Breaking the viral way
In an era where technology is king and social media its trusted sidekick, getting your big break as an artiste may very well be in the palm of your hands - literally.
Already, numerous entertainers have founded their claim to fame using the Internet. Outside Jamaica, a few years ago, it was Justin Beiber. Trek a little closer to home and the latest social-media sensation is Gully Bop. As he rides the waves of social media, seeking to cement his place in the industry, his story will have opened the eyes of many aspiring artistes to a tool they may need to pay more serious attention to.
Today, Gully Bop is one of the most talked-about entertainers in Jamaica, but just over two months ago, the general public was unaware of his very existence. The few-teethed wonder got his break after a YouTube video of him deejaying went viral.
In a short time, Bop has not only had two or three popular songs, but was booked as a headline act of the Sting 2014 on Boxing Day at Jamworld, Portmore, St Catherine.
As an unending stream of up-and-coming entertainers aim to establish a career of their own, the question of whether social-media users are just now recognising its power arises.
Sheldon Shepherd, member of the band No-Maddz, told The Sunday Gleaner that, in today's fast-paced world, it is important that entertainers understand the far-reaching effects of social media. "In today's digitalised world, everything is made easier with technology. People across different continents and in different countries are easier to reach and, as entertainers, we must learn to capitalise on that," he said.
"Unfortunately, not everyone understands that, if you're not on social media, you'll become obsolete. It is a very necessary and useful tool, but only some recognise its full potential in helping to advance people's careers" Shepherd explained.
Admitting that he was made a believer over the years, Shepherd credits some of the No-Maddzz's international success to its large social-media following. "We used to focus a lot on live shows and never
really paid much attention to social media, but that changed when we learnt how much it helps to push you forward and, today, our name is a lot stronger than it once was," he said.
Speaking specifically on Gully Bop's rise, Shepherd pointed out that his story shows how potent a tool social media is, but said that social media alone cannot be credited with Bop's surge in the music industry. The entertainer said that, while social media can open doors for persons who wish to establish a career in the industry, it doesn't necessarily guarantee them a sure 'buss'.
"His (Gully Bop's) story highlights the importance of social media in the modern society, but it also shows that content is very important," Shepherd explained. "The Internet is bombarded with millions of stuff each day, but only a handful of those ever manage to make an impact, yet alone go viral, and that depends on content. Gully Bop made it because people liked him and could relate to his story; that's what really appealed to the crowd and that's what caused him to go viral."
Neil Robertson, music industry veteran agreed with Shepherd, stating that the Gully Bop story should become a catalyst for other up-and-coming artistes and even the established ones. "The Gully Bop situation, where a YouTube video in November created a new headline artiste by December, is fresh in the minds of many in Jamaica," Robertson said.
"Instead of getting upset about it, we should study how they (his team) made that work. It's classic media manipulation. By nature, most people like a 'rags to riches' story," Robertson said.
Stating that artistes need to learn how to establish their brands, Robertson cited social media as the tool to do so. "Every artiste needs to figure out a social-media strategy that works for their personality/brand. There are artistes that share every aspect of their lives for the world to see, others don't. Find what works for you and stick to it," he advised.
Solid Agency's Sharon Burke, an experienced industry insider, said social media can only mean good for entertainers and the industry on a whole. "It is the gateway to the next phase of the music industry," she said.
"It can only push the industry further as long as those put in charge of managing content use it in the right way. Social media will only become harmful to someone's career when it is misused. So one has to learn how to manipulate it to work in their best interest."