“So could we finally be reaching a social media tipping point – at least in music marketing? My view is that potentially we may well be. Ever since MySpace arrived with public stats on friend and play counts, metrics have been central to music marketing – especially to those looking to land themselves on Radio 1. I’ve seen a few instances of unsigned bands being told by prospective labels that their social media ‘numbers’ just weren’t high enough yet. Now though, things are shifting once again – and the really telling sources for response may be less easy to spot. Of all the platforms teens still use, only YouTube really provides public data. Even Shazam only provides various charts; no numbers are listed to say how many times anything has been tagged (although the company manages over 15+m tags per day worldwide – so we know a lot of people are using it).
In many respects, this is all A Very Good Thing. For too long now, artists have felt an obligation of sorts to be social online. Accepted wisdom has long-held that it is necessary for a band to have some kind of social media page (originally MySpace, latterly Facebook) through which to engage fans. Not only was this considered a great means to sell more records, it was also playing nicely to the people in radio and other platforms who would see these social media numbers as a large indicator of popularity.
The reality, of course, is that great bands get marketed most by their fans. It isn’t necessary for any band to have a social media page as such; if their music is brilliant, people will be sharing it across their service of choice – be that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc – without the artist needing to do anything. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have presences; merely that their importance may be diminished and could hopefully no longer be essential.”
“10 grand from one sales platform at a time when ‘no-one pays for music anymore’…what does it mean?
I guess for some of you, your reaction is ‘only 10 grand?? I thought you were LOADED!’, in which case, you perhaps need to take with a pinch of salt the over-inflated claims of success of some other musicians pretending to be making millions. ‘Fake It To Make It’ has long been the received wisdom of music promo, but we’re kind of beyond that now. Apart from everything else, it makes it very difficult to build honest friendships with the people who dig your music if you’ve been lying to them for years about how massively successful you are.”
“So what does £10k mean?
Is it wages? If it is, it’s not much of a milestone. Should it be measured against what other artists are making? That seems a bit meaningless, given the role that marketing (and marketing budgets) play in headline figures. There are going to be a LOT of acts–signed as well as unsigned–who will see FAR less than we do go into their bank accounts from sales while still grossing WAY more than we do.
Because, making money from music costs money. And for MOST artists, it costs more than it makes. I could probably sell a lot more music if I assigned myself a sizable advertising and promo budget, if I was willing to do a buy-on tour opening for a bigger name act…but I just can’t afford to do that. That would cease to be sustainable. So I spend what I have–which is time–and use it to tell stories, to present the music in as many different contexts for as many different audiences as I can. For about 80% of my Bandcamp sales, I can tell you where the person heard about me, because I’ve been in touch with them already. It’s an extension of myriad friendships, not the effectiveness of an ad campaign that has bred whatever success we’re looking at here.”
“A friend of mine, who is an actress, told me that when the casting for her recent movie came down to two actresses, the casting director chose the actress with more Twitter followers. I see this becoming a trend in the music industry. For me, this dates back to 2005 when I walked into my first record-label meetings, explaining to them that I had been communicating directly with my fans on this new site called Myspace. In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans–not the other way around.”
“I predict some things will never change. There will always be an increasing fixation on the private lives of musicians, especially the younger ones. Artists who were at their commercial peak in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s tell me, “It was never this crazy for us back then!” And I suspect I’ll be saying that same thing to younger artists someday (God help them). There continues to be a bad girl vs. good girl/clean-cut vs. sexy debate, and for as long as those labels exist, I just hope there will be contenders on both sides. Everyone needs someone to relate to.”
Most people in the music business see a side of the music world to which fans are never really exposed. When a manager or an A&R person gets a demo from an artist they work with, there’s a thrill, a moment of true discovery. You’re about to hear something you’ve never before heard. You’re sitting on potential gold, or you aren’t, but either way you’re in.
And so my question is, why can’t the fans feel some of this too? Why can’t the fans be in at the same time as those who are making these records are?
It’s always exhilarating finding cases like this that validate the lessons we so often, teach, learn, and debate here on MTT. This story in particular, highlights the power of conscientious direct-to-fan (D2F) communication on the part of Fleet Foxes’ front man, Robin Pecknold.
If Grammy awards were given to artists DIY-ing it each year, Pecknold would win the award for “Outstanding Performance In D2F Communication”. Pecknold’s proclivity for treating fans like friends recently went viral when a fan of his enthusiastically wrote the following post on reddit:
The way things are set up now with Facebook and Twitter, very few artists have fans. Artists have plenty of “likes” and “followers,” but they don’t have the artist-fan relationship that’s needed to be as big as the acts of previous generations. Fans buy albums, concert tickets and t-shirts. Fans tell their friends about artists. The person who “liked” a Facebook page, who are they in relation to the artist? Are they really a fan?
The internet has a million ways to communicate, and a million ways to sell things, but it’s failing when it comes to creating fans. The reason for this is that there are very few fan experiences on the internet. There’s no waiting in line at midnight at the record store for the latest release from your favorite artist when you’re downloading it on iTunes. There’s no gathering all your friends up into your car and going to a concert when you’re watching a live stream of the show on YouTube. There’s no anticipating your favorite artist appearing on your favorite music video show when you have access to them 24/7.
These are the fan experiences the internet hasn’t been able to, and probably will never be able to, replicate, and they’re exactly what artists, and labels, need if they’re going to reach their previous heights.