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« On Innovation, Flying Deloreans & Explosions In The Desert | Main | One Easy Way to Sell and Share Music on Facebook »
Tuesday
Jun142011

Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians? Revisited

This is a response to Dan Morgan’s post “Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians?”, a post questioning how useful social networks really are for musicians. Funnily enough, I was actually planning on writing a similar post on my own website just days before. After seeing Dan’s post however, I thought I would share my views on the matter on Music Think Tank instead.

There were some very good points raised both in the article and in the comments, but here’s my take on things. In short, I think social networking websites can be useful if they are used right. Having said that, I don’t think a lot of musicians use them right. Let me explain.

Letting Targeted People Come To You

Without going into too much detail, one of my interests other then music is internet marketing. I enjoy making websites, and more importantly driving traffic to my websites. One thing I’ve learned from this, is the importance of getting targeted traffic to your offer (In this case your music).

When I started out trying to get traffic to my websites, I would share the link with all my friends in the hope they would visit and share the link on. Overall, I probably got a few people visiting my sites just because they knew me. Despite that, as soon as I would stop sharing my links around, my trickle traffic would turn into no traffic. It was a constant battle to get people to take notice.

I soon realised that the reason for this was because I was trying to market to people who had no interest in what I was selling. In other words, they weren’t targeted. On top of that, I was targeting people one at a time. What I should have done instead (And what I do now) is get myself ranked in search engines and have targeted visitors come to me. People find my websites when they inquire about a specific subject I talk about, so are more likely to pay attention to what I have to say. They also pre-qualify themselves as potential customers, as they were actively searching for what I offer and found me.

Applying This Idea To Your Social Networking Campaigns

But how does this relate to your music and social networking? Simple, because you can’t force feed people your music. I know a lot of musicians that sit on the computer for long periods and add people on Facebook and Twitter. While you can get a few genuine fans like this, a lot of these people won’t end up listening to your music. This could be because they’re too busy, or because they simply haven’t got enough interest in you to justify the ‘effort’.

A better idea would be let targeted people come to your Facebook and Twitter pages by themselves. If they do this, you will know they are genuinely interested in your music. These people will be the ones who buy your songs or at least spread the word about you.

But how do you get these targeted visitors visiting your social networking pages?

 

Well, the best way to do this is via these two methods of offline promotion:

  1. Getting DJs to play your songs on radio, and

  2. Having your music video played on TV.

Both of these methods are very effective for one main reason: They allow your music to be put in front of a lot of targeted people at the same time. This means you will be reaching the right people, with minimum work for yourself.

Now I know what some people are going to say: Not everyone has the ability to make a video or not has access to Djs. If you ask me, those are excuses. No one is born knowing DJs (Well, most people aren’t anyway), that’s the whole point of NETWORKING. Ring up a DJ while they’re on radio, get contact details from a radio station’s website, meet DJs at events. All of these things are very easy to do, and once you have their contact details you just need to get on their radar. If you have good music then this shouldn’t be too hard (I won’t go into good practices with DJ networking right now, that’s is probably best saved for another post). If your music isn’t good enough for DJs to want to play it, then you need to go back and work on making good music before you start the promotional side of things.

With regards to videos, there is a slightly higher barrier to entry. Namely, it cost money to make. Having said that, there are ways around this. You can network with media students and get them to make you a video as part of their coursework. While they won’t always come out as well as you want them, they often come out at least good enough to be played on niche music video channels (And you can’t get more targeted then that). Alternatively, if you know how to use a camera yourself you can create a budget video and put it online. You can then give the same song to DJs, and when people search for it they will find your video. While not as effective as getting your video played on TV, it does help retain fans that hear your song on radio. Last but not least, you can get an up and coming recorder and editor to make you a video. This is probably the best option, as not only will you get a discounted price (Usually only available while they’re building up their portfolio) but if you get the right person you will also end up with a good video that is music channel standard. It takes money to make money, so don’t be afraid to invest in your music career. Just make sure you know how you’re going to make that money back.

While you may be able to get ‘fans’ by sitting at home and adding people all day, by letting people come to your page naturally the quality of fan you get will be a lot better. They will interact with your a lot more, and they will generally get involved with you offline as well as online. Additionally, you’ll have more time to work on other areas of your music career.

A Couple Of Additional Points

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying adding people on social sites and trying to get fans like that can’t be useful. I’ve automated my Twitter promotion with great effect, getting a lot of targeted people back to my websites and on my mailing list. My point is, doing it all manually often takes up more time then it is worth. You’d be much better off investing your time into building up relationships with DJs, club owners, and anyone else that can get your music out there on a mass scale. It’s all a case of doing 20% of the work that gives you 80% of the results, and social networking to gain fans won’t get you anywhere fast.

Because of this, I think social networking sites are useful, but only if used correctly and sparingly.

What Are Social Networking Websites Good For?

  • When you want a place to communicate with fans that have already added themselves to your page. Using these websites it’s easy to talk to fans and build relationship with them.

  • When you want a place to store your music so people can easily hear. An example of this is putting your music on your SoundCloud page and linking to it from your website. You should however also have some of your other songs on your website.

  • When you want to get talking to other musicians and industry figures . These networks shouldn’t generally be used for getting fans as they take too much time for too little reward. The only exception is when you automate the process.

What Are Social Networking Websites NOT Good For?

  • Trying to get fans to notice your music (E.G. By adding them randomly one by one). While there would be some people that are interested, you can’t force people to listen and take interest.

  • When you use these social networking websites but don’t use them to drive sign ups to your mailing list. These social sites should be used as a stepping stone to getting people to getting people on your list. The last thing you want is for a popular site to go down again and you lose all your ‘fans’ (Myspace all over again anyone?). If you get people on your mailing list and your social network goes down it won’t matter, you can still contact your true fans via your list. What’s more, your message goes directly into their email inbox so there’s a good chance they’ll see it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, social networking websites can be handy for musicians to use. Having said that, if you use them in the wrong way they can take up more time then they are worth. They’re useful for connecting with other musicians and music industry figures, and they’re good for building relationships with fans that have sought you out. They aren’t however good for finding new fans (Unless you automate this process it takes too much time for too little results) or good for basing your whole online marketing campaign on.

 

This is an article by Shaun of Independent Music Advice, a website which provides tips independent musicians wanting to learn the business side of the music industry.

Reader Comments (23)

It seems such obvious advice that you offer in terms of where and how the man hours are spent, but it is not obvious to a lot of emerging artists, and needs repeating and reinforcing: if you're going to do something repetitive for hours and hours, MAKE SURE YOU NEED TO! Otherwise stop and think more carefully about where your efforts should be directed.

I always used to cringe when the guitarists in my first bands would spend thousands of pounds of their own (and parents) money on amplifiers, new guitars, pedals, e-bows etc. before they'd actually spent the man hours learning to play their first cheap acoustic properly...

Wow, if I talk to a DJ and give him my CD, there's a decent chance It'll get played on the radio? Amazing! Maybe I'll take my video down to Mtv's offices and ask nicely if they'll put it in heavy rotation.

While it is very true you have to target your music to an audience that is responsive to listening to it, in this day and age, thinking your unsigned, independant band will be played on the radio or TV is rediculous, and undermines your credibility as someone who understands the music intustry as it is. Radio is all corporate owned and controlled, DJs dont pick anything. Myabe there's a "local licks" station that will spin your CD onec, at 1am on sunday night. I wouldnt bet on that to build my career.

If you meant put your stuff on internet radio and youtube, yeah, that's still a possibility. But networking your way to get your stuff to get played alongside Green Day? Ha.

June 14 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

This is a more accurate analysis of the situation. And based on Shaun's analysis, I think one would have to conclude that the answer to the question "do social networks really help musicians" is something along the lines of, "yeah, I guess, a little bit."

Shaun is also correct that social networks generally come into play for fans AFTER they have already been won over by a band.

June 14 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Most cities have a community radio station, not public radio, but community radio where the DJs are volunteers and program their own shows. Some shows specialize in local musicians and there are great opportunities to play live, in studio. The audience is small, but loyal. Try your local community radio station, volunteer, that is an easy way to network.

June 14 | Unregistered Commentermarion

A poor article in my opinion. Naieve and not based on any actual experience of the music industry. Major radio stations dont work like as described.

June 15 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

@ Henry
You are totally wrong, this article IS based on experience of the music industry. First of all, no one said anything about exclusively getting on major radio stations, DJs also play at events, on tours, on pirate radio, they do interviews and more. From your song is getting played and the DJ lets people know who you are, you have the chance of people looking you up further.

Secondly, when I used to do music (Which I swapped for online work as I only had the time to do one, and this way I can still talk about music) I appeared live on 14 different pirate radio stations, 3 community radio stations, and 1 mainstream radio station (All in the UK where I'm from). On top of that, I also have songs played on other stations in the same categories that I never appeared on live. All of this was via networking with DJs. Some of those pirate stations had a LOT of visitors, and certainly got my name around. This was a good four / five years ago now, and if I had the business knowledge that I have now I'm sure I would have done even more.

Just because a lot of mainstream radio shows are based on a playlist, it doesn't mean you can't get on mainstream radio. There are always specialist shows, and a couple of my friends personal have made the playlist with no label backing. It CAN be done, but you have to work at the right things.

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

Great tips Marion, I agree, community radio stations are a great way to gain some extra exposure. The best thing is you can often go to other community stations outside your own area and get on shows there too. It's always a good idea to guest on shows with DJs that already have a slot, as they can promote you to their audience as well.

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

Thanks Justin, I'm glad you agree :)

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

@Freddy,
Are you saying that sitting at home social networking on Facebook / Twitter / Soundcloud all day is a more effective way of building your name then getting on radio and videos played on TV? Even if it is only a "local licks" station, that will get you more targeted fans then adding and talking to people online all day. That is the point of the article. Therefore, that's where the majority of your time and effort should you; Into networking with people who can get your music out there on the wider scale. Why do the 'heavy lifting' of connecting with fans one by one when you can get people in a better position then you to reach a lot of people at once?

I never once said in this article that you will have 10 DJs playing your stuff by next week, but working at making this happen is a better use of your time then the alternative.

People seem to think it is impossible to get on radio and TV. While you're most likely not going to get played on MTV with your first video (Unless someone signs you to a single deal, which does happen if you have a song that is catchy and people take to it) there are credible channels that will play your videos and get your name out there.

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

@ Tom Quillfeldt
Agreed, I've seen a lot of people I know fall into this cycle. From what I've seen, it's a lack of business knowledge that holds a lot of musicians back. You 'new equipment' example is a great one, buying a new guitar isn't going to make you a better musician or get you new gigs (Of course, you will need a guitar that is in working order to practice though). Putting the effort into the right areas is essential, but unfortunately where a lot of musicians slip up.

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

I second community radios.

Specifically, online community radios.

Permit me to share a success story: I wrote a song, recorded it, put it online, a DJ heard it, and she played it. On national radio. During prime time. She even threw in a telephone interview.

Lesson learned: good songs win, big time.

Second story: be involved in a community. I write songs for my friends, a LOT. One of them is a writer. She got an interview in a radio, about a book she launched. I wrote a soundtrack for that book. Obviously I also got an interview, and the online community radio had a 2-hour special just for my music.

Lesson learned: good songs and good friends win, big time.

Just to share that it does work.

Cheers,
Endy Daniyanto

Simply Sweet and Smooth Sounds

Glad to hear that Endy, great to hear it has worked for you. Next time you have some good material out, you should be able to use those connections to leverage your promotion. Now carry on getting links like that and you will have a strong base under you.

June 19 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

Thank you for this article. It has excellent insights.

Plus reading the comments, it goes to show that positivity doesn't hurt with hard work and luck.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterEric Sesbreno

Shaun you always approach this stuff with slick marketing and knowledge of the music business.

Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you're up to dude.

- Chris

this is misleading to artists, the odds of getting struck by lightening are greater than getting your song on the radio in any major market--you have some good points and there is local band spin time on stations, but that is only one tool to get noticed...i know a band that has gotten all kinds of major radio support and they don't know how to use their social networking to sites to take advantage of it.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterDJ

Good article! I appreciate your point of view based on your music and marketing experience. A good way to give back.

I believe that if you're good, someone will find you. With that being said, first and foremost, musicians need to be honest without themselves and what they have to offer to the realm of music. Be sure that if you're good, you don't step on your own toes by lacing your unique gift with poor sound quality and production. You'll make it a lot easier for potential interests to hear what you have to offer. Poor production will trigger this skip button in a millisecond. Take pride in the quality of your track and don't put out garbage.

I'll stop by again! Good stuff!

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterDMM

It's the case of a forced march by technology; whatever positives or negatives these sites offer is irrelevant. We, as artists, are forced to swing along because it's what's happening with the culture. It is now part of the daily ordinary; it is NECESSARY to have at least one site for your group. Once I found out the the Queen of England has a facebook page I knew it was all over.

June 20 | Unregistered Commenterschniggitty

Shaun, Your best advice is to get music on radio and videos on TV? Really? Are you stuck in 1985? I have been studying music marketing for years and until today, I have never seen anyone suggest radio and TV for an unsigned artist.

I don't believe adding people to Facebook and Twitter are effective either, but there are 1000 other ways of reaching potential fans that are more effective and easier to achieve than your misguided advice.

For radio to work, the artist has to be in heavy rotation on a station dedicated to the artist's specific genre. Reseach has shown that someone has to hear a song 10 times before it makes an impression. Even then, the conversion rate of people who hear a song on the radio and then go to the artist web site is infinitessimal. The reason is there is no linkage between what they heard on the radio and what they are doing on line.

You claim that you have been successful with this strategy, but I have to ask if you were so successful, why have you given up music for the internet? How many people who first heard you on one of those 18 stations, came to your web site? How many then purchased your music?

Networking with DJ's from local stations is a good thing to do just as making contact with anyone in the business is good. There is always a chance, no matter how small, that it might lead to something better. It is certainly an ego boost to hear you music on the radio and have your friends call you and congratulate you, but this doesn't constitute success.

If this is really the best advice you have to give, then consider going back to music because this isn't your field.

June 20 | Registered CommenterJJ Biener

Shaun, Your best advice is to get music on radio and videos on TV? Really? Are you stuck in 1985? I have been studying music marketing for years and until today, I have never seen anyone suggest radio and TV for an unsigned artist.

I don't believe adding people to Facebook and Twitter are effective either, but there are 1000 other ways of reaching potential fans that are more effective and easier to achieve than your misguided advice.

For radio to work, the artist has to be in heavy rotation on a station dedicated to the artist's specific genre. Reseach has shown that someone has to hear a song 10 times before it makes an impression. Even then, the conversion rate of people who hear a song on the radio and then go to the artist web site is infinitessimal. The reason is there is no linkage between what they heard on the radio and what they are doing on line.

You claim that you have been successful with this strategy, but I have to ask if you were so successful, why have you given up music for the internet? How many people who first heard you on one of those 18 stations, came to your web site? How many then purchased your music?

Networking with DJ's from local stations is a good thing to do just as making contact with anyone in the business is good. There is always a chance, no matter how small, that it might lead to something better. It is certainly an ego boost to hear you music on the radio and have your friends call you and congratulate you, but this doesn't constitute success.

If this is really the best advice you have to give, then consider going back to music because this isn't your field.

June 20 | Registered CommenterJJ Biener

JJ Biener, when will you ever learn that slagging off other people's advice and obvious experience makes you look silly, perhaps when you stop studying music marketing for years, and actually DO what you've learned?

Different things work for different artists, so a lot of Shauns' advice is correct, as is some of yours - an artist get a couple of plays on a radio station A, tell stations B, C & D you are being played on Station A and build towards multiple plays. There is no quick fix to being seen and heard.

Perhaps you would like to share the 1000 other ways of reaching potential fans you mentioned above?

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterHummingburd

If you don't have a major record company or a huge amount of resources available, you will never get anywhere in the music industry...

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterJ.C Scott

@J.C. Scoot's "If you don't have a major record company or a huge amount of resources available, you will never get anywhere in the music industry..."

Any musician with an attitude like this has already lost before he's played the game.

The music industry at it's bare bones is about business and people. So take the music word and the industry word out and what you have is still fundamentally a business. All businesses benefit from great networking no matter what the product/service being offered is.

My true story is: I have a lot of musician friends, one being a musician/actor who knows alot of like minded people - one being a television producer. The producer needed music in my genre, and my friend told him about me. I submitted a cd, the producer liked it and "Badabing, Badabow!". I had my first TV sync licensing agreement (that I'm still getting checks from and that was in 2005!).

Believe and "SEE" your vision and dream before you can fulfill or have anyone help you fulfill it. If you don't believe that you can make it in this industry, then you WON'T!

You don't need majors or major resources, what you need is KNOWLEDGE and WORK ETHIC and RELATIONSHIPS...

...and at the end of that, you need GOOD MUSIC!

Peace

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterVULTCHA

There's something refreshing about VULTCHA's post, right? To those keeping up with this conversation, you can see how easy it can be for weak-minded musicians to be discouraged.

I've made millions from my design talents, and did it without any sort of promotion – solely based on my style, word of mouth, and relationships with others who were not only better than me, but who also hold themselves to the highest standards known.

Stay the course and see your dreams through fellow musicians. It's our turn!!

Oh yeah… I 2nd "…you need GOOD MUSIC!"

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterDMM

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