One of the biggest issues in the music industry is this tension between niche and mainstream. For the niche to work - and it can work, for both the artist and the label - the players involved must consciously accept that it the niche does not require the mainstream, full stop. In fact, denial of the mainstream is almost key to psychologically getting over this hurdle.
To grow within the niche means nurturing a community that does not look to the outside for validation. The artist must trust that their community will grow organically, through peer-to-peer interaction, and make appropriate steps to make this happen.
Where the tension becomes disruptive is when we seek to fast track this growth through mainstream channels; by traditional media exposure, for example. Often this is simply what I call "egoPR" - seeing ourselves in press which has high status, but translates to little exposure of community expansion, and thus a limited impact for the artist overall. If the community does not require validation, then the artist/label must also accept this premise.
We saw this in the swedish campaign for Sara Berg. Huge mainstream exposure with a successful traditional PR campaign , for a sound that wasn't mainstream in the ears of the swedish public. So it didn't work. Outside Sweden her community of loyal fans continues to grow, oblivious to the previous PR. Was the investment in traditional PR worth it?
I'm not suggesting that mainstream PR be shunned altogether. But use it wisely - and not just to satisfy that overactive ego. And not at the expense of the community which matter most.
Image by redxdress on Flickr.