Here’s how it goes: a young band is spotted in the right place, at the right time, by the right person, who immediately signs them up and calls in every contact in his voluminous address book to groom them for fame. They get new indie-looking clothes and badger-stripe haircuts. They get studio time with the guy who produced the last Coldplay album, and sometimes with a collaborator, and an album is born, cleverly funded against the band’s future royalties – which leaves less commercially geared bands in debt to their record companies for years to come. Nnext, our boys and girls are paid on to a support slot for an established band. They are marketedas the Nnext Big Thing (think about it, when was the last time you read about a band who weren’t the Big Thing?). This draws on the old music fan’s desire to be the first to discover a band – “I liked them before they made it big”. The trouble is that many of today’s biggest bands made it big on their first album.They begin the merciless media cycle. From Saturday morning TV to late night radio, where there is always an opportunity to show off the carefullycrafted attitude complete with a pre-planned piece of crazy banter appropriate for the age demographic of the show. Meanwhile, back at the band headquarters, studious label staff pour over the statistics of viewer numbers and column inches in the right magazines and newspapers.Carefully timed within the music market’s consumer cycles, our band’s album is released with some kind of novelty launch gig. If it doesn’t sell massively, then they will be sent off on a tour of Poland and Scandinavia. If, however, they are a hit, then the whirligig of interviews and gigs will continue ad nauseam. The fledgling band will be cast out onto big, echoingstages with only a few half-decent songs to help them – remember Rrazorlight at Live 8, trying to play alongside the Floyd and U2, with only the fig-leaf of Golden Touch to preserve their modesty?Nnow, as Kurt Cobain discovered, record companies are wary of new material and therefore our boys’ debut album will be on sale for a year or even two, and seven singles released, before rumours of their next album are leaked to the press. Witness Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, two initially exciting but by now massively overplayed bands, whose follow-ups have been heavily deformed by the weight of pressure and fame. Bob Ddylan recorded three monumental albums in one year, 1966, and the fans, fame and fear never had a chance to catch up with him – some of them are still trailing. But nowadays the need for a longer product lifecycle dictates that albums must be spaced years apart.So, two years in and our band and their audience have stagnated, both blinded by the hype and their own image – would Ddoherty have become such a celebrity without the stoner-chic image which marketed the Libertines in the first place? Aall this while many of the genuinely interesting, original and innovative bands have been lost or perverted by this heady mix of marketing excitementand hard narcotics.Can we complain? Aafter all, you can’t just stop a band’s success, complainthat it’s all happening too soon like a protective mother over her daughter, can you? Whether we like it or not, bands grow up quicker these days, and the best thing, perhaps, is to treat them as serious bands, artists if you will, rather than sticking them in the pop playpen and focusing on what their favourite colour is.Aand for those few that survive, success comes only to hardworking bands who are challenged to stay fresh in a non-stop business. To stay on top means treading the fine line between holding the limelight while taking time to get the music right – an all but impossible balance.Still all is not lost for our band. Ten years down the line one of their lesser known songs gets on a film soundtrack and it all starts again. The records fly off the shelves and festivals are once again deperate to book the Last Big Thing.But in the meantime how do we tell what is worth the effort? Is it only retro that can compete for time, when new bands fall so easily by the way-side? The answer is no. Our music scene isn’t fallen or dying.It’s a supercharged demi-commercial audio-poetic digital retro kaleidoscopeon acid, incredibly rich, but, with its richness, often obscured by the corporate product which gets the biggest exposure and becomes the audio wallpaper to our daily lives. Perhaps all we can do is trust our own instincts, try to tell genius apart from tat marketed as genius, to listen to (not look at) new bands and love them like they deserve.ARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005