Can someone please define for me what a “fraud” is? Or for that matter, what is “legit”?
I first started thinking about this question back in March with the rapper Sam Adams who literally came out of nowhere to be a top seller on Billboard’s rap chart. I took some heat for what I still believe was a manipulation of the system. But what even I have to admit is, regardless of how he did it, Sam Adams now has more popularity than he did prior to that moment. There are now legit reports of some sellouts in venues and I even think his mixtape version of “We No Speak Americano” is actually quite good.
So now the question has arisen again over the weekend over the video by the band Atomic Tom where they play a track on a subway using only iPhones as instruments.
The internet buzz that grew throughout the weekend, spurred on by my friend Bob Lefsetz was whether or not the whole thing was “manufactured” or not. The band is signed to a major label (UniversalRepublic) and so therefore the assumption is that getting a million YouTube plays in 3 days HAS to be manipulated because viral videos don’t usually get that big without someone pulling the strings.
Now, overall, I’m generally against blatant manipulation of the system to make something appear “real” when it’s not. Prime example is the Chris Brown Wedding Video being manipulated into media attention. Another is Greyson Chance who, when broken out, didn’t go viral as much as Ellen made him popular. Or when someone actually purchases mass quantities of music in order to manipulate an “accurate” Soundscan charting position. (Yes, this is what I think Sam Adams MIGHT have done in March, but this is nothing new as an endless stream of label people who worked throughout the nineties and early 2000s can attest to.)
So, now, is the Atomic Tom video faked in any way? First things first: this is NOT the first time a band has played an entire song just with iPhone apps. First example I could find is the band The Mentalists who covered MGMT nearly two years ago and got over 1 million views. Then there’s the Asian woman one-man band who covered Lady Gaga all on iPhones. But this does appear to be the first time that a band has played their original song on iPhones.
Which, by the way, is not necessarily easy to do. The reason why there has not been a rash of songs by all iPhone bands is because there is a limited playing surface, making keyboards and guitars hard. So, this certainly required a lot of practice and even by the band’s own admission, they had to film it three times. Of course it’s “staged” because it has to be. And it’s no more staged than any live performance where rehearsals were done prior to hitting the bright lights. Nobody can be so good as to just spontaneously whip out their iPhones to jam on a subway. Since when is hard work and practice a “manipulation”? They also clearly knew what they were doing, which explains the amplification within the subway car. Again, because they were smart about how they went about exposing their music, does that make it a manipulation? Even if a label exec suggested these ideas to them, how is that a manipulation? One would hope that the band came up with this all on their own (and they very well may have), but even if a label pro advised them, so what? That’s why a band WORKS with label pros in the first place and why so many bands still demand the time and attention of the pros.
So we can now safely say the video is legit, no matter what your argument. The next argument for “manipulation” is that the label machine pushed it out to somehow “force” it to be viral and get a million views in 3 days. Guess what? That’s not manipulation, that’s PR! What, you expect that a label gets an interesting music piece on their desk that they just sit on it and pray? No, you work it! And the people they work it to who have posted the video (TechCrunch, Yahoo!) can often deny writing about it, but happened to like the video and angle. These people have big audiences. And a label’s ability to access these writers faster is precisely the reason WHY bands sign on to a record label.
After that, it’s all up to the public. And the public has it not only at 1 million views, but also a Top 10 selling alternative download on iTunes. Maybe this is the spark to start a career. Maybe it’s a flash in the pan. Only time will tell.
And on top of that, a main reason WHY it will be a hit is because the song conforms to the FUTUREHIT model well, as my avid readers know, including:
CHAPTER 1 – IMPACT LISTENER IN 7 SECONDS – both iphone and album version have vocals start well under 7 seconds
CHAPTER 2 – LENGTHEN THE SONG – both versions are over 4 minutes, owning the listening experience
CHAPTER 3 – INCREASE CHORD CHANGES – a very melodic song overall
CHAPTER 9 – MULTIPLE VERSIONS – only when the iPhone version came out did the song take off, and now people can listen to 2 versions to compare and thereby gaining multiple impressions
CHAPTER 14 – CREATE THE NEED TO SHARE – again, the element added with the iPhone version, so no begrudging the band, this is a necessity today
Make no mistake, you have to do something to succeed above the masses. This is a creative band who has a label that knew what to do with their creativity. This is the job of the business. It’s not fake. It’s not manipulated. To say otherwise is very likely jealousy of an artist not coming up with a similar stunt themselves. Presuming it will all be about your music with no guidance for the rules of internet discovery is a myth. You NEED to be familiar with the Futurehit.DNA rules and apply them in your own unique way. To do otherwise will almost certainly relegate you to obscurity. And the act of applying them is not “manipulation” or “faking it”, it’s just the smart way to get your music heard.
Now the part about stolen instruments…that looks likely to be untrue…that’s manipulation, and unnecessary at that.