The Disappearance of Midlist Bands or My Chemical Romance has 54 Million Views

Finding great new music is always a good thing. It seems like it should happen all the time in this glorious digital age we are living in. I mean, artists can go straight to fans without the intervention of stodgy labels and, because everybody can post their opinion online, the fans can be the ones to say whether they like something or not. That is the utopian ideal there anyway.

When people actually go looking for music today, I think it is actually often more difficult to find what one likes. Somehow modern distribution has made it so that a very few recording artists sell record-breaking amounts of swag and tunes. Many thousands of musicians who would once only have been heard by friends can now get out to hundreds of people who appreciate what they do. But the midlist bands seem to have disappeared. Where are the solid enjoyable bands, in the genres I enjoy, who once could definitely have charted high, but maybe wouldn’t be #1 on the charts?

Without major label support, mid-sized high quality bands can get really lost in a sea of user-generated content on sites like MySpace and YouTube. MySpace, for example, allows fan profiles, so NIN shows up five times on the first page of top industrial bands on MySpace. I enjoy Nine Inch Nails, but what if I am looking for similar bands I am not familiar with yet? More on YouTube in a moment.

Given how popular music magazines once were on the newsstand, why are music websites not more popular online? I know one thing I personally do not like is that most sites devoted to music are owned by one or another record label. While I realize that there are only really six significant media companies in the world and all, these record label-run music sites seem to only cover what is on their own labels. I do not know whether they think it would be unethical to seriously comment on music from multiple labels or whether they are competitive, but there are rarely reviews. There are independent exceptions to this, but most of them are very limited in reach. Generally, the only music news is about who is sleeping with who, who is in rehab, and who is having legal problems for their temper. If anyone has any good recommendations for music sites, I’d love to see them.

I admit that I usually come across new music in one of three ways. Number one, I get a press kit about a band. Number two, said new music is done by a friend of mine or occasionally a friend of a friend. Number three, I see a band play live with another band I already like or found out about via getting a press kit or a friend being in the band.

Today, I thought I’d cruise around YouTube to see if I could find some new bands to enjoy. I quickly discovered that there is no goth-industrial category on YouTube. The options, are rock, pop, indie & alternative, rap & hip-hop, R&B & soul, country & folk, blues, electronic, jazz, classical, world music, religious, and lastly more/other mostly for random soundtrack stuff and nonspecific lip-syncing. It is not terribly uncommon for there to either be no goth-industrial category or for a site like MySpace to have one category for gothic and another for industrial. But YouTube has no punk category either and that seems pretty odd.

So I guess the indie & alternative category is the one goth-industrial music videos would fall under. When I look at the most popular indie & alternative music videos of all time on YouTube, Marilyn Manson does make the front page with “Heart Shaped Glasses“. Yes, I know that if I were a “real” goth, then I would hate Marilyn Manson and say his music doesn’t count. Yes, I know that if I were a “real” Manson fan, then my favorite Marilyn Manson album would not be Mechanical Animals. Yes, I’ve heard that Marilyn Manson may have a bug up his butt about Blue Blood for not covering him way back when or something, but sometimes a PR agency called Nasty Little Man won’t get on everyone’s good side and I really did not care for the first track on Smells Like Children. I would have checked out the others, but NLM sent me a cassette instead of a CD at a time when CDs were the norm. But I digress. If one wishes to debate whether Marilyn Manson’s artistic and political motivations come from the same creative place as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and Combichrist, that is certainly a discussion and a half. But I’m pretty sure that finding Manson in the indie & alternative category on YouTube means that is the cat where goth-industrial bands would be, if they had any traction on YouTube.

Clocking in higher-ranked than “Heart Shaped Glasses” are My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Boys Like Girls, Boys Like Girls, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Good Charlotte. For me, My Chemical Romance has their moments and I like some of the later styling on their lead singer, and Lord knows not enough bands dress like that today, but I would never have expected that the most watched indie & alternative music video ever would be a song about fearing teenagers by Warner Bros recording artist My Chemical Romance with 54,130,096 views. I occasionally slow down the TiVo fast forward on video countdown shows on FUSE to watch Fall Out Boy videos. I find the stuff by Universal Music Group recording artist Fall Out Boy much more visually interesting than most of what plays on those shows, but they seem to view the world as a bleak place where nobody has anybody else’s back so you’d better just look out for number one. I find Fall Out Boy’s worldview negative in a depressing way. I’m not familiar with Sony recording artist Boys Like Girls. I enjoy Sony recording artist Good Charlotte. I’ve been ironically amused watching them evolve from “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous” not understanding how any successful musician could complain in the Rolling Stone to “The River” where they realize that Hollywood tinsel is not genuine precious metal.

I suspect that, if I were to go down the whole all time countdown for indie & alternative on YouTube, I’d be seeing a lot of Warner, Universal, and Sony. This is not to say that tools like MySpace and YouTube can not greatly increase the social and professional reach of the individual and the little guy. They can and they do. They just also increase the reach of the big guy.

I’m okay with this. I’ve worked on a lot of successful web sites and magazines, so it makes sense that I’ve learned some things along the way and would be likely to be successful with future media projects. A record label which has worked on a huuuuuuuuge number of successful bands has probably learned some things along the way and would be likely to be successful launching future bands.

But I am troubled by the big guy pretending to be the indie little guy to make sales. Sometimes fans seem to have the notion that, because modern emo music deals with themes of feeling like the underdog, then emo bands must all be underdogs. I know that, in the movies, audiences are supposed to want the person who has worked hard all their life and always been successful to fail and the longshot who just started training to succeed. News bulletin: Warner Bros, Universal Music Group, and Sony BMG are not longshot underdogs looking for their first big break.

Maybe, if consumers did not ask large media conglomerates to be misleading and present faux underdogs, then they would not. Maybe it would be helpful if record labels and bands approached music press like professionals. Maybe it would be helpful if music journalists behaved like professionals instead of like envious gossipy children or corrupt businesspeople. Then it might be easier to find new good music. Or maybe humans are just evolutionarily incapable of adapting to the intense infostream of the internet and we are going to go the way of the dinosaurs and get extinct now.

Sorta felt like listening to some cool new music tonight. Oh well. I wrote this instead. (Note to illuminati: it might be advisable to send me some good new stuff to enjoy (or a gold parachute), before I give all the secrets away.)


Posted by on July 18, 2008. Filed under Blue Blood. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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