Ingrid Michaelson, “Breakable”
You hear a lot about “Internet celebrities” these days-the Star Wars kid, the Evolution of Dance guy-but there aren’t many that truly leverage their Internet fame into a legitimate career in the entertainment business. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson is one of the exceptions. In 2006, the Staten Island, N.Y., coffee-house barista and entertainer uploaded her entirely self-produced album Girls and Boys to her MySpace page. There, Lynn Grossman, the principal owner of Secret Road, an L.A.-based music-licensing and artist-management firm, listened to it-apparently ad nauseam. Grossman all but promised Michaelson that she would get the song on ABC’s prime-time hit Grey’s Anatomy. The show’s producers ended up airing three of her songs, and asked her to write one specifically for one of the episodes. Fueled by purchases from Grey’s Anatomy fans, Girls and Boys went on to reach No. 2 on the iTunes pop charts.
For the $28 billion recorded-music industry, Michaelson’s rise to fame delivered yet another chink to its tattered armor. Until recently, getting a record deal meant endless club gigs, fretting about demo tapes, and dealing with gold chain-wearing A&R guys who were as interested in securing a piece of the artist’s royalty stream as they were developing the star’s music career. Thanks to social networks such as MySpace, as well as other ad-supported and subscription music sites, budding artists now have a variety of platforms on which to build their careers.
For the artists themselves-other recent Internet sensations include Secondhand Serenade, the Artic Monkeys and Colbie Caillat-it’s been a long time coming. The first New York Music and Internet Expo was nearly 10 years ago. The attendees, mostly musicians and new-media entrepreneurs, concluded then that the web would have a profound effect on the business by giving artists the ability to circumvent the big record labels and market themselves directly to music fans. Ingrid Michaelson might not be the first to achieve that ideal, but she’s certainly the most successful.