Pledging My Time

The Pledge Concert
featuring Lucie Silvas, Bailey Tzuke, Judie Tzuke, Honey Ryder, Tony Moore
@ The Bedford, Balham, London
May 15th 2010

I get asked a lot about the future of the music industry. I don’t feel I have any particularly groundbreaking insights on this one and looking at some of the bands I try to promote, I’m surprised that anyone should think I have. However, unlike at least one major label I don’t think that Simon Cowell is the future – in fact, if the industry is to have any long-term future, it needs to avoid the formulas and TV shows that Mr Cowell offers like the plague.

There are also many new initiatives around which are brave and exciting and which could help us to rebuild the industry from the ground up but we would have to be equally courageous in caring about music and that love of the art for the art’s sake is something that is in short supply.

One such venture is Pledge Music ( http://www.pledgemusic.com/ ) by which a band with a following, momentum and some guts can use their current backing to extend their profile. They use the Pledge system to use current fans and investors to enable them to present themselves to a wider audience. However as those using this system seem inclined just to bring them to the attention of the majors where they will run into the problem philosophy that is already undoing so many careers – the lack of long-term commitment and ongoing investment. It might just be a dead-end…….

One worthy individual using the Pledge system to promote the profile of artists that he loves is Tony Moore, former member of Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew, who organised an event that I attended at The Bedford in South London. Tony organises these events using established and semi-established artists’ performances to raise money to put new artists that he believes in on at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The question that makes me scratch my head is what happens to them if they do get spotted. If they are spotted by one of the majors then the conundrum of short-term interest looms large on the horizon. If they are spotted by someone else, they may get better treatment but the questions of limited marketing and limited  distribution can spoil everything. I think it depends how large your targets are, I guess.

None of which is to do anything other than applaud Mr Moore’s efforts and to give him thanks for a marvellous night out which included dinner and a cocktail and 5 artists, some of whom I would walk a country mile to see.

The first two of our five I will pass over quickly as others are better positioned to offer constructive criticism. First was Tony himself whose mixture of strange songs and stand-up are just not for me. Second was Honey Ryder, a band who need to take perhaps a little more time over their lyrical ideas but have energy and enthusiasm by the bucket-load.

Our top three on the bill are close friends to one another and a living lesson themselves in the problems of the music industry as they approach drastically different points in their music career.

Bailey Tzuke

Bailey Tzuke enjoyed a sizeable hit in the company of the Freemasons, and has spent recent months developing her own material. She is a great songwriter, a gifted vocalist and a beautiful lady. Her new single “Strong” is featured tonight as is the powerfully emotive “Somebody’s Rose” and her other new songs which she has been debuting on her MySpace page. “Strong” is picking up quite a bit of airplay on some niche stations but is not receiving a lot of national exposure. Bailey and her new band are gigging around playing the occasional date in London but for one so talented the gap between making a record and achieving a chart position must seem a chasm if not an abyss. The majors are out there……. are they interested and if they are should I go down that route?

Next up is Bailey’s Mom, Judie Tzuke, a towering talent packed into her diminutive figure these last thirty years. In 1996, she decided to launch her own label, Big Moon. I’m guessing that Judie has found this a case of diminishing returns. A lot of work to maintain her  public relations with a small but demanding fanbase followed and this became less worthwhile as sales gently decreased and songwriting for others began to take precedence for Judie over her own career. In 2009, a decision was taken that something needed to be done to increase the visibility of her albums and a deal was struck to put thirty-three songs on “Moon on a Mirrorball” released through Wrasse records. Wrasse normally specialise in World music and African music so it was something of a departure for them too and if nothing else it would mean that Judie’s albums could be found in HMV and on Amazon as well as on her own website. It hasn’t achieved a lot more than that, though a single from the compilation did garner a little attention on Radio 2.

Judie Tzuke

The show tonight wasn’t a major event for Judie – a tour in October will hopefully be that – but she performed four songs in the slot between her daughter and a singer who started life in her backing band. On two of the four Judie stumbled over her lyrics but this didn’t take the edge of what a fine and accomplished performance it was from a singer and songwriter who has never negotiated her way around the major labels in a way that would take her career to the heights she deserved.

The aforementioned singer who started out with the senior Tzuke’s band is Lucie Silvas. Lucie in many ways has had much misfortune with record labels in her short career as someone like Judie has managed in 30 years. Originally signed in 2000 to EMI, she was dropped before her first album was released with only one single making the light of day. Her breakthrough album was 2003’s Breathe In (on Mercury) which gave her 5 chart singles and a popular album. Now in today’s industry there is yet another gap to be mentioned – that between those who have broken-through and those who are established. The fact that Miss Silvas had achieved the first boundary  but not the second was highlighted when her second album for Mercury “The Same Side” was met by decided indifference on part of the label. One release date was set for the Netherlands, another for the UK and then the record company feigned surprise when sales didn’t match the level of her first album. She was released from her contract to Mercury at that point and no further album has followed although time has passed.

Lucie Silvas

Tonight, Lucie delivered her hits and album tracks with her sensual, throaty voice showing that she is a very different package than either of the Tzuke ladies.

Ms Silvas gathered all the night’s artists on to the stage for a fitting and full farewell to an enjoyable evening.

If I had been one of the artists that Mr Moore is using the funds from events like tonight to promote I guess I would be stood at stage-side  wondering what will become of my career and which line of trajectory I would rather follow. Would it be the waiting for a breakthrough optimism of the younger Ms Tzuke or the ability to look back and learn from her mistakes that is her Mother’s perspective. Judie has seen the journey through from both sides but perhaps never had it quite the way she had hoped for. Or Ms. Silvas who has so much mis-handling so soon.

If I was them I would pick none of the above and hope that a truly new paradigm of the music industry appears in the next few years that allows an artist a middling degree of success without having to sell the soul of their artistry to the big five.

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