Are we on the cusp of a new dawn for the music business? “Definitely!” say the guys behind “The Source”. And what is “The Source” exactly? A one-line description would be “a televised competition for unsigned musicians.”

I can sense a massive groan from you right now! “Doesn’t that make it the same as Fame Factor, PopAcademy, X-Idol and the rest?” you ask. Well… not at all actually, listen up…!

Kobestarr chats with a Ben Martinand Lucy Whitehead about the concept of “The Source” which they run together with Ian May, why it isn’t the X-factor and how you, yes YOU, can get involved.

I feel that I should at this point declare my hand with my feelings about the X-Factor and this should help explain my interest in “The Source”. The X-Factor….is…RIDICULOUS!

The early audition stages hold the unique ability of making me laugh my ass off, followed instantly by deep infinite shame. Sometimes I feel like I should go to confession and repent my sins. I know the priest would be sympathetic to my plight. This audition phase, however, is short and provides fairly decent pre night-out entertainment for the viewers at the expense of dream destruction and embarrassment for the auditioned. “But my Mum says I’m a good singer!” they sob as Cowell and his androids sit there mocking behind their bulletproof table.

This is quickly replaced by Boot Camp (ridicule), and the bit where they go to the judges “houses” – for more ridicule. What follows is the live show. A seemingly endless crescendo pantomime of scorn, tutting, finger pointing and, lets be honest, abuse aimed at people who actually, genuinely, can sing. This culminates in the drone with the least personality being gifted a Number One single before being fed into a rocket and sent to a black hole at the edge of the Milky Way. No one will ever hear from them again.

The live show is where any remaining faith I have I the X-factor ideal is really lost. It is clear that Cowell does not give a toss about the lambs he has lined up for the slaughter. He will make more money per week from the public telephone voting than he will if the single makes it to number one. The Christmas number one is just the cherry on the icing and a slap in the face to people who care about the music industry.

“Rock musicians rarely do well in X-Factor”, explains Ben. I heartily agree, conjuring up an image of Axl Rose singing Abba’s “Dancing Queen”. He wouldn’t have made it past Boot Camp. This is another of my X factor bug bears. If the performer doesn’t conform to the ideal set out but Simon Cowell and his sycophants then they may as well cease existing.   

My final X-Factor concern is the amount of people that are deluded enough to believe it is the only way that they can be successful in the music. Do they forget that music has existed way before Will Young? How did The Beatles, Snoop Dogg, Kasabian, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Oasis, Gorillaz, The Prodigy, Jay-Z, Elbow and everyone else make it without Simon Cowell’s approval? It is true, however, that they all would have needed someone to champion them and an initial groundswell of public support.

 

This is where “The Source” could well be the missing link. “It IS an unsigned music competition,” explains Lucy, “but it is much more ethical in its approach. Musicians are given the unique opportunity to make some money during the competition.” Can you imagine if X-factor shared the profits from each live show with the finalists?? Ha! 

The top 120 artists selected by the public go onto the TV show and their videos are shown daily on Channel M, Sky 201 and Info TV. “From here the public vote by phone or text with 50% of profits going directly to the artists,” says Ben.  As well as this all artists can sell their MP3’s on partner website “We7”, which is run by former “Genesis” singer Peter Gabriel. “The artists also get 50% percent of the revenue of the mp3 revenue. So they could be getting over 20p per track compared with 1-2p that they would get on iTunes,” he tells Kobestarr.

The artist can also sell their merchandise such as T-shirts during the competition “we will be teaming up with one of our partners and the artists so we can buy the t-shirts in bulk. We’ll be able to negotiate the best possible price for them,” says Ben. Again the artists will receive 50% of the profit from the sale of merchandise. 

The winners of the daily shows will go through to Jools Holland style live weekly shows that will be broadcast from Factory 251 in Manchester, which is owned by New Order bassist Peter Hook. The live shows will also feature breakthrough artists.

The source is all about giving the unsigned artists as fair a deal as possible and focused exposure in the media. “Myspace was great for finding new music when it first started,” Ben tells me, explaining the problem with finding music on the web “it’s now that big that it’s just difficult to find anything.”

The winner of the source will get £10,000 (the same amount that Mercury Prize Winners receive) and a co-operative record deal. Everything seems to be fair and square with a focus on the artists during the process “[There’s] No judging panel, no poorly hidden agenda just a focussed multimedia channel enabling unsigned artists to see how good the public think they are”, says Ben. Ben and Lucy really seem to care about the artists involved, it comes as no surprise that many of the people working on The Source have a history in music. “I have a musical background,” explains Ben, “most of the people working here have been in bands in the past.” I’m sure their experience is the reason behind the empathy and desire to preserve the artists creativity.

So how can you get involved? If you have a band or know people that are then head over to “The Source” website (www.bethesource.tv) right away, get your videos uploaded and create your profile. The official launch is Thursday 22nd July but you can send video’s in now. The closing date is the end of August with the TV show starting on 13th September. The revolution will be televised! GET A MOVE ON!!!

K*