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How Social Media Changed Music (Stop Blaming Napster, They Didn’t Bring Us Bieber)

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“Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”

The above phrase is the sentiment behind Drake’s latest single, talking about how he used to be a ‘regular guy’ before becoming the superstar he is today. But in reality: there are many successful musicians today that can coin this phrase as their motto; thanks in large part to social media. A tech savvy, social media minded singer/songwriter/musician/blogger/vlogger who knows how to use the medium to their advantage can become a force of nature within the industry.

Much like last week’s Disruptor Corey Vidal, the Internet has spawned a new generation of celebrity.

We live in an age where something stupid posted online could haunt you forever. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are amazingly talented and post your work on the Internet, it has potential to catch the “right” attention. One top-of-mind example of this is our very own Justin Bieber. Now before you groan in frustration, hear us out: Biebs is probably one of the most famous ‘YouTube celebrities’ out there. Credit his mother for posting videos of her multitalented, musical son online for family to enjoy. She certainly didn’t think Usher would see those song covers meant for Grandma! Besides YouTube, Justin Bieber (and his fans) were the first big fan base to take over Twitter. Users were achieving trending status on so many Bieber topics that Twitter actually made the decision to block his name/related topics from trending. I remember being on Twitter when “One Time” was first released: the kid was literally from a town 20 minutes west of me and I STILL had trouble figuring out who this boy dominating my social streams was.

Another music act that has YouTube and social media to thank (in part) for their big break is the married duo, Karmin (Amy Heidemann and Nick Louis Noonan). Probably best known now for their song “Brokenhearted,” they actually started out their career in Nebraska, posting covers of popular songs with a special twist: Amy’s crazy ability to rap. Of course, having a unique edge has definitely helped their covers go viral. When I saw them perform in West Hollywood they credited their cover of “I Told You So,” (famous for it’s super fast rap section) as the track that finally helped them break into the industry. In the following video, Amy from Karmin and music producer Bob Baker discuss music marketing and the new DIY music business. (source:

Of course, just because you post songs and videos on YouTube, doesn’t mean you are going to (or even need to) sign to a label. Prime example: Brit musician Alex Day. With then help of his Internet PR/marketing skills, coupled with traditional avenues such as radio, print and television coverage, he had a top 10 hit on the UK charts during Christmas 2011: a first for an unsigned artist. In response to noticing that Britain’s X Factor winner seemingly always scored the #1 spot, Day wanted to throw his hat into the ring for the title of Christmas #1. He rallied his fans all over the world to buy his single “Forever Yours” on what he dubbed, ‘Forever Day.’ He made it to #4 which is pretty impressive for an unsigned, unknown artist.

Can you think of any other industries that have been revolutionized by social media? Share them in the comments below.
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