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Fan Friction - How The Internet is Failing Artists by Adam Bernard

“Where the f*ck am I gonna go now to sell my records?”

That’s a musing from Kid Rock, as quoted by Carson Daly, after the final episode of TRL. Most people would instantly reply “the internet.” The internet, however, despite being a great tool for music discovery, has been poor, at best, at turning that discovery into actual fans.

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.

Yes, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Adele and Lady Gaga are selling a lot of records (even if it’s nowhere near the previous generation’s highs), but if you’ll notice, with the exception of Bieber being discovered on YouTube, they just have their collective toe dipped in the internet water, they aren’t considering it the be all and end all of how they create fans, and that’s the key.

The artists who have found ways to utilize the internet to create and grow their fan base have done so by using it as just one of an array of interlocking tools. Canadian synth pop/dubstep artist Lights has done a fantastic job of this, largely through her own website’s message board, which gave birth to her fan group (Lights’ Army), and her use of video blogs on YouTube. Lights has kept her fan base as a close knit community, and once you find out about her you become a part of it. Some may scoff at the idea of having to seek out an artist, but it’s worked for her - all of her shows sell out, and they do so pretty darn quickly. In addition to her online efforts she does a plethora of fan meet and greets while on the road. Meeting her online fans offline is a big reason why her online efforts continue to work so well for her.

When I interviewed Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman he mentioned this idea that social networking and the internet are just two of many tools that need to be in an artist’s arsenal, saying “you can’t become so dependent on social media that you forget to put up a poster or pass out a flyer once in a while.” He added “I don’t want tech to overrun the Warped Tour cuz I still think it’s important for kids to come and learn, so we always have to manage it so that kids come early and wander around and run into a band they might like. We want to try to keep some sense of adventure to shows.”

When those kids Lyman is talking about find a band they like, enjoy their performance, and then go to their merch tent to buy their album and meet them, they’ve had multiple fan experiences in the span of an hour and, as long as the album is good, that artist has created new fans.

When someone “likes” an artist’s Facebook page all an artist has is someone who’s “liked” their Facebook page. Turning that “like” into a fan takes some decidedly offline efforts.

original posting can be found here… Fan Friction - How The Internet is Failing Artists

Reader Comments (8)

The Internet has failed artist, really?!?! That has so be one of the most selfish comments I have heard in a long time. The Internet has done nothing, but supply a great service and platform for artists of all levels to distribute and promote their product. If anything, the artists have failed to learn how to capitalize on the use of the internet. And there is only one person to blame for that... the artists.

March 20 | Unregistered Commenter:/

Two shows I saw this year were Elbow and Portugal.The Man. Both I downloaded for free after hearing or seeing their names enough times to warrant interest and after previewing their tracks. Besides buying 2 tickets each to their shows, I also bought a t-shirt at each concert. Why did I support these two bands financially by doing this? Was it guilt for downloading their albums for free? No. Was it because I thought they deserved it? No. I did so because I loved their music. It connected with me and enhanced my life.

I think the real reason why the music industry as a whole has seen a decrease in sales is due to there being less "hucksterism" going on. It's still going on, but the decline and fall of MTV, physical goods in retail space, and less mystery about artists has taken away the selling edge that the industry used to sell to the masses for years (besides bundling of songs). What this leaves us with is a system of great magnitude for music discovery (the Internet), but with far less of the bullshit to trick consumers into buying their music (or product). Now it's even more crucial for artists to create music that people will want to not only listen to, but will also feel a genuine connection with, rather than one that tricks people into for the wrong reasons (everyone else likes this, so then I should / this music or artist is claiming to be something it's not).

Yes, the Internet can be blamed for some of the decline in sales, but really it's up to the artists themselves to create something people want to pay for. That's not to say they shouldn't also market as much as possible to become more visible to potential fans, but if they are musicians then the music should always come first.


March 20 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

So Chancius, let me get this straight, the 25 million people who bought THRILLER were tricked into it by the music industry hucksters and radio. And the audience who spent a 100 million at the box office to see Purple Rain, were tricked into it by MTV. U2, Madonna, Metallica, etc., all those hundreds of millions of records/cds sold were done via an illusion, clever marketing, no talent, just a major conspiracy and mass hypnosis to make the industry and artists rich by duping the moron punter. Interesting theory. So now we have an Internet that strips away all the tricks of the trade and gives us so much great talent and music, although you can't make a living from it. Thanks for proving the author's point.

great post Chancius

@Maurcie DeNoble: About the theory, in short, yes. And it is clearly visible. You can still make a living out of music. But you can't produce music as an predictable industrial product anymore. This just doesn't work, even the biggest marketing budgets fail to create real momentum in the music scene. This is exactly what Chancius is talking about.

IMO the internet was a true blessing for the music scene. And this is not only related to music. The old ways of manipulation and informational restriction are became useless nearly over night.

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterFabien

"The way things are set up now" is a good way to put it. The current system is flawed. All the "following" and "liking", what does it mean and where does it get us, if anywhere? The system needs to be restructured so that artists are actually reaching real potential fans. The playing field needs to be leveled so that all artists have a better chance at success.

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterCarvinAbuser

this is a dumb article. i agree about the facebook thing, but why does a "fan" have to fit into those guidelines? there are plenty of artists i could never have discovered and even become a fan of without the internet. there might be less physical contact but the internet has made way too many bands for an article like this to have any real point. less face to face contact.more fans. it's called globalization. i think the internet does however stand to benefit the independant artist more so than those backed by corporations because these are the artists that need to make less money to get by and rely on a more personal relationship with fans. look at jon gomm. hugely successful independant musician who wouldn't have managed to make it at all without fans and notoriety gained from the internet.
also whoever is under the illusion that madonna has talent....come on.... it's pretty clear that these huge companies just push the same crap on the same people constantly. we've seen the exact same thing get recycled repeatedly for the last 30 years. it's how the industry works. or possibly doesn't for much longer. if we're lucky.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterH.A.O

I disagree with HAO on a couple of points. For one, Madonna has many talents, most of which are admittedly unrelated to music, heh.

Second, and more importantly, the negative aspects of the internet have impacted independent musicians far more than the majors, who still control mainstream media, which gives them an enormous advantage over the hundreds of thousands of new players who have suddenly gained access to potential fans and the means of music production and distribution

. It may be a little too soon to tell what the result of this massive democratization of the media space may bring, since the last huge increase in the number of hopeful musicians was sparked by The Beatles, rather than an influx of new technology. In short, we don't know that the internet has failed artists; perhaps it's the artists who are failing the internet. ;-)

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

This is interesting... interesting articles, interesting responses. I think the internet is simply connected people. It is surprising how often we forget. We can't control the internet because you can't control people. Maybe we are failing the internet, it makes me sad to think but yes it's quite possible that we are failing the internet and in turn failing all the people behind their terminals. The internet in all it forms is so much more than a marketing tool. What about co-creation and innovation with the fans? If you haven't seen it before please watch Eric Whitacre's TED talk where he creates a virtual choir of 2000 YouTube voices. He may not make direct sales from it but he cemented he relationship with so many of his fans let alone the leverage in this exercise that must have been pretty impressive.

March 26 | Registered CommenterLeena Sowambur

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