The Cult of the Amateur: Hoodwinked
by David Downs
The WSJ has a great story about a musical unknown blowing up on YouTube. Turns out her “amateur” hit was manufactured by Hollywood Records. She had signed in 2005.
Ms. Digby's simple, homemade music videos of her performing popular songs have been viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube. Her acoustic-guitar rendition of the R&B hit “Umbrella” has been featured on MTV's program “The Hills” and is played regularly on radio stations in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Portland, Ore. Capping the frenzy, a press release last week from Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Records label declared: “Breakthrough YouTube Phenomenon Marié Digby Signs With Hollywood Records.”
What the release failed to mention is that Hollywood Records signed Ms. Digby in 2005, 18 months before she became a YouTube phenomenon. Hollywood Records helped devise her Internet strategy, consulted with her on the type of songs she chose to post, and distributed a high-quality studio recording of “Umbrella” to iTunes and radio stations.
The most telling part is this quote from her:
Ms. Digby says she doesn't mention her record label on her Web sites because “I didn't feel like it was something that was going to make people like me.”
Which is true. No one wants to cop to being on a major. “Indie” is the new “green”. And green begets green. Funny how green can mean: 'money', 'amateur', and 'environmental' all at the same time.
We live in a time where music appreciation can have nothing to do with the sound coming out of the speakers. What you like and who they are signed to is political. And the political is personal.
I once heard a webcaster say, “I'll never open a major label package sent to me.” Damn. Seems like you might be missing out on some good music.
Similarly, a friend asked how many fans Murs will lose by signing to Warner. And we both wondered what Murs would have to say about ditching a favorite act because of who presses their CDs. He'd probably say those people are retarded.
I say, fuck labels or the lack thereof. It's what's in the grooves that counts. So Digby's a liar. So Hollywood Records sort of lied too. I blame the cult of the amateurand the obsession with the major-indie dichotomy, as opposed to what the music sounds like.
I will now go listen to my all time favorite band of 2006, Frenemies. They're unsigned, by the way, and could use some tour support. Warner?