Rise of the Internet Metal Stars – How The Game Is Changing To ‘Make It’ In Music
I moved to Los Angeles over a year ago to take another stab at professional music, and one of the first projects I became involved in was called Meytal. It is a band created around YouTube megastar drummer, Meytal Cohen. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Meytal is an Israeli female drummer, who made a name for herself doing covers of rock and metal songs on YouTube.
Her online stats are astronomical – Over 128 million plays and 850,000 subscribers on YouTube, over 1.3 million Facebook “likes”, and a Kickstarter campaign to create an album of original material raised over $140,000. What’s really incredible is the level of engagement. Meytal recently posted a picture of her with a cat on Facebook, and it has 28,000 “likes”, 173 shares, and 450 comments. Even massive bands with 4-5 million “likes” don’t get that level of engagement; especially for something as quaint as a selfie with a cat. I was brought into the band near the completion of the album that was crowdfunded. The other band members include Threat Signal’s Travis Montgomery on lead guitar, Eric Emery of Skyharbor on vocals, and the multi-talented Anel Pedrero on bass and backing vocals. The Meytal album, Alchemy, has already sold over 10,000 copies in a little over a month of release, and even charted #104 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, #1 on the New Artist chart, and #5 on the Metal/Hard Rock chart during the album’s first week of release. All of this has been accomplished with no label, no radio, and no touring. It’s astonishing.
Before meeting Meytal and dipping a toe in this world, I had no idea this type of success was possible without taking the traditional path of joining a band, slugging it out in shitty clubs, sleeping in vans and on floors, peddling demos to labels and promoters, and dealing with general grind of trying to make it. Even going back to the Myspace days, there were questions whether these social media numbers would translate to real world album, merch, and ticket sales. New media has proven those questions have been answered with a resounding, “Yes!” I wanted to highlight some talented musicians who have made an impressive name for themselves almost strictly through social media and promotion via the internet.
Jared Dines is part musician, part comedian, but mostly an entertainer that uses YouTube as his canvas. Like many of his peers, most of the content created lampoons the inherent silliness of heavy music itself. One thing I love about videos like “10 styles of metal” is that (I hope) this is a reflection that younger heavy music fans tend to dip a toe in the entire heavy music ocean. He is a jack of all trades, and while some of the humor is probably a little heavy-handed for my taste, Jared clearly is making fun of the music and fans he knows best. He is speaking to his tribe, and they have connected with his work in a serious way. 383,000 YouTube subscribers can’t be wrong.
If you know Jared Dines, there is a good chance you know who Rob Scallon is. They share common ground as metal musicians who create comedic videos and even appear in each other’s videos from time to time. What makes Rob Scallon stand out from the pack is he really does appear to have virtuoso level musical ability on pretty much any instrument with strings, be it a guitar, banjo, ukulele, or upright bass. His original compositions are dense and engaging, and his videos tend to have a higher production value than many peers with regard to sharp presentation, camera work, and editing. I highly recommend readers check this innovative (and really fun) YouTube “choose your own adventure” game with fellow talented YouTuber and collaborator Ryan Bruce . I’ve never seen anything like it on YouTube.
I’ve known Angel for over 10 years, as we both came up in the New Jersey metal scene. He’s played in some other bands like Black Market Hero and Vext with notable musicians, but it’s his turn as a solo artist that has really amplified his fame and notoriety. Unlike some of the other musicians in this article, Angel is not a comedian or primarily a YouTube personality, but he has used these tools magnificently to carve a new path to showcase his instrumental, guitar shred music. In promoting a more “traditional” band, he has crowdfunded his albums, received over 1 million views on “A Martian Winter” music video on YouTube, and has embarked on a full national US tour. Just based on being a phenomenal player, having a kinetic personality, and dutifully managing social media, Angel has proved you can independently launch a band with modern tools and enjoy tangible success. Jarrod Alonge
Jarrod Alonge is essentially the “Weird Al” Yankovic of modern scene music. His most impressive talent is being able to notice all of the little clichés in these subgenres, like a great observational comedian or impressionist. I discovered him on his hilarious series of “Every Metalcore Vocalist” videos, which are totally spot-on. He also raised money on IndieGoGo to make an album of original material, where he satirizes several heavy music sub-genres, complete with fictional band names like metalcore band, Amidst The Grave’s Demons, hardcore band, Chewed Up, or pop punk band, Sunrise Skater Kids. It’s clear after hearing a few of these comedy songs that like “Weird Al”, Jarrod Alonge is musically gifted enough to make original “serious” music. Every sub-genre is handling expertly, and well produced. I am definitely interested in hearing what this guy does next.
Ben Eller is not in the same tier of popularity as my aforementioned musicians, nor is he in the same category of music professional. He is mostly known as an online guitar instructor, although he has toured as a hired gun with big name bands like Whitechapel and Unearth. I discovered him through his helpful and very entertaining series of guitar YouTube lessons, “This is Why You Suck at Guitar”. What immediately struck me about Ben was how comfortable he was in front of the camera, and how humorous and playful his lessons were. Most YouTube guitar lessons are stiff and lack personality. He is just an unbelievable guitar player who displays a mastery of the instrument, so as a guitarist, I make sure I pay serious attention to his tips. What Ben shows is that there are new and untraveled paths still left to discover as a professional musician as long as you follow your creativity and passion.
I’m sure there are plenty of successful internet musicians that I haven’t heard of or left out. Please share in the comments. This movement is really important and hopeful for those looking to make music their life. There isn’t one path or career within the music industry to choose. The professional landscape is constantly evolving, and it’s an exciting time for those who are thinking outside of the box and motivated to control their own fate.
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