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The story behind the music
September 1, 2010 8:10 AM   Subscribe

This is how a band gets promoted and why much of the music industry might still stand in the future. Florence and the machine has been discussed earlier on MeFi but this story highlights how a fan with good contacts can make a difference. Now, with a Youtube channel, a shot at getting a Video Music Award and a way to present their music to the US audience, they may be poised for a new breakthrough.
posted by TNLNYC (58 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Talk about grassroots, all you have to have these days to hit it big is one nice superfan -- that happens to be the president of the music department of the largest social network at the time!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:21 AM on September 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's kind of cheating to find unknown bands that are big in the UK already. Like this was fairly surprising to read: "The VMAs have a history of featuring bands that have not broken yet. For example, they did just that last year with the first U.S. television performance by Muse." Muse isn't exactly an undiscovered band and their 2006 album went to #1 in the UK.
posted by smackfu at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh, good! Now I actually have a reason to watch the VMAs this year.
posted by alynnk at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2010


Also the VMA's featured only featured Muse because they had just soundtracked Twilight, one of the hugest movies of the year, after having been avidly hyped by the book's author (who is a superfan). It was hardly a gambit.
posted by hermitosis at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2010


Also the VMA's featured only featured Muse because they had just soundtracked Twilight, one of the hugest movies of the year

And weren't they in an Ipod commercial before that, too?
posted by inigo2 at 8:36 AM on September 1, 2010


Aren't Muse not just huge in the UK- aren't they one of the more popular acts in the world?

I guess we all kind of pinged on calling Muse "unknown" as of September 2010. When I read that line I scrolled up to make sure this wasn't a really old article.
posted by hincandenza at 8:37 AM on September 1, 2010


Muse undiscovered? On what planet?
posted by afx237vi at 8:37 AM on September 1, 2010


Call me when they really promote a REAL undiscovered band.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Muse is still around? I haven't heard anything from them since like 2000. Or whenever "Sunburn" came out.
posted by Eideteker at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2010


smackfu,

You bring up an interesting point and it makes me wonder why there is so much great talent that takes so long to still get to our shores. Muse was #1 in the UK in 2009; Florence and the Machine was #1 in the UK in 2009 and yet is still mostly unheard of in the mainstream in the US.

In the age of the internet, you'd think that talent like that would be heard of at a much quicker rate.
posted by TNLNYC at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't this all just part of the same hype machine it's always been? F&tM are signed to Island, a subsidiary of UMG, the largest record company in the world. They always want to sell more CDs.

It's all just smoke and mirrors. Not even especially thick smoke or very shiny mirrors.
posted by Grangousier at 8:41 AM on September 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


This guy was co-president of MySpace, yet he thinks the best way to promote a band is for them to appear on the MTV Video Music Awards? Who still finds out about new music from MTV?

What's the reverse of get off my lawn, where the young people are cranky and the old people are being ridiculous? Get this lawn out from under me?
posted by oulipian at 8:44 AM on September 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Florence + The Machine are not easily categorized. I hear Kate Bush and Mary J. Blige.

Florence Welch has a great voice, one of those where you go "oh she sounds exactly like X (Siouxisie Sioux?)" the first time you hear her, and then her voice becomes entirely her own. (Hard to explain;)

This song always makes me feel happy: Dog Days Are Over on Alan Carr.

It's kind of cheating to find unknown bands that are big in the UK already.

Heh. Yeah, you'd think if you had a #1 album in the UK you wouldn't need the president of MySpace to get you US exposure.

The unstoppable rise of Florence Welch
posted by mrgrimm at 8:45 AM on September 1, 2010


What's the reverse of get off my lawn, where the young people are cranky and the old people are being ridiculous? Get this lawn out from under me?

It's more like get your fertilized lawn out of my meadow.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:46 AM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


When "undiscovered" is shorthand for "unknown in your spoon-fed, incurious cultural backwater" it doesn't really carry the indie cred you might think it would.
posted by mhoye at 8:48 AM on September 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


What's the reverse of get off my lawn, where the young people are cranky and the old people are being ridiculous? Get this lawn out from under me?

Stop trying to own the house where I'm partying?
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on September 1, 2010


A far better case study on the internet spawning a hit band would be Arctic Monkeys, who also got their big break via Myspace music - a fan-made Myspace page for them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:51 AM on September 1, 2010


F&tM are signed to Island, a subsidiary of UMG, the largest record company in the world.

Incidentally, Island managed to upload an official video to Youtube of Dog Days Are Over with no sound. You would think it was someone's job to notice this.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on September 1, 2010


You would think it was someone's job to notice this.

Unpaid interns.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:59 AM on September 1, 2010


I said they were big. I didn't mean to imply they were competent.
posted by Grangousier at 8:59 AM on September 1, 2010


The story of how a band already signed to a major label in the UK got some promotion in the US after a co-president of MySpace liked them? Jolly good luck to Florence and all, but I don't see why this has any bearing on "why much of the music industry might still stand in the future". Quite the reverse, surely. Isn't this one random suit says 'yes' thing quite precisely a big part of the lop-sided top-down model that has driven the majors to the brink of disaster?
posted by motty at 9:06 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: Unpaid interns

This is worth clicking just for the footage of Bill Murray singing and dancing to a Belle & Sebastian song, at about 4:08.
posted by oulipian at 9:09 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's the reverse of get off my lawn, where the young people are cranky and the old people are being ridiculous?

*eyeroll*
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:14 AM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll admit that the first time I heard of Florence and the Machine was from the ads for the Piper Perabo show Covert Affairs. Little did I know that the TV show was stealing the idea of using the song from the Eat, Pray, Love trailer.

I swear, the best music bird dogs are currently working in advertising.

Damn you, Don Draper.

Florence Welch has a great voice, one of those where you go "oh she sounds exactly like X

Shirley Bassey

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:15 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who still finds out about new music from MTV?

At a work function, during a discussion about music, I mentioned the new Arcade Fire album. I got a bunch of, "Who?" These are males in their 20s. I would not believe it if it did not happen to me, but a lot of people still get their music from FM radio and MTV/VH1.
posted by geoff. at 9:26 AM on September 1, 2010


F+TM have been a textbook example of the industry machine in the UK too, with well-connected parents, an industry veteran manager and a boyfriend who just happens to write for Dazed & Confused magazine.
It's patently evident that her/their rise has been meticulously stage managed from 2007 onwards and the notion that they have ever seen any kind of organic growth, as opposed to buckets full of promotional cash thrust in the right directions, is frankly ridiculous.
posted by anagrama at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Muse? Seriously? I had a girl open a show dressed as Uhura set to Super Massive Black Hole like 3 years ago. Unknown bands don't end up in Guitar Hero games, sheesh.
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on September 1, 2010


Things change. Example: I came across a link to a YouTube with some woman singing. Her name is Miranda. That is my daughter's name, so I sent her the link. She enjoyed it. A few weeks later, vacationing in Cape Cod, there was a billboard announcing a one-night only performance by--yes, the same Miranda. We went. Part of the funny routine from this lass was how famous she was because of YouTube; she made fun of herself in a very funny and pleasant way. Now she goes from place to place and performs, making a career of her act. You can if you care to search her many videos at YouTube. But this is an example of a quick rise to fame from total obscurity. Ps: she made fun of the Brit ouTube wonder, Susan Boyle in her act, singing a mock duet with her.
posted by Postroad at 9:37 AM on September 1, 2010


This is how a band gets promoted: post on Metafilter about your new favorite band linking to their Youtube channel, official website, and an article that mentions them in the context of some hollow talk about how revolutionary web two point whatever is/will be. Pretend they're completely unknown and are pulling themselves up by their virtual bootstraps and are not, like most bands you've heard of, represented by agents, promoters, PR firms/publicists, and countless other support staff all being paid to create the illusion of underground authenticity. Win!
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:37 AM on September 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


For someone in the music business, Jason Hirschhorn sure seems overconfident in the ability for a non-US band to somehow break through here in the States. Surely he's ignoring history when he makes the claim that this band will magically be popular here because of their MTV music awards appearance. There's a LONG list of artists who are super-huge all over the world EXCEPT for in the US: Kylie Minogue, Pink (who is mildly popular here but rabidly giant elsewhere), Robbie Williams, (going back a few years to) Chris de Burgh... Those are just the artists I'm coming up with off the top of my head right now. I'm sure there are many many more.

All of those I mention are artists who had a splash in the US music scene, but never really have caught on with the masses. All of them have world-wide mega superstatus (or did at one time) outside the US. To believe that simply because you manage to get a band before the US populace they're going to suddenly become huge here, no matter how wonderful they are, is to willfully forget what reality has actually shown us.
posted by hippybear at 9:47 AM on September 1, 2010


TNLNYC: You bring up an interesting point and it makes me wonder why there is so much great talent that takes so long to still get to our shores. Muse was #1 in the UK in 2009; Florence and the Machine was #1 in the UK in 2009 and yet is still mostly unheard of in the mainstream in the US.

I have to say: in my experience, #1 pop record and 'great talent' do not walk hand-in-hand very often.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:50 AM on September 1, 2010


Who still finds out about new music from MTV?

I suspect it's the same luddites who actually pay for music rather than finding it for free. In other words: Paying customers of the music industry.

I haven't watched MTV for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, I recognize the reality that if one of my songs is licensed for use on a popular MTV show, I might possibly make money from music. And that would be nice.
posted by The World Famous at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2010


Don't do it America. Florence and the Machine are cold, manufactured bloody rubbish and they think making a "ha-ha-ain't domestic-violence-cute?" song is cool. Or edgy. Or something. Seriously. Don't waste your time.
posted by Decani at 10:01 AM on September 1, 2010


Funny thing was that Muse's performance on the VMA's last year was very much like they *were* a small indie band getting attention for the first time. No special staging, just the band playing with an audience, not even in the main auditorium, just in a nearby theater.
posted by smackfu at 10:17 AM on September 1, 2010


See, Decani, you have made the mistake of actually listening to them, thereby collapsing the waveform. By never having done so, I can maintain the illusion that perhaps they are not actually shit after all.

I forget why I do this.
posted by motty at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tried eMusic for a month, and one of the only things I found there that I hadn't known I wanted when I signed up was a Florence and The Machine track that I adore (despite, as Decani says, the "ha-ha-ain't domestic-violence-cute" nature of it.)

I bring this up, because a lot of people claim that free music (or at least music not being promoted through traditional channels with record company support) is worthless -- yet much initially "worthless" music ends up rising to the top and becoming promoted through traditional channels.

A good reminder to look wherever you can to find music you like, and just like it because you do, not because it's being promoted as something you should like.
posted by davejay at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2010


A far better case study on the internet spawning a hit band would be Arctic Monkeys...

Oh yeah, them too (for me, found via recommendation from a friend who has excellent taste in music, as a "here, you'll like this" that came without the band/song name attached.)
posted by davejay at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2010


A far better case study on the internet spawning a hit band would be Arctic Monkeys, who also got their big break via Myspace music - a fan-made Myspace page for them.

Didn't The Libertines also encourage fans to share bootlegs and demos online?

As for Muse, they had a gold certified album in the US in 2007
posted by djgh at 10:47 AM on September 1, 2010


Yes please, can the US take all our other shit manufactured bands too, and we can replace them all with Macdonalds and Starbucks in an effort to 'keep it slightly realer than FatM'.

Fair exchange no robbery. Except for the robbery part. Mmm, Starbucks.
posted by shinybaum at 11:00 AM on September 1, 2010


Unknown bands don't end up in Guitar Hero games, sheesh.

Except if you and your bandmates work for the company that makes the game...and you put your own band in it. Just retrofit the up-by-the-bootstraps narrative as necessary and leverage your exposure to gain more exposure and, ultimately, money. Win again!
posted by inoculatedcities at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2010


A far better case study on the internet spawning a hit band would be Arctic Monkeys, who also got their big break via Myspace music

Not really. They broke the same way bands have always broken, gigging. Often as not these "look, thanks to myspace a band got superfamous without a paid PR machine" stories are a spin invented to get free column inches by a paid PR machine.
posted by Slyfen at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's fantastic, but the lesson for musicians is to organically market themselves to taste makers. Hang out with the right crowd and engage with people who can propel you forward. One great connection can be worth more than 300 quasi-interested teen facebook fans.
posted by MikeF7033 at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2010


Nothing burns like being in an actual unknown band and hearing a band like this called unknown.

The lesson for musicians is to be super attractive girls that make great european party music. Then, after getting the shit hyped out of you, some rich american might notice you.

All these people can eat a dick.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I wonder when the other bands that played the recent V festival will show up. Florence et al have been getting mad airplay in britain for over a year now. I'm waiting for kasabian.
posted by LD Feral at 1:42 PM on September 1, 2010


I'm waiting for kasabian.

I'm still waiting for Salad.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


How can a network that doesn't even play music videos get to host a video awards show?
posted by delmoi at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2010


Add me to the "Florence is unknown?!?" group. For statistical analysis purposes, I live in Austin.
posted by immlass at 2:12 PM on September 1, 2010


Awww. I shot a video for Salad before they were Salad. I am old.

I've nothing particularly against FATM but I do object to them being on every bloody festival, music mag cover, radio and telly programme the UK has. Such saturation is the result of either unimaginative programming or some kind of collusion between what's left of the record industry and an equally desperate media, press etc, regardless of their actual musical worth. It's probably a combination of the two. Frankly if they disappear over the pond for a few months I'd be quite happy. Dizzee Rascal could go with them.
posted by peterkins at 2:18 PM on September 1, 2010


Carbon Leaf won the Coca-Cola New Music Award in 2001 and performed as an unsigned band at the 2001 American Music Awards as part of their prize. Two years later, they were still relatively unknown and were struggling to even find a label.

They made their name the old-fashioned way -- non-stop touring, creating quality albums, and working grassroots support for their music to get it on radio.

They're much more successful now. They did a lot of the music on the Curious George 2 soundtrack, and have left their music label to take an independent route toward music distribution. They did it all through hard work and great musicianship.

Sometimes it's who you know that gets you exposure. Other times, it's sheer determination and hard work. and that exposure happens organically, even despite having a global stage.
posted by hippybear at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2010


Florence has been absolutely massive in the UK for ages. We've been doing TV spots (which aren;t the first port of call for unknown bands) for them since the end of 2008, they've been nominated for awards, headlined festivals, and had about five hit singles off of one album.

They're about as 'unknown' as the Dave Matthews Band, for point of reference. That guy couldn't get arrested in the UK (except for CRIMES AGAINST MUSIC LOL) but is huge in the States. Swap Florence for Dave and you can see why this post would really confuse people outside the US.
posted by mippy at 3:33 PM on September 1, 2010


I can see how some would write off "Kiss With A Fist" as some sort of LOLWIFEBEATING, except for one telling line:
My black eye casts no shadow
your red eye sees no pain
your slaps don't stick
your kicks don't hit
so we remain the same
When I first heard the song, that line stuck out at me and changed it from a catchy little ditty about spousal abuse as foreplay, into a narrative about two people taking one another down in an emotionally scarring relationship. I've been with men where we'd enjoy (for want of a better word) neglecting or insulting one another, which could be why that line jumped out at me.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:36 PM on September 1, 2010


Yeah, I'm pretty sure "Kiss With A Fist" is not literally about spousal abuse. It's clearly consensual, they're both doing it to one another rather than one person being the victim of the other, and it's completely over the top in terms of violence - I have always, always read it as a metaphor about Mutually Bad Relationships rather than some kind of pro-abuse nonsense and I don't think that the pro-abuse nonsense holds up at all if you actually pay attention to the song.
posted by titus n. owl at 11:57 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It takes the president of MySpace to be friends with the president of MTV Networks, and then pester the hell out of him for months on end until the guy gets off his ass just to see them perform.

Inspiring.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 5:42 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


A far better case study on the internet spawning a hit band would be Arctic Monkeys, who also got their big break via Myspace music

Not really. They broke the same way bands have always broken, gigging.


Not just gigging, but also music press hype, attention from the BBC and the British tabloids, a record deal, a publishing deal with EMI and Epic Records... and then they released their first single.

(Btw, their "non-marketing marketing" was so successful that Gordon Brown pretended to like them back in 2006.)

No, the really good example on the power of internet to sell music is Heidi Montag:

"EW: If the album doesn’t do as well as you hope, will you still pursue a music career?

HM: Definitely. I think it’s gonna do great. I have a million Twitter followers and they’re all very excited. So that’s at least a million people right there."


Wikipedia: "The album was released on January 11, 2010 and sold 658 copies in its first week of release while the songs logged a total of 6,000 downloads."

From the original post: "how a fan with good contacts can make a difference." Fan marketing is not new - and sometimes the music fan in question is just some unknown person, not the co-president of MySpace:

"When the third single from Look Sharp, "The Look" became another Top 10 success in their home country, Roxette were still unknown internationally. It was while studying in Sweden, that an American exchange student from Minneapolis, Dean Cushman, heard "The Look", and brought a copy of Look Sharp! home for the 1988 holiday break. He gave the album to a Minneapolis radio station, KDWB 101.3 FM. The station started playing "The Look" and based on positive caller feedback, the song became very popular, and quickly spread to other radio stations. The song became a radio hit before any Roxette product had been commercially released or promoted in the US market. The story was covered by radio, newspapers and TV in the US and in Sweden, making for good press for many years, with Gessle telling this as the story which highlighted the beginning of their international success."
posted by iviken at 6:24 AM on September 2, 2010


Not just gigging, but also music press hype, attention from the BBC and the British tabloids...

Yep. Count up the number of people who discovered them on myspace, versus the number of people who discovered them via a piece in traditional print or broadcast media breathlessly declaring they got famous when everyone discovered them on myspace. A ratio on the order of 1:1000, I'd bet.
posted by Slyfen at 7:35 AM on September 2, 2010


One of the point I tried to make in the initial MeFi submission is that, even though the band had its own youtube presence, ultimately, what seems to matter is more about the cozy relationship of music execs. I do think that Florence appears to have a great voice (from the clips I've seen on YouTube, she seems to have range) but it's fascinating to me that the way to US musical stardom still appears to run through the same model as it did in the pre-internet days.

Have things really changed? So far, no one seems to have come up with an example of a band that made you through to the mainstream primarily thanks to the internet.
posted by TNLNYC at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2010


Justin Bieber?
posted by inigo2 at 6:17 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I came across a link to a YouTube with some woman singing. Her name is Miranda.

Holy shit, I read this comment yesterday and just now came across this very same Miranda, totally independently. I guess she is doing something right...
posted by hermitosis at 9:52 PM on September 2, 2010


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