Several friends in the social media-sphere were rabid supporters of Bum Rush the Charts last Thursday, March 22, and I joined in.
In short, BRTC was an effort to show that people could join together in a grass roots fashion to push an independent musician to the top of the iTunes charts. the song “Mine Again” by Black Lab was chosen.
My immediate reaction was to object to the iTunes platform. I hate DRM (digital rights management), and in particular I detest the closed iTunes system (Apple’s protected AAC file format), which basically means you have to have an iPod if you want to buy and play songs from the iTunes store. There are workarounds, but to a one they are each a pain the ass.
I got over that objection quickly, deciding that refusing to support iTunes tyranny could temporarily take a back seat to seeing people try to flip a collective bird to the major record labels.
Other people objected to the song– they hated it. I say that’s beside the point– participate in the social experiment, concentrate on your own musical choices later (more on that point below). By then I had decided that whether I bought into the movement–or the song–or not, it would be fascinating to see a massive social media experiment at work.
And work it did. Getting the song to number 11 on the U.S. Rock charts was pretty impressive (more results here). Pushing aside some of the dreck on the charts for one day is a pretty good exercise.
But now what?
Can we do it again? Do we want to? Do we need to? It might be a thought to do this a few more times, just to get more attention to independent artists in general, and perhaps expand America’s pop palette (too much to hope for). Subsequent go ’rounds could include more of a press campaign, not just a couple of press releases (great effort by Christopher Penn et al though, and I got BusinessWeek’s blog to weigh in this first time)– I’m thinking busting into the music publications, online and in print– Rolling Stone, Spin, etc., to get the message outside of our social media clique and into the main stream.
(Update: Christopher Penn kindly told me about some other coverage he got for BRTC: Billboard, WashPost, Spin, Wired, Newsweek, CNET, CBC, BBC. I knew about a couple of these, but of the ones I didn’t, Spin and Newsweek in particular are impressive–I’ll stick with my point that all that and more is needed)
My other thought– everybody recommend some independent artists that you love and would like to see get more listeners– even just a few. You don’t need to have your own Accident Hash podcast to be able to identify worthy artists. Here are my two (both of whom can be found on iTunes, if you must):
Amelia White: Back in the 80’s she was part of the folk-rock group Sara Laughs, but has worked under her own name since at least the early 90’s. Boston-based until a few years ago, she has been making some great music in Nashville. She’s an old friend of my wife’s in Boston, and I have been proud to know her for the last 15 years. Amelia has several CDs, not a bad one in the bunch. And if you catch her live, buy her a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks and tell her I sent you.
The other is Dave Aaronoff. I know Dave from when he was in a ska-ish band with my brother–Duck Duck, the toast (or Toast-‘ems) of Lowell MA in the early 90’s. He later joined some Ducks in the Shods, but has several CDs under his own name (or with his band the Details). He has a bit of an Elvis Costello vibe, but his sound is his own. Trivia: he once was an assistant to Al Kooper (bow down to the great Al Kooper please), and told the Boston Globe that he did all of Kooper’s marketing; he went tot he vegetable market, the meat market, the dairy market….
So… who are your favorite independent musicians?
*I detest the term “post-mortem”– it reeks of death– no one died here, therefore: “post-factum”