T Break 2011 – Are the conspiracy theories justified ?

As usual there is a fair amount of comment about the T Break list. It always puts me off when a band is recommended to me on the basis they are friends with / related to another band, have influential management or have other good contacts. Aerials Up for instance were first mentioned to me as a band managed by someone who once managed Snow Patrol. Sebastian Dangerfield as “something to do with the Jetpacks”. I try not to let this colour my opinion when listening but many of these bands turn out to be quite ordinary while constantly appearing at festivals, in media tips for the year, “winning” public votes for best something or other or getting “big” support slots / tours. There are about a dozen bands that crop up over and over again many of whom happen to feature in the goNORTH showcase. Again Aerials Up are at the top of that list. Some say it is a conspiracy some say it is alphabetical.

Joining Twitter was the final piece in the jigsaw of working out how some of these bands had such a high profile. Gigs nowadays can be so badly attended that you can tweet away about how well the gig went knowing that there was nobody there to disagree with you and you can constantly mention your friendship with other bigger bands. These days nobody is going to get a record deal so the best management can do is get small bands on festivals and get bigger bands higher on the bill than they should be. I can understand the frustration of others at seeing these average bands being promoted sometimes year after year as “newcomers”.

Having any sort of connection to a band may not help at all. I was surprised when I finally got to hear the Sebastian Dangerfield EP by both how good it was and by how long they had been going without any real success. On the other side are the artists that not only get a lot of support for say three years and get nowhere but then reinvent themselves and start all over again. Bands have always helped each other out and clearly there is nothing wrong in that but once management invests time and money in a band then you can see why they are loathe to give up. Much like the Eurovision song contest which I watched last night for the first time in many years in which the voting was clearly still based on ties with other countries and not on the artists’ performance to say that the picking of bands for these lists is not based to some extent on friendships and business connections would be to stretch incredulity. As for public polls on the best anything. More later.

15 Responses to “T Break 2011 – Are the conspiracy theories justified ?”

  • Yvonne:

    not again!! this is really tiring… i was on the panel for t-break and i get what you are saying but the links that any of the bands have with people is irrelevant… and the location… and what they look like… etc.. so just some points:

    1. aerials up at the moment have no management so pretty much blows that theory out of the window

    2. there are some bands on there that some of the judges didn’t want just as equally there are some bands not on there that some did want, but that’s the nature of democratic voting

    3. all these conspiracy theories are nonsense… i am personally offended by them as i spent A LOT of time going through every single band on my list and brought up a few that were not, and then, we spent a lot of time again discussing them as a collective and going through them all again

    4. as far as i can tell, not one of the bands that got through have any official ties with any of the panel, some may know some of us but that is our job, we work with bands or write about bands and if we didn’t know any of them then there would be something wrong as most of us know A LOT of bands

    5. when i looked at the list of applicants when it came through you would be surprised that some great bands didn’t apply for one reason or other… maybe they felt the timing wasn’t right or whatever but you work with what you are given… and for some of the other one’s that have been noted on various online platforms slagging the whole thing off being very bitter, maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t time for them either, or maybe, they’re just not up to par…

    6. what has sebastian dangerfield got to do with anything? a couple of them are only part of another band with some other peeps, not the same band

    so, hopefully this will help dispel some of this nonsense but no doubt i’ll probably just get slated for commented on it but i can live with that… i’m very proud to have been involved in the whole process and it was tough with so many great bands but sadly only 16 places… so would congratulate everyone that got through and look forward to seeing them there

    over and out :D Y

  • Molly:

    It’s good to ask the question of ‘Are the bands who get picked all well-connected?’ but too many people fail to ask ‘Why are these bands well-connected?’ Usually it’s because they’re actually semi-decent and worth people’s time and energy. Let’s be honest, if your mate’s band SUCK, you’re not going to send them to T in the Park to humiliate themselves in front of a large crowd and further extend their delusion that they’re ever going to ‘make it’, are you?
    A few of the bands are ‘well-connected’, which might have helped make their name stick, etc, but from the ones I know, they’re connected because they love music, work their butts off for it, realise the importance of speaking to people to get yourself heard, and are genuine and nice in their pursuit.
    From looking at the list, I think there’s a fairly healthy mix of bands we all expected to be there and bands we didn’t. Sure, I think they’ve picked some rubbish ones (both ‘connected’ and ‘unconnected’), and there are bands I know entered who I would have thought were a better shout, but that’s tough luck. I don’t like most of the charts either, but apparently quite a lot of people do. Get over it.

  • I was talking far more generally than just T Break which is why I mentioned Sebastian Dangerfield in the context of people thinking bands just do well because they are related or are friends with other bands and goNORTH who while having a lot of bands listed do manage to include many of the bands that seem to crop up over and over again. I merely used Aerials Up as an example of how not to represent a band to me. They are rarely spoken of without mentioning the Snow Patrol connection. Somebody did later say to me they were the Scottish Arcade Fire which maybe isn’t the best way to go either but at least mentions the music.

    I run a shop so when bands are recommended to me I simply google them to find out who they are, what they sound like and if they have any releases we might want to stock. Any “connections” are not hidden but normally there for anyone to see. Management companies wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t recommending their acts to people who will mention them to me. Of course we all have friends who are in bands and twitter makes it very obvious who knows who. Many bands don’t apply because they think rightly or wrongly that they won’t get a fair crack of the whip. In my experience the “good” bands who don’t want to be part iof the system just get on with things keeping their own counsel. Only when I try to persuade them to get involved do they express their doubts very often with very good reason.

    As I said Sebastian Dangerfield were just another example of a band not represented to me in a good way but who actually turned out to be very good. This definitely is not just about T Break. This is about the many festivals that take place, the radio sessions and plays that artists get and the gigs that get booked. All things a management company would look to influence. Knowing this maybe some people are too easily influenced. It is clear you have taken your responsibilities on the panel very seriously and that has to be applauded but sadly that is clearly not always the case.

  • Yvonne:

    I guess you got my back up after all the dross I’ve been reading online all over the place not helped by your blog having a big logo for T-Break and entitled: “T Break 2011 – Are the conspiracy theories justified ?”… Bands moaning about it I can appreciate it because they are upset and quite rightly so but with a store like yourselves I certainly wouldn’t expect this… We are all trying to do the same thing here, support bands, not attack them…

  • You are absolutely right that some bands are “well connected” because indeed they are not only very good but good people to deal with which is important also. Oddly some of these bands do come to my attention as customers ask me why some particularly average / ordinary / shite band keeps getting good press / gigs. On the whole though many managers are not particularly good at spotting talent. The older ones are living off past glories and the new ones are often embarrassingly clueless and just seem to fancy being a manager without really knowing anything. These people really bother the scorers of course. Instead the more experienced simply go for sound alikes. So while creative bands will be coming up with the “next big thing” managers will be looking for the next Arcade Fire, Biffy Clyro, Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend or Laura Marling / KT Tunstall. Bands prepared to fit the mold will be signed which creatively isn’t great. As you say this list is by no means the worst in terms of what has been talked about though there are a few that would go to the dubious decisions panel if there was one of course.

  • To be honest I haven’t seen anything online so I may need to investigate. Obviously though there is a fair amount of comment about these things in the shop. The question mark was genuine in that I was asking the question not stating it as fact. We do try to support bands and that is what is annoying when you see these average bands getting not just festivals but radio sessions and press at the expense of some very talented bands. I would never attack a band on the website. My comments about Aerials Up were about how they were represented to me.

  • Mac:

    Yet another battle of the bands leaves a bad taste in the mouth. T Break should be binned and the promoters should grow a set large enough to just pick 16 bands they like. Yvonne, how many of the 16 bands picked were unknown to the panel anyway? I doubt if any of the bands chosen were done so on a couple of listens to a cd. T Break is redundant concept, well past it`s sell by date. Battle of the bands, in any shape or form, just breed contempt between bands and should be avoided at all costs.
    As for Go North, they should hang their heads in shame for only accepting submissions through Sonicbids. This is a system that charges the bands hard cash to have someone listen to their music. It`s taking “pay to play” to a new, farcical level where bands pay to maybe play. Again, it`s highly unlikely any bands playing this are doing so on just a few listens to their music.
    Yet another case of someone, other than the artist, having their pockets lined.

  • Jo:

    @Mac I dont even think it was a CD that was required for submission. It was the link to a Myspace page or equivalent and a minimum requirement of 3 songs was supposed to be uploaded to the player.

    Now my face may be tripping me but I have had a quick scour through the web and some of the bands on the selected list don’t actually have a myspace page and some only have two tracks uploaded.

    I am pretty certain this is how the entry process went.

  • Yvonne:

    meh, whatevers, yawn…

    @mac, i don’t know, why don’t you ask everyone? what is it you do exactly? can i come and observe just to make sure your doing it right? but then, your dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t and i’ll call you a liar anyways, is that how it goes??… as for go north, i can’t comment as it’s nought to do with me but i DO DETEST sonicbids, if it’s not your thing fair enough but for others it’s an opportunity to play at T, have a nice weekend and hopefully have a good experience, better than having no chance at all… you might not be happy but here’s hoping they will be

    @jo – it didn’t have to be a myspace, other sites were acceptable…

    i’m going back to do my work now, don’t know why i even bothered commenting, so if you would please excuse me, i’m bored of this

  • Mac:

    Yvonne, i think the people who judge these things wouldn`t be doing their jobs properly if they weren`t already aware of Scotlands best bands. I`m not saying it`s fixed, what i`m saying is, are you going to pick a band you`ve heard only through their demo over a band you`ve seen live and like?
    You`re going to be accused of favouritism whatever way the selection process is handled. I think it would be a better idea if the panel just put forward the names of the bands they think should be on the bill and let the promoters do their homework from that list.
    For the record, my band has played the NME stage at T, so i`m not just on here for a bitter bit of bitching. It`s just my opinion that the whole process is flawed. I also happen to think that the bands i have heard out of the 16 deserve to be included, it`s the hiding behind the whole “everyone has a chance” schtick i`m not comfortable with.

  • T-break is still a great thing for Scottish musicians. I was lucky enough to play in a heat a few years back and made it to the stage at TITP with my band without professional management, recording contract, touring experience or famous friends. Some bands are going to have some of these things, more experience and better contacts but I don’t believe for a second that it’s s prerequisite to playing T Break because it wasn’t the case for us and many others.

  • Pete:

    The point Mac is making is correct. The format of T Break is well past its sell by date and if you pause and think for just a minute it can be kind of compared to that National TV show that everyone loathes, albeit on a much smaller scale…

    Simon Cowell’s money making empire = The promoters
    The Judges = The Judges
    The X-Factor Show = T Break
    The Contestants = The Bands

    As with the TV show all the judges are obviously going to stick behind their own acts no matter what. Even if all they have done is played 1 maybe 2 gigs all year and released one half baked single last summer which was recorded in their mates bedroom.

    In times of depression no wonder the general public are getting increasingly pissed off with Xfactor as its preventing good grassroot acts breaking through. A similarity could be said about the bands who spend thousands of pounds on recording, hiring vans, touring the country off their own backs to see nothing in return. No recognition due to the judges choosing favourtism over hard working ethic. No wonder the whole industry is in the state its in.

    Hell, the X-Factor tour could even be compared to the Summer Nights Festival which was just announced a few days later featuring several acts from T Break as headline acts. But that makes sense does it not? Now that their profiles have been raised via T Break it makes perfectly good business sense to make another quick buck by doing a stint of dates in one of the UK’s finest venues. Now the line-ups for these gigs would have been put in place months ago as so many bands are involved. So how much influence did the Summer Nights Festival have on the T Break selection? I don’t know…who knows. Maybe I’m going totally crazy but this is how this WHOLE process looks to every other band in Scotland and the general public. It’s that bad that even the local independent record store has posted a blog about it.

    The truth is that this has been going on for years and finally some people are getting pissed off about the farcical format of T Break. Quite frankly..it’s about time too.

  • Pete:

    Might I add to my comments above that yes some of the bands on the bill are worthy their place and do actually write good music. My main argument is to do with the selection process itself.

  • colin:

    Pete, why are you complaining about the selection process if you think that overall the right bands have been chosen? T-Break did become before X-Factor and basically you are saying that you want the T-Break stage to be chosen just like all the other stages. I like the fact that there is a panel of judges as they might have picked up on bands that may otherwise have been missed. Are the bands not hardworking, I’m sure that must have been a consideration over favouritism. My issue is that everyone thinks they deserve to know all the ins and out, let these people do their jobs because ultimately that’s why they must have their positions in the first place. Everyone seems to think they’d make a perfect judge these days and yes I do have a mind of my own but I wouldn’t envy their task of going through all those bands that applied.

  • Pete:

    @Colin – I did say some of the bands, not the overall majority…but anyway, the only complete and fair way to do this is by public vote and by making it one vote per email address.

    What happens if all the bands that are voted for are terrible?

    This really shouldn’t happen as hard working and good bands should be out winning fans through constant touring, good recordings and exciting live shows. If the band really are that good then punters will obviously add the bands on facebook/twitter and be aware of the voting process for such competitions.

    If the geographical issue is such a problem then this could be further filtered down and the number of places are then based on the size of the city or region. For example, since Glasgow and Edinburgh are the biggest cities in Scotland they could say have 3 spaces each, Dundee 2, Aberdeen 2, Inverness 2 and so forth until all 16 were made up.

    This is what will encourage bands and artists to not only work harder, but to become better musicians in order to win fans. You are right..I dont envy the judges either as the amount of talent that Scotland has to offer is exceptional, but it really is the only fair way and would prevent any further backlash from happening in the future.

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