Christmas Number 1: Cultural Force or Forgotten Relic?

Since 1971, when Slade battled Wizzard for the coveted spot at the top of the charts, Christmas number one has been seen as an achievement of huge cultural significance in the UK. However, with the influence of pop radio dwindling, number one spot being monopolised by Simon Cowell’s X-Factor and guerilla campaigns aiming to get unlikely candidates to clinch it, is the Christmas chart battle still relevant?

When compared to previous festive chart battles such as Slade vs. Wizzard, The Darkness vs. Gary Jules or even the legendary Rage Against the Machine vs. That Guy from the X-Factor, 2017’s race can’t help but feel a little bit underwhelming. Speculation seems hard to come by and in amongst the stress and excitement of the season, the old chart battle struggles to find a place even in the back of one’s mind. One reason for this could be our potential candidates. A google search indicates that this year's race will most likely be between Ed Sheeran and Beyonce or...Ed Sheeran and Eminem. There is a potential wildcard in the form of a campaign to get Last Christmas by Wham! to number one for (unbelievably) the first time, but it’s hard to get excited when it’s overwhelming likely the crown will go to the man who has been omnipresent in Pop culture for the rest of the year anyway.

Another possible reason for the muted (or nonexistent) excitement for Christmas number 1 in modern times could be the effect that the X-Factor had on the charts. From 2002 onwards, Simon Cowell strategically planned his yearly karaoke competition to culminate in the release of a winner’s single which would, inevitably, due to the popularity of the show win the Christmas number one. This sense of inevitability took the excitement from the chart battle for many, with Dan of aforementioned band The Darkness stating “when it stops being a question of ‘who’s going to be number one?’ and starts being ‘which X Factor competitor is going to be number one?’ all the fun’s gone out of it. In a way, it’s changed British culture for the worse, because the Christmas number one was a cultural phenomenon.”

When considering the reasons for the change in attitude towards the charts, it must also be considered that the way people listen to music and the cultural monoliths that shaped the charts have changed considerably. Traditionally, people got their music from the radio and TV shows like Top of the Pops. This meant that popular culture was fairly homogenised, with people old and young often consuming the same music. However, in 2017, music has never been more accessible with the internet and streaming, which leads to people discovering different types of music and relying less on the traditional mainstream outlets. Radio 1 does still have an effect on the charts, as can be seen by Sheeran’s dominance, but it’s audience is smaller than ever and mostly consists of those under 30. For a Christmas hit on the scale once seen, a single has to reach people across various age groups.

The lessened interest in the charts is a self-fulfilling prophecy, with press and media outlets being more hesitant to cover the chart battle and people therefore thinking about it less. Online streaming means that many tracks from the classic Christmas canon enter the charts once again, which shows that appetite for quality festive singles isn’t going anywhere. But can artists capitalise on this and start releasing singles which reinvigorate the race for the once-coveted number one spot? Maybe next year.

Why Distance Learning is a Powerful Tool for Musicians

Are you a musician who feels like your playing or general musicianship has stagnated? Feel like you could benefit from a new approach? Got some bad habits that need fixing?

AMS Online could provide you with the skills and resources to massively enhance your musicianship, and with the flexibility of distance learning, you can make studying work around your life.

If you are an experienced musician, you may be suitable for our unique Fast Track BA course. This allows you to use your prior learning to bypass the first two years of a degree and begin at BA Hons (Level 6.) Meaning you can enhance your musicianship and earn a highly-regarded qualification without a four year commitment and at a third of the cost.

With the fast-track course, you have the option to complete your BA full-time over 1 year or part-time over 18 months, the latter would be the optimal choice for actively working musicians, producers or teachers. This grants you access to online lessons from world-class tutors, online mentoring and also allows you to use the facilities at your local AMS centre if you wish.

There has never been a better time to pursue distance learning, with The Guardian reporting that an increasing number of professionals are updating their skills by studying remotely. Furthermore, AMS Online is set up to allow the student to choose their own path and study topics which are directly relevant to their interests and career development. So whether you’re a performer, songwriter, producer, composer or an event manager, you can become more effective and more qualified studying at AMS Online!

For more information about the course and what is involved, head to this link -


The Importance of Streaming in 2017 and Beyond

It’s that time of year again. The time when a vast array of music blogs fight for your attention with their end of year lists, all vying to be the definitive voice on which music was the most influential.

If you use social media with any frequency, you may have noticed your social circle sharing their own listening habits and opinions. This week, Spotify launched their “2017 Wrapped” project, providing a variety of statistics on every user’s listening throughout the year including total listening time, top artists and top genres.

The increasing importance of streaming services within the music industry has been evident for some time now, Eamonn Ford of the Guardian claiming that “in 2017, if you’re not on them, you might as well not exist.” Despite some pushback from high profile artists such as Thom Yorke and Neil Young, it is evident that streaming sites are here to stay and getting your music on these platforms is an essential endeavour for any artist who hopes to compete.

However, the “total time listened” feature of 2017 wrapped shows just how widely used Spotify, in particular, is for music consumers. My own personal time amounted to 36,349 minutes, or around 25 days! Even at that, I’ve seen numerous friends with higher numbers and with Spotify alone having over 140 million active users,the amount of music being consumed is massive. This shows the vast potential for music to be heard on Spotify, which is particularly vital for small and unknown artists, for whom getting people to bother checking out a track can seem like a mammoth task.

The change in listening methods brought on by streaming has also seen a move away from albums and towards playlists which means single tracks are more important than ever. Being featured on influential playlists can give previously unknown artists worldwide exposure almost overnight. A recent example is former AMS apprentice Lewis Capaldi, who’s first single, “Bruises” was released in March and has now racked up over 30 Million streams on Spotify alone after generating a huge online buzz, taking him around the world playing shows.

For any musicians unsure about getting their tracks on streaming services, whether due to lack of confidence, being unsure about the process or being worried about the expense, I would highly recommend looking into it. I have listed some of the most widely-used distributors below, which offer a variety of packages and often let the artist keep 100% of royalties earned. Digital distribution is fairly inexpensive and essential to a musician’s career in the modern music landscape!

EmuBands -
TuneCore -
CD Baby -
Ditto Music -