Behind the music: Why TV should Skin up for unsigned artists

News: 5th February 2010 by Louise Dodgson under

Skins seems to be the only show actively trying to break new music in the UK. If more followed its example, there wouldn't just be X Factor finalists and Glee cast members ruling the charts

There's no question that The X Factor is one of the most powerful marketing tools for entering the charts, whether you get to the finals, appear as a guest or have your song covered by one of the contestants. Cheryl Cole's Fight for This Love sold 221,000 downloads after she performed it live, while Michael Buble and Shakira saw a sales increase of more than 300% after appearing on the show.

But after new American show Glee aired earlier this year it was clear that television's dominance on the charts wasn't over just because The X Factor is currently off our screens. Journey's Don't Stop Believin', which already charted when it was covered by X Factor winner Joe McElderry, reappeared in the top 10, with the Glee cover appearing further down the charts. Another three covers by the Glee cast entered the top 75. With new tracks released after each episode, the show has so far generated more than 4m downloads.

Martin Talbot, MD of the Official Charts Company, says: "The label Epic are playing a pretty smart game, because the official Glee soundtrack is not available for a few weeks yet. This pushes people into buying the individual tracks and giving them a chance to be a big bona fide hit, which will probably only be available on that album, I would imagine." Matthew Morrison, who plays Mr Schuester in the show, has even signed his own record deal with Mercury in the US.

But while the Glee soundtrack covers songs by established artists, hope of getting one's music featured in a TV show may not be lost for those still waiting for a breakthrough.

E4 (which broadcasts Glee) and the people behind Skins are known for supporting new music. They've previously played a part in breaking acts like the Gossip and Crystal Castles, and now they've taken their support one step further by teaming up with Artists Without A Label (AWAL). Together they'll give new bands the opportunity to appear on Skins and sell their music online.

AWAL distributes music to major download stores, and bands whose music is featured on Skins will be offered a distribution deal with the company. The music supervisor of Skins, Kyle Lynd, will also add his favourite tracks, not just the tracks that end up in the show, to a streaming site produced by AWAL, where fans can listen to them.

Though last week's episode of Skins received 1.1 million viewers, it's still a show that caters to a younger audience. Many of the US shows that appeal to older viewers, such as Grey's Anatomy or One Tree Hill, are known to have introduced artists like Snow Patrol and Ingrid Michaelson to the American market.

But Skins seems to be the only TV show actively trying to break new artists in the UK. Shameless released a soundtrack last summer that featured acts including Lily Allen, the Cure and Kaiser Chiefs, who are hardly in need of support. If more UK television producers followed the example of Skins, perhaps Rage Against the Machine won't be the only band capable of knocking this year's X Factor winner off the top of the charts. It'll be like forming our own Glee club.

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