Yesterday, Essex punkers Koopa became the first unsigned band ever to make it into the Top 40 – piling in at number 31 with their anti-record industry song Blag, Steal & Borrow (yes, in a highly unlikely move they’ve managed to get into the charts with a song about how they don’t need the help of record labels to get into the charts).
Now, I’m not a big fan of Koopa. In fact, I have a paranoid theory that they only exist to annoy me. In the last few years I’ve stumbled across them numerous times, always by accident (this includes seeing them live 5 times!). However, I am excited about what this means for the singles chart.
If you don’t already know, the rules for chart elegiblity have recently been changed to allow download-only singles (previously physical copies of the single had to be sold too). In the first week of this change we saw older songs re-enter the chart. Now, with an unsigned band making it in as well, it looks like the singles chart might actually become interesting again.
Over the last decade or so, it’s become some kind of unofficial rule that a song that doesn’t hit the Top 10 in its first week of release has failed. In my youth this was far from the case. We used to be able to watch songs slowly climb up the charts over a number of weeks, eventually hitting the top spot after eventually convincing enough people that this was something worth owning. Then, as now, this was rarely the case but it was exciting and fun nonetheless.
Hoever, these new rules don’t mark a shift back to this state but rather something new altogether. In a world where anyone who can afford to record a song can potentially make it into the charts, we actually make a step towards the situation promised since musicians discovered the internet, whereby record labels become redundant.
Okay, this is perhaps a little over the top. Bands are always going to need to get money from somewhere. So, until music production and promotion becomes free to all (like some kind of musical NHS) record companies are probably safe but they aren’t the exclusive route to success.
Despite my personal feelings, I have to admit that Koopa have worked very hard to get where they are. They tour the UK and Europe near constantly and oversee their sizeable legion of fans via a slick website. With all the publicity surrounding them now that they’re history makers they can’t be far away from offers of a proper record deal. Given the lyrical content of the single though, maybe they’ll stick to the DIY method and see how far they can make it on their own.
An unsigned band in the album charts, now that would be something. Who can beat Koopa to it?