The music industry has felt threatened for a while now — it’s easier than ever to get a hold of music legally, and illegally.
New acts signing to major, as well as indie labels, gladly tell execs there that they’ll make music, but refuse to get into social networking — mainly Facebook and Twitter. Many acts will quickly sign up for a MySpace profile, as the platform is targeted at them — with extended profile customization and the ability to add tracks — and many stop there.
But let’s get real here, MySpace isn’t exactly ideal for networking. At least, not by itself. If you’re an act refusing to participate in social networking — think again — keeping fans at arm’s length is no longer an option.
Sure, some musicians want to work on their music exclusively, but social networking doesn’t have to take up their time, there just seems to be this bad stereotype to it. Artists have a responsibility to engage with their audience, and touring is not the only way to accomplish that.
Cameo Carlson, executive vice president at Universal Motown Republic Group, was “shocked to find out how many twentysomethings aren’t interested in social networking,” and she’s spot on.
Only 9% of users across social networking sites are aged 18 to 24. The age group with the highest usage? The 35 to 44 age group, with 25%. The 17 and under age group seems to do much better, at 15%, but unless your act is part of the age group and/or the music appeals to the age group, it’s pointless.
So What Do I Do?
As an act, does it mean you have to turn into a salesman? Not at all. Simply engage your fans. It’s amazing supplemental promotion to what your label is already doing! How you do it is up to you, and what’s right for your act, but here are a few ideas that might kickstart your thinking:
- Update your Twitter/Facebook with pictures. Behind the scenes peeks at photoshoots, backstage, everyday touring shots, whatever. Make your audience feel like they’re there with you!
- Contests. People love free stuff! Think of ways you can get your audience passionate about that upcoming show. Reggae musician Matisyahu likes to get in touch with local fans through Twitter when he’s touring in the area. He even gives out free tickets to his shows randomly through shout-outs.
- Link to your new music, or progress on a track. It’s a great way to get the word out, and fans feel special when they get that sneak peek.
- Be real. You don’t have to be a power-user, but from a fan’s point of view, it’s nice to read some real thoughts from musicians. Though it may seem unimportant, fans love to be in the loop and feel like they really know their favorite musician beyond the music.
“Social networking is overrated.”
What, are you stuck in 2004? Get with the program. This is the worst excuse in the book, and I shouldn’t have to devote any time to justifying it with statistics.
“I thought the very reason I signed on with a record label was to let them do all the marketing, social engagements, etc.”
In some cases, I can see certain acts hiring someone else to manage their social media presence, if really necessary. But labels usually manage many musicians, and expecting them to manage your social media presence, as well as other artists’, can get impersonal. If you do need to hire someone to do the social media dirty work, then be selective about who it is.
“The Beatles didn’t tweet.”
Yeah, and we’re not buying vinyls en masse anymore. Times change. Society changes. The ways in which we consume information, news and music is drastically different now, and in many ways, the bar is raised. Times are tough, and the music industry is extremely competitive, so you need to set yourself apart from the rest.
“Serious musicians like me don’t want/have time to do this social networking crap.”
First, get off your high horse, and open your eyes. There are musicians on major labels with huge followings — and talent — that maintain their networks personally. Ingrid Michaelson, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Sara Bareilles, Dave Matthews, Bloc Party, and even Willie Nelsonpersonally run their Twitter accounts.
It’s Not Hard, Really.
If a new band really wants to avoid social marketing and let their music speak for itself, then they can upload their amazing album to iTunes, refuse to promote it, and see what happens. Most new artists can’t afford the price of a label promoting them out the wazoo, and social media allows for a very successful DIY approach.
Social media is here for the long-term, and it’s already the standard in the entertainment business. After all, those fans made you, they support you, go to your concerts, listen to your music — the least you can do is reach out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you get in return for something so simple.