Column by Rachel Wood, contributing writer
Last weekend, my roommate and I met one of our friends at a concert in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was a Sunday night, meaning we’d have to make the two-hour drive back in the early hours of the morning, but we agreed it would be worth it. These were artists we had been listening to constantly for the past few months in anticipation of finally hearing them live.
Not to sound pretentious, but you’ve probably never heard of them.
These four indie/acoustic musicians got their start on YouTube, where they published videos of themselves playing guitars, pianos or ukuleles in their rooms. They’ve worked hours on their own and with friends to create their EPs, but they’ve only been dependent on themselves when it comes to promotion and final mixes. No record label involved.
So, if there’s no record label, does that mean their music isn’t good enough to sign a contract? Definitely not.
We’ve entered a time of self-publishing and self-promotion, thanks to social media. You’ve seen the ads for self-published novels on Amazon, maybe even been randomly followed by an independent author or two on Twitter. On the one hand, this can be cause of some criticism – if there’s not an editor involved to proofread or a social media manager to effectively spread the word, isn’t there a lot of room for error? Could a world without publishers mean a world full of bad books?
Sure, it does mean that someone can take whatever novel they’ve typed up on their laptop and upload it, but don’t be fooled: just being published doesn’t make something good “literature.” Just like a girl posting videos playing her ukulele on YouTube doesn’t make her a “musician.”
It takes feedback and an audience, too. We’re the judges of our own media now. We get the opportunity to choose what we read and listen to, to seek out the types of media we really want to consume.
The four performers we saw played a few sold-out shows at venues all over the East Coast in the month of October. There were 350 tickets sold at the show we went to, which might seem pretty small for a sold-out venue. However, this meant that every single person in attendance found out about this show online – not from the radio, not from ads bought by record companies, just these artists tweeting and sharing videos.
If an artist creating their following on their own from the ground up doesn’t show dedication and talent, I don’t know what does.
That being said, don’t just judge an artist by their producer (or lack thereof). Bad books can be owned by big-name publishers, just like good books can be self-published. Take the time to find the media that you like, not just what the “Billboard Hot 100” or The New York Times Best Sellers list tells you to enjoy.
Next time you’re channel surfing the radio and feel the need to complain about the lack of variety, use it as an opportunity to search the internet. Chances are, there’s an artist out there that fits your musical taste, but they’re not quite popular enough to take to the mainstream airwaves yet.