imagine trying to market a talent like Mogwai or Portishead to the general public!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    This is not unexpected. Unfortunately the rot began to set in with Stock, Aitken and Waterman - the original pioneers of throwaway 'music'. They showed wannabes like Simon Cowell how to make a load of money off people who could only manage 5 minutes of fame. Stuff X-factor. We need a Rock-factor to find the next arena bands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    rock has been dead for 20 years, british hip hop is thriving with new artists and producers yet the mainstream media, including the bbc fail to recognise this in favour of outdated unpopular guitar based x factor type sh*tsters. Radio 1 is a perfect example of this new lowest common denominator based music scene.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    The real reason that no new begabands are coming through is that record labels are only interested in short term gain and don't care about the long term future of acts.

    Witness the X-Factor and how many of the winners have been ditched in pretty short order? Most of them i would say.

    Although some remain in the public eye only one seems to have made a medium term career out of music.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    "There are more young songwriters in the UK than ever before, so why are all the biggest live acts over 40?"

    Because all those young songwriters are creating meaningless pap that has a half-life of a month as a ringtone.
    Most of our "singers" are glorified karaoke contestants, ripping off the true artists of previous decades and warbling like drowning cats as though that's true talent. It isn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    there is plenty of good music out there, some of it takes a bit of finding thats all. as for megastars the killers, muse or even coldplay are probably the bands in a prime position to be considered megastars in the future, if not close aready.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I think alot of bands sound very similar, I hardly listen to any of the newer bands nowerdays and never to the charts. Everybody seems to be in either a hipster electronic band or whiney folk rock group, both far too pretentious for my taste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    So much negativity (and all based on a very limited time period). There's a vast & diverse range of new artists around, and plenty of people who are happy to legally download their music. Fewer artists breaking 100,000 sales may not be a negative issue - I'd rather have 5 times as many artists selling a fifth of that figure and not have the industry dominated by a few mega acts for many years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    It's all Simon Cowell's fault. He has to be stopped, by any means necessary.


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