BLOG: Liverpool Tops the charts (Again)

With the release of the Music Industry Body (BPI) ‘All About The Music 2022’ report, Liverpool’s Head of UNESCO City of Music, Kevin McManus tells why it confirms what all sensible music fans already know – that Liverpool is simply the best music city in the whole world!

“Well, in reality the report doesn’t quite say that, but it does come close….

The UK has for a long time been recognized as one of the world’s leading music cultures with many of the highest selling global artists (Adele, Beatles, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys etc) hailing from our shores and importantly delivering significant trade and income for the UK.  

But what this latest report highlights is summed up in this one quote from Geoff Taylor, Chief Exec of the BPI. He says:  ‘Artistic talent continues to be developed and nurtured across all parts of the UK and it’s this rich diversity both musically and geographically, supported by record labels, that is the key to our global music status and should be protected and enhanced.’

The data behind the report backs this up with almost two thirds of the year’s most popular albums coming from artists from outside of London.  Within this broader picture there is a recognition that the North West leads the way for the UK. Personally, I don’t find this surprising in any way, but it is impressive to see that the region was responsible for supplying 17 of the top 300 albums by UK artists in the last 12 months, with Liverpool leading the way as the leading city in the UK (outside of London).

There are some other cities mentioned lower down the list – Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester – but let’s not bother with those lesser cities and just focus on the incredible musical powerhouse of Liverpool ; )

Artists who counted towards our top ranking this year included electronic music giants Camelphat, LIPA alumni The Wombats, an 80 year old fella called Paul McCartney who had  a hand in the creation of that institution, The Mysterines who are finally getting the success they deserve (and a nice appearance on Jools Holland will hopefully have brought them more new fans), and the mighty Jamie Webster who I am sure will be one of the must sees for any discerning Glastonbury goer this weekend.

Of course, as the BPI report states record labels based in cities outside London are absolutely vital in supporting local talent to grow and thankfully Liverpool is incredibly well catered for in key areas like record labels and venues. If you look at Jamie Webster for example, he began his musical career by playing Liverpool football songs at the legendary Boss nights in the city and around the world before Modern Sky (a label based in the Baltic) saw his incredible songwriting talent and gave him the platform to increase his audience beyond the LFC faithful. His second album ‘Moments’ released this year reached the Top Ten and is for my money one of the finest records of the year. His performance at the Neighbourhood festival this year was absolutely mobbed and he can only get bigger.  A great songwriter and performer Jamie follows in a grand Liverpool tradition of bringing a real political sensibility into his hard-hitting lyrics. 

Modern Sky (and its imprint Run On Records) is on an incredible roll with huge success for local and locally based artists such as Crawlers (with a LIPA connection again), Red Rum Club, The Coral  and Michael Head (Dear Scott). Mick Head has an almost mythical status and is a genuine Liverpool music legend with a long and often troubled career taking in the Pale Fountains, Shack and now Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band.  Dear Scott has just given him his first ever top ten record and it’s a beautiful record that sums up all that is special about one of our unique musical mavericks.

Modern Sky has had an exceptional year which is why I have focused on them but there are loads of other labels out there doing amazing work, developing and providing a platform for young talent in the city across all genres. 3 Beat Records for example has a long and distinguished history of producing hits for over 30 years now after beginning life as a dance music record shop.  

At the opposite extreme you have relative newcomers like Nifty Records who have developed their own particular niche with local singer songwriters.  We should also mention the wonderful Both Sides Records label which aims to support women and people from marginalised genders.  Strictly speaking the label which came out of the Brighter Sounds charity isn’t located in the city, but label manager Grace Goodwin is based in Liverpool and their next release (due any time now) is from the magnificent local band Stealing Sheep.  Of course, there are lots of artists and managers self-releasing and achieving great results, including the likes of AMBA who released their brilliant debut single ‘Shoulda Known’ with the support of Positive Impact and Culture Deck.

As well as the range of labels, Liverpool is also incredibly fortunate in that some key elements of industry infrastructure are on our doorstep in the shape of businesses such as Sentric (music publishing) com and Ditto (digital distribution),  not to mention a range of excellent recording studios and mastering studios and the incredibly skilled and passionate people who run these businesses and facilities.

At root though these labels wouldn’t succeed if they didn’t have the talent to work with. Fortunately, we are a city that seems to have a never-ending conveyor belt of talent, but this talent still needs support and nurturing. That’s why schemes like our own LIMF Academy and other talent development programmes are important (and look out for some Academy graduates performing at LIMF at the end of July).  I work closely with the City Region Music Board and much of our focus is on how we can continue to support skills and talent development programmes that are accessible to all.   But just as important to us is the need to ensure that there is a robust infrastructure (including record labels) in place in the city that allows the city’s music industry to continue to prosper and grow.

 There is still lots for us to do (and the plans of the Black Music Action Group in particular are ambitious and exciting) but in the meantime we should enjoy the fact that Liverpool has been officially recognized as the UK’s number one music city.”

Liverpool Waterfront