Recently I posted a piece on my Hubpages blog about two radically different approaches to music marketing and two radically different cultural perceptions as a result – the rise to stardom of Rebecca Black and Tyler The Creator. Many outsiders and unsigned musicians alike tend to get stuck in the question of what will simply get them to the top of the hill, and conveniently forget about being true to themselves along the way. This creates polarity, and it’s what makes the world go around. You get The Bee Gees and you get Bob Dylan. You get Ja Rule and you get Tupac. In today’s music industry, the poles have shifted even further. The supremacy of programs such as the worldwide Idol franchise and “America’s Got Talent” are evident, but there are some cracks in the wall showing.
You get Rebecca Black and you get Tyler The Creator.
The fact that Odd Future’s Tyler The Creator even broke through at all shows that some people, well, a LOT of people, are not happy about the karaoke contest takeover of the music industry that’s taken place over the past 15 years. OFWGKTA and Tyler’s music is about as gutteral, abrasive and arguably relevant to today’s youth as you can possibly get, and it’s a small miracle that it wasn’t censored or completely stopped in it’s tracks by someone along the way. This should be proof enough to those of you out there who think you need to edit or censor your songs so they’re “radio ready”. You can do that, of course, and it may help your chances with particular licensing spots on TV programs such as 90210…but you don’t HAVE to do it. People spoke up for Odd Future, and you can be guaranteed it was NOT the music industry establishment.
The music industry always moves in hindsight, and it’s important for independent artists to remember this.
That’s not to say that every artist who chooses to make noise is going to make something of themselves. Not by a longshot. Most artists set out to BE like their heroes. Tyler The Creator and Odd Future have made a habit of REJECTING the perceived kings of the castle and completely doing away with the rules. You couldn’t duplicate it if you tried – the only thing you can do, to quote Bill Hicks, is “play from your fucking heart.” The more artists who start doing this rather than trying to tame themselves and sound like Nickelback for some non-existent industry rep, the better off we’ll be.
Rebecca Black took a path to stardom that has become familiar to us as of late. It seems everyone has jumped on the “Youtube sensation” bandwagon, and this is the preferred method of finding new talent. It won’t change any time soon. However, more and more people are taking Idol contestants and Youtube stars less seriously. They are typically setting out with the goal of catering to someone other than themselves, and this can lead to problems with honesty. Once again, this is the easy way and it is certainly possible to attain success this way. Therefore, it works.
It’s easy for anyone to tell who will secure a place in music history out of these two polar opposites, though. Tyler The Creator had a different kind of drive from a young age, and no matter how violent and ignorant his message is, it’s REAL. Rebecca Black is a product of her environment, and the hopes and dreams of modern consumer throw-away culture. Neither good or bad. It makes the world go around, but it’s an illusion that we have no choice.
You don’t have to cater to anyone, and never really have. Didn’t Nirvana already prove this?