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September 06, 2007

Whoops? Was that dishonest?

Anyone heard of Marie Digby?  You know, the underdog singer who was discovered on youtube?  If you have, you're not the only one.  Trouble is, she's not that much of an underdog and "we" didn't really discover her, she was promoted.  Who cares right?

Well, I think people care.  Check out this article in WSJ uncovering the misleading tactics of Ms. Digby and her record label Hollywood Records.  Ms. Digby is a new, up and coming artist.  She recorded some simple videos, just her and her acoustic guitar, on youtube and became a big hit. 

Suddenly, she was interviewing at a Los Angeles radio station, her song "umbrella" is available on itunes and she appears on the Carson Daly show.  All parties were singing the same tune...that a 19 year old girl who liked to sing and could play the guitar was discovered on youtube and is now a big success.

She made many fans, and I'm thinking many of those fans probably felt like they knew her because they had a hand in discovering her.  Here's the problem.  Hollywood records signed her 18 months earlier, and this was a brilliant and elaborate plan to promote the young artist.  Carson Daly booked her appearance through the record label as did the LA radio stations.  The song on itunes was a professionally recorded studio version.  And her youtube videos were recorded on the computer Hollywood records supplied to Marie with some instructions.

Aptly put by Ben McConnell at churchoftheconsumer, "Young singer-songwriter Marie Digby is, after all, a real person but launching a promising career (or product, or company) with such careless consideration for authenticity demonstrates remarkably poor judgment about the nature of word of mouth."

In the end, will she fail?  Perhaps not.  But I do think many people will feel duped, and that's the worst feeling ever.  A couple of lessons that marketers need to learn as they use social media to promote brands.

1) Transparency and honesty are the cornerstones of befriending consumers.  If you expect people to spread the word about your brand via social media, you have to be honest with them.  Remember, they're acting as your advocates.

2) Don't mess with the great American archetype of rooting for the underdog.  Even though we are a world power, this nation was built on being an underdog.  We root for underdogs.  Love stories about underdogs and fancy ourselves as such.  Ms. Digby positioned herself as an underdog with enthusiasm.  And while she may be in some respects, she is playing with a powerful sentiment in America....remember lonelygirl15?

3) Social media offers the power of discovery.  For people to feel like they have ownership in something.  That's a powerful thing.  But it has to be done on an honest platform or people will feel betrayed.

4) You don't own social media.  It's not a place to manipulate people.  And unlike a television commercial where you can slickly position something and influence people's perceptions, social media has significant recourse.  As quickly as you use people to market your brand, they can turn around and do the opposite if they feel betrayed.

Will Ms. Digby succeed?  Maybe.  She does have a lot of support behind her.  But there are a lot of people with egg on their faces.  And it's likely that they won't apologize or even act like they did anything wrong.  So we'll see, right?

Here's Marie Digby's youtube site http://youtube.com/user/MarieDigby.  She's actually pretty good.

by Brandon Murphy

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Gary Hawthorne

Unless the videos were hyped by other "members" who were paid for their input, then the folks who "discovered" Ms. Digby did exactly that -- found her and enjoyed the song/video on YouTube. Please don't confuse having a professional product that people can find and enjoy with having the product shoved down your throat by a paid hack(s) at Clear Channel playing it every hour on nearly all 1200 Clear Channel stations in almost every market in the country until the money train dries up. Furthermore, Hollywood Records is NOT such a big player either. In the grand scheme of things, they are not much less an underdog than Ms Digby by herself, or with some connected friends. They were just smart enough to sign her before someone else found her...on YouTube.

Gary Speight

WSJ Article, Marie Responds Again

Question

Leslie: Marie, your response to the WSJ article doesn't answer a basic question. Why did you say that you were not signed onto a label when, in fact, you did sign onto a label in 2005?

Marie's response

Dear Leslie -

I wrote that blog when I was in the heat of the moment. After having poured my heart out to this journalist, he took everything I said and twisted all of my words to get him the 'front page' of the WSJ.
Maybe I should have cooled down for a second before I wrote it but I think that because I didn't, it's honest. It shows exactly how hurt and deceived I felt after I read it.

Here is the answer to your question :

When asked if I was signed to a label, I always answered ' Yes, I am working with Hollywood Records'. If you would like to hear it for yourself, please go to Star987.com That is where I did my very first in-studio radio interview, it is up on the site to listen to if you would like. Also, I often got emails on my myspace and youtube asking the same question, I answered the same way of course!

Now for a different matter, I'm sure you're wondering why I don't have Hollywood Records up on my Youtube and my Myspace. When I began both of those sites, I really didn't know where I stood with the label. I had been signed since 2005, it was now the summer of 2007 and no one knew about me. I didn't have one thing released through my label. They told me that I may have a 2008 album release but after having seen all of my friends go through the same thing, I was weary ( their albums were postponed and postponed until they were eventually dropped from the label altogether). I started doing the youtube videos because I had already been playing every venue that Los Angeles had to offer and yet I didn't feel that my music was reaching the people who would really connect with my voice and my music. The last thing I wanted to do was to parade and flaunt the fact that I was signed to a label when the truth was, I was hanging on by the last thread and might have to change that tag to ' No Label ' in a matter of weeks. So I guess the the fact is, if I was asked, I always answered honestly - I would never in a million years say to someone that I wasn't signed. But when it came to my myspace and youtube, I didn't want 'Hollywood Records' to define who I was as a musician, especially when I was managing the sites all on my own. If one wants to call that 'lying'.. well I guess there isn't much I can do about that.

This whole thing has pained me and hurt me more than anything I've felt recently. I have worked so hard to get things going for me. All i've ever wanted was to release the album of my dreams and to play for as many people as I could all over the world.
I pray that I will have my chance soon to tell my side of the story. Thank you for your question.

marie'

A friend

Feel duped about what? What BS is that? She NEVER said that she wasn't signed to a major label so what exactly are you talking about? Rather funny how some people automatically dismiss the fact that during her radio interview, she said she was signed AND there were articles out before WSJ saying she was signed. Funny how people overlook that. It's obvious that people like to believe controversy over the truth because that's what probably makes their day or some crap. It also shows that some people will believe anything they read. Rather naive. Marie' will have the last laugh in the end & all I have to say to those people that tried to make her out to be a liar is that they can go shove it.

Eric

Artists get dropped ALL THE TIME... Marie used the internet to try to draw attention to herself and it worked because SHE'S GOOD... She is a girl who plays the guitar and sings and that's what she filmed herself doing...how is that fake?? people assumed she was a nobody, and thats not her fault.. bottom line is nobody cares... with so much crap that nobody likes being forced on us by labels who REALLY ARE able to shove things down our throats, because so many jobs are at stake, people are simply grateful to hear something they LIKE... this wasnt Nicole scherzinger with a half million dollar video and the millions in payola and promotion...this was a girl who filmed herself sing a song...and even if she DID try to go along with it and pretend she wasnt signed, thats what she SHOULD DO.. ANYTHING to GET HER MUSIC OUT THERE.. its called being an artist you idiots... Anybody out there would pretend to be an astronaut if it would make them a star... she tried something and it worked, good for her, stop hating

kate

more with Marie on talent, indie, high school and getting booed..
http://www.uncensoredinterview.com/artists/163-Marie-Digby

Bill Hallahan

The Wall Street Journal got this story wrong.

The Wall Street Journal article contained factual errors. The post they cited as typical was not representative of what the vast majority of people in the topic wrote. Most were thrilled for Marie. That in itself shows an agenda. The posts are still there, and while it might take some time to find the post they cited, it's very clear the WSJ reporters misrepresented the actual situation.

Marie Digby never lied. There is no comparison to the lonelygirl case, and by the way, she didn't lie either, at least not as far as I have seen.

It always struck me that there is a special term in journalism, i.e. "Investigative Journalism."

Here's the other, more accurate side of the story in Marie Digby's own words.

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=4165438&blogID=307265009

Bill Hallahan

The Wall Street Journal got this story wrong.

The Wall Street Journal article contained factual errors. The post they cited as typical was not representative of what the vast majority of people in the topic wrote. Most were thrilled for Marie. That in itself shows an agenda. The posts are still there, and while it might take some time to find the post they cited, it's very clear the WSJ reporters misrepresented the actual situation.

Marie Digby never lied. There is no comparison to the lonelygirl case, and by the way, she didn't lie either, at least not as far as I have seen.

It always struck me that there is a special term in journalism, i.e. "Investigative Journalism."

Here's the other, more accurate side of the story in Marie Digby's own words.

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=4165438&blogID=307265009

Bill Hallahan

First, sorry for the double post above. I'm not sure how that happened.

I have since learned more about this, and written a better case.

The Wall Street Journal article was wrong. There was no deception. The article, using the term, "feigning amateur status" attempted to disparage Marie Digby, however, there is no indication she feigned anything. By all appearances, Marie Digby has always been herself.

The article stated "Ms. Digby's MySpace and YouTube pages don't mention Hollywood Records. Until last week, a box marked "Type of Label" on her MySpace Music page said, "None." However, she had joined MySpace in 2004, roughly 2 years before she was signed, and she merely didn't bother to update a setting that she'd probably forgotten that setting even existed. I joined a MySpace music page, and it could even be missed when first signing up. And, since months after she recorded her CD, there was no indication it was ever going to be released, I wouldn't expect that changing her MySpace status to signed would cross her mind, even if she knew about it. The article went on to state, "After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the entry was changed to "Major," though the label still is not named." Why name a record label when there is no indication they are going to release your CD? (Note, the CD, titled "Unfold", finally came out on April 8, 2008. Buy it, it's great).

The Wall Street Journal article also contained:
-----
'Most of Ms. Digby's new fans seem pleased to believe that they discovered an underground sensation. A YouTube user posting a message in response to a cover of Linkin Park's "What I've Done" wrote, "you truely have talent! get urself out there...if u really wanted im positive u could land some sick record deals!! id buy a CD 4 sure!"'
-----
In fact, the vast majority of the posts were about her music, and not about "discovering" her. For most of us viewers, a huge number of people had already seen her videos when we found her, which were posted long before the WSJ article, so we could hardly claim to have 'discovered her.'

The term "feigning amateur status", used in the WSJ article seems completely ridiculous to anyone who has watched all of her videos.

Consider the following quote in the article, with the subtitle, "The Lucky Nobody".
-----
"As Ms. Digby's star rose, other media outlets played along. 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!" The station's programming executives now acknowledge they had booked Ms. Digby's appearance through Hollywood Records, and were soon collaborating with the label to sell "Umbrella" as a single on iTunes."
-----
Note the use of the term, "played along" as if the stations were doing something sinister. Note, Marie Digby had not had a CD release at this time, and the radio stations DJs announced, over the air, that they found Marie Digby on youtube. And, what Marie Digby said is so totally credible that to cast it in disparaging terms seems incredibly cynical, even for someone in New York City! Note, Marie Digby claims the idea of posting videos on youtube was her own idea, and the radio station, and Carson Daly, both claim they found Marie Digby on youtube. Sinister? Hardly. Read the last quote again, and think.

While I dislike the term, 'nobody,' because everyone is 'somebody,' nonetheless, Marie Digby was known to few people other than family or friends before the youtube video, so, if Marie Digby was playing a part, it was herself. Again, to disparage someone based on supposition, which also require manufacturing a nonexistent conspiracy, is beyond disingenuous. I would say, given the factual error, and the complete lack of research, the Wall Street Journal reporters who covered this were "feigning professional status," however, that might be a bit harsh. After all, there is a special term, "Investigative Journalism!" Clearly not all journalist meet that standard.

Marie Digby has posted that a Wall Street reporter talked to Marie Digby for about an hour, but they never asked the questions that would have cleared this up. Instead, they took her response, which merely meant that her signed status wasn't relevant to her goals (and frankly, would have seemed ridiculous in the videos), as meaning she was hiding it.

There were radio station interviews, before the WSJ article, where she mentioned being signed. If she were hiding it, she would have hid it there too.

In most of her videos, she didn't speak unless singing. Her personal business is her business, and nobody elses. The WSJ article took an irrelevant omission, and turned it into a conspiracy. I gather Marie Digby's family is rather well off. She never mentioned that in her videos either. I wouldn’t say she was, "feigning middle class status," but I'm sure some people would! Sad!

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