Kevin Buckle: Scots pop exhibition to benefit new bands

Midge Ure and Rip It Up exhibition curator Stephen Allen at the National Museum of Scotland.
Midge Ure and Rip It Up exhibition curator Stephen Allen at the National Museum of Scotland.
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So at last the news I’ve known for 18 months is out and there has already been much excitement and discussion about the National Museum of Scotland’s plans to tell the story of Scottish pop music with their exhibition Rip It Up.

I’ve had to bite my tongue from time to time when working on my own plans when folk would occasionally tell me that pop music was not really worthy of an exhibition.

While the Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre may have taken me far longer than expected to reach the stage it has, I’ve known for a long time now that the idea would receive a major boost when the museum’s plans were announced.

Even better was the fact that – though there would be a little overlap, and indeed you will see some of the exhibits from the recent Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition at the museum – both ideas very much complement each other. What it does do is make it essential we have the centre in place as early as we can next year in time for the museum exhibition starting in June.

With pledges of support from both councillors and council officials, I’m hopeful I will be able to announce something very soon. What has been made very clear to me is fundraising is essential with the carrot being that these funds are often matched by other funding.

With a three-part TV series from BBC Scotland, a four-part radio series from BBC Radio Scotland and a book also planned, 2018 is certainly going to be a great year for Scottish music both past and present.

I’m aware of a few more of the artists who will be featured and who haven’t been mentioned yet, but I’ve not seen any definitive list and I don’t envy Stephen Allen, who is curating the exhibition, in his task to try to keep everybody happy. Certainly what has been announced so far is a very promising start.

I have maintained for a long time that if you put good music, well-presented and promoted, in front of enough people, then there would still be healthy sales to be had beyond the dedicated fans. But of course one of the problems for shops was that fans were encouraged to buy directly from artists while the more casual music lover stopped going into shops.

The National Museum of Scotland is of course the busiest attraction in Scotland and therefore in a great position to prove my theory correct. Add in the Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre and maybe one or two others and a network of places supporting Scottish music in Edinburgh could be a real boost for those artists trying to get their music into the real world.

Of course, this idea does not have to be only in Edinburgh and I’ve had interest from Glasgow, Paisley, Dundee and Aberdeen. One of the biggest frustrations of new bands maybe five years ago was that they were being told to put their music online as if magically people were just going to find it and buy it.

In reality the opposite was true, in that new bands’ music got completely lost in the digital world. Even if somebody liked a song they were extremely unlikely to buy it. Things have not got any better.

What I would stress though is that songs have to be worth buying and most of the music I hear is quite pleasant but not really worth anybody’s money. Decades ago it was different and even listening to the radio gave little clue as to whether an album was worth buying. Many a band back then had a successful album based on two good singles and most of the other tracks just being fillers.

What is for sure is 2018 will be an opportunity to showcase just how Scottish music has, as Midge Ure said, “punched well above its weight” decade after decade. I can only agree.