Channel M Music was Manchester’s MTV. It began in April 2006 with a desire to represent new talent from Greater Manchester and beyond. The station gave TV debuts to Friendly Fires, The Enemy, Noah And The Whale and Passion Pit – although its tireless championing of locally-bred acts The Ting Tings, Delphic and The Whip remains the channel’s crowning achievement.
Funded by the Guardian Media Group and partnered with the Manchester Evening News, Channel M Music aired through terrestrial sets in Greater Manchester, through Sky Digital and Virgin Media platforms and online. It ceased broadcasting this month to the anger and disappointment of the Mancunian music community.
Manchester is a major musical city with a lineage of great bands. But its past stifles the future, with old Manchester (hedonistic, swaggering, lager/drug-fuelled) brushing uneasily against the endeavours of new talent graduating around the two Manchester Universities. XFM Manchester fizzled out due to short-sighted daytime radio programming. Time Out Manchester published a measly one issue before decamping back to London. For all the city’s urban regeneration (for which the late Tony Wilson can take some credit) why is Manchester music falling behind London, Glasgow and Leeds?
The city’s musical past is an albatross around its thick-skinned neck. Remnants of the old era abound: the Factory-purchased Dry Bar (where Shaun Ryder allegedly pulled a gun on Wilson) is an unnerving drinking house with a shoddy PA system, cheap ‘n dirty ‘Madchester’ clubs belting out choons to packed houses nightly, while Hacienda nights give clubbers a dosage of old skool Manchester. Generally, new music clubs are well supported during student terms, but flee come June.
Over the last five years, major label signings (recording and publishing) from Manchester include: The Courteeners, Twisted Wheel, Kid British, Fear of Music, The Ting Tings, Liam Frost, Dirty Circus, The Suzukis, The Longcut, The Tigerpicks and (We Are) Performance. Currently, only four of those could be classed as recording artists, with the rest unsigned or releasing through their own imprints. Until very recently, the music industry seemed intent on signing any Manchester band that could stand up and hold a guitar. Why?
With one-dimensional ‘landfill indie’ now on the ropes and escapist pop in the ascendant, can Manchester provide the next major music starlets? Signs are encouraging, with Delphic, The Answering Machine and Everything Everything releasing debut albums this year, while the eclectic mix of Run Toto Run, Jo Rose, Modernaire, Dutch Uncles, May 68 and Airship show immense promise. But few of these bands conform to the industry’s safe, ‘tick all boxes’ signing policy.
In the past, Manchester has driven and shaped popular youth culture: the world watched, listened and danced to the city’s post-punk, pop, rave and rock. Before it can claim to be the number one musical city once more, Manchester needs to revive its togetherness and spirit.
Photos by Shirlaine Forrest