No, this is not the latest subset of an increasingly fragmented genre but rather the glimmerings of behaviour previously more common in the more “commercial” pop field. In said field it’s usual for band or singer X to be hailed as the next big thing: ground-breaking, challenging, cutting edge, authentic, real, a breath of fresh air and numerous other clichés, and for writers and commentators to fall over themselves to proclaim X to be “the best I’ve heard for n years/since whatever”. Until fairly recently folk seemed pretty immune to such nonsense but in certain areas it seems to be creeping in. No naming names here, no need, its all pretty obvious.
None (or very little) of the ridiculous hype is the fault of any of the artists of course but it does seem that its perpetrators should rein themselves in a bit and take a deep breath before penning their next piece of deathless prose. I’m sure that many of them would defend their words along the lines of “But X really is that good” but are they, are they really? In the long term it doesn’t do the artists any good and surely writers are supposed to provide perspective and context, not act as an hysterical arm of the PR machine? Or is that naïve?
It’s a commonplace that there are too many festivals in the calendar, which leads to audiences being spread too thinly (apart from perhaps the mega-festivals) and every year a few going to the wall. Bad for the organisers but probably not so bad for the scene generally as whatever audience they had should be redistributed elsewhere. Except every year there are new festivals springing up so the problem perpetuates itself. And as with gigs there isn’t an inexhaustible supply of potential festival-goers out there so clearly not all festivals can be successful.
You might think this competition would lead to better festivals and it does, sort of, but only in the peripheral things. “We have the best toilets”, “we have the best food”, “park your car by your tent”, “we have the most stuff for kids to do” and so forth are just some of the “selling points” some festivals use. What they don’t say is “we have the best bill” because competition, rather than leading to an attempt to differentiate by music instead seems to lead to booking the same old same old because it’s safer. This of course assumes that people spending £100+ a ticket want to know what they’re getting and don’t want much experimentation.
I don’t think that’s entirely true, as whenever I’ve seen a “new” or different style” band play that people aren’t familar with, they frequently respond better than to an established act. The same old same old approach also perpetuates the problem, because there’s no point in going to more than one festival because half the acts are on at all of them. So perhaps a bit more boldness might pay dividends. It’s a risk, but a calculated one. We can but hope