Surfing the Internet Wave with Local Musicians

Jack Sasner — Lauren Diaz — Jada Johnson
Photo by Spencer Gold

The struggle to make and circulate music in the most technologically accessible time period in history leaves some disgruntled and others inspired. How does one craft music in an environment of a seemingly endless proliferation of new bands, new artists and new social media platforms? The options seem overwhelming, but had the opportunity to talk to artists based in New York City to investigate what it means to be an artist in a city that is heavily pregnant with talent.

Technology has obviously advanced throughout the past decade. The question is how much of this advancement is hindering the production of music on a local level, and how much it is helping new artists. Some of the shifts on a physical level demonstrate how music has changed. Before the invention of Cassettes in 1962, the most dominant forms of listening to music were the radio broadcasts and records, which were first invented in 1877. In present day the availability of new output in music has skyrocketed with the use of online platforms such as Bandcamp, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, Submit Hub, as well as several other sites that are not music specific. Sites like Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter all act as platforms for massive audiences.

For most this internet wave is incredibly useful. Eli Wills, who writes and performs music under the moniker Rosi said, “Facebook is my main thing I would say. I haven’t released much music into the public, mostly videos of live performances, but you get your friends to like your Facebook, they get their friends to like it, and you get some views, people talking, and you can then send that to venues and get gigs … It’s the most applicable because most people are on it and it’s easy to use”. Listen to Rosi on Bandcamp below.

Sites like Bandcamp average about 5.6 million clicks per month. It has become, in some sense, the pioneer of publishing unknown music. While not entirely free for artists to release their music on Bandcamp (they get 15% of the digital sales you make and 10% of the sales from band merchandise), Bandcamp still acts as a more affordable option for bands who aren’t signed to an agency or are new to the music realm.

Sufjan Stevens is proof that Bandcamp isn’t just for new artist. The independent artist has been releasing music since the turn of the century under a label he co-founded, “Asthmatic Kitty.” On August 20th, 2010, he released an EP on Bandcamp, 4 days before putting it on traditional platforms such as the iTunes store. In the weekend it was only on Bandcamp, the record sold over 10,000 copies. After the surprising success of the EP, John Beeler from Sufjan’s label Asthmatic Kitty talked with Bandcamps own blog, “Bandcamp Daily.” Beeler explained, “…for this EP we wanted to get the music to the fans as quickly as possible. We wanted them to be able to hear it in one place and then support it right away without having to work to buy the album, which is often the case with promotional streams. That one-stop-shop experience that Bandcamp offers is hard to find elsewhere on the internet.” Although this unorthodox release method is not as fruitful for up and coming artist without a strong fan base, Bandcamp is truly revolutionizing the way artists can interact and put out music to their fans.

Nicole Rodriguez, who goes under the name “Pearla”, claims Bandcamp and Soundcloud are essential in sharing music. “I use Soundcloud and Bandcamp… to just keep in touch with people from forever ago who find what I’m doing now and like it. Or people that I’ve never even heard of will like my music which is really cool. I guess it’s where I start to garner some attention for my music.” For Pearla, using these mediums acts as a way to start sharing your music with people you know, and building connections from there. The availability allows for artists and fans to explore diverse music that they wouldn’t have found otherwise.

SubmitHub was also incredibly helpful for Pearla to get her name out. The site allows artists to create a press release for their music, and simply upload it once to . The press release is then sent in a mass email to music blogs from every corner of the internet, and if the bloggers enjoy the music, they’ll write a piece about it, as the blog Digital Tour Bus did for Pearla. It’s not only helpful for the artists publicity, but also for the blogs looking for new music. “For ‘Waking Up’ I had ten or eleven blogs do write ups about [it], and about me. That was big. That was probably the main thing that people interested in the song” Listen to “Waking Up” below

Access to the worldwide platform of the internet has undeniably increased the availability to create and post an artist’s work, but the world of live performance is morphing into a monster of its own. The difficulty of playing at large venues has increased and seems to be intimately reserved for those who have already been signed or have “made it”. Because of this, basement shows have increased in popularity, and are sometimes the only venue that’s immediately accessible, though it’s obvious that the quality of basement shows speaks volumes. “If it’s a house show.. with a room of my friends then it’s great. If it’s a house show with a bunch of drunk teenagers, it’s not always so great. It’s kind of the same thing at an established venue, but the venue usually has better sound systems…” The culture of house shows is usually tied to a younger generation. This doesn’t deplete its popularity. Much of the artists who play basement shows also play at small venues.

The landscape of live show culture has also changed due to sites such as Sofar Sounds. This website allows people to gain access to small, secret shows that are happening in their area. The user also has the option of opting to claim free tickets. The artist remains unknown to the user until they attend the event. This platform focuses mainly on keeping the intimacy between the performer and audience alive.

The musicians we were fortunate enough to talk to were optimistic about their future music careers. “There’s a lot of music that had a lot of media support which goes viral. That doesn’t mean that my music can’t.” Nicole of Pearla said. She realizes, “It’s a lot of important people saying what matters on the internet” but has no doubt that it’s possible to break into the public eye.

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