December 03, 2013

Social Media & Music: A Match Made In Heaven

Who knew how enduring Madonna’s words would turn out to be? Music really *does* make the people come together. Thirteen years since she first uttered these prophetic words, social media statistics tell us that music is truly the force that unites the world. Here we look at how artists are capitalising on this.

20 out of the top 50 most liked pages on Facebook belong to musicians (and Katy Perry); more than any other page category. A study of Twitter conducted earlier this year also found music as people’s third most popular topic of conversation on the platform – that’s above celebrity gossip, discussion of the news and even moaning about work or school.

It would be remiss not to mention MySpace here of course. It’s had a turbulent time over the last couple of years, but when it launched in 2003 it became one of the world’s leading general social networks and, due to its inherent musical slant, gradually morphed into *the* platform for sharing, publishing, listening and following upcoming artists. Then, somewhere along the way, something(s) went wrong; YouTube started to dominate and specialists like SoundCloud also took opportunities to steal a march.

So, as the popularity of different social media technologies has spiralled and undulated, the music industry has continued to evolve in tandem.

The Brave New World of Social Media Musicians

Whatever particular platform they used, some of the biggest musical acts in the world only exist because of social media. This extends beyond the YouTube pop starlets like Bieber, too.

Julie Weir, head of Visible Noise, accredits much of the success her management company achieved with metalcore band Bring Me The Horizon to their explosion on social media. Skillet, an under-the-radar Christian rock band who were one of only three bands to sell more than a million albums in 2012 (alongside the far better known Black Keys and Mumford & Sons), also rose through a Facebook page which now connects them with millions of fans. Earlier this year, we saw the masterful launch of Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories, maximise the power of early Spotify releases and user-generated multimedia to build buzz in the lead up to its release.

From a bit of searching around you’ll soon lost count of the number of anecdotes proving how social media has given a platform for musicians to innovate and reach people in new ways. As I was writing this post I even came across another recent attempt by Keane to promote their greatest hits.

Not a guarantee, but a requirement

OK, these are all now successful and established acts, so what about the thousands of other bands, DJs and musicians trying to make it?

As is the case for anyone hoping to promote something on Facebook or Twitter, it’s not that social media will guarantee more success for musicians BUT, the thing to bear in mind is that neglecting it certainly makes it harder to get known.

You might think it’s a bit desperate, uncool or embarrassing. Or all of the above. And it definitely can be – nobody likes to see their friends begging for likes on their projects, because it certainly doesn’t compel you to give their music much of a chance and, well, it’s just very awkward.

But the reality is that the number of likes a band or DJ has on Facebook genuinely does impact the extent to which promoters pay attention to them and the size and volume of gigs they get offered. In order to graduate into bigger slots, an acts needs to prove that they’re being well received at the events they *are* playing, and one indication of this is a building social audience.

So, feel like the shows are going well but struggling to get your attendees attention online? Try this for some fresh inspiration…

Photos, tracks, videos:
You’re a musician, what you do is *literally* content creation. That means you shouldn’t be short of quality material to publish on social media – not everything needs to be professionally produced tracks, glamorous photography or specially commissioned video. You might feel precious about your rep and worried about looking small-time, but if you’ve got nothing on your page, why would people come to it? Use all that artistic creativity of yours to find innovative ways of getting stuff out there which looks and sounds cool.

e.g. Wildflowers: Trying to raise their profile with every gig they played, this new Brighton band got their tracks out there as soon as possible and put together videos for each of them with any help they could get – even if they were just slideshows of old band images.

e.g. Enemies: On their recent UK tour they made a point of taking pictures of the audience from every stage they played; a nice twist on the traditional view we’re used to in band photos and a very effective way to encourage audience members to share when they spot themselves or friends – the posts get a huge comparative engagement rate.

A creative campaign:
In the same way brands try to come up with creative themes to charm their target audience in their ad campaigns, use your ingenuity to engage your fans online. After all, your act is a brand really, and you have an advantage over most other brands too: not having to convince people *not* to hate you.

e.g. Fox in the City: It can be difficult thinking of material to keep your Facebook page ticking over and visible in people’s newsfeeds when you’ve really run out of gig shots, videos or music to post. To remedy this and ensure they remain active, Fox in the City have come up with a cunning little campaign which takes inspiration from their name. The “fox of the week” theme means there’s no shortage of material to post and each update gets at least half a dozen or so likes.

Fresh, timely covers:

Labels are trying to crack down on YouTube covers, but they remain an extremely powerful tool to get fledgling artists heard. The immediacy with which covers of new releases appear is insane these days and the first movers often reap the rewards, so do it fast and do it different.

E.g. George Barnett: Everyone and their robodog seemed to cover Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, but the one-man-band version published by, then 19-year old, George Barnett (that has since been removed) somehow stood out. There are now several covers of his cover, and the publicity he received for it still reaps awards for him.

And finally…sell tickets on Facebook:
A key reason people follow a musical act on social media is to be first to hear about upcoming shows. No doubt you’re already keenly updating your statuses with event details as as soon as you get them, so why not go a step further? In just a few clicks, you can use ticketscript to sell tickets directly via yours or your promoters’ social media pages – do both of you a favour and get it set up. We’re seeing a big shift in this direction as people love the idea of buying tickets directly from the artist rather than a promoter or a third party ticketing agency.

E.g. DJs like Benny Rodrigues and even the mighty Armin Van Buuren sell tickets directly through their Facebook page and have used the ticketscript integration to do so.

Ones to watch:

We asked our Twitter and Facebook communities for their recommendations of musicians and artists of any size and genre making good use of social media. Here are some more:

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below, via our Twitter or on our Facebook.

By Dominick Soar