I remember a while back when the ‘digital revolution’ was really starting to panic people. Everyone was talking about how musicians weren’t going to be able to make any money, and record companies were going to go bust. I must have been about ten, because I associate those debates with listening to my discman at school and wondering whether it was all just a bit melodramatic and over the top. They were right, in a way, but I was right, too. The music industry has changed dramatically, but it has survived. While CD sales have plummeted, and record labels have closed, some, like HMV have adapted. Wisely, they’ve realised that the big bread winner is now live music, and have started shifting their business plan towards ticket sales and organising events like the HMV Next Big Thing festival.
Kirsty Almeida, like pretty much all musicians of her generation, does not see the shift that has happened over the last few decades as a threat, but as a kind of liberation for artists, a tool to give them greater creative freedom; it is no longer entirely necessary to have industry backing in the traditional sense. This generation of young musicians are net-natives, using Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and Vimeo in an organic way to express themselves and build and strengthen fan bases around the world. Perhaps Kirsty is an extreme example of this artistic adaptability, having grown up travelling from place to place, including Venezuela, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Gibraltar, because of her father’s job.
I caught up with Kirsty yesterday when she was on her way to Glasgow to support her friends The Dead Man’s Waltz at their album launch. ‘I learnt a lot about story telling in songs from listening to country and western music,’ she explained. ‘I like to share with other musicians, and you can’t get that from anywhere else,’ she said, when I asked her about her own strong emphasis on live performance. This is something she has in common with a lot of other artists at the moment, and it is also something that music fans are increasingly craving. People might not be willing to pay so much to buy music anymore, but they are certainly willing to pay for a unique experience of seeing the artist live.
Kirsty’s voice is smooth and jazzy, but there’s also something very intimate and slightly vulnerable about it. She cites Aretha Franklin as an influence – in fact, her voice kind of reminds me of another one of Aretha’s fans, Rumer.
Having tried the more standard route, Kirsty decided to set up her own record label over the past year, and she paints and sews the beautiful album covers for her CDs herself. ‘I don’t necessarily think of myself as a musician,’ she said, explaining that she sees the process of making a website, writing some poetry or a short story and painting as all part of the creative, artistic process.
Kirsty’s single, If You Can’t Make Me Happy, is out on November 7th.