A plea against ageism in the music business

How old is too old to rock? The answer depends on whether or not you believe that rock musicians should have a mandatory best before date on their foreheads.

New music is expected to come from the young. But what about older artists who are still hoping to break through? Is there a bias against giving them a shot despite their–ahem–advanced age?

This brings me to a press release by Mark Christopher Lee of the British band, The Pocket Gods. The members are, shall we say, of a certain vintage and are still looking for their big break. This press release is worth a read.

AN AGEING INDIE BAND FRONTMAN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST AGEISM AT BBC INTRODUCING

Hello pop pickers this is Mark Christopher Lee. Yes that is my real name but unfortunately, I’m no relation to the false fanged Hammer star. I’m frontman of  “cult” (i.e you probably haven’t heard of us) indie band The Pocket Gods. I’m just approaching the ripe young age of 50 and I need to get this rant off my grey-haired chest. I’m sick to death of all the continuing ageism in the music industry and especially the BBC! It seems to be the last acceptable form of discrimination and I want to stop it after I’ve had a Werther’s original and a lie-down.

The problem is I’ve been doing the same band now for 21 years which despite the odd mishap and bizarre gardening accident it’s doing the best it’s ever done apart from one area we can’t get played on BBC Radio! I mean we were played quite a lot when we were younger and the late John Peel discovered us but this counts for nothing as most BBC Radio producers haven’t even heard of him which makes me sad.  I mean we get played all over the world from Argentina to Canada to our fan hotbed of Saudi Arabia ( I have no idea why!). I keep trying, of course, sending in CD after CD and email after email and to be fair Tom Robinson has been good to us and played us recently, but nothing from Radio 1 or even what’s supposed to be our natural indie habitat, BBC 6 music.

This has led me to increasingly create mad ideas in order to get some publicity for the band. For instance, I reinvented the pop song from a 3-minute long verse-chorus thing to just a 30-second chorus. The premise behind this was that streaming services such as Spotify payout a minuscule royalty of 0.007p every time a track is streamed for 30 seconds and then no more. So I thought why write long songs anymore why not just write 30-second songs and pack 100 of these on an album. I did this and unintentionally gained an official Guinness World Record for most tracks on an album. This gained a lot of media attention including features in Billboard, The Independent & ITV news and shock horror a minutes airplay on the fab Steve Lamacq’s show on the BBC!

After that, I recorded what I thought were great indie 3-minute songs and nada….nothing despite them being playlisted on Spotify (oh, the irony). In fact, I think streaming services such as Spotify can be a bit more democratic than old fashioned radio as the artist is judged on the music alone , although it has to fit in with their mysterious algorithms and fit into what sounds “modern”. Even Mark Ronson (producer of Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars etc) has complained that he struggles to get his music onto playlists as they don’t conform to what the Spotify playlist bots want….

But back to the BBC. I guess my main rant is against BBC Introducing – a service they provide new and upcoming artists with a platform to get their music discovered. Although they say it is all-inclusive I do believe (and even wrote a 30-second song about it) the BBC will only introduce you if you’re under 25! I’ve uploaded track after track to BBC Introducing London and BBC Introducing Beds Herts & Bucks and have had nothing despite the same tracks being playlisted on the modern media of Spotify! It’s not just me I’ve heard the same from older artists all over the country they just don’t get picked up for airplay or interviews or sessions.

I even tested this hypothesis as I created a new fictional band called This Is Ethmo which pretty much did the same as my other band and mixed up all different genres – I created fictional names and ages (18 to 20) and send it in to my local BBC Introducing shows. And surprise I got an email and phone call asking me to come in for an interview! The ruse was eventually busted by Tom Robinson who realized that I was behind it all but he did say that every artist has the right to be judged on their music alone which I thought was nice!

I do practice what I preach with my own small indie record label. We have artists of all shapes and sizes and purely judge an artist on the music alone. from a young band still at sixth form (Kick Pistol) to octogenarian Larry Weiss an iconic songwriter who penned hits such as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Bend Me Shape Me,” and “Hi Ho Silver Lining.” Despite such a pedigree and with some great new songs Larry struggled for years to find a label until he found us.

So my message to the BBC and BBC Introducing, in particular, is please don’t judge an artist by their age a new or upcoming artist can be any age not just under 25.

If you want to find out more about the band and my mad mission we have a Film out now on Amazon Prime called Weird The Life And Times Of A Pocket God.

Contact:

Mark.lee@nubmusicuk.com

Tel: 07791 985813

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “A plea against ageism in the music business

  • September 15, 2019 at 9:24 am
    Permalink

    This is a world wide problem if you ask me. I know many really good bands that struggle to get radio play on main stream media (Chorus for one) despite the air play they get on smaller stations and in the U.S. If you don’t fit the mold if what Corporate media wants good luck getting on the air anywhere.

    Reply

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