The internet and myspace provokes the biggest revolution in music since punk.
The internet’s impact and influence has now spread to the entire music industry. Not content with cornering the music sales market (iTunes recorded its one billionth download in February 2006) the internet has now provoked what Q magazine has described as the biggest revolution in music since punk, 30 years ago.
Whereas punk, spearheaded by The Clash and the Sex Pistols, revolted against the establishment and the bloated self-indulgence of prog rock. The internet music revolution of 2006 goes straight to the very heart of the decades-old reliance on record companies to discover, launch and market new artists.
I’ll give you a clue… Very, very cold primates…
The online-facilitated explosion of the Arctic Monkeys into the mainstream music business came as a surprise to many. Those with their ears to the broadband, however, who had seen the growing influence of community sites and the viral power of online might have predicted that the internet would one day propel a band fully formed into the big time.
The Sheffield based band gave their songs away for free by posting them on MySpace and the name Arctic Monkeys began to spread on chatrooms across the internet. Their fan base grew and grew and the times and dates of gigs posted online enabled the group’s followers to turn up ready to sing every word to every song. After the band’s demos began to sell in large quantities on Ebay they were finally picked up by a major label.
And what an ascent it was. The Arctic Monkeys achieved two number 1 singles with their first two releases and have their names in the record books as having the fastest selling debut album of all time. Whatever You Say I Am was released in January and clocked up sales of 360,000 and outsold the rest of the top 20 albums combined in its first week.
It is the sheer volume of physical music sales that has been the most startling feature of the Arctic Monkeys story. With so many of their songs available for free on the internet, it might have been expected – particularly by those music business executives who believed the internet and piracy would be the death of the recording industry – that they would achieve lacklustre CD sales. But it would appear that the generosity of the group - allowing their content to be heard free of charge online, has been rewarded by their already fiercely loyal fan base.
Despite having made the most notable splash with their online escapades, the Arctic Monkeys were not the first band to use the internet to bypass record company involvement and market their music online. March’s Q magazine gives further examples of bands that have shifted phenomenal amounts of their music without the need for a distributor:
- US band Hawthorne Heights sold 500,000 copies of their 2004 debut album The Silence In Black and White after using MySpace to promote themselves
- MySpace helped My Chemical Romance’s 2004 album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge to over one million sales
- Art-rockers from New York, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sent demos and live tracks to blog sites Brooklynvegan.com and Stereogum, once the word was out, they sold 65,000 copies of their self produced album through their website.
The rise of community sites…
Despite not being a new phenomenon by any means, online community sites have rocketed in popularity over the last 12 months and now represent one of the fastest growing type of website. Nielsen NetRatings reported in February that 1.8bn community site pages are viewed every month, attracting over half the UK online population.
Based on page views and user time, MySpace is behind only Yahoo! and MSN in the website ‘world rankings’. Just two years old, MySpace has 50 million registered users. It seems the $580million recently spent by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp on purchasing the site will prove money well spent.
The success of the Arctic Monkeys’ serves as a terrific example of how the internet is being used to bypass the spin and marketing tactics of record companies and exemplifies the empowerment of the consumer and their desire to locate something real. As co-creator of MySpace, Chris De Wolfe, talking to Word, points out, “MySpace is changing the band-to-fan dynamic.” His co-founder, Tom Anderson continues, “MySpace Music lets people find music in the same way they find out about music in person: through their friends.”
The internet’s relationship with the music industry can only grow. Online-only record companies such as Cordless Records will become commonplace and the internet’s ability to empower both the consumer and artist will ensure that it will be the chosen medium for seeking and breaking new talent. As a musical marketing medium the only thing that restricts its success is the talent of the acts. The Arctic Monkeys did not achieve their success thanks to the ‘magic’ of the internet alone. They are a band so of the time that, chances are, they would have been discovered eventually, but the internet just speeded the process up.
The importance of MySpace and other similar sites like PureVolume.com for new bands is such that as David Sinclair of Word notes “No new act can now seriously expect to get started without it.” I think it is fair to predict that this musical revolution is set to last a lot longer than the last.
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