Sites like Facebook and Instagram can have a huge impact on a musician’s career.
In the last few years, social media use has accelerated sharply – so much so that 68 per cent of internet users in a survey conducted last year by Sensis were utilising it. As a result, when it comes to marketing in the music industry, print promotions have taken a backseat to the social media phenomenon.
So how has this changed the music industry? Artists are urged to engage in social media, but it seems some may be taking things too far.
Jessica Grierson, an account manager for leading digital marketing company WME Australia, recently wrote a cautionary note on the company’s blog, advising the industry not to take new and intimate connection with consumers too far. She pointed to Kanye West’s use of Twitter to highlight the rapper’s use of the platform for personal rants on a wide range of subjects.
“West targeted his ex-girlfriend, the father of her child, competing fashion lines and the media at large, just to name a few. Genius marketing, or, as some close to him are claiming, the ravings of a man who is quite ill? Time will only tell how the public will react to his new album, but let me give you a little tip – don’t be Kanye,” she wrote.
With 19.8 million followers, West’s outreach is beyond that of most artists. It’s an open question whether his social media outbursts are counterproductive or great marketing.
Justin Bieber is another celebrity who has embraced the phenomenon, starting his career on social media platform YouTube. If he hadn’t shared a video of himself covering Chris Brown’s “With You”, he wouldn’t have been picked up by manager Scooter Braun, who forwarded him on to rapper Usher’s label DefJam Records. As he was essentially born on the internet, it makes sense that he grew up on it, his every move being documented with more than 76 million followers on Twitter alone. Bieber even used Twitter to announce his (short-lived) retirement.
Twitter is an industry favourite, probably because its character limits make it a simple platform to communicate on. Sensis data, though, suggests fewer than 20 per cent of Australian internet users frequent Twitter. So if Twitter is recommended by social media professionals as the ideal tool for the music industry, but the fans aren’t biting, where are they?
David Loney, a full-time musician in the band The Harlots, thinks that the quality of the band’s music (in the case of The Harlots, at least) is the most important factor when connecting with fans. “If the songs are good and the band plays well live, people will recognise that,” he said.
But without a marketing strategy, says Louise Cuming, owner of Artist Management company, Mister Management, most musicians won’t stand a chance.
“The music industry has changed,” Ms Cuming said. “Labels don’t have big budgets to put behind artists like they used to. They are signing less artists and budgets are smaller than they used to be. Traditional advertising is expensive. Putting a banner ad in a street press magazine will obviously get seen by a bunch of people, but how do you know it’s connecting?” This points to the obvious alternative of social media. Statistics for any band or artist’s following can be found immediately just by checking their follower count, or by gauging the live online reaction from their fans when they release music.
Laura Semple, a publicist for Vice Royalty (which looks after names as big as Kimbra and Jamie XX), who is also in her own band, RKDA, is a great example of how being active on social media also gives musicians a boost in being seen as professionals. “I started my band at the beginning of the year. We have over 400 followers on Facebook and more than 200 on Instagram and other platforms…it helps open doors. People see you as more professional and it’s helped us book gigs and festivals that we otherwise wouldn’t get,” she said.
Ms Semple added that if you don’t know where to begin in band promotion on social media, looking to your favourite artists is a good place to start. “The social media game can seem daunting, but the trick is to know your audience and the platform. Think of bands that are similar to you and see what they do. If you’re not sure, just ask someone. We live in a day and age where everyone is a social media expert. Make all your handles (social media usernames) the same to keep things uniform.”
Ms Cuming agrees, noting the best way to keep a band or artist’s image on social media professional is to find a good balance of keeping profiles minimalistic yet interactive: “If you’re constantly on the socials, you’re doing it wrong.
“Social media marketing captures new listeners and builds a relationship with them. I think carving out some specific time in the day is really important to keep on top of your social media accounts, but make sure to log off from all of them when you’re writing,” she said, warning you could be overcome with emotion, thoughts or feelings not relevant to your band’s image if you lose focus.
“People are hungry for connection.”
Ms Cuming acknowledges that this has always been the case with the music industry, unlike the old days where all you could do to support an artist was to buy their merchandise and go to their shows. Now a fan can speak directly to the artist via social media.
Because of the heightened level of communication that social media provides, one industry professional suggested a new standard: Don’t overdo the promotion: posts should generally follow the 30/60/10 rule. Thirty per cent original content, 60 per cent curated, and 10 per cent promotional. Let the musician’s personality shine through, but don’t overdo it. – Taylor Yates
Top photo from Jason Howie’s Flickr photostream. Other photos provided by the subjects.