How about a new programme - 'The Niche Factor'

(October 22, 2009)

There is no such thing as niche music. The truth is simple. Music hides in niches. That’s because of the so-called music that pours out of broadcast media. The unadulterated boiled pap that should cause universal vomiting were not much of humanity sadly immune to its sound.

Of course, there is good music in every genre – folk, acoustic, rock, rap, blues – the classification is endless - but it’s hiding in cracks that masquerade as specialist niches. There’s good, mediocre and bad folk and acoustic music. I’ve heard enough bad folk to make that assertion. Unfortunately, what splurges across our ears 99% of the time is not good music. Some of it’s not even music. It’s shite pretending it’s music. It’s not. It’s excrement of the highest order (or should that be ordure).

What caused this to happen? Most of the time this marginalisation grew from the triteness of certain televised music shows that do nothing for music but much for spectacle. Consider for a moment that travesty of taste and talent - ‘The X Factor’. Each time this mind-crushingly tedious self-congratulatory emotional enema rolls across our TV screens thousands of people cringe. Possibly, several hundred people tune in to listen to find the infinitely small percentage of talent that tries to force its way through the orgy of colour, light and sound that is undoubtedly shite.

Successful entrepreneurs like Cowell and Walsh are clever men.

No doubt about it. Clearly, they know a good sound when they hear it. Equally, they clearly know who will ‘make it’ because of their image, style, presence or their position on the ‘irritation factor’ scale. Look at that talentless foolish slice of humanity called Chico – the man cannot sing yet he ponces around the stage deluded enough to think that he’s got talent. No he hasn’t. He does however have serious delusions. And they are so far below delusions of adequacy they fall off the register.

I would bet that Cowell and Walsh can identify the top half-dozen acts before the programme starts. They just want to drag out the pain. It’s rather like having teeth extracted through your lower jaw, just to extend the performance. I mean, come on – how did talent surface before someone thought of creating this dustbin of music and burying talent somewhere inside it? Artists worked hard, gained a following and those with the right factor ‘X’ if you will, made it.

And here’s another point worth considering. Did anyone ask Sinatra to sing opera or Willie Nelson to sing Abba to measure their talent? I’ll bring this foolishness into the folk arena. As a way of discovering singing talent it’s like suggesting to Martin Carthy that he indulge in a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan or Seth Lakeman tries some Motown. Stick with what people are good at and stop forcing them to sing everything from Bacharach to Presley

Of course, everyone with more than half the essential number of brain cells recognises that asking artists to sing an entire range of musical styles is not a way to determine talent. It’s a way to drag a programme out over an indefinite number of hours. It’s also rampant voyeurism of the worst sort. It’s watching while fellow humans squirm and fail. You may as well take a cyclist and say: “This week you’re challenge is to ride a GP motorcycle” - and then watching him crash.

Why do the early shows feature hordes of deluded individuals that believe they can sing?

Probably, most know they can’t but it gives them their moment to be on television – even if it is at the expense of suffering national ridicule and unabating scorn. It’s also the moment for their enraged relatives to abuse Mr Cowell. You must have heard it: “He dahnt know f***in’ nuffin’ abaht music cos he’s shatte’d mah boy’s dreams.” Those words or something remarkably similar in tone and content, usually uttered by a rabid, sweaty creature that forces its bloated features into close up as it almost head-butts the camera, often follow the worst displays of vocal inadequacy.

Most so-called ‘talent’ programmes and similar public circuses of embarrassment and delusion are why music finds a niche. Rather like the gentle does and lambs that hide when the predators arrive, good music finds itself a comfortable safe hide-away and only tells its friends where to find it.

Here’s an idea.

How much better would it be if Mr Cowell and his dough-faced, pseudo-sympathetic, sycophantic sidekick decided to promote The Niche Factor.

Hold your excruciatingly embarrassing auditions if you must, but make it clear that you will douse dick heads and no-hopers in gallons of warm dog shit if they don’t come up to scratch. That should guarantee to increase both audience numbers and reduce the mass of idiotic hopefuls. (Good for Cowell and his twittering Irish pal as increased audiences mean the gore continues for another season - and good for the programme makers as more advertisers flock to grab 30 seconds of airtime among the mayhem.) It would also lessen the chances of Seán Dermot Fintan Michael Gerard O'Leary, Jr. (yes that is Dermot’s full name) indulging in ingratiating hugging after the judges reduce some talentless twit to crocodile tears. Just to be considerate the organisers would provide high-pressure hoses to wash the filthy shit-covered failures before they board public transport for the humiliating ride home.

So how does The Niche Factor work? Divide the groups into style such as folk, rap, pop house, garage, opera, rock, or whatever you like. Then listen to the best artists in those categories, whether they be male, female, groups or of undefined gender. So artists are grouped by style. How much better than the current groupings of ‘Weepy Middle-Aged Mums’, ‘Overweight Teenagers’, ‘Ghastly Toothless Grannies’, ‘Easily Exploited Singles’ and  ‘Talentless Gits’.

That approach immediately enables true talent - singers, bands or musicians in every genre - to compete with others in their style, and allows them to be good at what they're good at.

After the early weeding out of crap, the best three (for arguments sake) in each category then write and perform their own music in front of an audience taken from each niche. That’s people who want to listen to and enjoy the music rather than the easily pleased, baying mob that currently makes up the audiences. Then we end with the best folk niche, best rap niche, best ... well you get the idea.

Of course that will never happen because there are not enough niche listeners crowded around the nation’s televisions at any one time. That’s where radio has it covered. That’s because people that want to listen to music do so in preference to ogling the hideous plasticised creatures that populate televised drivel.

So there we have it. There is no such thing as niche music. There’s just a vast plethora of musical styles hiding in different niches.

And all the while talented artists in folk, rap, rock and more, continue to struggle for recognition some gyrating plastic dolt wins the fleeting and vacuous adoration of millions.

There ain’t no justice and that’s the truth.

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