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Poor Harmony in Italy’s Music Scene

After having written about two other Italian indie bands which sing in English, Amycanbe and the The Mirrors, I’ve been contacted by another one, Ofeliadorme.

Italian Music
Italian Music

Ofeliadorme wrote to see if I might like to write something about them, saying that they would be perfect for this blog.  Interesting this.  It almost looks as though word is getting around that some guy is happy to help give Italian bands a little more exposure.  Well this is true, and from what I read in an LA Times article, it appears as though 50+ year old Italian record execs are generally too old to appreciate the talent, and earning potential, lying in their own backyard.

Hence Italian indie bands like Ofeliadorme contacting the likes of me.

Before writing another post on Ofeliadorme, here is something about the state of the music industry in Italy.

Italian Bands Achieve Success Abroad

There was an interesting article on the Times website back in July 2008 entitled, ‘Italy’s new rock bands‘.

Italian Indie Band Ofeliadorme
Italian Indie Band Ofeliadorme

The Times article was partially about about Turin-based Italian band Disco Drive who managed to grab the attention of legendary British music publication NME.  For Disco Drive’s second album, NME gave the band an 8/10 rating.

What this seems to demonstrate is that music buyers don’t really mind where bands are from as long as they like their music.  This means that an Italian band with a good enough sound can achieve success beyond the Living Museum’s boundaries, especially if they sing in English.

Disco Drive, like Ofeliadorme, and the other two bands mentioned in this post, do sing in English.  Yet according to Disco Drive’s comments in the Times article, the Italian music industry seems to believe that only Italian bands singing in Italian will ‘make it’.

The Italian music industry is missing the obvious.  Even music in Italy suffers from ‘Living Museum syndrome’ –  Italy’s general reluctance to embrace things which are new or innovative, iPhones excepted, of course.

Bands Which Sing in English Popular in Italy

As Disco Drive astutely points out, many bands from outside of Italy, and who sing in English, have been very popular in Italy.  Actually, Disco Drive was not so much being astute, as merely pointing out the blatantly obvious.

Want some examples? How about: the Beatles, U2, Madonna, Santana, the Spice Girls, Black Eyed Peas, Natalie Imbruglia, and I could go on and on.

However, what is obvious to many, does not seem to be at all obvious to Italian record execs.   The reason for this, er, oversight, can’t be that these execs don’t know English well enough themselves to help new acts attain success at international level.  No, not at all.  The record industry bigs have had a presence in Italy for years.  And the iconic Beatles are still popular here today, as are bands like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and many other music industry veterans, so the Italian record industry must be aware that there is a big market for music sung in English in Italy.  There is more evidence of the obvious too.

Take a quick look at the current MTV Top 20 Hit List for Italy, and one may well notice that around half the bands listed are not Italian and sing in English.

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

This begs the question:  Why can’t Italian bands be allowed to sing in English in their home market? Or at least they could sing in Italian here in Italy, and produce tracks in English for the music hungry iTunes fuelled UK and US markets.

Economic Sense

Promoting Italian bands which sing in English would make probably make economic sense too, now more than ever.

Distribution costs nowadays are next to nothing what with the advent of downloadable music and services like Apple’s iTunes Store.  What was once spent on making CDs and then taking them to shops around Italy and the world, could now be spent on publicity.  After all, most of us have the capacity to create our own CDs, if we want to that is.

Waking Up the Italian Music Industry

For the moment though, the best tactic an Italian band can adopt appears to be to go outside of Italy, become well known, and then return to the Living Museum, which is what, by all accounts, Disco Drive did. It’s very easy to say this, but not at all easy to do, it has to be said.  And such a strategy should not really be necessary either.

As Disco Drive and Italian rock band, Linea 77, know only too well, the only way to bring about change in Italy is to do it from the outside in.

Eventually, the success of Italian bands outside of Italy might wake Italy’s dozing music industry up.  In about 20 years or so, knowing Italy.  I’d love to be proved wrong though.

Any Passing Non-Italian Record Execs and A&R People?

While the Italian record industry is waking up, record labels from outside of Italy looking for fresh meat should perhaps consider setting up a group of scouts in Italy, or at least sending people here from time to time.

It is possible that the  next Beatles will be discovered.  Well, you never know.

Now, go listen to some Italian music.  Three very different Italian bands, each of which is good at what it does:

Ofeliadorme on MySpace – Dark, melancholy, but interesting stuff – worth a listen.

Disco Drive on MySpace – Listen to the track ‘The Giant’ – pretty good.

Linea 77 on MySpace – Turn your speakers down before listening!  If you speak Italian, listen to the track ‘La Nuova Musica Italiana’ –  interesting comment on Italy’s stodgy music scene!


Los Angeles Times, October 14 2009: Italy and rock ‘n’ roll are not mutually exclusive

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