The Music Industry and Social Media

Remember the days when bands used to jump into the back of a cramped van and hightail it around the country? Playing every venue they could manage to secure a gig at in the hopes that by some ounce of pure luck, they would be discovered by some music exec who would sign them up and make them rich and famous? Yeah, me neither. In fact, the last time I can recall such an occurrence happening is way back in the 90s when Louis Walsh was desperately trying to sell Boyzone as the next big boyband.

Since then however, times have changed and rather dramatically some might say. In many countries across the globe, talent shows such as The X Factor, The Voice and American Idol have developed a platform for discovering talent on a much larger scale in terms of the number of people they reach, although some would argue that these shows are still rather biased when it comes to the type of artist they want to produce. Basically what that means is, if you’re a budding rap artist or part of a group that’s more AC/DC than One Direction, chances are you won’t be the show's next crowning glory.

But fear not young musical prodigies! Thanks to the rather glorious fact that we live in the 21st century and have access to countless different online social media and video sharing forums, wannabe singers of all ages are finding more and more ways to get their music out into the world and slowly but surely, the actual talented end of the spectrum manage to build up loyal fan bases. This is largely thanks to sites such as Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and their interconnected sharing facilities. In fact, MySpace has recently undergone a massive overhaul since it was purchased by one of the music industries current icons Justin Timberlake and a few of his fellow associates. The site has always had a close connection with the music community; unsigned bands and singers in particular. Since the reconstruction of the site, its new owners have taken that once small tool and created a much bigger vision that now encompasses what the site is about, bringing new music and talent to the people and allowing budding artists to promote what they can do.

Now, probably the biggest success story launched from this new wave of self-promotion is non-other than the Biebs himself. Justin, a regular poster on YouTube, was discovered at the tender age of 14 by music manager Scooter Braun who introduced the singer to R&B superstar Usher. After signing with Island Records, he made his first major talk show appearance on Ellen Degeneres and since then he has never looked back. Although maybe it would do the Biebs some good next time to reflect on his rather underprivileged roots before spitting off a balcony while fans waited below.


Grayson Chance is another young teen who made a name for himself on The Ellen Degeneres Show after being discovered on YouTube by the talk show host. After a video of him appeared online performing Lady Gaga’s "Paparazzi" at a school recital received over a million hits, Degeneres was so impressed, she later founded her own record label in order to sign the teen and later produced his first album.

tThese are just two artists though who have been lucky enough to have received such vocal support from one of America’s top talk show hosts, there are still many, many more who are slowly building themselves up to potentially break out in the coming years. Take Boyce Avenue for instance. The band has become a household name mostly from their YouTube videos in which the band performs cover versions of already popular songs such as "Teenage Dream", "Fast Car" and "Mirrors."

These covers have pulled in millions of hits and with a little help from their MySpace account, they have successfully toured across their native America and recently did a stint right here in Ireland. Not bad for a group that have yet to really achieve success on their own merit.

Another singer known almost entirely for his covers of already popular tunes is Sam Tsui. Okay, he’s another cover artist, but if the people are watching, why tamper with a winning formula? And clearly he’s doing something right. Sam’s YouTube videos gained him the attention of the Queen of talk shows, Oprah Winfrey, who featured him on her show along with his long-time collaborator Kurt Hugo Schneider. Tsui also recently featured in a short movie Sing Along and is working on more projects for the future.

As for original talent, well Kait Weston isn’t there yet in terms of relying solely on her own material, but a recent string of good luck could see that about to change. After turning her back on the opportunity to audition for talent shows like Idol and X Factor, Weston created her own YouTube page, began uploading covers of songs and later developed a loyal online following. These videos caught the attention of producers Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones. After deciding to take on the role of managers to the singer-songwriter, the duo pitched Kait to the producers of the new Romeo and Juliet movie, set for release later this year and they snapped up the singer to perform two of the songs featured on the soundtrack and the movie's theatrical trailer, one of which, is an original by Weston. It seems choosing to go it alone rather than opting for the tv talent show route can pay off.

So what does this mean for the industry as a whole? Well in terms of accessibility, it means a hell of a lot. It mean that, rather than depending on the public actively going out and seeking bands and singers, the bands and singers can come to them in the click of a button. On top of that, it also means that these artists are finding international fan bases at a much faster rate than the rather costly heavy promotional tours record labels would usually have to apply in showcasing new talent. The down side is that it means much stiffer competition for new artists coming through and with millions upon millions of videos being uploaded daily, the chances of standing out from the crowd becomes that little bit tougher. Let’s face it, not everyone is guaranteed to find the kind of luck that has made a superstar out of Justin Bieber.

But social media isn’t just about bringing us new artists it’s also about promoting artists to newer markets. How can we possibly forget the smash hit "Gangnam Style?" What started off as the latest single from the Korean artist known as Psy, has since become a record breaker in terms of video hits and single sales. It seems the power of online social media is a lot stronger than we know.

Lauren Kelly
Facebook messenger