Depending on which way you look at it, London indie folk band Mumford & Sons represent either the future of commercial music or its distant past.
In the old, old days (or as recently as the seventies), before the pursuit of massive first-week sales became record industry dogma, it was commonplace for albums to start low and make their way to the top of the charts. With the huge advances in marketing and the windfall profits of the CD era, record industry thinking became totally geared towards the first week, and artists found it virtually impossible to break through commercially without embracing it.
However the incredible success of Mumford & Sons’ 2009/2010 release Sigh No More (it reached #2 on the Billboard Top 100 a year after its release) spells out what many of us have been predicting for years: when people no longer feel compelled to buy music before they’ve heard it, the charts become more representative of what people actually like, rather than what they think they might like. And we have a lot more money in our pockets with which to bail out banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers.
Which is why it seems perfectly normal when an artist like Taylor Swift – a member of the now very exclusive club of artists who still sell millions of records – records a cover of Mumford & Sons’ ‘White Blank Page.’ Notwithstanding the musical similarities (though there is a chasm between Swift’s bluegrass style and Mumford’s twee folk that she bridges incredibly), it’s a cover that would probably never have happened without the internet. Swift might still be performing on the BBC’s Live Lounge, but she wouldn’t know who Mumford & Sons were.
So while the music industry continues to flop around like a beached carp shitting itself, enjoy a cover that comes to you in spite of, rather than because of, said carp’s best efforts.