The music industry is currently dealing with the new world order, set up by millions of content-creating users, or produsers, a term familiarized by Axel Brun in his book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008). As new content is distributed, manipulated, remixed and shared across a wide variety of online platforms by users, the record companies still recieve the majority of the cash made in music, with the 4 major labels EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner inhabiting 88% of the sales income. But the reason for this is not that they write the best songs. It’s because they know how to best facilitate the content and have the means to do so. But is there a future when content providers and average joes can make larger profits by themselves or are we dependent on the big companies as gatekeepers to reassure listeners that their content holds quality? I’m going to discuss 3 different artists and their relation to the industry.
First off are two brothers I know from college, LundeBros. In 2008 they had worked their way up to DJ’ing in some minor clubs in Stockholm but they hadn’t really released anything themselves yet. Finally, they took the step through Soundcloud and Beatportto distribute their own music.
Online networking enabled several already established DJ’s like John Dahlback, Dj Chuckie and Roger Sanchez to spread their first tracks on their own live-sets which is a credible way to endorse your track with credit. Within a couple of months, they had gained thousands of followers and were playing at all the major events in Stockholm, and started to get invitations to international festivals. At this point they were making money all by themselves, and they could have stayed independent if they wanted to, but somebody threw them an offer they couldn’t refuse, and they got a contract. Today they are playing Ibiza, Miami, Las Vegas etc. Partly thanks to social media.
Secondly there is an artist called Alex Day. Heholds the current world record for the highest charted track(#2 UK Indie Chart) by an unsigned artist. He claims to have 600.000 followers and made aprox. US$10 million last year. All of this thanks to YouTube . He has had zero PR, no record label, no management, no radio support, only the sharing and caring of his self-generated YouTube audience to thank for his success. A great example that it is, in fact, possible to make it on your own. Partly thanks to social media.
Adele’s rise to fame started when her friend uploaded a song she recorded on myspace2004. After two years in the shades, she was offered contract with the British label XL Recordings in 2006 who released her first album. In 2011 she was the #1 selling physical album, digital album, track, and artist, artly thanks to social media.
These artists are no different from the vast majority of newcomers emerging from the spider web each year. If artists weren’t distributing by themselves through internet platforms, and audiences weren’t sharing, remixing and commenting on it, that content would possibly never have seen the light of day. As of right now we are in a transition phase where the market is still heavily controlled by big companies, but my guess is that we will se more of artists like Alex Day, The Gregory Brothers (who started SongifyThis) and Alex Goot. Unsigned, but no doubt successful.