In 2021, the UK music industry was up 26% from 2020, but despite this increase, it's still down by 31% from its pre-pandemic peak in 2019. Before the pandemic, live music was said to be the second biggest employer within the industry: Around 34,000 people were employed in the UK's live music sector within that same year. For many musicians, sharing their art on stage is their livelihood. To reinstate the wins the events arena embarked pre-COVID-19, the UK government launched a £750 million Live Events Reinsurance Scheme, protecting said events in case of a cancellation. However, a lot of live music cannot work without the partnerships of accessible audio.
Within the realm of music consumption and the different faces it wears, It was reported that streaming alone equated to over four-fifths (83%) of UK music consumption. With the assistance of curated playlists and radioplays, all affix the modern musician's likelihood of success. Some in the industry argue that the rise of products such as Amazon's smart speaker Alexa will encourage people to try new radio stations rather than kill the radio star.
Behind the scenes, music shapers adoration for what the UK (and beyond) has to offer and silences false facades as they stand sentinel, moulding soundscapes of tomorrow. We sat down with five music creatives we know should be on your radar and the makings of their contributions to the industry so far.
Jessica Wilde: Live Show Host and Singer
Jessica Wilde was summoned by music from age six in Reception, where she sang "In the Jungle" with R&B flare. "[That] was when I discovered I could sing too... Well, I thought I could! *laughs* I always knew music and performance were my calling." With a mother, a Jazz singer dedicated to the scene and an older brother who is a Jungle/D'n'B MC, music and art would always have a say in Wilde's life.
"Fast forward to now, and I've toured, collaborated with many amazing artists, written and released multiple projects and set up PxSSY PWRrrr!" she told us.
PxSSY PWR: What is it? What is its purpose, and how did it all begin?
PxSSY PWR started from a comedic alter ego character I do on socials called 'Ya gurl Charlene', who wears a pink wig, smokes a biro and is all about the PxSSY power. I initially created a PxSSY PWR Spotify playlist with all my fave female artists and did reaction videos as Charlene. This started picking up a buzz, so I started a PxSSY PWR IGLive series during Lockdown, where Charlene would interview artists from the playlist. This led to a clothing line collaboration with FAME Magazine and a residency at Hootananny Brixton. I hold regular live events showcasing female talent on the rise, which Charlene hosts, ha! I wanted to shine a light on female artists as there is such a disparity between the support women get from the industry compared to men. I also wanted to pull the power back into our hands by creating an ecosystem where we can showcase our talent, connect with other creatives and tap into each other's audiences.
On 22nd February, WE ARE SOUL had the honour of witnessing PXSSY PWR live on stage, in all its glory, sass and spunk! Her Hootnanny residency framed a dingy atmosphere, shadows illuminated by fluorescent tones of greens, pinks and blues. PxSSY PWR's promised an evening of intimate, colourful fun that carried throughout the night.
Charlene's vibrant persona kept the Feminine energy roaring alive. Her exhilarating edge perfectly matched the outstanding performances showcased on the night. Lionhaire, VALNTNA and Morgan Munroe all took centre stage, provoking shivers down spines, adoration and further proof of just how incredible talent resides on this small island.
You're also a singer. How does that perspective allow you to navigate the music world YOUR way?
It's very easy to get lost in this industry, but one thing I will say from my own experiences is staying authentic to yourself and the music, messages and brand you want to put out are so important. You have to do what lights you up and not compromise who you are by following what you think the industry wants. It can be a long game, but it's sooo worth it!
I noticed on your Instagram you're a spiritual girlie (like me). How does your relationship with the Divine Feminine (or Masculine) influence your decisions as a business owner?
Well, my last album was inspired by my journey to going sober, which also entailed a spiritual journey as I connected deeper with myself over that time. Looking after my health, mind, body, and soul has helped me grow in confidence, trust and love myself more, dive deeper into my creativity and inspire my music. For me, PxSSY PWR is also about us empowering ourselves, whether you are a man or woman and connecting to the medicine of music and raw expression. Practising things like meditation, walking in nature, and feeling healthier grealty helped my productivity and success.
Where will PxSSY PWR be in five years?
I haven't thought that far ahead, but I know I would like to do bigger and bigger shows showcasing more amazing talent, keep growing the brand online... expand the PxSSY PWR Clothing line, maybe get into a PxSSY PWR Podcast, tours, writing camps, more collaborations... There's so much bubbling! Also, to keep bringing people laughs, good vibes and goood music!
Tony Supreme: Radio Presenter/Producer and Founder of Soul Surge
Tony Supreme: an award-winning radio presenter/producer with exquisite taste when it comes to all things Soul, Jazz and R&B. Curating radio experiences reflecting Black Music of today and the past, Tony's Soul Surge show on No Signal is a time capsule of honeycomb tunes you can submerge into every Saturday between 10am - 1 pm. "I've always loved Music and grew up surrounded by it. I always listened to Soul, Funk and Afrobeat through the speakers at home when my dad would play his records on Saturday mornings or ride around in my uncle's red sports Toyota listening to Hip Hop and RnB in the 90s/early 2000s"; he told us. "Seeing Trevor Nelson present The Lick on MTV changed everything for me and immersed me into the world of RnB."
A needed antidote, enhancing the Black Music experience within the UK, the Soul Surge radio show contributes to the billions of hours of radio content consumed in the UK. In 2021, RAJAR found that 89% of the population (49.5 million adults) listened to live radio for 20.3 hours a week. The ongoing success of Soul Surge needs to be celebrated as they consistently blow a bullhorn to genres that don't receive the same airtime compared to others. Currently, in the top 10 UK Official Charts, Miguel's 'Sure Thing' sits at no.5 due to its latest global success on TikTok. Despite releasing in 2010, this is his first UK top 10 hit. In contrast, latest releases, such as SZA's 'Snooze' sits at no.40. No UK R&B artists are seen in sight, even though that Phabo and Shaé Universe drop happened and Yazmin Lacey's 'Voice Notes'; highlighting further the importance of Black UK radio. A space that always makes sure music by us, for us, is always played.
How did Soul Surge begin? Why did this particular platform need to exist in the world?
During quite a difficult time in my early 20s, I found healing and peace, specifically through Erykah Badu's Baduizm album. Although I had previously listened to Neo-Soul, something about what I was going through at that time shifted how I listened to and connected with music. Coming out of quite a dark time, Soul Surge was born from a selfish need for more spaces where I could connect with like-minded individuals who listened to the music I love for the well-being aspect and the sonics.
As a Presenter and Radio Producer, what's that one thing you always look for in a song? What's that one element that guarantees you'll play it on your next radio show?
Listening to music is a very intimate and special experience for me. I can hear an objectively good song that would fit on my show, but a guaranteed play on my next show is if the artist/instrumentalist/producer's feelings connect with my emotions and make me feel something. I experience synesthesia, which means I experience sound/music through sight and hearing, so I see colours when I listen to music. The more intense and precise this feeling is for me, is often a sign of how much I am connecting with the track. It's hard to measure, but I often repeat the track for a while or find myself very attached to the lyrics, vocals or production.
You're the CEO of School Ground Sounds. How did you find yourself in that position, and what has the journey been like so far?
It's so great to be in a position where I can lead a team and support young people in my community through the one thing I love the most, music! I've been working in charities for almost ten years alongside my creative career, so when the opportunity came along for me to get involved with a local charity, it just made sense. Since joining in late 2021, I've been able to develop partnerships with Live Nation and Soho House as well as source mentors, internship opportunities and funding from music industry organisations, and I look forward to what's next as we start a new chapter under the name Grounded Sounds.
What does your music career look like in five years?
Honestly, I don't know. I really want just to continue enjoying music and pushing forward with the passion and energy for bringing people together and helping them to experience life-changing music and performances. I want to continue curating events, and radio shows that aid music discovery and bring people together in community and love of music. I want to build Soul Surge to a point where we can start to impact more lives through music in different ways outside of radio and shows, focusing on well-being and mental health. I know for now that if I ever stop loving what I'm currently doing, I'll have to stop doing it.