There is a threat on one of London’s most vibrant and historic streets, a threat that will eradicate decades of music history from our city and further remove future generations from an essential link to our music past.

Denmark Street, also know as Tin Pan Alley since the late 1950s, has been a mecca for musicians ever since rock’n’roll moved to London. But now, due to development plans surrounding the Cross Rail Interchange and the increase in commercial interest in the local area, there is a rise in property values and these “skyrocketing rents are making it unaffordable for small local businesses [to stay] and are dissolving the community and its legendary musical culture.” [RoundBoyPictures “The Demise of Denmark Street”]

What will take the place of the music history that has been around for last 70 years? More corporate chains such as Starbucks and Pret A Manger (as if there aren’t enough already, clogging up London’s streets), more over priced housing for the elite to be at the heart of the city with excellent transport links, that’s what. However, by adding homogenous chain stores and removing historic individuality, what will people travel into town to see? Commercial property? Why will tourists want to visit the heart of London if they destroy iconic sites like Denmark Street, a gem in British popular music culture?

For a musician, this street was a haven; you could do everything as Alex Jackson, from an independent film company called Round Boy Pictures who are making a documentary on “The Demise of Denmark Street” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Demise-Of-Denmark-Street/658932924190243) said. “You could join a band, buy instruments, get them repaired, record, play live” and furthermore you could discuss new and old music face to face all day long with other like-minded people – the opportunities for young, aspiring and professional “museos” were endless. This street heard the early recordings of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, this street was the first place that Elton John worked, it was where the Sex Pistols lived; it’s drenched in British pop culture; yet all of that is on the verge of being demolished.

Having already shut down the Astoria and 12 Bar Blues, two venues which have hosted some of the best live showcases in London from Adele, to Jeff Buckley, to the Libertines to many more, developers want to renovate the rest of the street.

Denmark Street is about real life musicians and music lovers. It’s something tangible, away from social media threads, an important piece of London’s history. How many music streets solely dedicated to music are there in London? How many memories will be swept away under the concrete? What message is this sending out to young aspiring musicians, music journalists, up-and-coming managers and songwriters? Where else can you go and play 15 different guitars or try out 10 different pianos, just to make sure you’ve found the one to suit you best? Will we be forced to buy our instruments on the Internet, putting them at risk of being damaged in transit or having to spend time and money sending them back because they not the right fit for us, purely because we haven’t played them first? Choosing an instrument is a very personal affair, and one that shouldn’t be compromised to make way for something that will not improve or remember the culture of the city we live in.

Jobs will be put at risk in an already struggling employment crisis and for many musicians working in music shop is a way to work flexible hours in order to make a living whilst following their musical dream.

As one fan said on social media, “I’m sure the Pret A Manger they replace [12 Bar Blues] with will bring an equal amount fo character, heritage and sense of community.”

How many of you have been to Denmark Street? What are you views on it? Tweet @songacademyUK and let us know what you think about its current demise. And if you haven’t been then make sure you go along before it’s gone, take some photos (don’t forget to tweet/instagram them to us) and perhaps jot down a few ideas for a protest song while you’re there entitled “Denmark Street”: send your songs to contact@songacademy.co.uk for a chance to get featured on our website.

 

The first bonafide big hit of 2015 is without a doubt ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. It’s currently on its 8th week at Number 1 in the UK charts, it’s been Number 1 all over the world and inspired many viral videos. It might come as a surprise to some that such a retro song has been so successful, but clearly some things just never go out of style.

‘Uptown Funk’ is a midtempo song in 4/4 with heavy influences of funk, soul and disco. It’s in D minor with an interesting lengthy structure of Intro/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Breakdown/Chorus/Hook/Outro. Although there is a sung chorus, the real chorus of the song is the instrumental disco-like horn hook. The song is absolutely laden with hooks, from the funk bassline and guitar riff, to the bass vocal ‘do do’ hook. The verses are quite bare, with just the vocals over a beat, with the instrumentation gradually building up until the climax of the hook, adding guitar, bass, brass section, synth and backing vocals. The call-and-response backing vocals are also quite a funk/soul influence. You can really hear the influence of 70s and 80s artists such as Prince, James Brown, and Sugarhill Gang. Lyrically the song is about feeling confident and partying in the city.

Mark Ronson is known for his retro productions, such as his work with Amy Winehouse, so his arrangement and production is really what brings this song to life. Bruno Mars also pulls it off very well, his voice and attitude suiting this retro style. It’s very hard to resist the energy of this song, and I think people have been attracted to its nostalgic style in a music scene that’s increasingly experimental and electronic – it really stands out when not many big artists are making this sort of sound at the moment. And I say long may it continue!

 

Favourite lyric – ‘Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent, gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty’

 

Taylor Swift has been hitting the headlines recently for pulling her entire catalogue from Spotify. The streaming debate was re-ignited after her acceptance speech at last night’s AMAs where she said:

“To the fans who went out and bought over a million copies of my last three albums … what you did by going out and investing in music and albums, you’re saying that you believe what I believe – that music is valuable and should be consumed in albums, and albums should be consumed as art, and appreciated.”

Swift is not the first artist to withdraw music from streaming services. Ever wondered why you can’t find The Beatles on Spotify? Or AC/DC, or the Black Keys? Everyone from Thom York to Taylor Swift have called for a boycott of the service over unfair payment practices.

The cynics will say it is just a savvy way to drive up album sales and for songwriters to pocket more cash. But Taylor Swift has three hit albums behind her – at that stratospheric level of success, what she gets paid for her songs doesn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of her megabucks income.  The stand she is taking is for all songwriters.

Aloe Blacc, co-wrote one of the biggest hits of 2013 (Wake Me Up, with Avicii), but admits to earning no more than $4000 dollars from the streaming service. Lady Gaga notoriously only earned $167 dollars for one million plays of Poker Face.

Aloe Blacc

There is no doubt that music streaming services are considered to be the future – with Apple’s Beats and Google’s YouTube also rolling out subscription services. They are an essential part of people discovering and accessing new music. Music is actually being enjoyed by more people, more widely than ever before. So the work of songwriters clearly does have value, if it is in such high demand.

But songwriters aren’t the ones being compensated for their work. Streaming company executives have built their fortunes on the back of the labour and musical output of songwriters, it is only fair that they are paid their due.

Taylor Swift is not against streaming as a service. She is simply one songwriter standing up to the giants and saying: “You don’t pay songwriters enough”.