Yeah, there’s an ever-growing pool of music, more and more of it obscure (to me, anyways).

Supporting your points:

– Spice Girls signed to Virgin and first charted back at the dawn of public awareness of the internet, so their popularity was manufactured the good-old-fashioned way. Didn’t come through pop virality.

– DIY music software and audio gear was available then, but not so cheap or varied as today’s.

Leaving you with a request: what metrics exist that compare/contrast the source or catalyst of artists’ popularity?

If the internet is a factor in certain bands’ popularity, how many and to what sales volume is it attributed? I’m guessing it’s more complicated than that, but curious if there are any interesting publicly-released studies on the topic.