net-fame and the music industry

If you’ve been paying attention to the recent discourse online, you’ve no doubt stumbled across Rebecca Black. Singer of the song ‘Friday‘, Black is the latest source of YouTube entertainment (and unequivocally, humour). Released on 11 March, Black’s ‘Friday’ music clip jumped from around 3,000 hits on YouTube to more than 18 million by the week’s end. It’s colossal popularity is semi-attributed to a Tosh.0 blog post, which linked the clip to its readers and subscribers.

But how does something like this happen? When I jumped online to try and understand what all of the fuss was about, one YouTube comment summed up the insanity of the video’s popularity perfectly:

“Arcade Fire, winner of the Album of the Year at this year’s Grammys, has received 2.2 million views on their single Ready To Start and it’s been online since August 2010. This (‘Friday’) has received more than 18 million in less than a week. Wow.”

Irrespective of the quality of the song, it shows the truly awesome power of the internet and the use of social media – links through Facebook, Diggs,

But why contribute further? Why bother mentioning this “hysterically dreadful” new tune? Because it tells us a lot about the evolution of the music industry.

The music industry has retreated to the recording studio, as if somehow struck by an industry-wide case of stage fright. The products of the commercial music scene have always appeared from recording studios, but it appears that now more than ever, they are staying in the music studio and refraining from venturing out onto the vast global stage.

Musicians used to produce an album to support a live tour – where the tour was the primary objective, and the recorded album the supporting product.

Compare this to the present day where musicians tour to support an album. The priorities have changed… changed in such a way that musicians rely on the revenue from record sales, rather than the fruits of their live tours.

For me, the concerns over remix culture that have been raised by the music industry have an obvious answer: return back to the old days, and generate revenue from the element of their art that can’t be replicated or copied – live entertainment.

We are amazed that an ‘artist’ (for the purposes of argument) such as Rebecca Black can rocket to fame so quickly, yet we fail to take stock of the source or origins of her fame and ‘success’: the recesses of a $4000 recording studio and film set. Hardly the place where legends are born.

Copyright cases will continue to be fought over the ‘rights’ to an album, a song, a chord progression. But until the music industry are brave enough to re-adapt their business model (just as all industries worth their salt do in changing conditions), others will continue to copy their content, and fewer and fewer people will sympathise with the plight of a shy music industry, unwilling to return to its roots.



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2 responses to “net-fame and the music industry

  1. allanalderson

    Yep, ‘Friday’ is genuinely gut-wrenching!
    What you’re talking about isn’t so new–I think the music industry retreated to the recording studio quite some time ago. I have not-so-fond memories of going to see a glam rock performer called Suzi Quatro at Festival Hall in the mid-70s with a bunch of mates. We were crazy glam rock fans. Suzi Quatro was famous for her sustained shrill–almost scream–vocals (very intense).
    Check this out
    She and the band came on stage. Firstly, the band simply struggled to play the instruments in time, but secondly Suzi Quatro sung an octave and half below the recordings that my mates and I had pored over. We were gutted!

  2. It’s definitely phenomenal how Rebecca Black’s song managed to get shared across the globe so quickly. Social networking sites are definitely responsible, and also of relevance– the way that YouTubers created parodies and remixes of her song. These knock-off videos bolstered up her fame by generating more interest and discussion, and more ways to re-live the mind-numbing horror that is ‘Friday’.

    While it’s a shame that artists have had to shift the focus away from live performance and instead to recording, there’s something to be said for how positive the globalisation of music is. I’m incredibly grateful that music from the USA and Iceland and every place around the world is available to me, regardless of the artist’s ability to tour here.

    I definitely empathise with your comment though Allan– it has definitely resulted in a degradation in the quality of live performances, or an over-reliance on voice altering programs such as auto-tune (Rebecca Black is very familiar with that one). Lol @ the video though– 70s glam rock, you’re such a dag 🙂

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