For those of you who get our weekly newsletter you’ve already read some of my blabberings about the “Harlem Shake” phenomenon several times, but bear with me – this has some value beyond my keen observational humor. Although this little nugget is being posted on March 1, 2013 – somehow the first time I watched one of these videos was on February 5th and like some internet memes too strong for words, I couldn’t look away. So entranced were my peers that they insisted we make a version of the video at our “blacklights and blackhearts” Valentine’s Day party with some sick DJ’s and a whole lot of craaaaazy blacklight reactive clothing – I will not be linking to that video here for…ahem…job security related reasons…but I digress!
Experts across the industry are guessing round numbers between $500-$600k in additional revenues for Mad Decent (Baauer’s label) as a direct result of all this hoopla through on the fly licensing to weirdos all across the web and ad revenue via YouTube. That doesn’t even include what has and will continue be a spike in undisclosed sums from sales, gig revenues, merch and interest in his next project(s). Pretty freakin’ sweet if you ask me. Though all of that is likely public knowledge at this point and with more vids like this (friends don’t let friends do the Harlem Shake), this meme has likely jumped the shark.
However, one really interesting factoid that every musician needs to know about has come out of this story. As I was driving last Saturday, I heard an interview on NPR with Silvio Pietroluongo of Billboard Magazine about the recent changes to the formula for the “Hot 100” chart (embedded at the end of this post). The Billboard charts have been evolving to reflect the music industry forever. First, they tracked music sheet sales, then jukeboxes, airplay sales, vinyl, cassettes, CD’s, downloads and for the last six years or so streaming has been incorporated as well (go Google this stuff if you care to dig in more). Then, ladies and gentleman…Billboard made the move last week to include YouTube plays in the formula for their “Hot 100” chart. Immediately after doing so, I’ll give you a nickel if you can guess who was #1…give up?
The first week they incorporated this new formula, you can see Baauer’s position at #1 here. Also notice that he was NOWHERE on the charts the week before. Nice to know you can make a jump like that so quickly given a massive and perfect storm of virality and catchy beats. Pietroluongo says, “of the three streams that we use – of sales, airplay and streaming – sales still weighs heavier than radio; radio weighs heavier than streaming. But if you look at the top-selling downloads each week, if you look at the top streaming songs each week, 90 percent of the top it’s the top radio hits. So, you know, radio still validates, I think, at the end of the day, what a major hit will be.” No matter how you slice it, having unprecedented access to a world of consumers via YouTube is a pretty amazing resource for today’s DIY artists, and now that’s being validated in a sense by a long-time industry barometer for talent. In the world of instant and widespread shifts in trends and tastes, I can’t imagine how you could be sheepish about your opportunity to go connect with folks and share your sound with the world.
I realize I am going to sound like a broken record with my last nugget in this post, but it needs to be said; put your effin’ music out there! “We’ve, from the beginning, been very much a proponent of allowing everybody to do whatever they want with our stuff, as long we’re able to monetize it,” says Jasper Goggins, the manager of Mad Decent. “It’s a great way to help spread the music.” I can’t say this any more often or emphatically – you must get your music to a larger audience in order to gain traction. I’m not saying you don’t need to get paid for you craft, but as any new entrant in the marketplace will tell you, it takes some time and you need to let people be exposed to your sound or sample your product before they make a purchasing decision. They give out samples at Costco and at the farmer’s market and for all of the services I use online. Why? Because they need to prove they’re good or I’ll go somewhere else – it’s a buyer’s market. You want me to lay down cash for your sound without any evidence of why I should? Why? Because you’re good? Welcome to the club. I sometimes find newer artists saying, “I’m better than everyone” while the best and most seasoned musicians in L.A. that I run around with are always blown away by the hoards of dope artists coming out of the woodwork.
Get your music out there, make it fun, make it accessible and fans (AKA revenues) will come.