It’s hardly a revelation that the internet has irreversibly changed how we view musicians, and how we consume music. But what does it mean for emerging artists and the rise of the next generation of stars?
Well, it seems that it has let us replace DJs, labels and music magazines (read: money) as the key sharer of new music. Underdogs now can be just that, and not artists hiding behind a façade created by a highly professional marketing team.
Perhaps the best recent example of someone who has come to prominence through people power as opposed to label clout is Sacramento spoken word artist Hobo Johnson. Real name Frank Lopes, he has shot to the public’s consciousness (whether you love or loathe him) thanks to his posts and videos being shared online.
He’d been plugging away for several years with his weird, unique brand of spoken word-cum-rap, posting songs like, er, Hobo Johnson Met a Thot, Hobo Johnson’s 1994 Toyota Corolla and the wonderful Dear Labels.
After the incredible opening lines, the refrain of that song runs thus: “you’re gonna hear me whether you like it or not.” Prophetic though it was for him, therein lies the thing about the internet – it’s no different to the radio which used to be on constantly in the family home – when someone is on the rise, they’d be nigh on impossible to escape. Only now, that pressure is being exerted by the people rather than The Man.
Of course, labels do still have some considerable sway with online and print advertising. I’ve become curiously fascinated by Daphne and Celeste’s freaky comeback LP, but only came across it by seeing the gorgeous poster on the tube. However, despite the thousands of commuters who pass their album cover every day, they can’t hold a candle to Johnson’s organically grown listenership online.
It’s clear the influence of paid-for promotion is being rapidly overtaken by the customers’ furious retweeting on social media, making Spotify playlists and shouting from the rooftops in group chats about their favourite artists. And for the lucky ones, this is now more effective than any radio play or billboard advertising. It also can’t hurt that now sharing music online can be done legally, and far more easily than in the web’s infancy.
So, while the Spotify generation is more musically open-minded than ever, we still receive persuasion and cajoling from all sides. The only difference is that the hype machine is now a collective effort inside all of our computers and ‘phones rather than concentrated in a nerve centre of the CBS or Columbia offices.