Bands are achieving unprecedented hype [pdf]
Hype is as old as entertainment. In the pop music business, generating buzz has largely been the domain of a record label’s marketing department and involved a time-tested triptych of tools: radio, reviews, and video rotation. As the alternative nation grew, intrepid fans traded recordings of favorite underground bands, generating word-of-mouth campaigns that turned groups like Pavement into cult stars.
Today, thanks to the confluence of Internet file-sharing technology, online blogs, and social networking websites such as MySpace, the grassroots community has swelled, quite literally, to global proportions. Instead of talking up bands and handing out tapes to friends in your town, music enthusiasts send the word, and the MP3 files, to cyber-pals around the world.
All Arctic Monkeys did was post some demos on their website and make them available for free download. By the time the band members signed a deal with the English indie label Domino last year, their audience was already huge. ”Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” released in the UK in January, broke a record for first-week sales in Britain.
This is good news in so many ways. After decades of being force-fed label-sanctioned product via corporate-approved radio, music consumers are more than ready to become programmers of their own playlists. And it’s nothing short of a revolution in terms of opportunities for independent artists. The Boston-bred, Brooklyn- and Philadelphia-based group Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sparked a full-blown blog-based frenzy (and, in turn, remarkable sales figures) for last year’s self-released, self-distributed, self-promoted debut album via the Internet.
No packaging. No pitching. No payola. The notion of a band finding a fan without the machinations of middlemen inspires utopian visions of art uncorrupted, a power-to-the-people model of music making and consuming. But while Web-generated hype may be more credible than the carefully crafted fluff coming out of boardrooms, it isn’t without its pitfalls. […]