Let's talk about Fueled By Ramen.
For context, I should shine the spotlight on a few key components of the alternative music scene:
But wait a minute...I can't turn on the radio for a solid 15 minutes without hearing "Heathens" or "Stressed Out"! Doesn't that go against our first principle as alternative music listeners? Why do they get to break the rules? What makes twenty one pilots exempt from the barriers of the mainstream while still pulling a gigantic portion of the alternative music crowd?
Come to think of it, this series of questions can be identically expressed towards the likes of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. Multiple hits by each of these bands have blown up on the radio in recent years. From "Centuries", to "Miss Jackson", to "Still Into You", it's difficult to argue that any of the bands above haven't achieved massive mainstream success. None of it is by chance, either. Through careful presentation of the material, Fueled By Ramen is a master in the art of curation.
Curation is a very unique concept to us as consumers, whereas it's incredibly important to us on a subconscious level; We rarely give it a conscious consideration unless it's explicitly brought up in conversation. Above all, it's absolutely necessary for any medium or platform to thrive. Nobody wants to sift through the staggering masses of content in any medium to find the good stuff. The foam must have some channel through which it may rise to the top...and for us alternative music kids, that channel is Fueled By Ramen. They curate in parallelto their passion for the art, not in spite of it. Just compare FBR's roster to that of, say, Interscope Records. It sort of hard to believe that the employees of Interscope collectively and concurrently support The 1975, ScHoolBoy Q, Ellie Goulding and Imagine Dragons on an artistic level. They each embody vastly different mindsets when it comes to writing music. And it shows in their business model for curation: blow up pop stations across the world with highly-accessible music, and people will accept the artist as a pop-culture icon. Get pop-culture icons to feature in songs with other pop-culture icons...and the revenue flows exponentially.
On the FBR side of things, the model is noticeably different by a pretty wide margin. The music is curated in genuinely interesting music videos and wacky, yet, clean production choices that align with the artists' vision. The artistic ideas are sought after organically by dedicated fans, who care enough to share that music with their closest friends, then those friends share it with their closest friends and so on. It's a beautifully natural growth in presence for the artist. In establishing an organic fan base for their artists, they provide longevity in the form of a dedicated audience on top of the company's industrial prowess in distribution and exposure. In simpler terms, FBR is incredible at exposing bands to consumers who will genuinely care about their music and consistently desire more.
Now, of course, there will always be that one fine samaritan who is too busy jamming to the artistically profound Atilla to accept any pop-like music as anything short of "hot garbage, bro". But I say screw them. I mean, there's nothing intrinsically bad or artistically lacking about pop music. It's a genre just like any other, except that it's defined by the ebb and flow of what the majority of music consumers enjoy. And I don't see anything wrong with that. The structural elements are integrated by legends of other genres, such as the fathers of djent in Meshuggah, the pop-punk powerhouses in Jimmy Eat World and even the post-hardcore kings within Thrice. In these cases, I would go so far as to define pop music by, simply, great songwriting. Let's face it: most of us don't remember the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody because the song breaks a plethora of traditional songwriting rules. We're able to belt out every word because it's presented in a way that we can be passionate about. It's an incredibly fun and triumphant song, accompanied by explosively dynamic instrumentals and vocal melodies that can sit in your head for days on end. Those are the elements of great song-writing: carefully formatted pieces of a congruent and cohesive puzzle that are not just easy to remember, but enjoyable to reiterate.
To bring it all back home, Fueled By Ramen is important because they understand the value in artistic integrity. They understand that artists like Lil Yachty and Ellie Goulding are only good for as long as their genres are relevant. They're names. They're icons. They're not presented as people. Brendon Urie, Tyler Joseph, Hayley Williams...those are people. We care about them, as well as what they have to say, how they're feeling and, through the arguably invasive avenues of Twitter and Instagram, we even care about little things like what kind of dog they have. And it's not by accident. It's through the careful and masterful curation of Fueled By Ramen that we are presented with these amazing, charismatic musicians that we can relate to and care for on an intimate level. That is why FBR has been and will always be one of my favorite major labels.
If you'd like to learn more about the art of curation, YouTuber "kaptainkristian" released a heartfelt video about Toonami that provided some heavy influence for this article. I highly recommend checking it out, as it's incredibly insightful for anyone interested in the entertainment industry.
Otherwise, thanks for reading. You may now go back to your regularly scheduled scrolling down your Facebook feed.
written by jo trumble