In the vast ocean of the internet, it would appear that everything either sinks or stays afloat forever. A video of myself applying clown makeup can either go viral or fade into obscurity. The internet markets itself like a sort of fairy godmother, granting the wish of stardom to random people like you and me.
This idea creates an ambivalent feeling in us. We would like our moment in the spotlight, yet we fear ridicule or going unnoticed. Every artist wants to create something unique, something that gains traction. What if they are misunderstood? What if no one notices? Well, the fascinating thing about the internet is discovering the story behind this fairy’s magic wand, the ace up its sleeves; there is beauty to be found in learning that behind many of these success stories lies a passionate group of people, ready to share that passion for the world to notice.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the world of music. Many albums that were forgotten over time have gained newfound appreciation and success with the birth of online music communities. As individuals express their personal interest within their communities, both new and old music get their time to shine. The lack of middlemen (present in the likes of radio programming) on the internet allows music fans to directly engage in a way never seen before. There are three albums that I want to tackle in particular, not only because I personally think they are remarkable, but because their success stories are fascinating.
In 1998, Japanese psychedelic rock band Fishman gave a tour around their home country as a sort of thank you note to one of their band members, who announced months prior that he would be leaving the group. What resulted from it was 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare, now considered in many music circles to be the best live album of all time. Fishman is a curious case; they had a solid fan base in Japan, but according to drummer Kin-ichi Motegi in a recent interview, “[they] got good reviews, but sales were pretty laughable” (Montegi, 2019). It was not until the group was rated on the site Rateyourmusic.com, somewhere around 2015, that they and the album gained notoriety. The newfound fame did not happen all at once; a slow wave of Japanese migration to the west is credited to Fisherman’s gradual surge in popularity.
Furthermore, one of the first videos related to the band is a cover from a Japanese Chilean singer, singing the soberly beautiful “Night Cruising.” This very obscure video personifies many great things about sharing one’s passion. The singer seems full of joy singing a song he loves while his friends are having fun going along with it.
In 2008, when artists such as Katy Perry and Flo-Rida were topping the charts, the album Deathconsciousness by Have a Nice Life was released. The piece initially received no fan reaction, but slowly it gathered a following on social media until it reached the success it now has, with some songs garnering upwards of 10 million downloads. This album suffered from poor production value, yet its theme of death and how life slips away compensates for it, artistically speaking. The body of work can be depressing but some critics have described it as life-affirming; music critic Oliver Kempt stated it is the “only album that merged these feelings so perfectly” (Kempt, 2018).
Deathconsciousness stands as a reminder to all aspiring artists that professional equipment is not necessary to create good music; trusting your own vision and ideas is all that matters in the moment of truth. The success of the album, specifically regarding its theme and music style, allowed the band to experiment with more daring and visceral music, which is a testament to the power of people and the internet.
For the final album, let’s rewind to the year 2000. When this album was released, only family and friends of the band were able to listen. Fast forward to 2016 and a CD copy of the album ends up in a retail store, and eventually in the hands of an anonymous 4Chan user. The user uploaded the album to YouTube and Bandcamp to share his discovery and find whoever made it. The album was a mix of indie rock and lo-fi, with many listeners falling in love with the messy project. Eventually, word spread of the mysterious and deteriorating recording of the album, and the internet named it part of the “lost media ,” believing its origins to be lost forever. The sudden attention eventually caused the band to resurge and re-release the album in late 2020 with some new remixes, garnering critical acclaim across the internet in the process. The album in question was D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L by Panchiko.
The members of Panchiko have now become recurring members of the 4Chan and Instagram music community. A few months before the release of the album, band members Owain, Andy and Shaun gave an interview where they had this to say at the end:
What does the future look like for Panchiko? Are we witnessing a reunion following the re-release of D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L?
Andy – Never say never!
Owain – Never Say never!
Shaun – NEVER!
In conclusion, if you have a passion project, then you should release it and see what happens. Even if it does not initially become a hit, if it is truly what you want, then someone will notice and their attention could very well be the start of your fame. Who knows, you just might have a hidden gem on your hands…
Kempt, O. (Dirección). (2018). Have A Nice Life – Deathconsciousness .
Montegi, K.-I. (2019).
Panchiko. (15 de March de 2020). The Surprising Story of Panchiko. (J. Rioux, Entrevistador)