Sep 23, 2014 · 4 minutes

Remember back in 2013 when sports teams, fraternities, and even tech blogs made their own cheesy "Harlem Shake" videos?

Like the Macarena before it, Baauer's "Harlem Shake" was one of those dance trends that, while ubiquitous for the better part of a month, is looked back on with a mix of embarrassment and nostalgia. But the sensation's most significant legacy in the music world is a triumph of software, not treble and bass. Baauer's label Mad Decent partnered with the Brooklyn-based music distribution network INDMUSIC to squeeze ad dollars out of not just Baauer's original YouTube video, which racked up 25 million views on its own, but also the thousands of fan-made videos and the millions of views that came along with them, creating a huge windfall for the artist and his label.

Although the massively viral success of "Harlem Shake" was as singular and unpredictable as pop hits get, INDMUSIC lets any band earn a little extra cash whenever a user uploads a video featuring their song. A great example are the numerous fan-made sports videos that feature songs from Explosions in the Sky's "Friday Night Lights" soundtrack. It's also good for the amateurs making these videos -- instead of demanding that uploaders remove their videos via DMCA requests, users can keep their tributes up while the artist still receives a chunk of the revenue.

INDMUSIC has already partnered with YouTube and SoundCloud to help bands monetize, and today it's announcing a similar partnership with the giant French video-sharing site Dailymotion.

For INDMUSIC's stable of artists, spreading to Dailymotion and its 120 million unique visitors is all about building audiences abroad.

"When you look at the other platforms, Dailymotion has been around for a very long time," says INDMUSIC founder and CEO Brandon Martinez. "Having started in France and in the UK they have a very strong foothold overseas."

In addition to its monetization schemes, INDMUSIC has also begun offering detailed analytics reports to content creators. The streaming music space is still so fragmented, between Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Soundcloud, Rdio, and a score of others, that it's valuable to know where audiences are listening. Spotify and Pandora offer their own analytics reports but INDMUSIC can aggregate this data all in one place, at least for its current platform partners, while also including user generated videos like the ones fans made for "Harlem Shake."

"That's where it's really getting exciting," Martinez says. "You have all of this information across all these different platforms and we can allow our partners to really dissect that and look at that from many different places."

All of this is done with two basic goals in mind: Building audiences and getting paid. And Martinez says artists on some of the more adventurous indie labels he represents, like Mad Decent and Stones Throw, have seen up to ten times the growth in audience and revenue thanks to INDMUSIC's tools.

Because he works on the frontlines on behalf of smaller artists looking to make a living, Martinez is a valuable source of insight when it comes to where the industry is headed. Like others I've talked to who work at the intersection of tech and music, Martinez says it's crucial for artists to retain as much control over their art and their business as possible, whether they're already on a label or looking to get signed.

"We've seen the majors way clamp down on the number of development deals or they're even doing them smartly again," Martinez says. "So I think that it's much more about artist control, whether it's building up an audience before getting a deal or even the labels trusting them that they've already got a partner on YouTube or SoundCloud. It's about artists, these days having to wear multiple hats, not just as an artist or performer but a business hat."

Companies like INDMUSIC function almost like a hybrid between a manager and a label, assisting artists with everything from analytics that can help them with email list management and social media to maximizing revenue and audience on various streaming networks. But unlike labels, artists retain control of the rights to their music when working with INDMUSIC. This could be a new model for musicians going forward, in which they are given access to powerful technology tools and business advice without having to give away massive royalty cuts to labels.

As musicians like ex-Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin have noted, artists have always been screwed -- it's just there's less cash to go around than there was during the heady era of the CD. And with the total music industry revenue staying more or less flat over the past five years, despite more people listening to music than ever before, the only way for artists to survive is to increase the percentage of that revenue that goes to them -- And companies like INDMUSIC are working precisely to that end.

[photo by Cancha General]