Titled after a line in the 1960s kitchen sink drama ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’, the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ is a milestone in the progression of British popular music. Selling 85,000 copies in its first day of release and 360,000 copies in its first week, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ became an indie essential and an album that stands as strong as its Britpop and early 2000s indie rock predecessors. The mass popularity the Arctic Monkeys gained running up to the record-breaking debut album sales is a story that embodies the significance of loyal fan bases, modern day technology and the evolution of music consumption, as the path to fame that the Arctic Monkeys took has affected how music is discovered and consumed even to this day.
Prior to the release of the Arctic Monkeys debut album, they had already broken the moulds and archaic music industry processes. The popularity of the Arctic Monkeys was partly down to their fan base sharing their free demos on pages dedicated to the band on MySpace long before Turner, Cook, Nicholson and Helders got to grips with the social media platform themselves. The Arctic Monkeys would hand out free copies of their 18 track demo CD ‘Beneath the Boardwalk’ at gigs and leave copies of the mammoth demo CD on public transport, distributing their music for free. However, due to limited copies of the demos, their fans decided to share the songs on social media where the music could be easily accessible through a download button. To think that in 2004 sharing music on a social media platform would have been a new concept shows how the consumption of music has evolved. Since 2004 social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and many more have become intrinsic in how a band communicates with its audience, and to think that the Arctic Monkeys were the first band to become successful through the internet adds more gravitas to their story as they laid down the foundations for modern music promotion.
Additionally, the popularity that came from the act of fans sharing the free demo CD ‘Beneath the Boardwalk’ on MySpace symbolises a modern day DIY ethic, an ideal that has ran throughout British popular music history. The accessibility of a computer and the internet to the youth of the early 21st century made it a perfect
place to starting followings that won’t reach the technophobic generations of parents and more importantly to the unique story of the Arctic Monkeys, the music industry. This grass roots uprising can stem from the history of musical fanzines- Sniffin’ Glue comes to mind - as MySpace was a space where music could not only be shared, but people could post comments on their thoughts and opinions of the music, creating a voice for the mass audience. Thus, the accessibility of music on MySpace quickly brought the Internet into the indie musical blueprint. In fact, MySpace became such a popular social media platform for sharing music that MySpace formed their own record label, launching many careers and in turn making the Internet a powerful tool in the music industry of the early 2000s. Before the groundbreaking success of the Arctic Monkeys, social media was not a factor in the rise of up and coming bands and artists, and the Sheffield lads were soon branded the pioneers of a musical internet community in Britain.
In 2005, the mass following of new music on the internet was said to threaten the stability of the music industry, as the fresh music scenes were growing under the noses of the gatekeepers of pop music. Before the Arctic Monkeys were signed to Domino records, the band already had a mass following in Sheffield. In the Christmas of 2004, the Arctic Monkeys realised how far the music had spread as people who they didn’t recognise were singing the lyrics back to them at packed out gigs. By sharing the music on MySpace it quickly increased the turn out at live shows, and early Arctic Monkeys gig goers remember everyone signing the words long before the Arctics were selling out arena tours. The Sheffield lads had slipped under the radar of the music press and industry and built a powerhouse of support before signing a to a record label.
As former NME editor Conor McNicholas states in an interview with Laura Snapes, the NME owned the music scene. McNicholas goes onto explain that the NME had always understood what guitar music was about, as music journalism had become heavily weighted in scandal and drama throughout Britpop. Britpop was owned by the press and tabloid newspapers, however the NME always aimed to document the ever-changing musical sounds that were being created by British bands. Yet, as McNicholas went on to claim, is in 2005 that all changed, the Arctic Monkeys had killed the NME. This is due to the fact that the music press only realised how big the band were in the middle of the grassroots rise of the Arctics, no longer able to keep up with the fresh new music and opinions that was buzzing around social media. Soon after discovering the Arctic Monkeys and their vast fan base the press were soon christening front man and main songwriter Alex Turner the ‘voice of a generation’ and were gathering mass hype around his lyrics before the debut album was released, which the Arctic Monkeys replied with ‘don’t believe the hype’ which can be seen in their old grey whistle test style music video for ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. The Arctic Monkeys had broken the rules of musical success and proved to be the first band to represent the life in the modern age all before the debut album was released.
‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ is an album that portrayed early millennia suburbia. The lyrics tell stories of a night on the town, dealing with nightclub bouncers and youths running away from the police. The music is reminiscent of all the rich guitar rock history that had come before with Turners’ song-writing flare and a unique, powerhouse relationship between the drums and bass. Lyrics and music combined, the Arctic Monkeys had a debut album that quickly became titled the sound of a generation, and created a time capsule in the musical social commentary of modern Britain.
The popularity of the Arctic Monkeys only continued to rocket as they released ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ in April 2007, which featured a collaboration with Dizzee Rascal on the EP ‘Brianstorm’. They continued to release their third album and began a relationship with one of their idols, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. They soon cracked America, becoming one of the only British bands from the new millennia indie scene to do so and going on to sell out arena tours and carving themselves into the history of British popular music. Even though it has been 11 years since the release, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ it is an album that transcends generations and embodies a story that changed the pop music industry model forever.