It’s awards season at the moment, before long you’ll be bombarded with hype over the BRIT awards, then there’s the NME awards, and over the pond there’s the Grammys. Add to that a new ceremony, another excuse for back-slapping and media hype: The Global Awards. Needless to say the same old faces will be up for these gongs; your Sheerans, your Oras, your Sam Smiths, whoopdedooo…
But what’s significant about this ceremony (to be held at the Hammersmith Odeon on March 1st, or as they would insist on calling the place, Eventim Apollo) anyway?
If the name ‘Global’ doesn’t mean much to you, then you have heard of their stations. Global is a media conglomerate who own many of the commercial radio stations in the country. It is they who are responsible for Heart, Smooth and Capital FM, and if you’ve ever had to suffer even an hour of their output you already know this is going to be a vapid exercise. They also operate Radio X, as well as Classic FM and their model is to network much of their programming centrally across what were once ‘local’ stations, with only minimal output broadcast from the regions they supposedly serve. They and Bauer Radio have the commercial radio sector in the UK carved up between them, which goes a long way towards explaining why their output is so bland, and so repetitive. Global’s brands such as Heart are high-profile but the parent company isn’t just yet; presumably they are aiming to change all that starting with this bash.
Six of the categories are open to public vote, the rest are down to a ‘judging panel’ who will, they say, make their decision ‘with due care, consideration and weight given to a variety of factors’. That’s about as vague as you can get, and to be eligible for nomination an artist has to have been played ‘at least once’ on any Global station in the previous year. Given that the stations are all formatted tightly to a narrow playlist, one you can actually set your watch to (!) that doesn’t give many options. A quick look reveals the usual suspects: Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Rita Ora, Taylor Swift, Beyonce… such variety of choice! But wait, they’ve gone just a little edgy in nominating those Gallagher brothers (Liam is up for Best Male vocal, Noel is nominated for Best Group with High Flying Birds) and they’ve also put Stormzy in for Best Male. That covers all bases, right?
Oh wait, you want rock? By that you must mean indie, and there’s a category for that too. Indie to them means Catfish and the Bottlemen, the Killers, Florence + The Machine and Noel again; that’s sufficient for those rebels amongst you who want a bit of rock, isn’t it? I’m laughing myself silly just reading that list of nominations, they really must think the music scene in the UK begins and ends with the narrow selection Global decide is fit for the masses, as they sit in their cars on the M62 of a Monday morning in another traffic jam, or as they while away their days in their offices knowing that there’ll be a Sam Smith record, followed by a Taylor Swift one at precisely 2:45 and then they have the commercials urging you to check for having had PPI… give me strength!
Have a look for yourself at the list of nominees, and barf! The safest, blandest, most corporate, most fluffy load of pap imaginable. Even the ‘indie’ isn’t really so; without wishing to rake over the coals of what ‘indie’ means yet again (it stopped meaning independently-produced and released music – regardless of style – a long time ago), only Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds out of all their nominees for ‘Best Indie’ is actually on an independent label. And he hasn’t been what you’d call ‘cutting-edge’ since about 1995 (or maybe he is, to Global execs!) It’s interesting that they still consider the Foo Fighters to be ‘indie’ too; a band so big that they sold out huge stadium dates inside an hour, and whose last album featured a guest appearance from one Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other bands completely off Global’s radar, who can sell out tours with regularity, who actually do release their records on genuine independent labels, and who score well in those independent charts, that will never get recognised by these self-important, self-satisfied ‘gatekeepers’ who have taken it upon themselves to decide for the rest of us what is, and is not ‘relevant’. I mean of course ROCK bands, as in those who actually do play music with craft, with thought, with care but who might be the wrong side of 40, or they might be a bit too different from ‘the formula’ to fit in with the background music that Global dispense on a daily basis between their beloved PPI ads. Such bands might sell out venues up and down the UK, but for a regular gig-goer who goes to see rock bands frequently, who has co-workers who just accept this repetitive stream of tedium day after day on the workplace radio, just try telling them about anything else and the answer will always be ‘never heard of them’ – the implied subtext being, they mustn’t be any good then. It fair makes you want to reach for the nearest baseball bat…!
So I am scratching my head as to why we need yet another awards ceremony, of course *we* do not. It’s Global themselves who want to establish themselves, their stations are ubiquitous as it is but clearly they now want you to know who it is that is ‘delivering’ this garbage to your ears each day. The corporate speak in their ‘About’ page is enough to make you reach for the bucket; they claim that half the UK population tune in every week to their ‘media brands’ and now they’re boasting of a ‘world-class’ (THE most meaningless, vapid piece of high-falutin’ corporate-speak you will EVER encounter) phone app that will deliver to your smartphone every station they offer. Sign me up now (!)
No doubt this tedious event will be promoted relentlessly on Heart, Smooth, Capital, Radio X and probably the one local station they still have (XS Manchester, the one-time rock/metal station which was turned into a carbon copy of Radio X; ostensibly ‘owned’ by Communicorp UK now but broadcasts out of Global’s studio facilities, takes their news service, and participates in events such as the charity Make Some Noise – to all intents and purposes it remains a Global station). If you are sick and tired of the same slop served up day after day, there isn’t much you can pick from as an alternative – Bauer’s stations have a similar ‘network’ programming strategy and their ‘local’ stations are all geared up to play the same generic pop tunes. Bauer do operate Planet Rock (the UK’s only ‘national’ station that caters for hard rock fans) but even that is tightly formatted much of the time and is in any case now limited in its coverage since its move to the Digital 2 DAB network, leaving out large swathes of the country.
Global claim they are ‘obsessed with radio, music, and entertainment’ in their blurb – I disagree, they are only interested in advertisers, celeb ‘gossip’, inane chatter and six or seven songs from major-label artists they can repeat over and over until your brain rots away. Maybe one day there’ll be a decent regulator who won’t let these and Bauer walk all over them, until that time comes I suggest CDs for the car or, if you have one of these new-fangled players with a USB port, make use of it!
Meanwhile, for as long as I continue to attend gigs, buy records, I will continue to write about those artists your co-workers ‘have never heard of’. To sign out, here’s a track that is more than apt, from one such band who consistently sell out venues across the UK whenever they play (parental advisory, yadda yadda!) 😀