Last week Radio X breakfast show DJ Chris Moyles was asked by a listener why he doesn’t play any new music on his show. He responded by saying… that “most unsigned bands are crap” As a music blog that champions incredible unsigned and independent music, we want to set the record straight.
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Chris Moyles – DJ
I must confess I grew up listening to Chris Moyles, first on the early breakfast show, then Saturday mornings, and drive time before ultimately the breakfast show on BBC Radio 1. Back in 1998, he was a blast of fresh air, he made radio exciting, unpredictable and occasionally dangerous. But it was evident from the start that he wasn’t a music DJ and to be fair he never pretended he was. His remit was entertainment, he left the serious music chat to Jo Wiley and Steve Lamacq.
When he joined Radio X in 2015 it felt like a predictable and safe choice. You see in its previous incarnation, Radio X was XFM a radio station that purposely set out to play new and exciting indie and alternative music. For a few years, it was utterly wonderful with the likes of Eddy Temple-Morris and John Kennedy ruling the airwaves. Where else could you hear the likes of Fugazzi and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs during the daytime schedule?
Sadly the halcyon days didn’t last, and when ‘niche’ stopped paying the bills. XFM’s spirit and purpose were gutted and sold to the kings of banal, mainstream radio ‘Global.’ Cutting-edge new and alternative music was replaced with safe indie fodder on repeat and Chris Moyles was the new king. True indie fans switched off, and while Global grew the business, the new Radio X became little more than a ‘bit of rough’ for bored Capital FM listeners on their Greater London school run.
So you see, while I applaud the listener for challenging Chris Moyles to play new music, he was never going to win with a DJ that prefers his own voice to music and a station that stopped playing new music in 1998.
“Most unsigned bands are crap”
There is a lot of music in the world and a lot of musicians making it. A staggering 57,000,000 people agree with the statement “I consider myself a musician or audio creator.” across just five countries (US, UK, Canada, Germany & France) according to Global Web Index.
It’s also never been easier to make and distribute music to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. So it’s no surprise when the barriers to entry drop, so can the quality. For every great artist and musician, there are a ton more that don’t sound as good. Chris Moyles‘ assertion that most‘ unsigned bands are crap was lazy. The counter argument is that there are millions of incredible artists that just get overlooked and that’s the biggest crime. After all every artist starts unsigned and stays unsigned until they are discovered.
Radio has failed new music discovery
While it would be foolish and inaccurate to blame Chris Moyles for the lack of new music on the radio, he is just a DJ after all. It’s clear commercial radio stations bosses and their respective heads of music have utterly failed new music discovery in this country for decades.
At least the BBC try although tokenistic gestures like BBC Introducing don’t do enough. Let’s be clear no new artist has ever broken through on the radio with one or two plays at midnight on a Tuesday on a regional radio station.
The ‘unsigned’ perception problem
One of the biggest challenges facing ‘unsigned music’ is the word ‘unsigned’ itself. That’s because years of low quality production (music, video and imagery) have resulted in negative associations.
For lots of people, including Chris Moyles ‘unsigned’ means grubby, crap and unprofessional. Sadly there is still a lot of evidence to support this assumption, but hopefully that is changing slowly.
When I started Right Chord Music in 2010 one of my biggest motivations was to prove that unsigned didn’t mean unprofessional. That meant every artist we shared on our blog had to look and sound professional.
When we received lazy submissions with missing biographies or photos they are immediately deleted. Sadly when it comes to music, you can judge a book by it’s cover. When music looks bad, it inevitably sounds bad too.
When unsigned music lets itself down
Here are some examples of the worst images that have accompanied submissions to the Right Chord Music Blog. These images only perpetuate the idea that ‘unsigned music is crap’.
But back in 2010 looking and sounding professional was definitely harder. Back then we would also get our fair share of dodgy demo CDs in the post. They would have the names of the tracks scrawled on the front in marker pen, and if you listened carefully you could normally hear their dog barking in the background.
Incredible independent artists
Fast forward to 2023 and now we have smartphones that shoot HD video and take professional-grade images. We have online design tools like Canva that have levelled the playing field. Now there is literally no excuse to submit music that doesn’t at least look and sound professional.
There is no doubt during this time we’ve seen the rise of the Independent artist. Indie has gone on to become much more than just a genre. Indie now represents a spirit, a work ethic and a style. While ‘Unsigned’ bands sit around waiting to be signed. ‘Independent’ artists are out there making it happen for themselves. They write the music, produce the music, design the artwork, shoot and edit the video, produce the social content and promote themselves.
In the last 12 years, the Right Chord Music Blog has discovered so many incredible independent artists and it’s validated our theory that you don’t need to be signed to a record label to make incredible music and art.
But if you’re Chris Moyles a non-music-centric DJ that has never explored this scene or played great indie music it’s easy to see why the old grubby stereotype of ‘unsigned’ is perpetuated.
But in the meantime, the onus remains on you the artists. I would continue to urge every ‘unsigned’ artist to become the best ‘independent’ version of themselves. Give yourself the chance to cut through by ensuring every piece of content you put into the world looks and sounds professional. Remember you are not only representing yourself but every other new musician out there.
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Words Mark Knight