Column from November 23rd, 1998

Haven’t got a lot of news to share with you this week, but seeing as we’re approaching the end of the year, I thought it might be a suitable point to reflect on the health of the melodic rock scene in general…

Have things improved in the US in 1998? I guess not really, it’s pretty much as you were – new bands still can’t get a decent deal. But radio is slowly waking up to new material and some of the recent tours have been successful, if modest.

Japan and Europe are still the main bastions of melodic rock, but I’m beginning to be a little concerned with some of the trends in Europe. All the European labels seem to have at least one new release every other week and are effectively swamping the market. It’s like some splatter gun effect, in the hope that one release makes it big and rakes in the money…. But, this policy never seems a label get properly behind individual bands as most new releases are forgotten about almost as soon as they’re out. Too many of them sound the same, and very few of the labels have the guts to release something that doesn’t sound like someone else or has a known "name" on it….

I’m just not convinced that the majority of the European labels are putting enough back into the music. 99% of the time they don’t have to pay for the recordings, as the bands pay for it themselves or its old material that’s been sitting on the shelf for years – the term "unreleased album" will soon be a redundant term, as everything with any connection to a half way decent band will have been dusted off and released!

Don’t get me wrong, these labels are keeping the music alive, for the moment, but the longer we remain in a "specialist label" situation catering for the same small group of buyers then melodic rock is always going to be underground – as it has been for rather a long time now. Some of these labels have to soon move on the next stage rather than just being content to make cash here and there off average sales and licensing deals to Japan!

Can the market ever turn around and get melodic rock back with a higher profile? Not without major label support. On the face of it Seagram’s takeover of Polygram and subsequent merger with Universal would make for an idea "musicians label" with Doug Morris at the helm, but in effect you’re basically ending up with three major labels dominating the whole market. There’s not much middle ground anymore between a tiny independent and a lumbering major. The majors have also grown so big that they lead each other around the noses and sign the same things rather than trying to see their own path. Like almost every other current major business, labels are run by bean-counters and pen-pushers, rather than anyone with vision and creativity.

If that’s not depressed you completely, you’ll find some new reviews at the AOR Basement site at http://www.aorbasement.com/ and more are on the way. Would the legions of Webmasters out there please note the new URL and update their links accordingly – many thanks…