The Social Musician
By Chris Loeffler |
The Social Musician
Get out from under that rock!
by Chris Loeffler
Despite a crumbling record label industry and plummeting album sales (and royalties), there has likely never been a better time to be a musician; gear is affordable, the infrastructure to support live music is mature (some will say past mature and well into the territory of being antiquated), and there are more avenues to ever to reaching listeners. Technology, our course, is at the forefront of the these changes and, as it has done with everyone from pre-teens to doting grandparents, has made us more social.
Record labels are dead or dying, promotors stopped raking in serious coin years ago, and music stores, one of the final standing in the concrete deserts that were suburban shopping malls are on their final legs, so traditional avenues of exposure for new musicians are effectively gone. This is great for musicians looking to make a modest living without needing to rely on the corporate machines to pump their music out in exchange for 80% of the profits, but means musicians need to become evermore savvy on self promotion and participate in the dissemination of their music. This move to social media has certainly changed the way things are done, beyond removing middle-men from the artist/listener infrastructure; it has changed how accessible a musician is to the average fan to how big a window listeners have into the conception and creation of their favorite music.
In the early 00’s most bands learned the value of a MySpace page as both a place to connect with their fans and a place to control and push their catalog. The coming of FaceBook quickly supplanted MySpace from its dominant throne in the burgeoning new world of “social” media, creating a more fluid and conversational interface that connected people easily and whose algorithms created an addictive stream of personalized content to each user. The file-sharing, unilaterally digested format of MySpace, which was more conducive to playlists and as a homepage to traditional bands, was a superior early option for musicians but as the casual listeners (and world at large) disconnected from MySpace and took up permanent residence in Facebook it soon became more frequented by spam bots than people seeking new music. With no audience participating, most bands moved on, following the masses to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Today, platforms like BandCamp and LastFM provide vibrant, if flawed, digital spaces for bands to share their music and connect with their fans. None have the audience nor the dedication of mainstream social media giants, but neither have the top-trafficked social media sites evolved a dedicated platform for consuming professional media. In fact, their democratization of “content” means that a new song from a top-ten band will still have to battle with the polarity of a low-res iPhone-shot video of a rat showering to stay at the top of the stream, with little archiving or browesability to make it accessible beyond its initial moment in the sun.
So now bands are managing several platforms; the BandCamp store for album sales and official band information, their Facebook page to keep casual fans informed of day-to-day antics, upcoming bands, and hopefully have something viral enough that it gets shared beyond your core fans, an Instagram page to reach fans who are more visual or just too cool for Facebook where you share picks from your latest photoshoot, gear and gig shots, and explore your visual aesthetic with likeminded people.
Just like you didn’t find the newest Skinny Puppy CD in Target in the 90’s (your likely-now-closed local CD store was your best bet for that), you probably aren’t going to find your favorite deep-genre artist trolling the front page of your Facebook page, so it’s understandable that there likely won’t be an “all things for every person platform” (well, the internet). - HC -
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.