2010: year of a thousand RATM-style campaigns?

I have two predictions for 2010.

Prediction one is that we will see lots of online campaigns around songs, inspired by Rage Against The Machines’s chart success in 2009. It will be easy to be dismissive and call these “copycat” campaigns but the idea of mobilising large groups of fans via social media is a seductive one. And I think it’s more interesting than just letting the established industry and media dictate the sum total of who’ll be successful.

The first example I’ve seen is a Facebook group called “Cael band Cymraeg fewn ir TOP 40/Get a Welsh Language act into the UK TOP40” for a band called Masters In France.

Taking some cues from the RATM campaign, I think this is certainly achievable if the tune can be played on radio and the campaign can be blogged about and covered in some mainstream media. It would help if it were a band with some kind of following and a core band of independent, active supporters to act as campaigners in their own spaces, as was the case with RATM. As you’ll recall, the band got involved as a result of a “grassroots” campaign, which was well organised and had its own Twitter hashtag #ratm4xmas too. It wasn’t merely a Facebook group, but a campaign which existed in other places too.

See also: 1000 True Fans and the case against.

While comparing RATM to two other online campaigns, Simon Dickson identifies these factors:

  • they were negative campaigns – in the sense that they were based around someone or something that people didn’t like: religious advertising, Simon Cowell, Kerry McCarthy; and
  • there was a specific, measurable outcome: the sight of a bus with a poster on it, the announcement of the Christmas chart, the result from Bristol East on election night. If enough of you support me, we will get ‘X’ – and we will know if/when we have won.

Despite being “food for thought” rather than an exhaustive study, it’s worth reading Dickson’s whole post, especially if you’re interested in activism in the broader and sometimes non-frivolous aspect of the term.

So what’s my second prediction?

As we become more networked, aware of trends in society, more inclined to pass comment on it all and more capable of publishing those comments, I predict… more predictions and armchair futurology than any previous year.

4 Replies to “2010: year of a thousand RATM-style campaigns?”

  1. Interesting post, I also enjoyed the sgorio one, you’re on a fine run of new year form 🙂

    According to this site http://www.everyhit.com/faqs.html it only takes 2500 sales to get into the top 40 (although I have no idea if those figures are accurate) so this band’s aim is comparatively easily achievable. It’s also worth considering the previous success of the super furry animals (albeit in album form, and having made a name for themselves by singing in english) in getting the welsh language into the charts.

    It’s a clever gimmick, but to my mind it smacks of parochialism and seems a bit chauvinistic. It reminds me of people who voted for the welsh people on the x factor simply because they were welsh, not because they were any good, and that signifies that they are sort of interested for the wrong reasons. Although it could be argued that by supporting x factor they are interested for the wrong reasons to start with…

  2. God I hate these kind of campaigns. It’s moving us further from a meritocracy towards a shoutocracy. Stuff like the X Factor is incredibly shouty (literally and figuratively_ and emulating it via the ‘power of the interweb’ isn’t a great thing in my opinion.

    I remember when the Alarm released their bilingual single Change/Newid in the early 90s (arguably the first Welsh language single in the Top 40). They did it before the internet because they had a huge fan-base and had earned respect from the industry. This is also why SFA and Gorky’s were later able to release Welsh language stuff as well as their ‘usual’ English releases. But I don’t need to tell you that.

    I’m sure we will see more ‘campaigns’ as you say but most of them can only be done once before the novelty wears off (a bit like that ‘million pixels’ advertising scam that was all the rage a few years). Once you’ve worn out the megaphone, you’re back to the usual route of talent, hard work and a bit of luck.

  3. Mark, that figure does seem accurate, it’s definitely the right order of magnitude (I used to run a label and now and again would look at the chart sales figures in Music Week). Sales figures vary at different times of the year, e.g. higher in December and lower in January.

    The chart is not the event it once was! Maybe it’s the mostly the dregs that remain once audiences have fragmented into long tail niches – and highly specialist “charts”. Who knows?

    I see your point. It could also be said that all’s fair and these things are there to be tapped into. I think the Welsh tag can catch people’s attention and introduce them to something they might not otherwise have bothered to check.

    Let’s just say I checked out their Myspace and was relieved to hear they are at least competent!

    No sign of the actual track though, they should put that up.

    Cheers Mark.

  4. Dafydd, I think all’s fair here. Tricks, promo, fan clubs, special pleading and everything short of outright gaming the system – it’s all been used to shunt “deserving” and “non-deserving” acts into the mainstream for decades.

    The hope is that some of the tools are democratised. Perhaps the playing field is slightly more level now and not just in the hands of industry svengalis and so on.

    I love SFA and Gorky’s musically but maybe they have missed a few tricks…

    “Gorky’s have the ignominious distinction of being the only group with 8 UK Top 75 singles without ever making the Top 40.” (Wikipedia)

    I think the meritocracy can just as easily be about clever promo. Maybe always has been…

    Are you talking about Million Dollar Homepage? I loved that! It’s only a “scam” if you pay and then get conned. As far as I could see the advertising deal was exactly what it said it was. Fair play again.

    But yes, his copyists needed to offer more. His unique selling point was absolute.

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