I have to say that I greeted the news that Susan Boyle's CD has set records for mega-sales on both sides of the Atlantic with a broad smile. Why? Well, people who know me well would fight each other to be the first to tell you that I'm not at all optimistic, generally speaking; but I think that this phenomenon might just send a very important message out to record companies and music moguls alike...
The message would read something like this... You can create boy bands, girl bands and airbrushed teen divas (of both sexes) all you like, but every so often the public is going to come face-to-face with raw talent and find that it's actually superior to your short-term media sensations in almost every respect.
If it is indeed true that the public gets the music industry that it deserves then surely Susan's success – not only as a performer but as a fully saleable entity – has got to represent some kind of turning point? I've said before how I miss the innocence of the 1960s and early 1970s where anybody could get into a band as long as they had the required talent to play their instrument to an acceptable level. It didn't matter what you looked like or even how many years you had on the clock – if you were good, you were in!
When I interviewed Eric Clapton for Guitarist magazine back in 1994 I asked him what it was like to be a musician in rock's formative years and he told me: "Well, anybody that had any idea of how to play any instrument could just about hold their own because there was no competition - there was no one around. There were only a handful of bands, and anyone that could play Sam and Dave was OK. When I started out, Stax and Motown were in the clubs and anyone who could play those songs, any drummer who could play that feel, or anyone who could approach that, was a master."
Doesn't that sound like a healthier music scene to you? The only filters were talent and dedication rather than the whims of music industry tzars with their eyes set on another get rich quick gambit.
Realistically, I don't expect the industry to change overmuch – but if Ms Boyle's success makes them think a bit it will be enough for me.