Lots of artists have asked us for advice on social media this year: when’s the best time to post? What social networks are essential? etc… As we’re going to be concentrating on fan bases this month, we decided to take a look at the one topic that always reappears when it’s time to talk social media – social media overload.
Chances are you’ve experienced it yourself, social media takes up lots of time, and what with their being a new hot social network or tool every other day [it seems sometimes], it’s easy to get lost in the social stream.
We’ve asked New Zealand artist Jordan Reyne for her perspective on striking the balance between being an artist and connecting with fans online. Jordan currently lives and performs in the UK, as well as regular performances in the virtual reality, Second LIfe, and other online platforms. She is currently writing a book on online performance for the Cyber PR firm Ariel Publicity. Jordan and Ariel (of Ariel Publicity) will be speaking about online promotion this Tuesday (27th September, 2011) at PRS.
Social glue, Cyber communities – and how not to be driven mad by social networking
A good friend once said to me “your fans are your life blood”. As full-time professional performer he was talking about more than just the fact that without fans (I prefer the word “listeners”), you don’t have a show. He was talking about the fact that, regardless of the setting, the relationship between music maker and listener is a feedback loop. It’s a bond of nourishment in each direction. Listeners “get” what you do cos they connect to it – just like you, the musician, write good songs cos you “get” how people feel. As music lovers too, we know what that is like – we all have a relationship with our favourite music because it speaks to us personally.
In a performance, as opposed to a recording, this relationship becomes all the more obvious for both parties. A performance is an experience where the musician connects with their crowd; where s/he talks to them and opens up to them – and gets them to do the same. Both listener and musician are in a relationship where the energy flows from one to the other. It is a very living, moving thing. That is why we so often call it a “buzz”.
Let me Check if I “like” you.
Musicians in the digital age, are in an interesting position when it comes to reaching new listeners. Opportunities to reach new ears grow as the hold of the major label Certel crumbles. The age of social networking, affordable sequencing software, and MP3s means the global stage is opening up to all. With all the possibilities, though, it is easy to lose sight of what’s important.
Social networking is the current Big Thing in indie music promotion.
Iike any tool too, there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. The best teacher I know is Ariel Hyatt, who happens to be speaking in London on September 27th on this very theme (PRS (Copyright House) 29 Berners St London W1T 3LR Cnr Mortimer St and Berners St). I recommend you go, as her insights are worth their weight in gold. Even with the best teachers on hand though, it’s very easy to become an over-zealous facebooker – to spend your life tweeting about music instead of making it. Striking the balance is difficult. The key for me has been remembering what such tools were actually built for.
Cast your mind back to the days of radio, where live gigs only happened in traditional venues: a time before YouTube, and virtual gigs. In those days, we would turn the dial rather quickly through any radio station, holding a frying pan in one hand, pushing the dog away from the rubbish bin with one foot. We’d quickly skip over any station that didn’t sound like what we wanted to hear while we got on with dinner, or painting the walls, or whatever. If we walked into a gig, on the other hand, the vibe of the room took ahold. It kept us there for at least a few songs, if not the whole show. It was about more than just the music too. It was about the feel of being there. That feedback loop I mentioned bofore, and which creates something hard to quantify, and (for me) hard to spell: a social milieu.
A social milieu has a power of its own. It will hold you to a place of its own accord. This has big plusses, in the right context. Minuses in the wrong one. Even performing in virtual realities (actually, especially, but more on that another time), it is clear that the music and the feedback loop between listener and performer is the central part of that social glue that holds us all there. When socializing on facebook or twitter, on the other hand, the glue is the socializing itself (which is why it is called social networking). Socializing is itself the key task at hand. This means getting people to listen to your recorded music is analogous to asking them to turn on the radio whilst cooking dinner. It’s a distraction from the main task.
What to do if Time is not on your Side
What this means is, two hours spent playing, and asking people, via the show itself, to like your page, will lead to a far more coherent bond with those on your page than spending two hours promoting, presenting content, and generally trying to be an interesting character online. You can get people to listen to your music via social network promotion, but the time required to do so is often time you won’t have. What social networking does do well is holding social circles together. It keeps your listeners interested and stops them bailing just cos they haven’t seen you play for a while. Use it to keep the energy alive between you and your listeners – but don’t try and create that energy with it unless you have masses of time. In a social community that is actually built around the music from the outset, your listeners are your best asset as they will pull people in for you.
In summary, social networking is about socializing. It’s great but it is a different kind of focus that means people are less likely to really engage with your music. If you get that engagement elsewhere – is through online or traditional performances, they listen longer and form a stronger bond. Once they know and like what you do, social networking is great to keep up the energy and cohesion – but it’s a hell of a lot of work if you are trying to use it as a recruitment ground. The key to striking a balance, for me, was is using the right tools at the right stage.
This guest blog was written by Jordan Reyne, a full time musician with 3 Tui nominations under her belt, her new album “Children of a Factory Nation” is out this October 24th through Believe Digital.