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Should musicians be able to buy fame?

20th March 2013

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YouTube is currently the most popular way to promote new music, however it has recently been discovered that musicians are buying video ‘likes’ in order to become successful.

Forget the days of trawling around pubs promoting your music or band to anyone that will listen; it seems that it’s now all about purchasing popularity. A list of the musicians known for splashing cash for social media publicity is being published later this year by an American data monitoring company.

The question is, how does this actually help musicians to earn the money back for their music? The answer simply is advertising. The main way in which popular artists make money these days is not by selling albums but through the endorsement of products. Advertising companies will pay big money to musicians for being the face of car-insurance, fizzy drinks or condoms and the only way to get these deals is to prove that your music reaches the masses. Therefore buying your way to YouTube fame is actually a good start in creating ‘fans’ and getting companies interested in you. A lot of advertising campaigns these days also use genuine new artists and their tracks and this is fast becoming the only way in which many musicians can hope to make a living out of tunes.

But does buying the public vote demonstrate the end of the musician or simply a way of the music industry developing in the 21st century? Pop music charts are often based on popularity rather than the musical ability of the tune. Therefore buying social media likes could be seen as no different to the money spent on creating an album. Although it feels like bribery it could turn into a modern day version of record promotion, which was once the main outgoing cost for recording musicians. YouTube bribery may appeal more to young aspiring musicians of the day as they can actually get their music uploaded quickly even before trying to sell it to the public.

Despite this it does raise the concern that music will yet again come down to how much money you have to start off with. What if you can’t afford bribes at even £30 per 10,000 likes, a figure that could just keep growing - will that alone count you out of a career in music? YouTube has been branded as a way for anyone to be able to get their music out there; however by adding financial constraints to no cost social media we are losing this musical freedom. It even surpasses the charade of ‘star’ making shows like X-Factor by telling people as long as they have upwards of 30 quid they can make it.

Buying apparent musical appreciation definitely has a distinctly horse meat flavour with it seemingly being the shady cover up scandal of the music industry. The situation is quite easily compared to a processed lasagne with the main negative point being that the public should be made aware of what is going on under the surface. No-one listens to YouTube artists believing it to be particularly high-brow (more of your laugh and a dance type of track) but should we not be made blatantly aware of how this music then ends up in the charts or why a particular musician ends up popular enough to endorse say, a carton of milk?

With the music industry constantly losing money due to the growth of programmes like Spotify, this may be a necessary change to draw people in and keep them listening. Perhaps bribing listeners is the only way in which new music can grow and develop.

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