A Concerted Effort
News of the latest campaign to give electronic and avant garde music a fairer hearing by the popular and mass media reached these offices only a few days before this issue went to press, but already there are signs that it could be the most significant endeavour yet, and not simply because it comes from an unexpected source, ie. one of the UK's leading record companies.
The campaign is the brainchild of Johnny Black, sometime contributor to E&MM and now the Head of Press at Polydor Records in London. Initially, it takes the form of a letter (reproduced on page 8) that's been sent to most magazines, record and cassette labels that form a part of this country's New Age music scene, and the idea behind it is simple enough: to get as many people with an affinity for New Age music to send a letter to the Controller of BBC Radio One (and anybody else in a position of similar power, for that matter) demanding the same coverage as that already enjoyed by such minority musics as folk, jazz, and country and western.
However, it's our view that the campaign to deluge Broadcasting House with impassioned pleas for more avant garde music on the radio should be only a starting-point, a catalyst for some further - equally concerted - action.
Publicising New Age music is a job that no one other than its follower and practitioners will do, so there seems little point in adopting a 'let somebody else do the work' attitude. But that doesn't mean the task ahead of us is anything even approaching an impossible one.
True, avant garde music has a reputation for being in the main inaccessible and/or monotonous, but every New Age music fan goes through a lengthy period of time when ignorance and lack of exposure to the right records or concerts mean that he or she is only interested in the music served up day and night by the mass media. And it follows therefore that there are plenty more potential fans out there, just waiting to be converted.
The only problem is, that conversion will only take place if New Age music gets the required exposure, and the power to bring about that exposure lies in the hands not only of those who control the mass media, but also those who write, record, perform, and listen to the music themselves.
Every band - whatever their musical persuasion - knows that putting on a series of gigs is a pretty good way of getting their name known, so it should follow that musicians involved in creating electronic and avant garde music should adopt a similar attitude. Sadly, this appears not to be the case, though Ian Boddy's Stagefright article (see elsewhere this issue for the second and concluding instalment of this) will with luck persuade more than one or two performers to take their show on the road and publicise the cause of New Age music that way.
Releasing avant garde music on record or cassette is also a realistic possibility for most musicians and composers, but for some reason there are still hundreds of such enthusiasts who feel quite content in the knowledge that their work will never be appreciated anywhere outside the confines of their living room, unaware that every new avant garde release - of whatever form - is another step along the road to mass-acceptability.
E&MM, of course, does what it can in the way of reviewing readers' cassettes and records and promoting electronic music festivals such as UK Electronica, and one of the reasons for the magazine's continued success is simply that New Age music as a whole is becoming more and more popular, and the companies, organisations, and charities within it are getting stronger and stronger as each month goes by. And remember, New Age music has one advantage over almost any other form of music currently vying for media attention: its followers and performers are spread more or less evenly throughout the world, from the US and Australia to Japan, India and Scandinavia.
It would seem that the time is right for a major upsurge of public interest in New Age music, and that a concerted effort on the part of its adherents to bring that upsurge about has never stood a better chance of succeeding.
We've done our bit - now it's your turn.
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