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What Indie Bands Can Learn From Rebecca Black: Ignore The Masses

Indie bands - By now, most of you will have heard of Rebecca Black, and if you haven’t, you will soon. I have a unique perspective on the young star and her effect on modern music marketing, but let’s go over the back story first.

Rebecca is a 14-year old singer from Anaheim, California. Her mother paid a local record label called ARK Music Factory to film a music video and release a single for a pre-written track entitled “Friday”. Soon after the playful track was posted, it became a viral sensation. To many people’s surprise the song became a worldwide smash, making the Billboard charts and earning Rebecca spots on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show. Stephen Colbert even covered the song recently with Jimmy Fallon, Taylor Hicks and The Roots. Conan O’Brian and Andy Richter did their own cover version called “Thursday.” It was also covered by the hit TV show Glee.

Since the release of the song and video, something unprecedented has also taken place. The backlash was incredible, with an 87 percent disapproval rating by YouTube users. As it turns out, some of the reasons why the song became viral in the first place was because of it’s questionable lyrics, it’s use of auto-tune, and the judgements by many that it was the “worst song ever”. Parodies of the song became commonplace and “Friday” became a sign that the current YouTube generation had possibly reached a kind of peak. Forbes Magazine stated that the popularity of the song is another sign of the current power of social media - in the ability to create “overnight sensations.” The original video was removed.

Rebbeca used the leverage from the first video, and released a 2nd single called “My Moment”, which in turn is also a bona fide hit. This young lady is a new celebrity.

Now, you may think that this article is about to tell you how you can achieve the kind of success Rebecca Black has, and outline viral steps to recreate this kind of promotion.

Not so much. I’d like to suggest something else entirely, if I may. Many independent artists strive to be liked by as many people as possible. This isn’t necessarily the best way. It could easily be argued that Rebecca Black sounds quite similar to other modern pop stars such as Katy Perry and Britney Spears, and many independent artists are feeling increasingly disillusioned. These days, the mainstream simply choose differently. Don’t try to figure it out or make sense of it. It’s not going to get better. If the public overwhelmingly chooses Rebecca Black, Jersey Shore, the Kardashians, Pitbull, and a slew of talent show contestants, then why worry so much about being accepted by the masses?

There is something positive to be taken from all this. Instead of getting angry about the choices that we collectively make, market honestly to your niche and stop trying to appeal to or rebel against the masses. If you are planning on writing or making music with your life, you must first accept that the masses are going to choose things that you won’t understand.

As Tom Waits says “Everything you can think of is true.” (in pop culture, I would add.)

Let them watch Jersey Shore and blast “Friday” on their car stereos. You’re going to need to save all your energy to effectively market your music to the people who really want to hear it. There are, and always will be, people who value honesty and passion. They will never be in short supply no matter how much this fact is not promoted by the mainstream media. If you are marketing to the masses, you’re marketing to no one.

Study your niche.

That would include your genre(s), themes, lyrical content, image, location, and life philosophy. Promote to your niche in a credible way and believe in what you’re doing. Have some class. Just because it’s possible to score an auto-tuned hit, doesn’t mean it’s a great thing to do. Release your true self, not a gimmick. There are people who want to hear what you have to say. Start small. Promote to music blogs, podcasts, and publications that cover genuine independent music. Build it one brick at a time and don’t worry about the rest.

James Moore is a Canadian music consultant and author of the music marketing book “Your Band Is A Virus”. For more information on “Your Band Is A Virus” and a free chapter on “behind-the-scenes” marketing, visit

Reader Comments (13)

Actually, you've got your article all backwards; Rebecca Black is a PERFECT example of exactly what you're describing.

She's a 14-year-old girl, with 14-year-old-style lyrics targeted at.... you guessed it, 14-year-olds. No surprise she doesn't resonate with a lot of the YouTube audience. She's ignoring the masses and singing to the 14-year-olds in the audience. You can blame auto-tune, "idiot viewers", etc. for her success, but she's found her niche and carved it out with a laser - the rest of the media coverage (bad song, overnight hit, etc.) is just a shock-wave from the blast of her mega-success within her niche.

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterJP

This article has motivated me for today

The Darkness are another example of a band that had the so called Marmite effect. Alot people thought they were gimmicky, but due to good management, songs and marketing to their niche, they did very well!

Would you agree?

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas

I think this is good advice.

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

A reasonable argument can be made that ALL music is now niche.

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterSam Bhattacharya

Well spoken, thanks for this:). Also, good responses!

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterNate

What do you want to be though, a gimmicky, marmitey, strategic marketing analyst of a musician or an artist?

Big difference. Should be an easy choice.

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

Good post. It can be easy to be just another "hater" of music which has achieved overnight success seemingly simply. Like the track Friday or not, I couldn't agree more with the sentiment that you should be true to yourself rather than pursue a fleeting and fickle target market, aiming for uniqueness rather than to ride the coat tails of others' earlier success.

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterPaul D

True, amen to that. Just it;s like there are people who like to watch what a LOT of other people watch. But then again there are also those who like to watch NOT what lots of others do, find and discover by themselves & feel proud n cool about it. So if ur true to your artistry its a win-win process.

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterJOANPi

Very interesting. Echoes the Bard: to thine own self be true. JP's comments are right on the money in my opinion--Black homed in on her audience. An open question is whether she'll be able to retain them as they age together.

The question for the Indie artist is whether the artist's niche is big enough to support the artist. That question aside, the worst possible place for an artist to be, and the place that your advice will help the artist avoid, is selling yourself out and failing anyway. The music business is a business first, and most businesses fail, in the arts or anywhere else. But no artist has to fail when it comes to expressing who he or she really is.

August 17 | Unregistered Commenterlightnin rick

Rebecca Black targeted her audience and found it. Downside? She FOUND her audience while simultaneously confronting millions of listeners who apparently hate her music.

In the end, Rebecca Black is a success. She's making music and growing her fan base to support her making her music. I know hundreds of indie artists who have failed to have the success she has reached. And quite honestly, when their music reaches outside of their targeted fan base... they find that the "masses" hate their music also.

Many indie bands don't bother trying to reach the masses or "selling out" because they know deep down that outside of their target audience... they couldn't sell out if they tried. And unlike Rebecca Black, they couldn't deal with millions of people telling them their music sucked.

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterJumparoo Jack

@Nicholas: The Darkness - their lead singer came from a background of writing jingles before they managed to get noticed, and it was some kind of crowdswell that propelled them to the limelight. Do some research before you slate other people and spill your ill informed opinion on the world:

August 21 | Unregistered CommenterRAMBO3000

I think she becomes popular because of her haters so she must thank them. I read an article that she is back with another video "Person of Interest". Do you think it'll be another hit like Friday?

You can read the full article here

November 20 | Unregistered Commentercynnie

Rebecca Black is perfection. She has an amazing voice and has proved time and time again that she CAN sing she has also stayed relevant for an amazingly long time. I love and respect her so much!

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterBelle

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