Finding Exposure To Gain Exposure: The Internet And Making It Into The Music Industry

By: Brendan Ryan

Somewhere in the early-mid 1960’s a record executive walked into a dingy basement-looking pub.  On a small stage, poorly lit and playing off the venue’s PA was a folk singer. This folk singer played his set of Woody Guthrie-esque folk songs full of tall tale stories and protest political awareness.  After the set, this folk singer was approached by the then extremely impressed record executive and talks of signatures, contracts, and future exposure began.

This folk singer was:


Unfortunately in some way, this type of thing doesn’t happen anymore.  A major record label would never just sign someone from personal belief and opinion that they were good and would make it big. In fact, it might even be safe to say that major record labels don’t even have a certain opinion about the artists they sign anymore.  Do you really believe that these suited 40-50 year old people are going home and listening to people like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga? No, good chances are they aren’t. There’s also a good chance these label heads and representatives don’t even personally like this type of music. So why is this music part of the label then? What makes these record label heads sign such artists? It’s because in the end it’s not about what the record label likes and wants to be popular, it’s about what the people want, the paying customers. These customers: (for the most part): are teens. They are the one’s to purchase the songs and therefore they are the ones who determine what reaches the top 40.

Which leads us to this post’s main question. In a world where you’re not going to reach the people who provide you exposure until you reach exposure yourself:


Well in the highly technological world we live in today, the task has become both more difficult and a bit easier both at the same time.  With such an obsession with the internet, TV, movies, music videos and pretty much all things visual,  being a popular mainstream musician is no longer about having a good collection of songs and having talent.  In fact, for a good amount of the time these days, those factors are thrown into the back burner.  With music videos being such a common thing now, image is everything.  There are inventions today like AutoTune that will correct someone’s pitchy vocals so this (unfortunately) is no longer that important except for when it comes to performing live, which even still is less important than it once was.  This is the factor about today that has made trying to become a famous musician because internet and TV has made the music itself less important.

On the other hand, however, the internet has also given hope to all aspiring musicians trying to make it big. With the internet, an artist is given so many more outlets to release their material than ever before. Sites like “MySpace,” “PureVolume,” “SonicBids” have for years now provided an area where songwriters can post their songs, advertise their gigs, and gain fans, something that before the internet could never have been possible.  There are even sites like that will allow you to post your material to be reviewed by other songwriters and musicians looking for the same type of feedback.  With sites like these, this is what will get the attention of the major record labels.

See, the music business is in an awful time right now where they are losing many dollars from internet piracy and lack of CD sales, so they are in no place to take risks on artists. They will not sign an artist just because they like their sound. They’ll sign an artist when they visit their myspace page (or in these days, Facebook Page) and see that they have 1,000,000 followers.  In that case, it’s not about the music. It’s a no-brainer because it they can sign this already popular artist and release an album with them, those 1,000,000 followers are going to become 1,000,000 new customers.  It’s not about the melodies the labels are looking at….it’s the numbers.

But how does one get these numbers? Well this is where the strategy in the long view dates back to the days Dylan was signed and before and that’s creating your own exposure. When you’re a musician trying to become famous you are no longer just a person…you’re a brand. And it’s important to sell that brand and place that “logo” here there and everywhere.  You want people all over talking about “your brand, and with the internet, this has become easier. The only downfall is that it is also easier for anyone to do it….so there is even more competition from every corner.

This is why, despite piracy being so common, there is a sea of millions of other aspiring artists and you’ll have to find your unique quality. What about you makes you stand out among this large group of people? There is a reason why Lady Gaga is one of the biggest acts in the world. Under the meat dress, and large sunglasses; under the makeup, Lady Gaga isn’t necessarily the most attractive woman.

She is in no way “ugly” but she doesn’t have the same “model” looks that her pop predecessors, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilara. Same goes for Ke$ha, mentioned in my last post. Who can get away with actually looking like a normal everyday girl by distracting folks by her party girl, torn clothes and makeup. It’s what makes you stand out that will get people talking and through this you’ll start meeting “the right people“.


How rarely we hear people today say, “You gotta check this new songwriter out, they’re so good. They got awesome songs.” Instead you’ll hear “You gotta see this new singer. They’re crazy. They’re insane.” And this is all because that is what comes first. How you present yourself is what will get the attention. The music itself that you play is what will get people to stay.

It was once said by a former Major Label executive that in order to get signed to a major record label you need to stop “Working to get signed” But instead “Work to make a living out of playing and recording your music.” If you succeed at this, the labels will come to you.

And in this day in age…this is how one can get famous.


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