With the advent of streaming services has come a massive shift in the consumption of music, and artists are feeling more pressure than ever before to create content and focus on numbers.
One Australian song made the ARIA Top 40 Singles in the past month – and while Vance Joy’s “Riptide” is still worthy of a chart position, it was released in 2013. There are literally 100,000 new songs being uploaded to Spotify every day that could easily be contenders for a Top 40 chart position if they could only filter through the noise.
One artist that isn’t concerned with noise or numbers, though, is Whyte Fang.
Whyte Fang introduced herself at Coachella this year to a rapturous audience, taking them on a journey of sight and sound that had been conceptualised for years and meticulously planned for months.
For EDM artist Alex Sholler, the creative behind Whyte Fang, a decade working in the music industry as Alison Wonderland has given her insights into the business behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Whyte Fang’s debut album, GENESIS, has been released under her own label, FMU Records, which Scholler says has afforded her a lot of creative freedom.
“I A&R’d the album, and it was just me, and no one else had any opinions, and it was really nice,” she laughs. “I’ve never not felt in control of my music. I’m really fortunate, because EMI Australia has always been very, very supportive of me and let me do whatever I wanted, and I think I’m in a rare position… shout out to my label in Australia specifically, they’ve always been really supportive, and I’ve always felt like I could be myself.”
That being said, Sholler says there is a lot of pressure put on artists after a release by other labels internationally, and that was something she was trying to avoid with FMU Records.
“I really believe that especially now, being an up-and-coming artist would be very difficult,” she says. “I think there’s just so much noise, and people expecting you to content create, and pressure which isn’t just being an artist anymore, or a musician.”
Seeing so many talented producers struggling to find space in the current market made Sholler want to help in whatever way she could.
“I wanted to use my platform to at least raise more awareness to these artists; even if it’s just one single or whatever – anything I can do to just help, and not put pressure on them to create content or anything like that, and just put stuff out, because that’s all I want to do,” she explains. “I think it would be very daunting trying to establish something now. I don’t know if I would be able to do that – it’s a lot, I think, for up-and-coming artists now.”
After achieving chart success with Alison Wonderland, starting out with an unknown project may intimidate some – but for Sholler, this is the creative outlet she craved.
“The other thing that I feel about Whyte Fang is I don’t feel pressure to hit numbers; this is an outlet for me,” she says. “So I don’t even look at Spotify, I’m just like, ‘let’s put music out, let’s put music out.’ But if it hits people, it hits people – and I hope it does – but if it doesn’t, that’s okay.”
Even with the more established Alison Wonderland, though, Sholler says she wouldn’t look at numbers and streaming statistics.
“To me, it’s never really been about that – that’s what the labels cared about; I don’t give a shit. I only put out music that I’m proud of and that means something to me, and I always have been that way,” she insists. “And when I have artists be like, ‘Oh my Spotify is doing this…’ I’m like, shut up – like, who cares? Just put out what makes you feel good. That’s the whole point of this.”
Sholler says artists can’t expect every song to be a hit release. Which is a lesson she learnt the hard way.
“There’s some songs that I thought were going to be a hit and failed, but that’s okay. I think it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re putting it out into the universe,” she says. “Holding onto a track for me is very painful. I like to kind of just let it out. Some things work and some things don’t, and that’s just the nature of the game, and that’s how it’s always going to work regardless. So sitting and focusing too much on numbers rather than being creative, I think, is counter-productive.”
If you search on SoundCloud you can probably still find the early Whyte Fang recordings Sholler silently dropped around 2010.
“I wanted to focus all of my energy on Alison Wonderland, but I always had a really clear vision for Whyte Fang, for whenever I brought it back – and no one believed me, that I was going to do it!” Sholler laughs. “But I knew, I knew in the back of my head, once I had a bit of a break in between albums and album cycles that I really wanted to create like a full-on project that was executed completely, and there was an album and a show.”
Now seemed like the right time – with three albums and an EP under the Alison Wonderland name, it felt time to creatively explore something a little bit different.
Ironically, while Sholler was busy creating the Whyte Fang debut album and the show that would ultimately introduce the project to the world, she was also busy growing new life.
“That was not planned! That just happened,” Sholler laughs. “That wasn’t coordinated with each other, but I do like the poetic thing with it. It’s also super interesting creating when you’re creating life, because yeah, I don’t know, I feel super energised and inspired right now.”
Although Sholler says she has always seized the day and opportunities, making sure her time is managed properly is going to be more important than ever – although she doesn’t want to make any predictions what motherhood might look like.
“I’ve got a very supportive bunch of people around me, so I’m very fortunate about that; my crew and everyone is very understanding, so yeah, I don’t really know what to expect,” Sholler says. “I’m one of those people that just goes with the flow and I adapt, so I’m just going to have to adapt to having a little new friend hanging out with me every day.”