Friday, September 07, 2007

Responding to Marie' Digby editorial in WSJ

Let's talk Marie' Digby for a minute because well, a lot of people have been asking me about it.

Just days after I did a write up on Marie' Digby's show for, the Wall Street Journal wrote a pretty scathing editorial about the YouTube phenom - accusing her of being a pawn and the "Lonelygirl15" of music.

Marie' answered back via her MySpace blog:

Media 101

I think today will be the first ever blog that I write ... as i'm furious. fuming. angry beyond words.

Thank god for blogs because I can say whatever the F.. i want to .

So basically, I got a call recently that some shmuck from the Wall Street Journal wanted to do an article about me. He interviewed some people at my label and then asked to talk to me on the phone. I talked to this guy for an hour, told him every detail of my journey so far in music...

Here's Lesson 1 for me in Media - The writer will use whatever quote he wants of yours to make it fit his 'angle'. This loser was desperate for a good story... he knew what he wanted to write before he ever even talked to me.

The guy's angle is this : that I am a complete phony and fake and a pawn of my record label in some brilliant marketing scheme.

IS this guy completely insane. You think it's that easy? That you get signed and suddenly everything's taken care of for you!!!?? DO you think that my record label came to my house, my bathroom! and told me what songs to sing and told me that in a matter of weeks i'd be some 'youtube ' phenom??!?!

Wake up - I am GRATEFUL to be signed but you know what, Labels are wonderful for mostly one thing - A loan. It is a bank and they lend you money to make music. THey don't come to your house, hold your hand, and direct youtube videos for you .

I have so many dear friends who were signed to the biggest record labels in the world, made amazing albums and were DROPPED. that's it.....

I was in a situation with my label where I didn't know where the hell i stood amongst the Hilary Duff's, ALy and AJ, Jesse Mcartney.. the HIGH school musical kidS!!!!

I was STRANDED! I was completely lost and desperate... I knew that if i didn't do something, that I would end up like my friends.. that i would have this amazing record which would never see the light of day. Oh, and something else, as many of you have asked me, i STILL don't know when I get to actually release an album !! I mean, I 'm hoping that thanks to all of this good stuff lately, that it will get the chance it deserves but i still don't know for sure.

What hurts the most is that this loser took every genuine thing i said and made it sound like I am acting, that this whole thing is scripted. The dude is desperate to be onto the next ' lonely girl' or whatever.. i've actually never seeen that but its obvious that's what he wanted me to be.

I just had to write this because this is a place for me to say whatever's on my mind.. and I want you to hear what I have to say about this article.

It's really upsetting but i guess it's also a lesson learned.. this is my first taste of what media might be like.

OK. i'm not angry anymore :)

I guess it's that easy for me to get over it. good thing.. write songs or write blogs, i guess that's my therapy.

Now, what do I think? Honestly, I never really expected to be left of center of this whole controversy, but it's a pretty interesting story. While I don't agree with much of what was written by Peter Lattman and Ethan Smith, I think they built a compelling narrative with a controversial article that moved papers and is making them the talk of the town and the blogosphere.

Before I saw Marie' by my own choosing for Billboard, I knew that she was already signed to Hollywood Records. I was sure that she was working on a CD for a major label. I also thought that her YouTube videos were a great way for her to continue to try and leverage her talent and popularity so that she will one day be able to put out her own album of original music. However, I thought that she was still an incredibly compelling story because she really "made herself" via YouTube. Many people have been messaging, texting, and IMing me saying that it's a huge shock that Marie' was already signed, but I already knew that she was signed so it really came as no shock to me, just wanted to clear up that part.

When you have some decent exposure to the entertainment industry, you quickly realize that if someone is signed to a label, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are guaranteed to put out an album or that they are suddenly set for life and filling venues around the world. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people don't realize that.

Many hear about the big signings, like American Idol Runner-Up Blake Lewis getting signed to Arista, and think that the artist has finally made it and that they're a guaranteed success because really, that's just what we hear about. I can't necessarily blame people for thinking this way because most of the stories we hear about are the good ones and really, not everyone lives in an entertainment saturated area with friends that are in bands, which gives people different perspectives on "the biz."

What we don't hear about are the artists who get signed to labels and yet never get to put out a CD, or don't get the promotion that puts them on the front cover of every magazine in town, and maybe a couple wardrobe malfunction shots on TMZ. While I wouldn't have a problem believing that a record label would tell an artist to put up some videos on YouTube, like any up and coming artist would to build a fan base, I do have a problem with people believing that Hollywood Records was behind all of Marie' Digby's videos on YouTube - an impression that a lot of people are somehow coming to after reading the Wall Street Journal article (even though that's not even said) - or at a larger sense, responsible for all her success.

In terms of real life personality, Marie' is an incredibly genuine person with her fans and her humility is something that makes you happy for the newfound success that she has found of late. While the Wall Street Journal implies that label executives were planning Marie' s every move online, I find this hard to believe, not only based on my conversation with Marie', but in terms of logic as well. When a label is managing some of the biggest teen acts in the world (High School Musical), I have a hard time thinking that a label would take the time and effort to make a plethora of YouTube videos for an artist who has yet to sell them a single CD.

Even if Hollywood Records asked Marie' to put out a few YouTube videos, it was Marie' who made her YouTube success happen in an incredibly crowded music space and made them successful well beyond "Umbrella." While a brief mention, even the WSJ article has to admit that "though all involved say that Hollywood Records' role in her online rise has been limited," but this part of the article is just part of a sentence instead of an actual topic because it would take away from the story's angle - which implied that Marie' was an artificially produced McArtist of the YouTube generation.

Let's finish that fragment from the WSJ article: "Though all involved say that Hollywood Records' role in her online rise has been limited, label executives say they did nothing to discourage Ms. Digby from conveying the impression that she had stumbled into the spotlight." ...though it seems as though they didn't necessarily encourage her from conveying that impression as well. So basically, that doesn't really say a whole lot.

Just to speak on Digby's personalty, not only does Marie' actually read her own emails, but she remembers fans from particular emails when she's at shows. She recognizes people by name and by the things that they've said to her and remembers more about any fan than any PR spin doctor could ever train an artist to do. Her genuine personality and warmth is something that just can't be trained.

And yes, Marie' went on radio shows, TV shows, and live performances and was completely surprised and in awe of her newfound fame even after being signed to a label for two years. Yes, many of these appearances were booked through Marie's label, but so what? If you have representation, you should use it to your advantage and that's what Marie' did.

Very few artists come on the radio and say "Hey, I'd really like to thank Virgin Records for booking this for me." And in terms of her shock of being on the radio and being starstruck being in the spotlight? I think we call that normal human reaction to finally achieving a dream - not putting on an act to fool people into thinking something completely opposite to what is actually the truth. What I feel like is getting lost in all this is that being signed doesn't necessarily mean that you suddenly have an audience.

Great artists in Los Angeles play shows in front of a crowd that you could count on two hands. If they got signed to a label, there's a good chance that the crowd would remain the same size. Marie' did her thing and leveraged herself to help her cause to show that she was deserving of putting out a full length CD. I can respect that.

For Marie' to be shocked at the size of her audiences and say things like "I just turned on my little iMovie, and here I am!" isn't something that I believe to be dishonest or misleading at all. Marie' built an audience for herself by creating her space online that she had "executive" control over and that's ultimately what made her the success that she is today. Without her own work on YouTube and interacting with fans on MySpace, Marie' wouldn't have the opportunities to benefit from having a label in hercorner to help her out with getting songs on iTunes or radio play. While Marie' was signed, it was her work and her music that kept fans coming back. Being on a label guarantees nothing and Marie' took that opportunity and owned it by helping her cause to show her label that she could develop an audience on her own and become a success without overwhelming promotion.

Do I feel like Marie' misrepresented herself? Not so much, because the road to filling up venues and hearing one's song on the radio is a long one. Marie' was finally making it big after years in the industry and any artist would be surprised at the newfound success. While yes, she went on the radio and on TV and didn't mention being on a label, but who does do that other than P. Diddy (Bad Boy, baby) and old school Busta Rhymes (FLIPMODE SQUAD!!!).

Marie' gave credit to her YouTube videos for bringing her to where she is and the funny thing is, that IS ultimately what brought her to where she is. So yes, Marie' might have got worked by a couple writers who did actually make a compelling, albeit twisted argument, but I don't believe for a second that she misrepresented herself because I think that her reactions are completely normal of anyone who is suddenly finding the success that she has found - and I think she should be proud of how she got there. The YouTube videos, which Marie' ultimately took ownership of, opened the doors for her to finally get the full support of her label and she made herself matter.

Marie' Digby differentiated herself from a VERY crowded music environment on the largest online video sharing site in the world. She hustled, won over fans with her voice, and most importantly her music, and now she's worthy of the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Do your thing, Marie'.


Lena said...

Ooh, you should email her a link to your blog!

Oh, and I don't have a Louis. I can't accept a gift from a dad..OOGY! But I'm compelled to let you get me a a Louis! Haha!

Junshien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Junshien said...

Hey, looks like she linked you from her site. Good comprehensive entry. That WSJ article actually soured my impression of her a bit, but your article really makes things clear. I'm trying to jump start my photography career as well, and I recognize the role marketing has to play. Even if you are incredibly good, without marketing or some sort, no one will ever hear about you. Those who think otherwise have never been in a position where they need to get their name "out there." Anyway, thanks again for the article. Glad to hear that in person, she really is who she appears to be in her videos. I do wish her the very best in her career. Can't wait for her release on Tuesday!

george said...

I really like the part where the article says, "...but she remembers fans from particular emails when she's at shows. She recognizes people by name and by the things that they've said to her..."

I went to her show in silver lake back on 6/28/07 and a whole month later on 7/31/07, she recognized me and called me by my first name before i had a chance to even remind her! now that's pretty freakin' cool!

other than that, with the whole music biz, i refuse to believe that her label set up this whole "get some videos on youtube, call up 98.7FM, then Carson Daly to make me famous" gig. She's genuine, did everything her way, and deserves to get the spotlight for her work. that's it.