OpEd: Reinventing Independent – How Megan & Liz Are Doing It Right
If you live in New York City, you’ve probably seen the giant YouTube billboards in SoHo and posters scattered throughout the transit system. Over the past few years, the video sharing site has become less of a replacement for America’s Funniest Home Videos, to a career building tool for musicians, make-up artists, comedians and more. The site is littered with hopeful artists, some talented and some not, and standing out among the masses is harder than ever. But the tricky part comes with finding a balance between YouTube and real life – a task Megan & Liz have been battling with for the past two years.
The twin-sister duo joined YouTube in its prime and have built up an incredible following since. At one point in time, they were posting new covers every week on “Macer Mondays.” But as they were pushed into the pop/radio world, their videos became less frequent due to other commitments. Some fans embraced the lack of videos because there was promise of a full-length album from Megan & Liz, whereas others demanded fresh content on a weekly basis.
In 2012, Megan & Liz won the first ever Macy’s iHeart Radio Rising Star contest and got the opportunity to perform at the iHeart Radio Festival in Las Vegas that fall. Their single “Bad For Me” made its way into Top 40, they formed a partnership with Macy’s and American Rag, and performed at various radio shows across the country before headlining their first tour in the summer of 2013. Things seemed to only be moving forward for Megan & Liz until their label, Collective Sounds – a branch of The Collective Management, shut down in December.
Their debut record was slated to be released in February 2014, but with no label to release it and legal issues surrounding the songs, the album was delayed. Worse, Megan & Liz were forced to fall silent. As a group who prides themselves on their connection with their fans, keeping secrets was difficult for them and the backlash the duo received from fans online was heartbreaking. The two sisters returned to their YouTube roots to keep fans engaged until they could release original music, posting covers of songs like “Talk Dirty” and “19 You + Me” on their channel. It was then that fan envolement picked back up.
Today, Megan & Liz released their new song “Simple Life” via Billboard and announced their new EP would be released independently in June. The twins have moved to Nashville from Los Angeles to embrace their country roots and record the songs that they feel truly embody what Megan & Liz is about. It’s a bold move, considering producers like Max Martin were backing the girls’ pop endeavors. But it’s absolutely the right move.
There is little room for advancement in pop music without the help of a major label deal. Thousands of dollars are put into radio promotion and airplay for upcoming pop acts, and considering how overly competitive Los Angeles is, it almost doesn’t matter who you know there unless you’re dropping cash. Nashville’s supportive community is exactly what a thriving, independent artist needs to fuel their career. With an incredible online following already, Megan & Liz don’t need excessive marketing teams or gimmicks – they just need good songs.
Combine Megan & Liz’s YouTube presence with their enormous devotion to their tight-knit fanbase and you’ll find a fool-proof formula. While there’s nothing wrong with labels or management, it was the fans that brought Megan & Liz their success. Their “Macers” won them every contest with their consistent voting, and they were the ones harassing radio stations to play their songs. Without the constraints of a label, Megan & Liz can now reward their fans for sticking by them.
In the pop world, it’s easy to mock artists who come from YouTube – which may be why Megan & Liz drifted from the network for a little while. But country music has yet to produce a successful artist from the site, so there isn’t a negative association with the site within the genre. Now that they’ve claimed their independence, Megan & Liz can fill that void without being stereotyped. The girls can accommodate their fans needs while still pursuing their new musical endeavors. While they’ve kept quiet on the Internet for months, Megan & Liz have been hard at work in Nashville to prepare for the next chapter of their career.
So yes, their label shutting down set them back a little, but in reality it was a blessing. Megan & Liz are now free to do what they want, when they want, without having to battle it out among the thousands of other wannabe pop stars. They’ve always said YouTube was their home, but they’ve made Nashville their new home. Turns out they can reside in both without overpaying for their rent. Welcome home girls, we’ve missed you.
Listen to “Simple Life” here.
(written by Catherine Powell)