Download This: YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret –

Download This: YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret –

Once the album was completed late last year, Ms. Digby and her label began looking for ways to gain visibility. “I was coming out of nowhere,” Ms. Digby says. “I wanted to find a way to get some exposure.”

That’s when the idea of posting simple videos of cover songs came up. “No one’s going to be searching for Marié Digby, because no one knows who she is,” Mr. Bunt, the Hollywood Records senior vice president, reasoned. So she posted covers of hits by Nelly Furtado and Maroon 5, among others, so that users searching for those artists’ songs would stumble on hers instead.

What strikes me about this strategy is that it’s an evolutionary approach to culture. The idea was to sell a new singer by attaching her to existing and already popular songs.

It’s the same strategy that nature uses in creating new lineages — take an existing winner and swap out part of it for something new. If you succeed then your new thing hitches a ride on an established lineage, and the lineage is improved as a whole. Maybe the mother’s cancer gene is swapped out for the father’s good singing voice, for example.

The buzz around this record (as the WSJ story documents) is that it’s a fraud. Letsetz says:

LonelyGirl15 was about the story. Modern medium allows closeted religious prisoner to reveal her inner thoughts. Once revealed to be untrue, it lost all its heat. Once the uber-beautiful Marié Digby is revealed to be just another young music wannabe, no different from any other major label priority, suddenly, there’s nothing of interest left.

But to my mind this story is mainly positive.

If the major labels are being forced to make their stars less packaged and more intimate, this is all for the good. How is it a bad thing if they finally do what the elite has been asking for?

And the videos in question may have been a staged scenario, but the performances and recordings were 100% genuine. The aspect of them which resonated with the listeners was not fakeable.  There is some stuff you can’t act.

4 thoughts on “Download This: YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret –

  1. The major labels have marketing strategies for breaking in new acts, that involve some form of making people think that they themselves have *discovered* someone new and cool–that they then can tell others about. The marketers know that they have to get a critical mass of people to feel that, so that the *discovery* spreads to a mass market, and doesn’t just remain the “secret” of a select few dedicated fans.

    The marketers play a manipulative role (and, from my second-hand experience, I know that they can be really devious), but we, the people, tend to embrace that manipulation because, I think, it helps us maintain our social status. We need to affirm that we aren’t alone in the music we like, and that we like “cool” music, etc.

    This is part of why / how music-oriented, peer social networks can break new acts–and, also can be manipulated. . .


    Also interesting about the cover songs: the more traditional practices of establishing a music career involve proving that you can cover the standards / classics before introducing your own, new material. . .


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