During a recent Facebook conversation…the thread…which began on the topic of MySpace, Social Media and their respective sales and marketing benefits, quickly lead to a debate on Lindsey Stirling – the swirling dervish violinist, whose fame was precipitated by her ejection from the network TV Show, America’s Got Talent.
Stirling’s sophomore album, Shatter Me, topped Billboard’s Classical and Dance/Electronic Album charts upon its release on April 29, 2014.
Shatter Me debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart – selling 56,038 units (35,000 digital) the first week (May 7, 2014). The dance-meets-classical album dropped to #24 after five weeks.
In April 2014 Stirling’s YouTube channel had 4 million subscribers, and 600 million total views. She has created over 200 videos for her YouTube channel and her sophomore album, Shatter Me is being touted as a case study, an example of a musician’s DIY-YouTube-Success-Story.
A Background Check…
Stirling is described, alternately, as either an electronic rock or Hip-hop violinist who plays, alternately, classical music (this genre obfuscation does allow her access to several music charts) however, what makes her stand out, what makes her different, is her dancing.
In her videos and live performances, Stirling dances with choreographed abandon – she does back bends, plies, even moon-walks – all while playing the violin.
Moreover, while she includes original material, she covers popular compositions (music from the Game of Thrones, popular video games, or Niki Minaj covers).
However, Stirling’s YouTube channel, Lindseystomp – which she created in 2007, only gained noticeable traction after her 2010 performance as a quarter finalists on a traditional platform, the network TV show–America’s Got Talent.
While on America’s Got Talent, she also released music on iTunes (singles/EP) that she admits was “just sitting there.”
Regardless of anemic sales, Stirling broke through to the masses on TV – albeit she lost, but the point of the #2 position, is that she broke through – thus generating performance requests world-wide. She broke through the unfiltered clutter of music, and millions of people saw her. But while Stirling expected her TV audience to buy what she was selling – they were still trying to figure out what she had to say.
TV audiences didn’t follow her – and even as a quarter finalists, her iTunes album was not selling. And once she was booted off, that notoriety did not affect her iTunes releases, which, again, Stirling says, “just sat there.”
What had happened was . . . or it’s still WHO you know . . . Or YouTube is MTV
While still a student at BYU (Brigham Young University), Stirling received a call from fellow BYU student, Devin Graham, who reached out to her after her boot from America’s Got Talent in 2010. At the time, Lindsey was too busy (she had tour dates as a result of TV) to accept his offer to do her video for free.
Devin, a dazzling cinematographer (DevinSuperTramp) had already amassed a huge following on his YouTube channel. With over a quarter billion page views (375 million, to be exact), Devin had already radically aided the success of two other music groups (also BYU alums) by creating their stunning YouTube videos.
In addition to producing her video for free, Devin offered to place her video on his launch pad – i.e. his YouTube channel. But at the time Lindsey had no original music. She had made and posted videos before, but they were not going viral, and she was not consistent or urgent about their posting, but five months later, she had original music and Devin did their first video http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp63nbOfxgs
Devin, the cinematographer, juxtaposes music groups with stunning, surreal, and exotic backdrops, (an ice cave, or verdant jungle) many of his videos are done in Utah, including extreme sports.
Devin and Stirling also became an item and dated until 2014.
The Bottom Line …
Devin creates videos you want to watch. Considering that Lindsey had posted her first video in 2007, at the very least, one would have to surmise that her popularity credit goes to their combined YouTube audiences (Devin’s millions of YouTube fans & Lindsey’s TV and touring fans). That had more to do with kick-starting and aggregating her exposure than her postings on her FB or Twitter page. http://devingraham.blogspot.com/2011/08/epic-violin-girl-lindsey-stirling.html?m=1
And don’t get duped into thinking YouTube will be a more benevolent, equitable Record Company. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/17/youtube-indie-labels-music-subscrip
YouTube is already paying Major Labels a higher rate for their artists, than they are Independent Artists – although Indi Artists make up one-third of YouTube videos. YouTube is dictating the terms and have told Indi Labels/Artists that if they don’t agree, Indi label music will be removed.
Lindsey’s total sales are still not platinum or gold – the sophomore album sold 56,000 units the first week, and her debut album, (which was re-released) Lindsey Stirling, now totals 327,000. This week Lindsey is #1 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Album chart.
In a shout-out to conventional record stores, her aforementioned album sales, includes the physical album, Lindsey Stirling – a re-release (Oct. 2013) of her first album, which sold 10,000 units its first week at traditional retailer, Target.
And to think, it only required 600 MILLION views, over 4 million subscribers and 200 videos to reap these numbers!
As Thomas Honeyman wrote in EliteDaily.com, “Even superstars have it tough. Pitbull — despite having 50 million Facebook fans and nearly 170 million YouTube plays — has sold less than 10 million albums in his entire career. This is the reality of the new music industry, which is built off of liquid attention, not record sales.”
The Bottom Line: Even with active social media, music sales still struggle in today’s music industry, but they can be a way to stoke a fire and fuel a bigger pay-off – i.e. INTERNATIONAL TOURING, MERCHANDISING, SPOKESMODEL, TV SHOWS, COMMERCIAL ENDORSEMENT, LICENSING, BRANDING and SYNCH DEALS.
How does an artist make this work? P. Diddy’s career trek has provided the imprimatur–Diddy has shown the way.
Music is the soundtrack coursing through Sean’s multiple platforms (be it fashion, fragrance, liquor, water, TV, movies, Broadway, or politics) it is the music that’s leveraged– it’s always in the background and under his direction. Stirling discusses with ADWEEK how companies that hire her are now creating advertising under her direction–and her style. http://www.adweek.com/video/advertising-branding/how-make-it-youtube-158456
Nevertheless, translating a million YouTube viewers to other product extensions/platforms is not promised. Many YouTube acts with millions of views still are not able to fill an arena.
And with all due respect to the power of Social Media, YouTube is television at-large…it delivers millions of views – just like TV once did.
YouTube’s functioning as a successful world-wide music video platform is new, just as the SM vehicles like FB, Twitter, and Instagram are new for finding, developing and nurturing an audience, but the process:
THE finding, developing and nurturing of an audience, remains the same. And often, the process still takes time.
As Devin Graham notes, success on YouTube cannot happen overnight. “You Tubers work harder than anyone out there,” he said in an interview with the Deseret News, “If you are doing something on YouTube you are working non-stop.”
For today’s musician, that’s nothing new.
About the Author: Jacqueline Rhinehart is the president and founder of Organic Soul Marketing, a consultation firm that integrates entertainment concepts into creative marketing, publicity and branding opportunities. She is the author of My Organic Soul, From Plato to Creflo, Emerson to MLK, Jesus to Jay-Z (Broadway/Random House). With a career span of 30 years in music, she is a masterful Omni-media strategist, creating, developing and implementing memorable campaigns in music, entertainment and lifestyle industries. She is a native of South Carolina and Brooklyn, NY. For more information visit Jacqueline’s website at: www.jacquelinerhinehart.net or www.organicsoulmarketing.net; email her at: [email protected].