Q&A with Jason Lipshutz, Editorial Assistant at Billboard.com

A few days after my interview with Simon Curtis, I spoke to Jason Lipshutz, the editorial assistant at Billboard.com who wrote a feature on the rising pop star. Here are some excerpts from the interview, where we talked about Simon, as well as the Internet’s costs and benefits for artists trying to make it in the music industry.

1.     What types of topics or genres do you cover at Billboard?

I work for both the magazine and mostly the website. It deals with a lot of different genres: pop, rock, mostly popular music. We don’t specialize in emerging bands as of now, but we focus more on established artists.

2.     So it was rare that you featured someone like Simon Curtis, an independent act. How did you become aware of him?

We did a feature on Simon because first off, his music is compelling, and second, because he has a following. We saw that he has a fan base, and he’s performing pretty well in terms of social media.

3.     What do you think of Simon’s music and how does it compare to mainstream pop?

I think his biggest advantage is that there aren’t as many huge pop stars that are male, and we have tons who are female. It’s almost like a crowded field with the females: pop stars like Ke$ha, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and someone like Jessie J who’s trying to become a huge pop star. The problem is that there are not just that many male pop stars. Simon’s already established his identity and…he’s filling that void a little bit.

4.     Twitter was really helpful for Simon, but how important is social networking for established acts such as Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber?

In terms of Twitter as well as social media as a whole, it’s essential now. Since the music industry has changed so much, bands are expected to be fully accessible to their fans. It’s something that’s absolutely necessary now because it lets everyone know, ‘Hey, I’m relevant, I’m around, and this is an important thing to check out in terms of my music.’ In terms of the biggest stars, like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, a huge part of their success is just constantly tweeting. A lot of people underestimated the importance of Twitter, and if you see, the people who figured it out earlier really got results.

5.     There have been shifts in the music industry such as the emergence of social media, which have made it easier for artists to break through. On the flipside, do you think anything has made it more difficult?

The whole industry has changed so much and it’s a more crowded field. Because of the Internet, everyone’s trying to get you to listen to their music. Record deals aren’t as important as they once were. It used to be that someone is an established artist because they have a record deal, but things have changed so much that you have to fight for people’s attention online.  It’s definitely harder for artists because you’re competing with a much bigger crowd, you have to establish yourself, and show that you’re unique from everyone else.

6.     What does an up-and-coming artist need to have to be successful today?

A lot of the mainstream popular music right now, in terms of pop, is very dance-driven, electro, and heavy. You need to play to that audience looking for that Dr. Luke engineered sound, as well as something original than everyone else’s.

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