Letter: Decline of British popular music

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A clue as to why the British music business (export division) may be biting the dust (Section II, 23 February) can be found in James Robertson's article 'Night fever' on the same day (Going Out).

Mr Robertson correctly identifies the continued success of the disco as being founded on simple criteria: 'The predictability of these venues contributes to their overall success; they are uncomplicated and they have no aspiration to enhance the musical education of their customers.'

Britain has become a nation of consumers and not producers. This is observable throughout British cultural and industrial life. In being so, as Paul Weller has said in 'Going Underground', 'The public wants what the public gets.'

The most marked feature of the current low-point in British representation in the Billboard charts is the fact there have been so few acts involved since 1989. As Jim White points out: 'The trend for techno music is, a few clubs in New York notwithstanding, virtually ignored west of Cork.' Why is it that we have not got the message?

The reasons are clear. First, the US has become deeply unhip to the eyes of the British music business, especially in its country music manifestation. Second, the British music industry in its search for a generic marketable musical form has betrayed the British heritage of diversity and regional eclecticism. Looking at our great successes in the US in the past, they are all distinctively English. It was said that the Beatles sold R&B back to the Americans. That is nonsense, they sold an entirely different world-view, something that the Americans didn't have, and something they wanted. They also wrote great songs.

Too many people are consuming the packaging of our current musical offerings and failing to look at the product inside, which is naff. We should all pay more attention to the Quincy Jones story when he says that as a young musician, he just wanted to be good, after that he wanted to earn a living. We should support the emergent talent of the future and realise that if we don't we will end up as un- hip as those we would seek to denigrate.

Yours sincerely,


Northern Song Project

The Royal Institution


24 February