With the development of social networking sites, the internet has made it easier than ever for musicians to create, promote and market their musical talents to the world. Many use MySpace Music as an unofficial Electronic Press Kit, Twitter as their concert promoter and Youtube as their own personal MTV.
Four teenagers in the UK have pushed the envelope of the music industry, as their crowd-sourced single has reached #1 on the Billboard Indie charts. A BBC television program, Chartjackers, documents the teens quest to break into the UK music charts and benefit the “Children In Need” charity.
Beginning in September 2009, the “Chartjackers” – Charlie, Alex, Johnny and Jimmy – built the project from scratch asking for the goodwill and participation of those watching on the internet. With no previous experience in producing music videos, the group pieced together the entire project via the Chartjackers Youtube Channel, constructing the music video, step by step, with audience comments and video replies in under ten weeks.
Through a series of videos, the group asked their audience to help them gather all the components for their music video. The first step was to create lyrics for their song. Through a video, the group asked their adoring Youtubers to leave one line of text in the comment box that would work for a cheesy 80’s / 90’s pop song. The best lines were compiled to form the lyrics of the song. The second step was to compose a melody. The group held open auditions for the vocalists and backing band that would perform the featured song while Youtubers voted on their favorite performers. The third step was to put out a call to producers in the UK that would be interested in taking on their one-of-a-kind project. Lastly, the group put the finishing touches on the video by asking audience members to send in their own theatrical interpretation of the song with clips of clapping on film and singing parts of the chorus.
One of the many volunteers to step in on the project was 24 year old, Marc Dowding of South Wales, UK. A student in Creative Sound and Music at Newport University, Marc heard about the project from friends. He sent the group a link to his Myspace Page along with recordings of his recent works and was selected as the music producer practically on the spot.
In studio, Marc prefers to use SONAR over other DAWs, claiming that “his workflow is faster and his CPU doesn’t get cluttered while working on a big mix.” To produce the music for this project, he used tools such as AudioSnap to correct the timing of his drum tracks and SonitusEQ to adjust various tracks on his mix.
As his first musical gig for charity, Marc had a “great deal of fun” working on the Chartjackers project. “It really opened my eyes to the creative potential and ease of collaboration on the internet, remarked Marc, “I’ve always been in bands and constantly work with other writers, but nothing on this scale. To think that the Chartjackers song was composed by hundreds of people from every corner of the globe is pretty amazing.”
Throughout the process, industry professionals also got word of the Chartjackers success and assisted the group in their journey to #1. UK pop star Chesney Hawkes gave them pointers on how to combine lyrics for the song. BMI’s Mike Stock advised them on how to choose the final melody, ultimately written by Johnny Dart Music. David and Carrie Grant helped them pick the performers – soloists Miranda & Adam, as well as the backing band – and gave them some much needed ‘sales’ advice. Film Director Corin Hardy jumped in to direct the music video. Showbiz Reporter, Rav Singh offered his experiences to help them spread the word. Even Children In Need’s cuddly mascot, Pudsy, took a starring role in the video.
With the final production quickly coming together, the Chartjackers stepped into promotion mode. Desperate to get their song heard, the group emailed, Tweeted and even picketed outside of local radio stations to play their song. They held a live concert in London enlisting the help of their friend Chesney Hawkes to meet some of their Youtube fans in person and introduced themselves on BBC’s Switch in front of 4.5 million fans.
On November 8, Charlie uploaded the “I’ve Got Nothing” music video to Youtube and started a worldwide campaign, asking the audience to buy the song on iTunes. To boost their rating on the iTunes charts and gather funds for Children In Need, the group dared the audience to participate (Johnny ate a chili pepper and Charlie painted himself purple when they reached a new ranking). They urged their audience to email and tweet as many people as they know about the song. At one point, the Chartjackers bypassed “New Moon” on the list of Twitter’s trending topics (not a small feat for someone new to world of pop culture).
After all their hard work and determination to make a difference, the Chartjackers have a lot to be thankful for. Their YouTube Channel got over 280K views, they reached #1 on the Indie charts, and they raised over £20,000 for the Children in Need charity. In all, what started off as an experiment driven by four teens “with nothing” ended up a campaign that pushed the boundaries of social media while giving “everything” back to the community.