Photo illustration under Creative Commons license.
Sometimes, all musicians want to do is play. They want to focus on their music, their practices, their shows, and let someone else deal with the other stuff. Nowadays, that other stuff heavily involves social media management and this scares musicians. Rightfully so, as some tend to be a little introverted and much more focused on their music. So spending the kind of time that a band might need to on their social networks might seem ridiculous to a person who would rather be strumming a guitar and writing lyrics.
There’s also the general fear of the unknown, and to a new-comer, the prospect of social networking seems wildly difficult. The world of social media is dense and intricate, but not so complex that it’s impossible to navigate.
However for musicians and bands especially, understanding and utilizing these platforms is critical. A new start-up band may not have the resources to hire an outsider to take care of it, but they should not fear.
There are a few critical platforms that any musician should be familiar with in order to establish a strong online presence. The obvious ones, Facebook and Twitter, are useful because their most basic function is to help musicians connect with fans. This should be at the core of any band’s promotional strategy, which is essentially what a social media campaign is. Facebook helps a band build a fan base, allows them to have direct access to each of those fans, and now they can share more than ever through this one platform. Twitter, on the other hand, is a space where musicians can be real with their fans. They can–and should–share real-time updates, personal sentiments, pose questions to their fans, etc. Using the hash tag or tagging feature on either of these platforms will eventually become second nature and will get any user the attention they seek.
Sites that can host an electronic press kit, or EPK, are also incredibly essential to a musician’s social network arsenal, and they usually come with a plug-in or application that can be added to the Facebook page. These are platforms like SoundCloud, ReverbNation, BandCamp, Sonicbids, and FanBridge, and they can help condense all the important information into one delightful package.
The problem with the other seemingly obvious platform, Myspace, it that it has lost its charm and thus, many users. Myspace has become an unappealing platform for multiple reasons, but no matter what they are, it will come up as a top result in a Google search for a band, and a sloppy profile will reflect poorly on them.
Bandmark is a company that helps bands centralize their social media efforts and use these platforms to their greatest advantage. Antonello Di Domenico is a consultant with Bandmark who specializes in bridging the gap between content creators and consumers. When it comes to musicians using social media, he is the ultimate guru.
BreakThru Radio: What do you think is the most effective platform for music promotion?
Antonello Di Domenic: Facebook just has so many built in users, I think it has taken over Mysapce, but what’s more important is to use Facebook analytics to find fans. If you start with 1,000 likes, you can find out where they are from, their age and demographics, complete insight as far as who’s listening. You gotta go where people are.
BTR: How do you feel about Twitter?
ADD: With Twitter, you want to keep it light but have something relevant to say, and I personally think that you should keep your messages regular and don’t fill up their inbox, but there too, take the time to understand your insights. It’s not different than a record company putting your record in stores, getting a single on the radio, and analyzing the markets to discover your fan base. You can also ask your fans, and they’ll give information in exchange for content. “Give me your email, I’ll give you a free song,” that sort of thing.
BTR: What do you think about Myspace?
ADD: I think it can still be a great music discovery platform. It’s gotten a bit messier to use, especially since they moved to the user interface, any old custom profiles got completely screwed up in the formatting. A lot of bands have abandoned their pages, and it’s important to keep that up otherwise it will reflect poorly on you. It’s important to keep it active, because it still gets traffic. Just make it clean and efficient.
BTR: What do you think is the next great music platform?
ADD: I like ReverbNation, they do some pretty cool things and they were the first ones who did the little widget to embed. For Faceboo, though, I like the plugin from FanBridge, they can create a whole EPK right there- the song that you’re giving away for free, additional downloads for liking page, etc. The integration is so beautiful, it’s a great platform and it’s free. There are some limitations, but then BandPage is also quite good too, you can use Youtube videos as your audio, without the video playing. They both offer similar layout, similar tools and it comes down to a question of preference, you can use both but not at the same time.
BTR: How do you feel about offering your music for free via social media platforms?
ADD: I think starting humbly at home and giving your music away is not a bad idea. For one band, we gave away a free song and the fans picked the show they wanted to see for free, and the idea was to get them to pay for the last in a series of shows. We got 500 new fans in a month, and the people who came to the last one got a free cd. It’s about customizing to the consumer. Physical music needs to be attached to the band some way; I won’t buy music unless I feel some connection to the band. But you can’t give away to just get it out there- collect some data, build your fan base by starting with an email address. There are so many free tools out there that allow you to do this, you don’t need to spend much money, just need the time. Make a graphic, a newsletter, automated email response, send out tracks, think about how can you continue the conversation and give fans more incentives. Ultimately, it’s your live performance that matters, if you can’t play then you don’t have much hope because this is where the connection happens, that’s the one on one.
BTR: What’s the most important thing you find that musicians are missing?
ADD: They’re missing a sense of understand about it works, they expect it all to be set up for them and for it to take care of itself. But I can give you the most advanced racing car in the world, and if you don’t know how to drive it you can’t take it on the road. You need to understand how this communication works. We respond to emails quickly, so why not comments and tweets? Understanding the basics is the most important so that you can move forward and learn. It’s okay to start small but making an effort is the most important thing.
BTR: Lastly, what would you say to a musician who just wants to play music and not do any of this stuff?
ADD: You have to have a little presence online, especially for Google and search optimization. Most results are the Myspace hit the band probably started 8 years ago and it’ll index better than their own website, so that will come up as their first search result, they could forward their domain to their Myspace which is a no-no. The real hurdle seems to be ‘How do I get it done?’ and of course there’s the money problem as well, but you can do a lot of this for free. Ultimately, I really think, don’t be afraid to try different things with your fans and don’t be afraid to get to know them personally. If you have 300 or 3,000 friends on Facebook, find out who they are, make sure you have an audio player and a video player, and learn about the activity that goes on with your fans online experience.