by: John Caddell
No, she wasn't caught partying with Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. She wasn't arrested or sent to rehab.
As described in a front-page article in today's Wall Street Journal (link - $$), musician Marie Digby made simple videos of herself singing cover songs, posted them on YouTube, got millions of views, and parlayed that into gigs on the Carson Daly show, local LA radio, and general buzz as a true YouTube discovery.
Oh, and she made an album with Hollywood Records (part of Disney) last year that is about to be released. The YouTube idea and the TV and radio appearances were done with the approval and assistance of marketing at Hollywood Records.
Like any such situation, the coverup is far worse than the initial offense. So she was signed to a major label. So what? She made the videos herself, posted them herself. People found the videos themselves, played them, recommended them, etc. The YouTube buzz was legitimate.
So what didn't she do right? She didn't list her affiliation with a major label on her MySpace page. Not so bad, given that she hadn't yet released an album.
Worse was the way she tried to erase the Hollywood Records connection. Here's are examples from the Journal article:
When Los Angeles adult-contemporary station KYSR-FM, which calls itself "Star 98.7," interviewed Ms. Digby in July, she and the disc jockey discussed her surprising success. "We kind of found her on YouTube," the DJ, known as Valentine, said. Playing the lucky nobody, Ms. Digby said: "I'm usually the listener calling in, you know, just hoping that I'm going to be the one to get that last ticket to the Star Lounge with [pop star] John Mayer!"
Ms. Digby gave a backstage interview that was posted online by NBC. "I just did this YouTube video two months ago and never, ever imagined that it would actually get me on TV or radio or anything like that," she said. "I just did it in my living room and it blew up first on YouTube and then I guess it got to Star 98.7 and then Carson Daly found me so that's why I'm here."
Now it's not just Marie Digby. I'm certain the marketing folks at Hollywood, and her manager, were deeply involved in preparing her for the appearances, including rehearsing what she would say.
And the radio hosts and Carson Daly could easily have pointed out that Hollywood Records saw the same things in Marie that the viewers saw, and that she's recorded an album to be released soon. But instead they played along with the "YouTube discovery" story and in so doing share part of the blame.
As best I can figure, Hollywood Records either fell in love with the story, even if it wasn't completely true, or they were concerned that people finding out about their connection would be a buzz kill. In either case, they got in their own way.
So, a plea: media companies (really, all marketers), learn from your mistakes. Stop trying to manipulate audiences! It doesn't work anymore! Use YouTube and all these new outlets to allow people to discover new artists, but for God's sake have enough confidence and integrity to stand up and reveal that you've also made that discovery.
Then show them where to buy the songs.
(And now to demonstrate that there's no such thing as bad publicity, here's Marie Digby's most popular video. It's pretty good.)