Social Media for Musicians

I am amazingly fortunate to have a young lady named Sarah Cicuto (@cicutoface) on my management team. She does all of my bands’ release writing, sponsorship proposals, marketing plans, one-pagers.. All of the stuff that I’m not nearly eloquent enough to handle. She is an invaluable member of my organization, and I cannot stress enough my appreciation for her time and effort.

Sarah and I were presented with an interesting circumstance last week. I had an artist telling me that social media sites like Twitter, Foursquare, etc. were not game changers. Essentially that they were not worth the time. I was decently appalled. I pride myself on the education of my artists, whom I constantly forward articles from Music Think Tank and 9GiantSteps, but this wasn’t enough. My artist thought the information was anecdotal, thought these sites offered trivial gains. The words used were, “marginally successful.”

If I was decently appalled, Sarah was fuming. She began talking in the third person. “Sarah is upset,” I read. “Let’s do something about this,” I said. Then Sarah went back to her day job, applying social media and engagement  plans for giant corporations. I thought that maybe we would do some research and send off an e-mail blast to my clients. Three days later, I got the following. It is a comprehensive article regarding social media and online presence. To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

I really think that Sarah nailed it. Here we have a wealth of information in language that any band can understand. After the jump, her article in full.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND MANAGING YOUR BAND’S ONLINE PRESENCE

OVERVIEW

The clear fact of the matter is that metrics for band success based on their Social Media presence have not yet been determined. What have been determined are two major points:

1 – The music industry is in a digital age, where its products are freely traded and musicians are generally tight on money, and

2 – Traditional marketers have embraced Social Media Marketing as a valid, important and necessary aspect of their strategies. More and more companies are being built on this fact every day – agencies like BzzAgent and House Party.

That being said, the relationship seems inherent – musicians should take advantage of the free tools to broaden their reach, find the fans that will love them for who they are, and to deliver their products.

As a musician at an early point in your career, you need Social Media and Social Media Marketing to:

  • Establish your identity and take control of the message you want to send
    • Don’t look at your twitter account as “another profile you need to maintain” – if thought about in a strategic and organized manner, this can be a simple and genuine outlet that needs little effort of maintenance.
  • Build and maintain relationships
    • With other musicians, fans, local spots, venues, managers, industry connections
  • Listen and understand your demographic
  • Continue to learn about trends that may apply to you
  • Cultivate ideas
  • Collaborate with those who listen to you and want to help you

Some additional points as to why you can’t ignore it:

  • It’s a free outlet, and let’s be real. Money is tight.
  • It is here to stay in one form or another, and each form serves a purpose
    • E-mail and list distribution: To relay messages to your closest followers
    • MySpace: Where your music lives and where your tour dates are updated
    • Facebook: Simply a place to update occasionally, integrate your accounts, and give people the ability to “Like” you. The analytic possibilities and sharing capability of Facebook makes it necessary. Facebook events are easily created and shared.
    • Twitter: To interact frequently, and genuinely; really share exactly what parts of the band and of you that you want to share.
    • Tumblr/related blogs: To give full, longer tour updates. Similar to the e-mail list, this is manly for hardcore fans. This serves a separate purpose – you can target ONLY your hardcore fans.

DEFINING SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS

One of the reasons social media marketing is difficult to sell is because everyone seems to have a different definition of what success is. For some, generating a large amount of inbound links is enough. Others want to get a lot of followers on Twitter or Facebook. And some people define success as others commenting on their blog or interacting with them on the social network of their choice.

But the problem is these aren’t the only benefits that you can get from social media. Sure, they’re the easiest to measure, but social media is about more than traffic and link building. It’s about increasing brand awareness, improving customer relationships/retention, getting instant feedback on your ideas, monitoring your online reputation, building your authority, connecting with others who can help you, and simply learning new tips and techniques from others that you can use in your business. Of course, all of the things I just mentioned can’t really be measured on a neat little graph which is why social media has so many detractors.

However, instead of getting mad because you don’t have a firm grasp on how effective your social media marketing is, why not try being more efficient?

Full article: http://www.revenews.com/ericbrantner/managing-your-social-networking-efficiently-in-2009/

————————————————————-

Wired wrote an article in 2005 about bands embracing Social Media that cited the reason many were moving to MySpace as lack of radio play.

We’ve developed communities for unknown bands really quickly, which would take a lot longer a few years back,”said Alan Miller, co-founder of Filter magazine, which last month teamed up with MySpace to develop The Booth, an online promotion featuring a different band each week.

“‘It’s a medium where people can go and hear new music and develop an attachment to the band,” said Miller.

MySpace is aimed at teenagers. It claims more than 15 million members, and even established acts like Weezer, Beck and Billy Corgan are starting to realize the potential of social networking.

Full article: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2005/05/67545

What was (and still is) true about MySpace is true about twitter now. In fact, it may be even truer for twitter now. Since that article was written in 2005, there has been a general industry and social trend that MySpace is predictably for bands. People may not necessarily develop their attachment to their band through MySpace because interaction seems limited. Twitter feels like a conversation – genuine and timely.

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE

It’s power:

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/04/twitters-musica/

“We are amazed by all the new ways people are using Twitter, and what Moonalice is doing exemplifies this to the core,” Williams said in a Moonalice press release, which explained that the tech-savvy band’s debut effort was mixed using the award-winning T-Bone Burnett’s CODE DVD-V format.

“Twittering a live show is a new and profoundly cool way for a band to reach its fan base and beyond,” Williams said. “We hope to see more of this as bands see the value of connecting to their audience in new ways.”

Given the social network’s meteoric rise in adoption and innovation, Williams probably won’t have to hope for too long.

Here is skepticism addressed:

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/03/sxsw-bands-spli/

I’m not sure it hurts bands that don’t do it, but there’s no question it can help the ones who do,” said TopSpin CEO Ian Rogers. And some networks (Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, etc.) reach not only interested fans, but also their potentially interested friends. “The connection to fans … turns a casual listener into a fanatic,” added Rogers. “It makes them marketers of your art, in many cases, since those fans are plugged into not just you but networks of other similarly-minded individuals.”

“I like to think of all the different social media platforms as different countries,” said the singer. “Each has its own culture, people and demographics.” For instance, on MySpace, “the only exchange we have on there is with clubs and other bands. Talking to fans and friends — that’s on Facebook or Twitter.” Sam Choo, above right, added, “We use them all, because they all make sense somehow.”

Christopher Harding of the Salt Lake City Entertainment Industry Examiner has written quite a few articles on DIY, Social Media, and band success strategies in the past year. He breaks down trends that he sees, and writes blog-like articles that are consistent with anecdotal and number-driven trends:

In his article 20 questions every band should answer he lists:

11.  Do you create opportunities to interact with and associate with your fans in ways that also allow you to celebrate who they are and what they’re passionate about while still leaving them wanting more?

12.  Do you have a website, Facebook site, MySpace site, and a Twitter following that you regularly update and utilize to build fan loyalty and interaction (a key ingredient of successful communities)?

13.  Is destiny calling you so strongly that you are convinced an essential part of your nature has to do with bringing your music to as many people as you can reach?

How did he come to this conclusion? Read one of his preceding articles, What you need to know about do it yourself music, part 1. Here is the most valuable excerpt. Ignore it’s kitchiness, and look at the facts and real arguments presented. Some bolded information towards the bottom of the article:

Story #1:  A young creative guy, named Brail, out of Topeka, Kansas decides he’s going to re-invent hip-hop… he has his own unique style and feels he can infuse the genre with new energy.  Nobody is lining up to fund his career, however.  Well, somehow he pulls together the connections and resources to record some tracks… garners the interest of RIP and his Michigan-based label, Soultaker Records who decides to get behind him and get this guy’s music out there.  The label starts texting about him, twittering about him, and, as a matter of fact, they even offer a free download of his entire debut 20-song release, Justice is Blind, from Brail’s myspace site (just downloaded it myself, as a matter of fact).  The label is also giving away 1000 free CDs to fans.  Brail looks for every opportunity to perform and interact with a growing base of fans.  From all indications, he fully intends to set the world of hip-hop ablaze and his label seems to believe he’ll do just that.

Story #2:  An attractive, very talented artist and songwriter I once represented, was having a dilemma.  She was concerned she just wasn’t going to fit the traditional industry model.  Well, while we were in the process of shopping her around to different labels who were very interested, but—as she had predicted—non-committal, she runs into someone who totally recognizes her talent.  His name?  Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.  As a matter of fact, he encourages her to be even more herself and invites her to be part of his solo act.  She jumps way out of her comfort zone and into a world tour as Corgan’s keyboardist and back-up vocalist.  In the process, she learns what the music biz is all about, keeps writing and continually records on the road, in her apartment, anywhere she can, and further develops her music and her art.  She signs a publishing deal with Chrysalis Music, and later a record deal, which ends due to creative differences (okay, so prophecy fulfilled).  But, in the process, this artist becomes pals with some guys who are developing this new social networking software called “myspace,” she gets wildly creative with her own myspace site and her music and… flash forward to today:  Linda Strawberry is now 27, has generated over 3 million visits to her myspace site and has over 150,000 friends.  She just released her second album, Lip Distortion, on her own label Lovely Chaos Records.  She’s doing her music her way and has a very loyal cult following.

Story #3:  Five rowdy guys out of Salt Lake City, Utah form a working class band.  They play bars, practice endlessly, and write straight-on, balls-to-the-wall rock music.  They get sponsored by Budweiser and are featured in Rolling Stone Magazine, but their music can’t find its way onto radio or into the hearts label execs.  The guys release records on their own label, build a fan base, paper the town every time they play.  They email their fans, build a street team, get people to invest in a new album, start playing in towns in Southern Idaho and Wyoming and eventually attract the interest of rock radio promoters Radio Contraband out of Spokane.  Contraband signs a management deal with the band and helps them put out a new album on the band’s own label, Air Castle Records.  The CD is called After the Chaos II and it begins to generate some buzz.  The guys crawl into a van, drag a trailer all over the country, rack up 100,000 road miles and land some radio play in key markets.  Long (10-year) story short, Royal Bliss is now signed to Capitol Records, have released a anew album (Life In-Between), upgraded to a dusty old cab-over motor home and, due largely to their own efforts and those of Contraband, tour with Candlebox and Buckcherry and have had a couple of their singles in the Top 20.  Capitol is set to release their album in Japan in the fall and discussions about a Japanese tour are in process.

Different stories, similar key elements.  What are they?

[…]

They have an evolving vision of who they are as artists, have pursued it relentlessly, and have communicated their vision and passion in such a way that they have enrolled other talented people who are collaborating with them to accomplish that vision.  They also jumped at the opportunities presented to them, while making sure those opportunities helped them realize their own goals even when it looked like the deck was stacked against them.

If we were talking about anything other than bands and music, what we just described would immediately be recognized as the prime characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

[…]

Entrepreneurship is defined as the practice of starting new organizations, particularly new businesses, generally in response to identified opportunities. Entrepreneurship is often a difficult undertaking, as a vast majority of new businesses fail.  Some MBA programs have defined an entrepreneur as a person of a very particular aptitude who undertakes risk and pioneers change by convincing other to embrace their vision.  Entrepreneurs are also described as people possessing characteristics found in only a very small fraction of the population.

Pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?  Those definitions do seem to fit a lot of the music industry’s biggest stars.

[…]

All right then, let’s review what we’re dealing with here.  First of all, talent alone is not sufficient (wish it were, but it’s not).  Charisma and talent together, don’t do the trick by themselves either (I know, it’s not fair).  Fitting into the mainstream is also not necessarily a guarantee (though it may make it easier sometimes).

Truth is, success in the music business (like any business) seems to require the characteristics that all successful ventures possess: a clear compelling vision, single-minded determination, strong leadership, the ability to communicate and enroll others in a vision, innovation, business savvy, marketing and promotional skills, unusually high desire and drive, tenacity, and constantly evolving talent.

But no one person could possibly possess that combination of abilities, one might say.  I totally agree. And it is unlikely that any single band possesses all those qualities either.

Therefore, to give yourself the best chances of growing your dream to whatever level you have envisioned for yourself, you’re going to need to do what every good entrepreneur does.  They recruit, enroll, and convert people who possess the talents that they don’t have.  And if you’re not the outgoing type, find one person who is—someone who believes in you and your ability enough to go out and do the recruiting for you.

Full article: http://www.examiner.com/entertainment-industry-in-salt-lake-city/what-you-need-to-know-about-do-it-yourself-music-part-1

NEXT STEPS

  1. List what your biggest apprehensions about Social Media are.
  2. List all of your current accounts, and compare them. Think about your AUDIENCE, VOICE, and CONTENT for each. Really look at it from a marketing/business perspective.
  3. List your goals. Do this after you evaluate what is already there – not before. If you do it before, you might be more inclined to be subjective, and lose sight of what is actually in front of you.
  4. Decide what you need from your accounts and how your goals fit into each. You will most likely need several accounts to meet all of your goals.
  5. Revisit your apprehensions, and talk this over with someone. People view your work much, much differently than you do. All great things come from drafts and feedback. Also, there are so many tools that can help overcome so many difficulties with Social Media – you might just need to look a little.
  6. Roll it out!
  7. Evaluate periodically. That’s a whole other process.

————————————

Sarah did a wonderful job.  I found her article especially great considering I had just read this article by Michael Stelzer over at Social Media Examiner. So timely that I had to share. I hope that you enjoyed her hard work. Perhaps you have clients that will find the article equally beneficial. Let me know about it!

Sarah’s writing in PDF format, Social Media for Bands.

Follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/erixtone

Follow Sarah on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cicutoface

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