Published on April 18th, 2013 | by Setsu Uzume0
How Lindsey Stirling Is Reinventing the Music Industry
Despite harsh criticism on America’s Got Talent and a constant barrage of music industry rejection, artist and composer Lindsey Stirling has succeeded in forging her own path toward stardom. With 1.7 million YouTube followers and over 250 million views, the 26-year-old violinist is capitalizing on a new media model that skips signing with big labels and relies purely on fan-based support. And she has proven that it works.
In an interview with Forbes, Stirling explained why artists no longer need an agent or industry executive to jumpstart their careers.
“Before I learned of the world of YouTube, I tried the traditional, non-social media route,” said Lindsey to Forbes. “I feel like I tried everything. I submitted videos and applications to talent agencies and TV shows, I drove to Vegas and visited agents, I was on America’s Got Talent, I played for free at venues in attempts to be ‘found’ and yet all the experts in the entertainment industry told me that what I did was not marketable and that I had to join a group or do more traditional music.”
The experts were wrong. Stirling and other musicians are in a prime position to embark on a massive industry shift. In an age when all you really need are a computer and semi-sophisticated recording equipment, Stirling is part of a new generation of musicians that is using social networking and online media to launch their careers, leaving behind the “you have to know someone who knows someone” industry mantra.
“The beautiful thing about social media is that no one has to give you the green light signal in order for you to do what you want to do,” said Stirling in Forbes. “No ‘industry professional’ has to approve that what you are doing will be successful.”
That’s not to say that the original business model has been completely thrown out; Stirling has expertly marketed herself to a particular demographic interested in geeky subculture, writing her own arrangements from fantasy series like Game of Thrones or the popular RPG, Skyrim. (She also spends extra time hand-sewing costumes, building props and filming her performances before posting them on YouTube). Her most popular song, “Zelda Medley”, a mash-up of theme songs from the Zelda video game series, played an integral role in launching her career; since uploading it to YouTube on November 26, 2011, the song has gotten 9.9 million views.
Today, Stirling’s burgeoning musical career involves national tours, sold-out shows and full-length album recordings.
“I was told that what I was doing would never make it,” Stirling said. “But I think that when you do what you love people are drawn to you. When you’re really true to yourself, you’re gonna be better able to share your gifts with the world.”
Last week, she played sold-out shows at The Regency Ballroom and the Warfield in San Francisco.
“This is the biggest show I’ve ever played,” said Stirling onstage. “In all honesty, it’s crazy to me. Last May, less than a year ago, I did my first ticketed show for 300 people. It’s crazy. I can’t believe that I’m looking out and this room is filled.”
However, Stirling hasn’t forgotten her virtual roots; even her live shows pay tribute to YouTube and 21st century technologies that made it possible for her to so quickly rise to fame. An onstage screen played familiar scenes pulled from her YouTube videos, behind-the-scenes clips and videos of fans performing her songs; “Just Dance” was performed with Stirling and three fans trying to win the favor of the crowd.
Both onstage and on video, Stirling — along with a number of other modern musicians — is pointedly backing away from the music industry machine, showing fans that money is not the ultimate goal here; instead, she places unprecedented trust in her fans’ support, allowing them to decide just how valuable her art is. The result has been bigger than she ever imagined.
“It can be really discouraging to hear that over and over again that you’re not good enough and that you’ll never make it,” Stirling said, “but I know that every one of you have talents, and you have ambitions and you have dreams and goals…and you probably also have people telling you that you’re not good enough. It’s up to you guys to determine that. The same way you helped me live my dreams I know that each one of you guys can achieve the things you want to in life as well.”
Photos courtesy of @Kmeron from LeWeb on Flickr.