Saturday, February 16, 2013

How the music world is changing

People have a stupid definition of the “music industry” - solely confining it to the major labels and chains in the UK. This con leads them to believe that the industry is in a mess. That is true up to a point, and is certainly the case based on what goes on if, say, your retail fix only comes from HMV.

Rather, I would reckon that the music world is in a permanent state of flux. Just as in the past, we have changed formats, so we are changing them now. It’s just that this time the major labels are no longer in control and forcing the rest of us to dance to their tunes. The smaller labels have to be cannier than ever to take advantage of new opportunities. So it potentially gives a degree of freedom that hasn't been around for a while.

In reality, there is much music that is thriving – not least in areas in which Babel is involved. (I probably have already seen 15 amazing gigs at the Vortex alone so far this year, such as 2 nights of Kenny Wheeler Quintet, 5 nights of ICP Orchestra with possibly the last performances with the band by Misha Mengelberg, Rich Tailors (Blink meets Mediums), Emile Parisien, beloved Django Bates Belovèd and more.)

So, Babel is “investing” as heavily as ever in releasing some of the music that is being made today and working closely with the musicians. We already have a great number of new releases in preparation. Line-ups are imaginative (such as Steve Davis's bassless Human), or indeed the concepts (such as Bruno Heinen's radical reworking of Stockhausen or Moss Freed's literature-meets-music). A few are already here and can be bought online, either in digital or physical form. We'll have another five by the end of the month, which will then be available for pre-order or online soon after that.

And we are delighted by the recognition that many of the releases are receiving from the critical community around the world. That is one of the great developments that we can thank the internet for. Nevertheless, this music has also to be purchased to make it viable for us all to continue. We don't just want to create an archive for the few. But with the dissemination means now available, the constraints in hearing this music anywhere are now removed!

Babel is also making forays to bring out more music from artists based outside London, such as Andy Champion's ACV from Newcastle (and produced by Chris Sharkey), Steve Davis's Human (with a starting point of Northern Ireland). Later in the year, we'll be releasing the duo album of Glasgow Improvisers' Orchestra's Raymond MacDonald and Marilyn Crispell.
Stylistically too there is quite a range in prospect. From Alexander Hawkins' piano solo album, which was beautifully recorded by Alex Bonney and returning from manufacture in about 6 weeks, through Bruno Heinen's Tierkreis to the lovely improvising trio of Rachel Musson, Liam Noble and Mark Sanders.
This is a preamble to the forthcoming Babel newsletter which will be available in the next few days. If you want a copy email me on

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