When I launched the OUS platform November 2016, the intention was always to make this a global project. One of the reasons for creating the platform was that I noticed that often the ukulele scene, especially in the UK was very territorial, which is often the case for niche music. This can be seen online, in magazine articles and at events, usually (but not always) with a focus on playing cover versions of songs. Uke Magazine to its credit did publish a series of articles and interviews I wrote to show a wider picture than just the same small group of artists, often only from the UK. I am especially pleased with the articles I wrote on the Japanese uke scene and the interviews with the late Bill Collins and master musician Martin Simpson. Both individuals pushed the boundaries of what is possible and I’m my view make the world a far more interesting place. Of course understandably event hosts and magazine editors need to be mindful of commercial considerations to get readers and crucially bums on seats, but such commercial considerations can all too often limit opportunities for artists interested in creating original material.
I always thought that there’s an opportunity for original artists to have a bigger voice. Many artists commented that it was hard to get heard especially in getting live opportunities. Original artists regardless of talent can often be sidelined and public choice is inevitably limited. Some performers may at their own expense travel hundreds of miles to play a set that can be as little as ten minutes. I’ve received a fair bit of flack for mentioning “the elephant in the room” in terms of some of these issues of course, but I continue to consider such discussions are both healthy and essential. Ultimately of course great music is great music, but I suspect in years to come those performers creating an original body of work will be better remembered than those providing cover versions no matter how entertaining.
There’s of course an understandable enthusiasm for new performers wanting to be seen and heard, This often this means playing for “exposure” also known as playing for free. Professional performers (those who earn a living from music) often lament the fact that hobbyists tend to sometimes limit playing opportunities as they are the cheaper option. Commercial considerations often trump creative considerations and OUS is and always will be a platform to address some of this bias. OUS can be a fair investment in time and income, but its for the love of the music and to give voice original artists on a global scale. I just got back from Japan where I had some great discussions and in 6 weeks I’ll be in the USA for a period, also talking to artists interested in original music. These travels and discussions show a very different picture to the UK, and some of the contrasts are quite striking. In Japan there are in my view many builders who make exceptional instruments of a higher quality than I would generally find in the UK, Europe or USA. The Japanese also retain a love of physical music formats and Tower Records remains one of the last major record stores.
OUS brings together artists from all over the globe and I’m increasingly meeting such artists in real life after initial online connections. Alan Thornton and Bernd Holzhausen are good examples of this and discussions have been very useful. The OUS platform has the advantage of being available 24/7 and the numbers are growing online. My main focus is on the main site and the increasing addition and diversity of global artists who can now all be found in one place. As I predicted in 2014 OUS also polarizes opinion and not everyone loves the idea of more focus on original music. I think the discussion about musical creation is quite healthy and of course the original music of today makes for the cover versions of tomorrow.
I’m currently looking at better live playing opportunities for original artists with particular consideration to those who have supported the platform to date. OUS was always part of a much bigger project and that will continue to unfold in 2018 and 2019, but like all major projects, the devil is in the detail and the success of the platform means taking time to do everything properly and remaining true to the central theme of creative expression. Special thanks to all those who focus on creating original music and who continue to focus on sharing such material. We now have 85 artists with their own pages on the main site and the FB platform approaches 3000 members. This is of course just the start of something much bigger, but so far, so good…