It is one of the most fickle industries in the world; who can keep up? No sooner have you got the hang of the latest singles-chart-topping fad than another act takes over.
Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon, who tomorrow launches Oxjam, the UK's largest charity music festival, has given up trying to follow pop's fashions, claiming he knows "nothing about music". The festival's live line-up – the biggest this year – will give him a chance to "go out and have a look". He faces an onslaught of more than 7,000 musicians performing in 800 venues over the next month.
Coxon, at 43 an industry veteran, bemoaned the current state of the music industry, claiming: "Not a lot of groundbreaking stuff is being made, and it hasn't been at any point for a number of years." He claims 1965 was the last real moment of change, and added: "If you compare [music] with the 1970s, it's pretty poor." So why is he bothering with Oxjam? "It's charity," he concedes, "and it has done great things."
But those climbing the ladder behind him disagree with his take on modern music. Lucy Rose is a 23-year-old singer, and one of the performers Coxon might see this week. She thinks the industry is "exciting, girl-strong, digital and ever-changing".
Technology has unleashed a welter of bands, labels, genres, music formats and fashions that can be bewildering to many people who remember the simple innocence of 7in vinyl and the weekly pop charts. Here to help you navigate the legion of "Next Big Things" – compiled with the help of music industry experts – is The Independent on Sunday's guide to the best new bands and artists (well, for the next few weeks at least).
British Male Singer
Claim to fame Poster boy for his "generation's disillusionment".
Background South-east London's Archy Marshall, the "bohemian boy wonder", is a soon-to-graduate history student at the Brit school. The red-headed lyricist, at just 17, draws comparisons with Billy Bragg, Morrissey and Joe Strummer, while his debut EP has garnered praise across the music industry. He cites Franz Kafka, Charles Bukowski and WH Auden as influences, and his work has been called "age-defying".
Claim to fame Set to be the "first break-out star of 'queer rap'."
Background Brooklyn-based Ojay Morgan, 26, a former catering manager, was a hit at Paris Fashion Week with his single "Ima Read" playing on the catwalk. He's supported Lana Del Rey and will join Azealia Banks on her UK tour. It's hard to imagine his music will translate into the mainstream, but it's garnishing attention far and wide.
British Female Singer
Claim to fame The "new Laura Marling".
Background The 23-year-old Bombay Bicycle Club vocalist has the ethereal folky feel that's fashionable of late, but she insists she is more than just "another girl with an acoustic guitar singing about how she feels". She has been a fixture on the London gig scene for five years, and her debut solo album is out tomorrow. One song in particular, "Middle of the Bed", is so infectious that by this time next year, you will probably be struggling to get it out of your head.
Claim to fame The three Californians make performing with your family look fun.
Background LA sisters Danielle, Este and Alana, with friend Dash Hutton on drums, were a hit at this year's South by Southwest festival. Haim's first EP was released this year, and their unusual blend of classic rock and sultry R&B worked better than one might think. Set to support Florence & the Machine on tour.
Claim to fame One of the most successful new British bands of the year.
Background Alt-J seemed to have come from nowhere. But if the four Cambridge lads win the Mercury Prize, as predicted, they won't maintain their low profile for long. Named after the Mac keyboard command for the "delta" sign, the quartet have been compared to everyone from Wild Beasts and The xx to Hot Chip and Radiohead. With its blend of modern folk and geeky electronic beats, their album, An Awesome Wave, received critical acclaim and hit the Top 20. The band has sold out shows across the US, and NME predicts they will be "huge" this time next year.
Claim to fame Pegged as two-piece female Led Zep.
Background Julie Edwards and Lindsey Troy could just reinvigorate rock'*'roll. The blues-rock team from the San Fernando Valley, who met at a needlework class, are the focus of a musical buzz that doesn't show any sign of dissipating. Described as a "hippie Karen O fronting Black Sabbath" by NME. Excitement around their upcoming UK tour is high.
International Female Singer
Claim to fame "Quite possibly the greatest unsigned rapper," according to MTV before Universal snapped her up.
Background This 20-year-old internet sensation from Detroit is a Native American pansexual who's had her own YouTube channel since she was 16; she raps about religion, sexuality and oppression in her free mixtapes and EP, Reservation. Her single "New York" is out next month.
The Palma Violets
Claim to fame The capital's "hottest guitar band" (NME).
Background Pegged as "2013's answer to the Libertines", the four-piece has been hosting secret gigs in a south London house for those in the know for months. Snapped up by Rough Trade, their sounds have been compared to everyone from Black Lips to Echo and the Bunnymen, with singer Sam Fryer's voice likened to Jim Morrison's. Could they be the saviours of guitar music? Their debut single is released next month.
Claim to fame The 18-year-old has already supported the Stone Roses. Enough said.
Background Looks like a younger Noel Gallagher and has been hailed as the new working-class hero of rock'n'roll. You can't speak to many in the music industry without hearing about the teenager from Nottingham. He has appeared on Later with Jools Holland, supporting his Oasis lookalike and the Killers, and his music has been plucked for the BBC's Olympic coverage. Clearly, somebody, somewhere, has been very impressed. Signed to Mercury, and with an album out next month, this youngster with an old-fashioned taste in music can do little wrong, it seems.
Claim to fame Nominated for Best Newcomer at Mojo awards.
Background As one might expect from a modern-day music marriage, duo Aluna Francis and George Reid met on the internet. Both were previously involved with their own bands, but mutual respect brought them together and led to infectious songs that fuse Francis's contagious vocals and sensual electronics from Reid. They have been championed by Radio 1 and 6 Music and have featured on a US series of Skins. Their debut single, "Your Drums, Your Love", will be out next month. Music magazine The Fly predicts they could mirror the success of this year's Jessie Ware.