OneRepublic’s TwoContradictoryAttitudes About the Internet

In an interesting recent profile of the band OneRepublic in 5280 magazine, lead singer Ryan Tedder explained how the internet just barely saved the band after getting cut from their first label:

Losing the record deal was a devastating blow. Tedder told his wife, Genevieve, whom he had married just months before, that OneRepublic was done; that at 27 years old he was going to have to give up the dream. Instead he would continue producing music for other people, something he’d been doing on the side anyway. That night, Tedder typed Myspace.com/onerepublic into a Web browser to change the band’s status from “signed” to “unsigned.” Then, because he was no longer beholden to the label’s rules not to post songs online, he uploaded “Apologize” and “Stop and Stare.”

For Tedder and Co., social media was a godsend. Within two months, OneRepublic was the number one unsigned act on Myspace, and the band quickly became one of the hottest independent acts in L.A. The guys scored a residency at the Key Club in West Hollywood, and, after three initial shows, the band sold out each subsequent concert. They were running out of T-shirts and CDs. They were signing autographs. They were being courted by promoters to play in Canada and Washington and Florida. But they still didn’t have a record deal.

That’s when Tedder received a call from an old friend. Timbaland, the prominent hip-hop and R&B producer, wanted to sign OneRepublic to Interscope Records, the home of artists like U2, Sting, the Black Eyed Peas, and No Doubt.

A little later in the article, however, Tedder complains about how the internet makes life more difficult for his band:

The age of digital music has, according to Tedder, had a dramatic impact on the music industry for one primary reason: “When you buy one song,” Tedder says, “you don’t invest in the artist.” Before MP3s, he says, if you liked a song you heard on the radio, you had to buy the album. And because you bought the album, you were compelled to listen to it as a whole and found other nonsingle songs you loved. You found you liked the artist. When that artist came to town, you bought tickets for the concert. Because you went to the concert and loved it, you were a fan for life. You bought the next album and the next album—maybe without even hearing a single on the radio to prompt you.

The ability to just buy one song from iTunes has, in Tedder’s mind, done two things. One, it has erased the days when teenagers and college kids obsessed over music, lying on their beds listening to an album from beginning to end, in favor of making music background noise they sort of listen to through earbuds while walking to class. And two, downloadability has shortened the lifespan of artists. “One successful single could sell three million copies and make a band culturally significant for nine months,” he says. “But because hardly anyone bought the album, that artist has zero long-term fans.”

So I guess the internet is a godsend to aspiring rock super-stars, except when it isn’t…

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