An industry that once found its talent using talent scouts, produced its product through competing record labels and determined its success through physical album sales is now suffering at the hands of the internet and popular streaming sites.
The music industry now survives on a system where a count of digital streams holds more ground than the sale of a record.
The following graph, created with data found through the Nielsen SoundScan system, made to track points of sale, shows how physical CD sales have declined and digital sales have increased over a five-year period.
Internet search bars are replacing talent scouts. The day a full-sized touch-screen keyboard application for smartphones became available for free in the iTunes store, it sealed the fate that physical instruments are no longer necessary to create music. Owning a smartphone with a camera and internet access is now enough to film a music video and upload it to Youtube for the world to see.
In 2011, a song about the day Friday exemplified the true power of owning a Youtube account when it reached over 90 billion views simply because the internet took to its content and pushed it to go viral.
In a world where anyone can upload a video of them singing to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, what does it take to stand out and make it in the music industry from a state like Louisiana?
Jake Gremillion, a junior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is an aspiring DJ based out of his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Gremillion started his music career during his senior year of high school when he volunteered his guitar skills to help out his church group for a performance. From there, his interest in playing the guitar resurfaced from his first lessons at the age of 10.
Gremillion said he started playing acoustic sets regularly at a local bar for 3-4 hours a night.
“After a year of that, I decided I wanted to try DJing. I jumped into it, bought equipment and spent a whole bunch of money,” Gremillion said.
“I get to play what I like to play. I’ve really developed my own style,” Gremillion said.
Although Gremillion has had success in playing covers that he mixes on the spot, he said his main goal is to make it in the music industry as a DJ that creates his own mixes.
Instead of working with an established producer, Gremillion said he will purchase the producing software, and instead of working closely with a team on a record label, he anticipates he’ll listen to the feedback from his friends and fellow musicians he works with on a normal basis.
“You can do it all on your laptop really nowadays,” Gremillion said in regards to producing and recording your own music.
In regards to the streaming sites that are taking over record sales, Gremillion created a Soundcloud account that he will eventually upload his original mixes to, which will be a huge bonus to his growing fan base.
Taylor Reed, a sophomore child and family studies major at Louisiana State University, who has known Gremillion since his acoustic days, praised his performance as a DJ.
“He was very good about getting the crowd involved and mixing up the sound so that it wasn’t all the same genre,” Reed said.
Regardless of the positive feedback Gremillion continues to receive, he still cites some difficulties he faces as a rising DJ from the South.
“I think as it pertains to Louisiana, in the South, people are often times set in their ways. It’s hard to bring a new sound,” Gremillion said.
With an upcoming, under-the-wraps, project in California this summer and a growing fan base at shows and online, Gremillion is on the right track to dominating the music industry through the use of technology.
For Gremillion’s DJ career, the big move in the music industry that’s relies heavier on technology is beneficial, but for bands of other genres, there are other challenges to making it big.
Every Memorial Day weekend since 2010, Baton Rouge has hosted the Bayou Country Superfest in Tiger Stadium, which showcases national and local country music talents.
One band that will not be performing at Bayou Country Superfest, but that has ties to Tiger Stadium, is the Cayden Bergeron Band.
Walter Johannes Johnson III, a senior mechanical engineer major at Louisiana State University and the drummer in the Cayden Bergeron Band, remembers the band forming in mid-January.
“It all started with Cayden, our lead singer,” Johnson said.
Johnson once played the drums for a heavy metal band, but when Bergeron asked him to help out and play the Cajòn at a few acoustic shows alongside him, it turned into something more permanent.
After playing a show at the Bandit in Baton Rouge with duet-performance Maddie Monroe and Peter Mates, Bergeron and Johnson ended up joining with Mates to collaborate. With the addition of two more people, the Cayden Bergeron band formed.
Mates, a sophomore coastal-environmental science major, said the band already has played shows at the Bandit, Fred’s In Tigerland, Bogie’s Bar and Caliente Mexican Craving Restaurant since forming as a band.
According to Johnson, The Cayden Bergeron Band is mostly a cover band that plays country and classic rock, but sometimes they will throw a few pop songs into the mix.
“We try to keep the set list as modern as possible,” Johnson said.
As it stands, the band has a few original songs that Bergeron wrote, but they mostly opt out of playing them. Original music is something Johnson said will come to be more prominent when they reach their goal of playing larger venues like the Texas Club in Baton Rouge.
So far, a lot of the venues the Cayden Bergeron band played came from a simple conversation with the venue owners. Johnson said it was helpful that all of the band members are a part of a fraternity because the managers saw that they would be able to bring in a crowd.
It also helps that the band promotes their shows. Johnson said they’ll usually hand out fliers to the many sorority houses on LSUs campus or post to their social media accounts when they have an upcoming gig.
— Cayden Bergeron (@caydenbergeron) April 29, 2016
Mates also said he will simply take to his Snapchat account to post a photo they day of a performance with information of a show he’s playing that night.
Through the use of social media and networking with managers, the Cayden Bergeron Band proves their beginning success. When asked about what steps are necessary to overcome their challenges of reaching a larger audience base, Johnson cited important advice for beginning artists.
“The biggest challenge is a large enough audience to create a ripple or a presence in the industry,” Johnson said.
Mates, however, did not seem to have much concern for the bands continuing success, something he attributes to the Baton Rouge bar scene.
“Baton Rouge is such a perfect place to start because the bar scene is so prevalent and they’re going to have a crowd,” Mates said.
Since the band is something that fell in to place and is mostly something they do for fun – they don’t even have a regular practice schedule – the concerns do not seem high about breaking into the music industry.
However with two back-to-back shows booked Thursday night for Cinco De Mayo, it’s obvious they are already in high demand in the Baton Rouge area.
As a country band and classic rock cover band in Louisiana, the Cayden Bergeron band appears to have no problem using traditional means of networking mixed with relevant practices of social media use to get their name out there.