Talent and time
Despite the fondness for overnight success stories, developing new acts takes time, as Girl Band have shown
It’s always good to get a reminder that good things come to those who wait. In the world of talent development, there’s often an undue focus on the acts who take off seemingly overnight. For instance, look at Hozier. A year ago, the solo batch of songs from the tall dude from Wicklow were little known beyond a small circle of friends and family who may have encountered him at various low-key gigs or barbeques.
Enter modern blues anthem “Take Me to Church”, that fantastic video by Brendan Canty, the A&R equivalent of the Grand National chase and, voila, four million YouTube views on, Hozier is pumping on your stereo and everywhere else you look. A year is not really a long time in talent development terms – and you can be sure that Hozier spent much time before the breakthrough on his craft – but it’s quite a profile growth from less than a year in the public eye.
Of course, the labels who paid whopper cash for a chunk of Hozier’s magic naturally want their money’s worth so they’re pimping him in various territories like an ice-cream salesman pushing 99s in a heatwave. It helps, of course, that “Take Me to Church” is a solid gold classic (it remains to be seen at this stage if other similarly embued classics will emerge from the canon or if this will be his “Celebrate”), but Hozier is an act who has truly got off to the proverbial flyer.
Other acts take their own sweet time after first stepping into the arena. Every week, we highlight a couple of new acts we like here and sing their praises. Every week, another three acts for you to say hello to, take a look at and see if they fancy what you see. The next week, you get another batch of new acts. The same the week after. You leave it to market forces to decide the acts to get a bump in their profile, the acts who’ll have A&R scouts swooning and the acts who’re just not ready for the close-up. The market always decides these things.
Often it’s simply a case that those acts are just not ready yet and need time to get their shit together. For example, it’s three years since Girl Band first appeared on the OTR radar. They were a promising bunch of kids, a band who were pushing “a fantastic blast of punky fury and righteous energy” at that time. I remember a gig of theirs in late 2011 at Dublin’s Bernard Shaw which was a fantastic racket, full of spikey edges and weird pop angles. They were another band to add to the long list, another band to keep an eye on.
Fast-forward three years and Girl Band have truly come on in leaps and bounds, especially in the last few months. They’ve been gathering loads of media attention home and abroad, while they were one of the big highlights for us at Eurosonic back in January (they were also much admired at the Great Escape in Brighton last month by all accounts). It would appear that they’re now ready for whatever comes next because they’ve worked out what works and what doesn’t for them.
It’s not a case of comparing two acts here, but rather pointing out that talent development can take many different shapes. There’s not an one-size-fits-all answer to this – if there was, every A&R department out there would be lashing out the “Take Me to Church” hits, rather than wondering if the latest next big thing they’ve spent a small fortune on will actually come good. Thank goodness things are not that predictable. Memo to all new acts, eager whipper-snappers and potential stadium fillers: take your time.