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