Sandi Thom Sells Out (or when did punk rockers wear “flowers in their hair”?!?)


Everybody in the music business and out of it is talking about Sandi Thom.

If you never heard of her, here’s the deal. She started broadcasting concerts in her basement for 21 nights straight. As many as 120,000 people per night watched. Then on Monday she signed a record deal with Sony.

What a cool inspiring story.

Let me make a prediction.

This girl has killed her career.

We are going to be able to watch her flop in realtime.

Why do people want record deals?

To get rich and famous?

I’m not going to bore you with record company economics. (Goldberg explains it well here)

But I’ll show you a clip of her video. And if you think I’m wrong (and I hope I am for her sake) read past posts on this blog and see if you can find her…

Explore posts in the same categories: hype, money, music, new media, video, YouTube

22 Comments on “Sandi Thom Sells Out (or when did punk rockers wear “flowers in their hair”?!?)”

  1. Jason Boog Says:

    Oh geeze. You surprised me, as always. But that’s why I read this blog.

    I’ll write something tomorrow, but you’ve made me look at this story in a whole new way, once again. I owe you $20…

  2. chartreuse Says:

    I may be wrong about this but I think she’s in trouble. I don’t think she had enough goodwill to sellout so soon.

    Plus there are rumours going around already that she actually had a record deal before she started her internet ‘tour’ and the entire thing is a publicity stunt by Sony/RCA. I hope that’s not the case because if it is the public will be pissed.

    The folks supporting her thought they were getting involved in something special. But what’s special about some chick with a record contract?

  3. Blog Writing 101

    Yesterday, the music-industry expert and new media blogger Chartreuse taught me something about web writing. Blogging is a dangerous genre, because it encourages writers to write before they think.  We spend too much time trying to be fast, titill…

  4. gigfliers Says:

    I’m tempted to be hypercynical about this. I mean, sure it’s not an expensive looking video – but do we really believe she genuinely didn’t have any kind of a deal before she sang an album’s worth of songs, and just happened to have them all nicely produced and ready to go – including a promo clip all ready for MTV and VH1? Even the Arctic Monkeys weren’t that far down the path when they did their deal with Domino…

    …but still. Punk hippies. It’s a nicely post-modern concept.

  5. Adrian Says:

    The “story” is such a key component of how the music industry approaches marketing artists.

    Last year Sandi Thom signed a contract with Windswept/Pacific Music Publishing ( ), a very well-connected publishing group based in Beverly Hills, Nashville and New York City. (“The company administers the songs of Pete Townshend including part of his catalog with the Who, L.A. Reid’s HITCO Music, Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child, hit R&B artist Craig David, hip/hop writer/producers Sheke’spere, Anthony Dent, QDIII and Mike Elizondo who co-writes with Eminem, and hit country writers Jeffrey Steele, Chris Farren and Al Anderson.”) Windswept’s roster provides song material to Madonna, Carrie Underwood and many more major label recording artists.

    As for claims of huge numbers of people being drawn to webcasts – here’s some explanation from :
    200K a Night? Uh Hu.
    Reader post by: James Affordy (jkpinky – What’s this?)
    Posted on: March 8, 2006, 2:49 PM PST
    Story: Scottish singer’s Webcam concerts attracting crowds
    Not according to, an independent traffic analysis website.

    Looks like the PR from the STORY of their success is what’s driving
    their traffic. Actual fan interest is FAR below the figures given,
    especially when looking at 6 months or more of activity.

    Indeed, from the traffic figures Alexa has gathered, the website appears to have experienced a big surge in visits coincident with press releases/stories published about the claims. There’s no sign of heavy traffic occurring in the days leading up to March 16, 2006 – when, according to the PR version of events, there was a huge buzz building, and people all over the world were checking out the webcast.

    It’s been asked, why would a truly independent artist that could attract over 100,000 online visitors a night, sign a traditional record contract today? The answer is they wouldn’t.

    For an artist that is already engaged with the industry machinery, however, the record contract is just the next step.

  6. chartreuse Says:

    Thanks for that Adrian. You Rock!

  7. Adrian Says:

    Happy to be able to just add a few details to what you’re already higlighting ( :

    I work in the music industry (as an artist manager), and it’s evident that the old order is looking for new ways to spin the bottle.

    For posterity, below is the original story planted with Reuters which appears to have led to the first spike in visits to ST’s website (traffic which then dropped right off, until the news story published this week). What would the effect have been had the Reuters lead been a more full disclosure: “Armed with just a publishing contract, major recording industry connections, a Webcam and a guitar…”?:

    Scottish singer’s Webcam concerts attracting crowds

    By Reuters

    Published: March 7, 2006, 11:52 AM PST

    Armed with just a Webcam and a guitar, Scottish singer Sandi Thom sets
    off around the world every night from a basement room in south London.

    In a packed field of wannabe pop stars looking for exposure on the Web,
    she is attracting up to 200,000 people a night from as far afield as
    Pakistan to her Internet concerts.

    But however many Internet hits she may clock up on, the
    24-year-old singer still has to translate word of mouth approval into
    hard sales.

    When she released her first single, “I Wish I was a Punk Rocker,” last
    October, it reached No. 55 in the charts.

    Next week she is re-releasing the single and then putting out her debut
    album in April on an independent label.

    “The Internet offers the opportunity for mass distribution and it is in
    that sense a level playing field,” said Matt Phillips of the record
    industry trade group BPI.

    “But there are tens of thousands of artists trying to do the same thing
    and it is very difficult to get your voice heard,” he told Reuters.

    The current darlings of so-called viral marketing are the Arctic
    Monkeys, who built a devoted fan base from scratch, handing out free CDs
    of their music at early gigs, which were in turn downloaded on the

    Hailed as the first superstars of the iPod age, they sold a staggering
    360,000 copies of their debut album in the first week, to set a new

    But touring, promoting and access to the airwaves are still crucial.

    “The Arctic Monkeys may seem to have come from nowhere, but they were
    still all over the traditional media before they got their first No. 1,”
    Phillips pointed out.

    Flogging around Britain to attract crowds of just 200 to her gigs, Sandi
    Thom decided enough was enough when her decrepit car finally broke down.
    The information superhighway seemed a much more attractive prospect.

    “My car is a tin can. It kept breaking down. I don’t have a lot of money
    and the Internet is such a massive medium with so many people surfing
    it,” she told Reuters.

    “So we put up the Webcam to see what would happen. It’s a tight squeeze
    in the basement as it only takes six people. The whole thing is very
    surreal,” she said of her “21 Nights from Tooting” Webcast tour.

    Chris Dabbs of Streaming Tank, the Web broadcast company that set up the
    concerts for computers to receive around the world, said: “We really
    liked her stuff but were not expecting the success she had.”

    “This is our first Webcam from a basement,” he said. “The numbers have
    shot right up. Last Friday it was 62,000. On Sunday it went up again to
    182,000. I think the total will top 1 million by the end of March.”

    With established stars like Robbie Williams and Madonna eagerly
    embracing all sorts of technology, from mobile phones to iPod downloads,
    Thom faces a tough battle getting heard in an increasingly crowded
    electronic market place.

    But at least she’s getting a chance.

    “The quality control comes from word of mouth,” Dabbs concluded. “It
    will only work if audiences want to listen to your music and tell other
    people about it.”

  8. Adrian Says:

    p.s. almost identical stories (“My car is a tin can”…) appeared in the Times of London on March 5, and the Western Mail (Wales) on March 11, and, no doubt – other publications in the UK at that time; so, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario as to which came first – likely one could find the originating PR wire release which generated the Reuters, Times, Mail etc. coverage.

  9. The dorks at The Publishing Spot said:

    Blogging is a dangerous genre, because it encourages writers to write before they think.

    Blogging is a Personal Entity now that forces you to do things? “Blogging”…encourages writers to write before they think? And, you asswipe, we do this “thoughtless writing” in our pajamas with Starbucks and spliff.

    These lame attacks on “blogging” are rather pedestrian and full of metataxical syncopes going nowhere fast.

    Now, as to the video singer: she sucks. Her face contorts like a bitch, and her lyrics are beyond trite.

    “wish I was a punk with flowers in my hair”? Then, bitch, go rip up your mall clothes, stick a safety pin through your nose, dye your hair purple, and jam some daffodils in your mop. Bitch.

  10. chartreuse Says:

    Um, not having a good morning Steven?

  11. […] So one of the astute readers of this blog (I knew all the smart people hung out here) bought up some interesting information about the Sandi Thom phenom. […]

  12. Machine For Hurling Stones

    Visual by Oh, the things you can learn surfing the comments section over at Chartreuse.  If my comments section were half as active as his, this blog would be a much better place… First off, a reader named Adrian…

  13. the Publishing Spot is part of a “blog media network” (yes, one of those old fashioned things!) called Know More Media, which has no mission, About Page, or corporate slogan that can hum in your heart.

    That’s not saying they are “bad People” or inept or any other taint. All you need to know is that claiming “blogging” to be an entity that is seductive, dangerous, and coercive is … is … is like that frump who sings how she wants to be a punk with flowers in her hair.

    Chartreuse, you inflicted this song/video excerpt on me, and now yes I am in a bad “mood” largely due to it. That evil witch, confusing punk and hippie. She gets Fs on all her homework, I’ll bet.

  14. Here’s a beta test tip: why does your WP syntax mix trackbacks with comments?

    The Publishing Spot text is trackback, not comment, which is why it’s truncated, thus lending itself to partial perception and misappropo hermeneutics.

  15. Tim Stay Says:

    Ok, v((aspers (or is it gra]*ate or is it AKA Steven?), I will take the bait.

    Help us out with how we make something that “hums in your heart” for the following categories:

    Here is our mission. What should you think it should be?

    Here is our About Page. What more do you want to know about us?

    Here is our Corporate Slogan: All Business, All the Time.

    We can take criticism. We listen to feedback. We admit mistakes (and we don’t put the blame on some lame WP trackback/comment functionality).

    Do you have something constructive to offer us or is it just a drive-by shooting?

  16. vizigoth Says:

    this song iz tha bomb

  17. […] Now allow me to be trivial. One Sandi Thom, directly from her basement Are people too ashamed of liking this song to post it? Hm. The debacle on chartreuse. […]

  18. maethelwine Says:

    Great job guys…

  19. mad_as_hell Says:

    EXCELLENT job guys, I say. When will Reuters and other media publish the full story on the fraud and hype combo? Or are they embarrassed at being part of the scam, or just in the pockets of Sony? Apart from all the other self-contradictory things SO wrong with the lyrics of the song, the marketing machine angle kicks the blocks out from under ST’s status as a “little person” folk hero. Pity, because she has a good voice and pens a catchy melody….

  20. mad_as_hell Says:

    …. sorry I’m a bit behind on my blogs, and even the mainstream. As you will know, stories have now run in the main rags on the PR angle. Today’s BBC website even has a vote button on whether Sandi’s story is
    o Inspirational
    o Made up marketing scam
    and it is currently at 60% for the latter.
    Check it out:

  21. milly Says:

    please go on it and sign in the guessed book

  22. Sandi can't sing Says:

    Unfortunately, she doesn’t “have a good voice”, and she didn’t write any of the bloody songs! (“Co-wrote” means – she didn’t write them – which is moot anyway, because they’re all rubbish!).
    She didn’t webcast to 80,000 people at one time, nor even 5,000. It’s all a LIE, and she was more than happy to go along with it, which is why she’s fallen out of the charts, hopefully never to return…

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