So, I’ve been on holiday for the last week. I won’t bore you with the details, but I came home to something and I’ll bore you with that instead. This afternoon I opened my door and found the latest issue of Rocksound siting behind it, and I noticed that Australian band / group / pop-rock sensation(alism) 5 Seconds Of Summer are on the front cover, and this made me kind of sad.
I should stress before I go into this that I wholly respect that people have differing tastes in music. That’s cool, like what you want, I’m all for variety, and I truly appreciate that people like different styles, and I also respect that some bands are more marketable than other. If you aren’t familiar with Rocksound, it’s a magazine which almost exclusively covers alternative artists. Sure they’ve featured bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! in recent months, both of whom to an extent can be considered mainstream, and I should stress that I’ve no issue with them covering 5 Seconds Of Summer, I just dislike the way they’ve chosen to cover them in the way they have, seemingly with no reason to do other than to make a shit-ton of money from it. Giving 5SOS a Rocksound cover is the equivalent of selling your soul to pop-rock Satan two months after meeting him. It’ll be the best-selling copy of the magazine to date, but it’s not much of a moral victory.
I looked back through the copies of a Rocksound I’ve accumulated over the years and found one from 2010, with a cover promoting three up and coming alternative bands (Young Guns, Japanese Voyeurs and My Passion). Sure, only one of those bands made it ‘big’, but this is what the magazine is to me, a means of exposure for bands who deserve it. If anything 5 Seconds Of Summer are overexposed, they’re everywhere, and there’s no need for Rocksound to feature them other than to appeal to the hordes who worship them. It genuinely saddens me to see, because that cover could go to… hell, anyone else. Twin Atlantic are dropping a new record soon (which receives a 9/10 in said issue), and I’m guessing they’d have been second in line, especially considering the publications longtime love for the Scottish rockers. Rocksound always show faith in the smaller bands, likewise when they become bigger bands, and 5 Seconds Of Summer are as big as it gets. What does this cover say to the lesser-known artists, the new breed of Young Guns etc? Unless you appeal to the teenage market and can sell copies you won’t front the magazine? This cover screams ‘5 Seconds Of Summer are in, and you’re out’ and I can’t stand the way the band are hyped and promoted by almost every outlet out there in a similar way, especially considering the band have only just released their debut album. There’s no real motive behind it other than sales, and that’s not what music journalism should be about, at least in my eyes. It should be about the music. Going back to a more recent issue of Rocksound I cite the magazine’s review of the band’s debut eponymous album, a review which states gives the album a 7/10 – wayward but approving. Three weeks later the band receives a cover feature and galoshes of praise. I should mention the cover feature I’m referring to, written by Andy Biddulph, and written well I should add – the mag has some very talented writers. It was an article I actually enjoyed reading, dwelling mostly on the bands influences and their commendably dedicated fans. There’s also lot of fuss kicked up about their impact through social media, with comparisons to the likes of Vic Fuentes, Andy Biersack, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, with less of an emphasis on their actual music. All of these are somewhat fair inclusions, and I don’t have any complaints with the cover feature itself. It’s honest, informative, even slightly entertaining, and it made me evaluate a lot of what I’ve written a few times. 5 Seconds Of Summer undoubtedly have good intentions, but my main issue is that they have a cover feature. I suppose my other issue would be that it’s basically all an extension of their ‘introducing’ feature which was published in June, same questions and similar answers, just with much more explaining. A lot of it actually seems quite unnecessary in light of this comparison, but I suppose it shows just how willing publications are to promote the band, even if it means recycling content.
The fact of it all is, 5 Seconds Of Summer are hot right now, they’re one of the biggest groups in music, and by putting them on the cover Rocksound guarantee sales. I did some research, and the tweet announcing Rocksound’s new cover stars has amassed 6,600 retweets to date. For an account with 200,000 followers that’s actually a pretty big number, and all of a sudden the magazine has reached a potential 3.7 million new people with the bands support, and a fair amount of those will lap up anything to do with the teen heart-throbs. I get that publications need to survive, and potentially grow, but jumping on the 5SOS bandwagon is not something I expected from Rocksound, and I’m actually quite disappointed in them, as childish as that may sound. What makes the whole thing even more ridiculous is that this is only the third time the publication has even mentioned the bands name since June. To give them the cover and an eight page spread a mere two months and one review later is cheap, and it undermines everything I’ve come to expect from the magazine, which has consistently championed new alternative music fairly since I started reading it five years ago. Sure, it just could be a testament to the bands meteoric rise, but I’m not convinced. I expected it from Kerrang, who made a big deal of the band when they featured on the magazines Green Day cover CD, but to see it from a publication I respect so much makes me wonder just what’s in store for underground bands on the verge of breaking through. There’s so much talent out there, just waiting to be discovered, and they’re being detracted from by a group already there. Rocksound are still a magazine who helps these bands, but neglecting them in favour of the four members of 5SOS (one cover for each), who already have it all isn’t what I want to see, and undermines the magazines ethos to introduce the masses to bands sat below the radar or those on the verge of the mainstream. I’m not an idiot, I know why they’ve opted for this cover, and in some ways it might be good in the long run – more readers, more money and more opportunities to sell and influence. 5 Seconds Of Summer could potentially be considered a gateway band; I remember being younger and discovering bands like New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy after listening to Busted, but I’m not so sure in this case, although I’d like to believe otherwise. It’s tough to be optimistic when the initial tweet was met with exclamatory replies of SHDFGJGADF, BABIES, SO FUCKING HOT and EXCITE (no D). It’s also tough to see these readers doing anything but buying the mag for the cover, reading the article, tearing out the posters and overlooking all of the other content in the meantime. Back in April I went down to my local-ish record store for Record Store Day 2014 and there were a few 5SOS fans there waiting to pick up an exclusive cassette. We all queued inside the store for at least an hour, and not once did I see these girls look around or even aimlessly browse whilst they waited and edged closer to their free release. They were there for 5 Seconds Of Summer, in the midst of all this other great music and ignoring it. Why would it be any different in a magazine, which offers a similar sort of variety to an audience who might only be interested in one piece?
I know I sound like a dick, and it’s worth mentioning that I don’t particularly enjoy being a dick about stuff like this, but I wanted to put something together. I’ll stop there, I expect to your relief. I sound pissed off, and it’s because I am. Alternative publications shouldn’t have to join in with the hype in hopes of attention, and they definitely shouldn’t do so in such a cheap, self-serving manner by handing out cover features within months of initial contact. To sum it all up, this doesn’t sit well with me and, at risk of sounding like a pensioner complaining about a dodgy bus service in The Telegraph, this has damaged my view of those responsible. I’ll get over it, sure, but I don’t think I’ll forget it.
Apologies if this post has offended anyone, and if any 5 Seconds Of Summer fans are reading this I’ve no interest in the band or the music they play. This isn’t a personal vendetta, and is directed moreso at those insisting on promoting them in a certain way. That should cover my ass, right? Probably not; my Twitter’s off to the right hand side if you feel the need to call me out on any of it, I wouldn’t blame you.