My last article, “Dear UK Rappers, You’re Not American!” was met with a mixed response. Some people believed that UK artists were trying too hard to sound American, whilst others said my article was cynical and tired. The good thing was that it got people talking, which also got me thinking further and led me to my next question – Why exactly is there so much influence on UK music from the US?
One possible answer that immediately came to mind was the fact that the urban music constantly being played on mainstream radio and TV, is still dominantly US music. Radio is still a powerful means of showcasing music of all genres and it still has the ability to dictate what becomes popular. Although the Internet (YouTube in particular) has shifted some of the power, radio and TV is still very important and necessary.
I understand that popular music is popular music and the Americans have mastered creating such music that everyone can digest from Drake and Kanye to Flo Rida and Jason Derulo but we can do that too with our very own homegrown sounds.
There have been many songs on Link Up TV, SBTV, and specialist radio shows, that amass loads of views and are popular, which could easily fit on to daytime/mainstream radio and TV playlists. Artists and groups like STP, Sneakbo, J hus and Stormzy are making ‘radio friendly’ bangers that deserve to be heard on more than just the YouTube channels. Yes if a song about being in love with the co co (cocaine) can be played on radio then so can a song about disliking ‘dem boy pagans’.
It’s an uphill struggle for urban UK artists to be accepted in the UK. If it’s not frequent for US Radio Stations to play UK songs, should it be frequent to play US songs here? If you’re a US urban artist, if you get even an average song popping on the American radio stations, it will likely, automatically be put on the rotation on Mainstream UK Radio and it’s barely even like that for UK music here unless the song is undeniable.
The reason why some UK artists may feel they must ‘Americanize’ their sounds to have a greater chance/probability of success is because our mainstream radio channels seem to pay attention to our US counterparts only! If it was easier to get onto the big radio station with more UK authentic sounds then naturally more artists would try to make that kind of music because that is what would have a good success rate.
Now I gather that with radio, they only need to worry about getting listeners which equals money for them and if US artists’ music is universally popular then that’s what they have to play because that’s what people will listen to. There’s major record labels that get radio to play songs as well but at the end of the day, radio uses music to attract listeners for revenue. But who’s to say that US music will generate listeners? Less listeners these days are tuning in ‘just’ for music anyway so that’s a sign that radio stations need more to attract an audience and as a listener myself, I don’t like tuning in to any station just for music anymore because I have ‘YouTube’, ‘Soundcloud’ etc if I want to hear the music I want to hear. Good music is good music, wherever it’s from, so wouldn’t it be better to prioritise playing quality music from our shores that I can identify with over someone from overseas?
It’s time UK radio stations start supporting homegrown acts. It’s an amazing time to be British and we need to celebrate our brilliance. Megastars like Drake & Kanye are cosigning our artists and respecting our culture, so why can’t our radio stations?
Words by @TonteBoDouglas