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The new music revolution

Although the vast majority of music served up on mainstream TV and radio may seem somewhat neutered by pedestrian playlists and homogenised talent shows, believe it or not there are probably more ways for talented, aspiring musicians and real artists to connect with an audience today than ever before.

Next weekend's Wickerman Festival is a long-standing advocate of new music and champions high-quality, underground acts from all over the country
Next weekend's Wickerman Festival is a long-standing advocate of new music and champions high-quality, underground acts from all over the country

Traditional routes via the press and terrestrial broadcasters are still there of course, but the internet has opened up other channels such as blogs, podcasts, webzines, streaming services and myriad global online radio outlets. However, as access becomes easier, so too does the sheer glut of content. How does one trawl through the innumerable sites to find the good stuff?

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As a man dedicated to turning myself and others onto new sounds, I'm continually sifting through the morass trying to pinpoint the interesting, inspiring and off-kilter. I still believe radio, and the BBC in particular, has an almost flawless reputation for seeking out the new. From John Peel to BBC Introducing, very little has escaped the eyes and ears of the committed tastemakers for 50 years. You may have to dig a little deeper to find what you want via 6Music, 1Xtra and local stations, but it is all there.

The blogosphere has replaced some of the inky music press as well, but it seems many publications are still fighting alongside an army of digital equivalents. Although big money has dropped out of grass-roots music development, as major labels and management companies take fewer risks; it's certainly not for lack of musicians' creativity.

Perhaps controversially, I'd say there are more groups and solo artists of a higher calibre today than in any halcyon era of pop history. You just have to make the effort and seek them out. And contrary to occasional naysayers, the live music scene is flourishing as well. From entry-level, spit'n'sawdust pubs and clubs through to arenas and enormo-domes, people are gigging in their droves, searching for that individual, one-off experience.

In the last 15 years however, I have noticed one massive shift, pre and post digital revolution. The summer festival has become omnipotent. There's a "festival season" now and taking part is a "lifestyle choice" . What once was the domain of bikers, mods, Goths and hippies is now a mainstream activity for all the family. Judging by the cross-platform media coverage of Glastonbury, the forthcoming Reading and Leeds weekenders, as well as our very own T in the Park and countless other smaller, boutique events such as Brew at the Bog and Belladrum, it has never been more fashionable, and dare I say commonplace, to enjoy loud music in a muddy field. As a result, it becomes more and more advantageous for smaller groups to secure potential bookings.

The new band tent at a festival is no longer simply a token gesture, but has actually taken on a far greater connoisseur's role. If T in the Park started the trend many years ago with its T Break initiative, then others have followed suit. Every festival now has one, usually curated by someone on the booking team with their ear to the ground, or an outside aficionado.

Next weekend's Wickerman is a long-standing advocate of new music and, as well as our Sunday Herald competition winners, it champions high-quality, underground acts from all over the country. Their consistently excellent Solus Tent line-up boasts SAY Award nominees Hector Bizerk and winners Young Fathers, left, as headliners. These groups may not be household names as yet, but certainly prove hip-hop and electronica in Scotland is as cutting-edge and visionary as anywhere else in the world.

The supporting cast over the weekend features The Amazing Snakeheads, Neon Waltz, and electro-soul, R'n'B diva LAW among others. The GoNorth Festival Tour Tent also houses some rather fine acts including indie-folk troubadours Broken Records and muscular post-punks United Fruit. Before enjoying big-hitters such as Dizzee Rascal, Del Amitri, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas or The Zombies, some of these are surely worth investigating.

Today if an audience feels less enthused by the more established names on a bill, they can confidently drift away and discover something exciting elsewhere. This can also be of genuine help and value to a struggling act appealing for a larger audience, with little or no industry help. At a festival, they can potentially mainline their music into thousands of keen ears; becoming a sure-fire way of spreading the message.

Music fans of all ages, especially those who want to make a discovery and freshen their sonic palette, will no doubt spend most of their weekend flitting between these stages. Crucially they have become one of the best places to find new music and play an increasingly important function. So successful in fact, that the Solus Tent organisers start a new August event called Electric Fields in Dumfriesshire, with a bill entirely made up of new Scottish acts. It's selling well too.

It's on these smaller stages where you'll find invention and innovation, passion and sincerity. Nostalgia is all fine and well, but surely we all want to catch a glimpse of someone with a future in front of them. So if you are heading to a festival this summer, take a look around because they might just be in front of you.

Wickerman is at East Kirkcarswell, near Dundrennan on July 25 and 26

Vic Galloway presents on BBC Radio Scotland at 8.05-10pm Mondays. www.twitter.com/vicgalloway

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