To anyone on the receiving end of a label or radio contact address December is the month of “hilariously” ironic Christmas song submissions. Call me a Grinch if you like but anything sent to Debt Records that looks conspicuously jolly gets sent straight back up the chimney without a second thought. At Fresh On The Net we quarantine the festive tracks into their own separate playlist, especially designed for seasonal masochists. I understand the reasoning behind these tracks (if “reason” be an appropriate term to associate with such inanities), it’s a ready-made marketing angle in a creative industry where marketing outranks art.
The problem here is that the band’s perspective is fundamentally skewed. A musician walks into a shop and hears “Last Christmas” by Wham and visibly winces. That same musician walks into a completely different shop and hears “Last Christmas” by Wham. Wince. Then another shop, selling a whole separate range of products with no conceivable relation to the previous two retailers – “Last Christmas” again. The wince has now become a full-scale Herbert Lom style facial tick. If this happens again it’ll be time for the limb twitches, then complete body spasms and, eventually, a killing spree. The popular Christmas playlist is so minuscule that it not only seems like a good idea to compose a Christmas song of one’s own, but that neglecting to do so would be to miss an opportunity that is not just golden, but completely covered in tinsel.
So between October and December thousands of totally unique, refreshingly-cynical-yet-heart-warmingly-upbeat Christmas songs drop into the inboxes of label managers, critics and radio DJs all over the world, like drunken elves tripping over their curly baubled boots, jingling onto our desks and vomiting up their post-modern eccentricities all over our post-everything non-attention spans. “Bored of those tired old Christmas songs? Here’s a festive track with a difference…” they ALL say. Of course, if one is tired of Christmas songs, the last thing one wants is more Christmas songs.
Forgive me if I’m Scrooging on your parade but I have experience on both sides of this snow-topped picket fence. My old band’s first official release was a Christmas song (what seems like several ice-ages ago), one of those “dark antidotes to seasonal cheer” that no one actually wants because seasonal cheer is in itself an antidote to the darkness of bleak midwinter. But we didn’t know any better and now my well-deserved penance is to annually sift through the yellow snow of Yule-themed singles and sarcastic carol covers.
There is a lesson here and it’s not one of goodwill. To independent songwriters the real gift of Christmas is one of insight. For this is a microcosm of the entire industry. The market seems open and eager for a new spin on an old theme. In actuality the market is perpetually reeling with new spins on old themes, routinely rejecting them without fanfare or even acknowledgement. Because December submissions are, fundamentally, no different from the demos we get all year round; it’s just the colour scheme that changes. Come March it’ll be the usual “there’s never really been a band to pick up where the Stone Roses left off” brigade of hopefuls, when in reality every pub in Manchester has a midweek indie showcase with at least three on the bill – the general public would rather just listen to old Stone Roses recordings or attend a reunion tour, much like at Christmas they tend to be fine with Wham.