Andrew Eaton-Lewis: Bedroom musicians are now pop music’s only hope for an interesting future

WHEN I was 19 some friends and I had an idea for a record label. Bedroom would only release music by people who made music in their bedrooms.

It would be a refuge for those lost, eccentric souls who never quite managed to get a band together, or whose music was too weird or unfashionable to be taken seriously by a regular label but was, in its own oddball way, wonderful. We suspected there were many people like this.

We were right. We put one tiny advert in the NME, and received hundreds of demos. We planned to release compilations, splitting the profit between the chosen artists. In the end, though, we couldn’t be bothered and just threw all the tapes in the bin. If you sent us one, we’re very sorry.

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This was, obviously, the early days of the internet. Now the idea is laughably quaint and redundant. All the world’s eccentrics can easily set up their own online shop window. And who isn’t a bedroom musician these days, given the technological developments of the past 20 years? At the time we were inspired by the likes of Bis, Babybird and White Town. I mention these names because they had a bit of mainstream success (White Town, for example, had a number one hit with a song he made in his attic, and was so freaked out by the attention that he quickly retreated back there), but there were plenty more obscure names we liked just as much, like Helen Love.

Bedroom musicians, I believe, are now pop music’s only hope for an interesting future. Here’s why. Long ago, The Beatles discovered rock’n’roll on rare American imports. New Order discovered electronic music the same way. Rock’n’roll, punk and techno all filtered into British culture gradually. Now, though, every musical sound in the world is online more or less immediately.

The result, often, has been what Simon Reynolds dubbed Retromania, an endless reheating of pop’s past. But there has also been head-spinning eclecticism as musicians draw on every kind of music – new, old, famous and obscure – more or less simultaneously. The result, mostly, is fun bootlegs and daft novelty YouTube clips, but it’s also fertile territory for those imaginative and individual enough to combine instantly available influences in a way nobody else would think to do – a kind of madness that, very possibly, confines you to the safety of your bedroom.

Lately I’ve been pondering a second attempt at launching Bedroom. Not as a record label – what a waste of money that would be – but as a blog. If you’d like to help, get in touch.

Twitter: @Aeatonlewis