Saturday 10 December 2016

Niall Byrne: Remixing the system

Niall Byrne

Published 21/10/2011 | 05:00

Music is in a state of crisis. The charts are largely irrelevant, downloading is killing music's old way of doing things and a new social network or music service such as Spotify can open up a new outlet for artist discovery and create it's own set of problems.

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Independent artists are taking advantage of the current melee by promoting themselves in other ways. Take a cursory glance at the popular chart on well-known music blog aggregator site The Hype Machine (hypem.com) and the high probability is that the song sitting at number one right now will be a remix.

No longer confined to obscure 12 inches and B-sides, the remix has become the calling card of many an artist, indie or major label in today's fragmented music world. Remixes are credible and disposable but great for word of mouth.

James O'Neill, the eccentric mind behind Dublin electronic pop outfit Bitches with Wolves, used The Hype Machine's chart for his own gain when he released a remix of his current single Hurricane by the producer Ghostboy to blogs a couple of weeks ago (I also posted it on my blog).

The song ended up at number two in The Hype Machine Twitter music chart. "Because of the fact that it's a global chart and you don't know who is watching, appearing on it can give you exposure to a potentially wide -- if somewhat random -- catchment of people," O'Neill says. "My manager received a huge amount of feedback and enquiries from really random places that particular week. In terms of creating a buzz for yourself, there's nothing quite like it."

Hip-hop artists have a long tradition of using mixtapes to promote their upcoming studio albums. It's a policy adopted by 24-year-old Kristine Flaherty, more commonly known as Stanford-educated white female rapper K Flay.

Through her website Kflay.com, Flaherty has released a three-volume mixtape, which has helped her get noticed by the likes of Liam Howlett of the Prodigy (who co-produces her forthcoming EP, due next month).

Flaherty is a fine example of a modern musician working her way through the world. She writes book reviews on her blog in her spare time and, when not working on her own music, she uses her production skills to 'cross-promote' by remixing artists such as Oh Land, Beastie Boys and Kreayshawn. "It's another way to promote, as a fan of that band might find me through that remix," she explains.

Flaherty points to an example where the right remix has really worked for an artist, citing the case of Cleveland rapper Kid Cudi, who released a remix by Italian dance duo Crookers of his song Day and Nite.

"The remix blew up big time and then that fuelled the success of the original version and Cudi in general."

Kid Cudi went on to work with Kanye West on his recent LP. The system may be broken but a new system can work.

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