While fresh talent is being discovered through social media, questions remain on what it brings to the musicians financially.

31-year-old UK-based Pakistani fish seller Muhammad Shahid Nazir’s One Pound Fish song is the latest rage these days online. What was composed to merely draw people into buying fish from his store has made Nazir a sensation after a YouTube video of him singing at Queen’s Market went viral attracting more than 3.6 million views. Nazir, now has a record deal with Warner Music under his belt.

Another major hit online has been the Gangnam Style by South Korean musician PSY. The quirky randomness of the song, the neon clothes and of course the characteristic horse-riding step has made this video the most watched video ever on YouTube.

Closer home, we are all witness to how the music video Why this Kolaveri Di also went viral. The part-English, part-Tamil song was everyone’s ring tone for a long time. Dhanush, Rajnikanth’s son-in-law, became a super-star overnight.

Hitting the right note

Nonsensical rhymes, catchy music, launch timing and most importantly social media has been the common link among the three songs. The explosion of social media, the penetration of the internet and the increasing number of launch platforms has made these songs global super-hits. Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and several other music Web sites are slowly becoming launch-pads for artists.

“The trend of digitalisation of music is picking up in a big way. Several artists are launching their works online for the first time. We have had several exclusive launches for famous singers and musicians as well,” said Snehal Shinde, Co-Founder and CEO, Dhingana, a music Web site which has over 15-million active visitors and 5,00,000 songs.

While musicians and singers earn revenues according to downloads/streaming, the website earns its revenues from advertisements. Dhingana plans to launch a subscription-based model as well.

There are a number of factors that can lead to a success of a music-video or any other content on social media. The most important is marketing strategy. A well-positioned, aggressive marketing strategy will ensure that such creative content goes viral in minutes

Finding help online

Rohan Sen, the vocalist of a four-member band Grey Shack says, “Like every other band, we also wanted a hard copy of our album. However, people can buy our songs online as well. There are a number of Web sites which allow bands and other independent artists to post their compositions online.” Grey Shack launched their first album in August this year.

Web sites like OK Listen and Reverbnation allow people to purchase/discover music composed by independent artists.

OK Listen “offers a quick on-boarding process, processed music files complete with tags, artwork and sometimes even lyrics.” It shares 70 per cent of the net sales with the musicians.

“Last month we launched around 10 to 15 albums on our website. It’s easier and much cheaper for new entrants (independent artists). We also help artists sell their music offline. We have a concept of ‘album cards’ which bands can sell at the venue where they are performing. Using the unique code on the card, a person can purchase the music online. This reduces the cost of selling music tremendously,” said Vijay Basrur, Founder, OK Listen.

Reverbnation is another website which allows musicians to promote their music and connect with their fans. Over 2 million artists use Reverbnation to power digital distribution, promotion, and more.

This space seems to be buzzing with excitement as there are a number of websites entering this market now like artists aloud and music fellas.

What many people don’t know about singer-songwriter, Sona Mohapatra, is that she is the first Indian artiste to have a YouTube licensed channel in her name. She started her career by releasing her first musical album on YouTube in 2007 and instantly reached out to the world.

“We at YouTube have built extremely successful partnerships with the music industry around the world — and in Asia. We have deals with all four major global record labels along with many independent labels all of which are creating new fans from around the world and generating substantial revenue through YouTube,” said a YouTube spokesperson.

The music industry is currently making hundreds of millions of dollars annually from having their content on YouTube.

“On YouTube, music ad revenue for the major record labels has more than doubled year over year. Labels are monetising all those promotional videos as well as linking consumers to buy the song on iTunes or Google Music,” said a YouTube spokesperson.

Money matters

While the social network may be a great way to reach to a large customer base, it may not do anything financially for the musicians. Damon Krukowski of the rock band Galaxie500 says that streaming of music has not got him much.

“When I started making records, the model of economic exchange was exceedingly simple: make something, price it for more than it costs to manufacture, and sell it if you can. It was industrial capitalism, on a 7-inch scale. The model now seems closer to financial speculation,” he wrote in an article at pitchfork.com.

Galaxie 500's Tugboat, for example, was played on online music portal Spotify 5,960 times for which the song writers were collectively paid just $1.05

Record companies therefore are not feeling worried over losing talent to the online media. “We use the social media to reach our target audiences effectively. However, we believe that the internet cannot become a primary medium for launch of artists. We are seeing a massive increase in the number of people wanting to be published,” said Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director, Universal Music India & SAARC.

priya.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 6, 2012)
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