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Viral Hits: Pros & Cons For Artists

March 7, 2009

I just watched a viral video from an English band The Mentalists. It’s been getting a bit of press lately, but as I watched it I couldn’t help think that this band has found a new way to sell out, without selling out.

The video is laced with hooks for the internet.

  • The song is a cover of a hit song.
  • The “instruments” consist of iPod touchs + iPhones.
  • The ladies are easy on the eyes and they do their thing well enough that people would pass it on to their friends.

Some music marketers lose their shit over this type of thing. They see the instant hook factor and are all for a band risking their credibility to gain some more MySpace plays, some visibility and blog press. But this is a band of musicians right? They want their own music to be heard through their own instruments, not through blog friendly Apple products.

For me it’s kind of like going on American idol and attempting to come out of it as a legitimate musician. It doesn’t really happen that way. You sell your soul for that initial flash of publicity but your left with your pencil in your hand if you want to start doing things your own way. They want you to keep being that one trick pony.

For some artists this sort of thing might work. But The Mentalists appear to be real musicians. They sing well, play well, and have a growing career. It seems a little desperate to get noticed. In this new music economy you don’t need to sell out because the institutions artists used to sell out to are dying or are dead.

Hoover is in favor of using covers to bring people to your music. But this viral hit business is something different. It’s riding the coattails of whatever is trendy and popular. It lacks authenticity and authenticity is the the only way artist will sustain careers in the future. Be real.

Take Control of Your Music


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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2009 6:44 am

    I agree 100% with you on this one. It’s also the reason why I avoid the term “viral marketing”.

    From my experience, the things that go viral have little, if anything, to do with legitimate musicianship – like the cited example. If the girls had done the same song using normal instruments in a normal setting, no one would have cared. Nor will anyone care, if they try to do something that isn’t – in essence – a gimmick.

    Sure, gimmicky performance has always had its part in promoting music, but surely we need to draw the line someplace. I’d much rather hear a good new song (or an album’s worth, for preference), than watch someone playing their guitar with their feet (or less mentionable parts of their body). I am however certain, that the latter would go viral immediately.

  2. March 8, 2009 9:08 am

    Well written article hoov. Substance over insta-sucess. There has to be genuine legiticimacy to what you do

  3. Chivas permalink
    March 8, 2009 1:59 pm

    I usally agree with everything you write but not this one. “Selling Out” Is a. or should be a refrence for people that do thing that they dont want to do in order to maybe get somewhere.
    This band did not play or make A youtube video cause a label, or advertising agency wanted them to. They did it cause THEY WANTED TO.

    Thats a big difference. AS you both said, if they would have played it with real insturments, Nobody would have cared. After i saw that video, I went to check the band at their site. Terrible design, Good playing, good song, Singer could use a little vocal training, But the have potential.

    In this world they are already sort of a novelty as a all girl band that plays. From there interviews there already shouting about there a real band not just a girl band. If not a for the video, they would just be another “indie band” playing insturments with ok songs. This jumps them ahead a the pack, and If thier songs were “GREAT” we wouldn’t be talking about the video anymore.

    I agree about american Idol, big waste for a carrer minded artist. And also those Stupid dance shows.

    Also the term musician always just gets tagged to someone who plays an insturment. I dont thing that makes someone a musician. Most so called musicians cant play the same thing twice, or have no dynamics, or cant read or write standard notation, know nothing about theory. I play guitar and piano, write and read know a good amount of theory program drums( I can read drum and rythm notation) Plus i use my ears and I sing. But you wont hear me Saying im a musician. Most musicians cant even play a diminished or augmented chord!

    So mostly i agree with all your post spot on, (even every one sick of hearing about the beatles every time they fart) But you know its a new world out there, and this band (if they were smart) capitalize on this right now, It might be the only chance the get to seperate them from other indie band fighting for scraps at small clubs and festivals.

  4. March 8, 2009 4:24 pm

    Thanks Man,

    But that was all Voyno.

  5. March 10, 2009 6:18 pm

    Interesting thoughts Chivas. This sounds like a good discussion over a pint of beer. Now if they only find a way to digitize that…

  6. Chivas permalink
    March 10, 2009 6:26 pm

    Yeah Right! Maybe i need to get some developers together for a have drink app!!!! Or do they have that already? LOL

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