lindsey-stirling-music-33545711-2560-1440A creative talent is told by the establishment that she’s “unmarketable,” but goes on to leverage social Internet media to become a new rising star. This is the success story of many self-publishing writers, but the phenomenon isn’t unique to writers. I ran across an article about “hip-hop violinist” Lindsey Stirling that put me in mind of just how much her career follows the same formula.

Stirling made it to the quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent,” but washed out, with judges telling her she “wasn’t good enough” for the style of performance she wanted to do. But after that, she partnered with cinematographer Devin Graham to make YouTube videos, and they took off. Her YouTube channel now has over four million subscribers.

Stirling hadn’t been able to make it in the traditional recording industry:

"I got discouraged because no one was interested," Stirling says. "They’d say, ‘I’m sorry you’re just too different, we don’t know what to do with you.’ No one was interested in the kind of artist I wanted to be."

But using Crowdsurge, an artist services and ticketing startup, she’s been able to sell tickets and connect directly with fans—and also see Crowdsurge’s sales data, because unlike traditional ticketing platforms it shares that information with the artist. (Another parallel to indie publishing—try getting detailed sales figures out of a traditional publisher sometime!) She’s been selling out shows for her 2014 concert tour, with over 13,000 tickets sold so far.

Stirling also uses her videos to connect with fans, tagging a brief video-blog-style fan greeting at the end of each one, with links to other videos, her YouTube channel, and to buy her albums. And she’s displayed a keen sense of knowing her audience—in addition to her original compositions, she’s recorded covers of a number of songs popular with the Internet demographic, including music from the Lord of the Rings movies and various Nintendo games.

It’s all been working out pretty well for her. In addition to her video and concert success, she’s gotten to collaborate with a number of other popular artists, including Pentatonix, the Piano Guys, and Owl City. She’s appeared on Conan. and she’s played and shot videos all over the world. Not bad at all for someone who was rejected by Piers Morgan.

Isn’t it remarkable how the Internet has democratized media production? Not just in publishing books, but in music as well. Kickstarters have made it possible for people to fund new physical products directly. Who knows what will get disintermediated next?


  1. And if I want just the music I can get that anywhere, for free.

    Where she’s actually making her money these days is from The Lindsey Stirling Experience; being part of the crowd, seeing her perform live, getting that feeling of fan/artist interaction. And, of course, selling T-shirts and merchandise; physical goods whose provenance can be easily tracked and whose authenticity can be assured (you can find knock-off T-shirts, but you can also be pretty certain that the T-shirts Stirling sells you herself are the genuine article.)

    So she isn’t really a music-maker; she’s a performing artist, with the music playing the same role in her performance as her costume.

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