Age against the machine

Forget what women want, a much more daunting task is trying to penetrate the minds of teenagers.

Last week the Financial Times (lost them already) carried a front-page story which sparked frenzied interest in an unassuming 15-year-old schoolboy from London called Matthew Robson. While on a work experience placement at investment bank Morgan Stanley, he wrote a report on teenagers’ media habits which delivered several stunning revelations to middle-aged executives, including the bombshell news that most of his peers don’t use Twitter and have never bought a CD.

A Morgan Stanley director called it “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen”, while Robson himself has since been dubbed “the world’s most famous intern since Monica Lewinsky”. Here are some of the highlights of his essay, How Teenagers Consume Media:

MUSIC – Eight out of ten teenagers don’t buy music. It comes from Limewire, blogs or torrents. They are very reluctant to pay for it. Most have never bought a CD.
RADIO – With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as Last.fm do this advert-free and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses.
INTERNET – Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it.

OK, so teenagers aren’t spending their pocket money on records but they do have an appetite for live music, certainly if the mushrooming popularity of under-18 events in England – spearheaded by the Underage Festival in London – is anything to go by.

It was only a matter of time before some bright spark decided to test the water in Scotland, and that time is now. Next Saturday afternoon, Glasgow’s ABC2 will host a gig exclusively for 14 to 18-year-olds, headlined byUNICORN KID and PAPER PLANES, under the banner of Schools Out For Summer (the missing apostrophe suggests the school needs a better English teacher).

The people behind the concert go by the name of U18 Glasgow. Their mission is “to give young people the chance to experience bands and DJs normally out of reach for music fans their age”. The ABC2 launch is intended to be the first in a series of events they will be putting on every second month.
Unicorn Kid aka Oliver Sabin is the perfect choice to usher in a new era of underage achievement in Scotland. The 17-year-old from Leith may only have just left high school, but his fledgling music career has already seen him remix a Pet Shop Boys single, shatter the one million mark in MySpace hits and get invited to go on a 15-date tour of North America in support of Owl City in September. All that while creating music that sounds like it was taken from a 90s video game soundtrack.

It’s not the first time a Scottish artist has made the most of youthful exuberance. Franz Ferdinand played an all-ages show at the Glasgow Barrowlands back in 2004 (when they were good), with adults only allowed in if they were accompanied by a child – a neat reversal of the usual convention. The Pop Cop was there. It felt like a Smash Hits roadshow, which was kinda creepy with the pre-pubescent screams of adulation for 48-year-old Alex Kapranos.

Much-hyped rap party trio YOUNG FATHERS owe their entire existence to an under-18 hip hop night called Lickshot that took place at the old Bongo Club in Edinburgh, where they met at the age of just 14. Now, six years on, they seem destined to make the breakthrough into the mainstream and become chart stars.

As a rule, though, kids and adults don’t mix, certainly not when it comes to live music. We will sign off with the following anecdote – a comment left on Allmediascotland last week – which sums up the perils of the older generation trying to ‘keep it real’…

“I’ve recently joined my 15-year-old son, Christopher, at gigs by Slipknot, Velvet Revolver and Metallica. I had no problems about going with Chris to see the bands. At Metallica, though, he was keen to get as near the front as possible. Which was fine until all these kids started to rush around in a circle that threatened to turn into some kind of human vortex. Welcome to the mosh pit.

“So I decided to take a few steps back and found myself in what I shall refer to as the ‘twenty-something’ zone. The mosh pit was still a bit too close for comfort so I took a few more steps back and found myself in the ‘thirty-something’ zone. A bit more tolerable but still too close for comfort. So I kept on backtracking until I eventually found myself at the back of the hall along with all the other dinosaur dads nursing nothing stronger than a Coke.”

4 Unicorn Kid – All I Want
4 Paper Planes – Permanent Marker
4 Young Fathers – Straight Back On It

Unicorn Kid and Paper Planes (14-18-year-olds only)
b August 1, ABC2, Glasgow (tickets)

Unicorn Kid and Young Fathers (over-14s)

b August 15, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburg(tickets)

Leave a Reply

Go Back