By now, many music fans have heard that YouTube is planning on launching a paid music streaming service. However, the press is not mostly positive. There is still an ongoing fight between the viral video giant and some independent music labels over the terms of the contract. This may result in videos of these artists being pulled or the videos not being monetized (meaning there isn't any money being made off the videos). How this plays out is still yet to be seen, but it shines a light on the sometimes chaotic music world. It also seems to raise the question of how an artist can become successful in the music industry. Is there a clear path to success?
There is the more traditional method. Recording a professional demo and sending it to labels (or knowing someone) might work. Performing and getting one's name out there is always good. Also, relocating to a more entertainment-based city is not a bad idea. There the artist can find a manager/agent and start getting other great connections. Plus, by being in the right location, an unknown artist can jump at a last minute opportunity.
The traditional method is still the method that some use. However, in the last decade or so, it has quickly become not the only way. Talent competition shows have discovered some of today's top artists. Success from these shows is not guaranteed, but that has not stopped many from auditioning.
The Internet has also quickly become the way for up-and-coming artists to get discovered. This has opened the door for many artists who may not live in or near a more metropolitan area. YouTube was one of the original pioneers in this. Artists, like Justin Bieber and Austin Mahone were discovered by using this method and have gone onto to have great success. Other mediums like Spotfy, ReVerbNation, SoundCloud, and viral video site Vube have helped many emerging artists. There are many digital platforms and tools out there that help an artists get the maximum exposure and more are popping up all the time.
Once an unknown artist breaks through and gets discovered, there is the question of who they should sign with. The debate over major labels and indie labels has been going on for decades. In reality, major labels are still the top dog in most eyes. They are able to put in the resources into their clients that an independent label may not be able to do. But, don't count out independent labels. Some of today's top artists are signed to an independent label. Adele, which has been mentioned numerous times in the YouTube/Indie Label debate, is signed to XL, a British Independent Label (though she is signed to Columbia Records in America). Taylor Swift is also famously signed to Big Machine Records, an independent label out of Nashville (not involved in the dispute).
Occasionally I have written about up-and-coming artists and other aspects of the music industry. While I have always been interested, this whole idea came up randomly when I started talking with up-and-coming Liverpool artists Adam Lyons and it went from there. While I am by no means an expert (not even close), if there is one thing I learned is that there is no clear path to making it. There are many paths (I only covered a small portion). To be clear, more traditional methods still work for some. However, in the era where things go "viral," and some very prominent artists music have not performed well, it might be in an artist's best interest to be flexible and try a variety of methods. Plus, when I am listening to music or watching a music video, I am not thinking of how the artist made-it or what label they are signed to. This might have come into play in how I came across their music, but it doesn't determine whether or not I like the song or the music video.