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 http://www.yourbandisavirus.com.