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Top 7 Reasons Why Artists Strongly Resist Social Media

It happened a few weeks ago in Australia.  I was standing at the opening cocktail reception for APRA’s Song Summit Music Conference overlooking Darling Harbor in Sydney, and I was chatting with a perfect stranger (who it turns out is a very famous Australian musician with quite a few top 10 hits in Oz).  Noting my foreign accent he asks “What brings you here?” “I teach artists about online marketing and social media.”  I answer sheepishly, because this news is not always met with elated enthusiasm.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes.

Him: You know one thing I have noticed about Social Media and marketing…

Me: What is that?

Him: I noticed that you don’t really have to be a great artist or well respected by your musician peers to succeed now a days – you just have to be really good at marketing and you get more success than you ever would have in the past.

Well, he’s right I’m not saying that his point is fair and he only voiced what 99% of most musicians only think: That guy’s music really sucks but he got good at being pushy on Facebook and so he gets more people to his gigs than me, and he sells more than me.

Really? Is that what you think?

What I would say is: It doesn’t matter if you think that musician sucks. The POINT is that artist managed to identify and relate to enough people who think his music is great and his fans reward his efforts. So, stop judging others and worry about how to make a difference for yourself.

Why?  Because there are 500,000,000 people on Facebook to connect with.

And anyone can connect with a few hundred people, forge great relationships and then market music that those fans who want it and like it. Simple.

What is NOT simple is getting your judgments about yourself and other artists out of the way and just diving in.

So here I am to debunk a few of your (ahem) resistances and the aforementioned one is #1 on the list of….

Top 7 Reasons Why Artists Strongly Resist Social Media….

#1: I don’t want to be pushy and over-hypey, like all those other artists that I hate.

(or “I hate the way he markets and I don’t want to market like him!”)

OK – so talking about yourself is icky. 

But having people love your music is wonderful.

So, my advice is: when you use Social Media, take the spotlight off of YOURSELFF and shine it on OTHERS (the people in your community/ fans / friends/ artists you respect).

Share things that feel mundane. Don’t even think of marketing yourself or your music for a few months until you get the hang of it; and then after you do, use it to gently lead people to your newsletter sign-up, your website, and this will help with a great benefit: Googlicious rankings.

Keep this in mind: 78% of people trust peer recommendations (i.e. the “Like” button on Facebook) for products and services that they BUY.  Only 14% trust TV/radio/print advertising (source: Socialnomics).

So, you need to be one of the artists that peers are recommending.

#2. Promoting my music on Social Media won’t put any money in my pocket I’ve tried it and it just creates more work for me.

Here is what is true: Social media most probably won’t directly put money in your pocket in the short term. But when used in concert with traditional marketing and as part of a plan it can be integral in re-enforcing relationships between you and your fans which will down the line lead them to a point of purchase.

In a recent Top Spin training class I learned that your Google rankings and your email newsletter list are two vital components to putting money directly into your pocket and social media can help you strengthen both. 

#3 Social Media and Marketing takes too much time.

I only want to be “an artist” rehearsing and playing.

OK, I never said that this was fair. Being successful does and will take hard work and it always has.  These are a personal questions:  What is your definition of success? How much time are you willing to commit to learning new skills and mastering new tools?

If the answer is “none – I just want to play,” than that that’s OK.

Derek Sivers recently wrote a moving piece ( about this and the comments are very telling (maybe making music for profit isn’t for you)

“Stop expecting it to be valuable to others. Accept it as personal and precious to only you. Get your money elsewhere.”

Wanna Keep Going?  Good!  Read on:

I remember attending a seminar called the “World’s Greatest Marketing Seminar” which was designed to help entrepreneurs market their companies and one of the most successful ones stood up on stage and delivered some horrible news:

To be successful, 70% of your time should be spent on your marketing and sales and 30% working on your business…

There was a collective gasp in the audience.

(Yes this means that as artists you still must balance the creation of music BUT you better spend a lot more time on the marketing side)

#4. “Social” Media isn’t “real” media – or – Social media has no real impact on the “real” world.

Citizen journalists (bloggers, podcasters, Internet Radio stations and people with large followings on Social Media sites) are the new influencers.  Take a good long look at traditional media these days: approx once every minute, TV news broadcasts tell you to go to their Twitter and Facebook pages.  Many of them have a permanent graphic on the screen with Facebook and Twitter feeds (think CNN or Fox).  The “real” media is constantly telling viewers to go to social media and contribute.  And note: There are over 200 Million blogs online.  One or two of them may just want to write about you J

#5. Social media is just for young people – I’m not in “that” generation.

Think Again: The average age of a twitter user is 39.  The fastest growing demo on Facebook is 55-65 year old women.  Why?  Because grandma is signing up to look at photos of little Johnny and then realizing that all of her friends and family are actively engaged and … that’s FUN!

#6. Status Updates on Facebook and Twitter Tweets are stupid. Who CARES about what everyone is DOING ALL OF THE TIME???

Many artists only feel that social networking sites are made for promotional use.

And when we all came to the party with the first ever social network – MySpace – that was indeed the case. In fact the GOAL was: Hype, hype, hype. Promote. And add, add, add as many friends as possible. Rack up the plays by any means necessary. Or you wouldn’t get that club to pay attention to you or that record label to sign you!

There were no personal thoughts or “status updates” in the mix whatsoever.

Therefore, a lot of artists become deathly afraid of Twitter and Facebook status updates because they don’t feel that people want to know their random or personal thoughts.

Since Twitter counteracts that and is more of a community-building tool than a promotional tool, it confuses them on what they are supposed to be doing or saying on it.

Get everyone in your group involved! Maybe one person flourishes on Twitter but doesn’t understand Facebook. Then let them put 100% of their energy into that social networking site alone. You will see when someone is actually doing something they understand you will get the best return on your investment on that site.

#7 I’m not a social person 

In other words: I don’t want my fans to see my personal life.

If you really are not a social person, Social Media is ideal for you because you’re at a computer screen, not in front of a live human!

You can decide when and how to respond to someone, have time to think about what to say, who to say it to, without the pressure of someone sitting in front of you expecting a response in the moment.

And only show what you want to show – not EVERYTHING is personal – movies you like, books you read, how about talking about other artists you love and respect? There’s a few to start with.

If you want my help in getting over all of these resistances come join My Music Success in Nine Weeks Blogging Challenge

Thanks to Phil (@PhilPutnamMusic) and Christina (@CyberPRUrban) for the help on this post!

Reader Comments (22)

"So, my advice is: when you use Social Media, take the spotlight off of YOURSELF and shine it on OTHERS (the people in your community/ fans / friends/ artists you respect)."

This was the hardest part to get over i found in creating that 'unique' content all websites need. It paused the development of the website for nearly 6 months.

Once i dove in i found that it wasn't even something i thought about. It kind of felt as though i had been doing it for years.

Great advice as usual Ariel and MTT!

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterMusic Marketing

Derek brings up a good point. In order for money to flow into your hands, you need to create something that OTHERS will be happy to part with their money for. It's not a matter of tricking them into giving it up, it's not about creating something intentionally lackluster and trying to upsell them when you have your hand in their pocket. It's about building a solid relationship.

There's a bond that needs to be forged so that instead of trying to get people back in your door, they're lining up around the corner voluntarily.

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterMark D

I didn't realize there were artists who resist social media...then again, how would I have known? Hopefully they can overcome their inhibitions so the field can be even more over-saturated by 2011.

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I agree with Ariel Hyatt, that Social Media is not only about marketing yourself. It is truly about community-building through sharing and inviting people to see you like to read, eat, watch, or listen, etc. Personally I am more comfortable in community-building on Facebook and LinkedIn rather than Twitter. The reason is I started my Twitter account recently and sometimes I just get bogged down by the fact of updating my status related to the companies and organizations I am following. I am trying to resolve this issue, because no wonder social media is the gateway to get noticed, appreciated, and hired by hiring managers..

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterTasneem Faridi

Is it just me or does this read like a pretty con? Yes, there are natural bullshitters and some people's lives are interesting to some others, but this idea that the other, what 90 per cent (?) of musicians need to work up and maintain apparently personal relationships with hundreds of strangers just reminds me of pyramid selling.

...and 70 per cent of the time? Really, Ariel?

When you advertise for a drummer you don't expect even personal hygiene, let alone social skills and small talk... the idea of Brian Jones 'tweeting' fills me with the same sick feeling I get when I see Johnny Rotten selling butter and Iggy Pop selling insurance. Please don't. Really, just don't.

August 10 | Registered CommenterTim London

I will be the contrarian here. There's a great line above (already mentioned in a comment) - "shine the spotlight on others..." That's great advice!

Social media (as a verb) is not something you do to/for yourself, it's something that is done to/for you. There's no harm in participating. It's certainly better than talking to myself. When it becomes excessive self-promotion - that's where the line has been crossed.

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Content is king. If you are an artist that isn't talented, but you are good at marketing yourself, then that will out itself sooner or later. In other words, you'll burn bright and short.

On the other hand, you can be the most talented artist in the world, and if no one knows about it you won't get an audience.

Social media shouldn't be looked at as work, but a way to interact with your fans on a personal level.

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Here's my thing with social media. I have a problem telling, "Is it worth it to join this one?" & how do you decide on that? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, okay. But what about Reverbnation, Bebo, Friendster, Tribe, Orkut, Hi5, VKontakte, & the other 1000? I don't know. & on which ones should you have multiple presences (personal page, label page, band page)? It's hard to know sometimes. Here's what I've done, which hardly means it's right & plenty are obsolete...
Personal pages - Facebook, Vkontakte, Tribe, Orkut, Vkontakte, Friendster
Band pages - MySpace, Reverbnation
Label pages - MySpace, Reverbnation, Twitter, Hi5, Bebo, YouTube

Probably a lot of you are saying I should emphasize Facebook & Twitter, but I think the way those two are actually used by fans/friends makes one account on them more appropriate...

The reason why you 'shine the light on others' is in order that people find out about you and you get an audience?

Won't these 'others' find that you're a fake unless you have a genuine interest in them? Will they still want to be your audience?

How is it possible to be genuinely interested in hundreds of strangers? Don't you turn into a kind of a Tom Cruise, with a virtual rictus grin, shaking virtual hands with people you don't know, asking, 'hi, how are you?' and trying, just trying to care about the answer?

If it's people of the same demographic, in a really strict sense (IE: lower middle class, mainly white English-speaking 20-somethings into goofy distorto-pop, for instance) and they are into a genre that really lends itself to the interweb (see previous bracketed genre) then I can see there might be enough vague common ground to seriously consider this as a prime promotional action, if you are a genuine wit (in the old fashioned, not necessarily funny meaning of the word).

But for most people it's just painful.

What you're really saying and I think most social media users know this, is: 'please, please, please look at me.' Which, I know goes with the territory of show-offy musos, but is, nevertheless, painful.

Not a good look, as they say.

August 10 | Registered CommenterTim London

Great post. Arial, how did you get to the point where you were teaching artists about social media? I am (slowly) building a career doing the same thing and would like some insights from a pro.

Thanks for sharing! Great post!


August 10 | Unregistered CommenterJake Larson


You seem to be missing the point a bit. You shine a light on those that you feel are remarkable. It could be just one person; it doesn't need to be many. If you are expecting something in consideration, then you may turn blue whilst holding your breath and waiting. You may get "followed" or "friended" (procedural etiquette), but nobody is going to socially promote you unless you have said or created something remarkable yourself. However, if you are not in the game (have a few friends and/or followers) then when the tree falls in the woods...nobody will be there to here it (and then socially promote you).

Also, size does not matter here. Everybody doesn't need ten thousand friends or followers. You could have ONE online friend that has a social graph that is deeper than ten thousand other people combined.

The best thing about social media is that we humans can friend and follow whoever we want to. When someone pushes out too much rubbish, we can simply and privately tune that person out.

It's a mistake (IMHO) to not be socially accessible online, but it's also a mistake to believe that obtaining friends or followers can lead to the promotion of those that are incapable of being or producing something that is truly...remarkable.


August 10 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Perhaps by simply 'joining the conversation' one could, in time, connect with others
who CAN help you deepen your game, or learn another skill, find a new perspective, etc.....
Somewhere to start, at least and it seems also that you may learn and do things you could NEVER
anticipate if you don't dive in.

I remember once an old jazz sax player was asked how much he got paid. "Oh, I play for free,
they just pay me to sit on this bus."

These promotional avenues available to musicians, for now, are perhaps, until there's a BETTER, or more
APPARENT way, are necessary discipline, or "sitting on the bus."

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterDale Morgan

I would rather follow internet terminology and guidelines to help promote music i believe in(in my own words ofcourse) than work for someone else.

This might make you chuckle Tim

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

I spent years at a couple of the major record labels trying to "force" artist to figure this out. I wish this article was around back then. Great job. It's also important for artists to figure out where, when and how to sell their music via the social media channels.

Here's a great article:

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I understand Tim London's frustration.
I'm sure one or two have climed the social media ladder with the right backing/chance occurances.
For most (99.9%) it's like trying to find a raspberry in a room full of jelly. At first the jelly is sweet but soon you're sick of the taste and the sticky floors and all you want to find is the door that takes you out into fresh air, where the real people live.

August 11 | Unregistered CommenterLoon

@Bruce - I get the principle, it's the execution that seems dipped in duplicity and shining with falsehood. Just interacting with people on FB day to day is what it's for - as soon as you introduce promotion into the equation the process negates itself. It's no longer honest.

But then, a poster telling the world that 'this is the hardest rockin' band in showbusiness' needn't be the truth; the difference being people expect hyperbole from a poster. On social media these people are meant to be your friends and, in fact, this strategy depends on it and advocates, at least, cynically looking for 'one online friend...' with a deep 'social graph' or just plain lying about how interesting you really are. Like a stand up comedian.

Seems like an oxymoronical situation to me.

@Martin T I agree to a certain extent, but as those guidelines largely depend on what you can get away with (I've asked before: who said spam is wrong? What's so bad about it? Seems positively holy compared to the twisted logic of reinvention involved in social media promotion).

Following Martin T's link (which IS funny, even funnier when you realise the writer is a consultant type person too) I found this on his Twitter page (the consultant guy, not Martin):

'When the second sneeze is twice as loud and elaborate because they know it's coming, I want to punch that person'

...which will be the reaction of most punters to musical scamsters, if not now then very soon...

August 11 | Registered CommenterTim London

Well, if you are attempting to do something called social media, then I can see where you would have a problem. Social media (as a verb) is something that is done to you when you post something remarkable. I don't see anything icky or fake about it. Social media couldn't be any more transparent. You click and you get the truth.

August 11 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

On social media these people are meant to be your friends

I don't think so. Most people aren't stupid. You don't follow an artist online without the expectation that eventually you'll see some promotional messages. Sure, you can screw that up easily by running your social media activities as a bait-and-switch, but there's an easy fix: don't do that.

I think artists read way too much into the "conversation" bit touted by the so-called gurus. Of course you can't have deep, meaningful relationships with thousands of strangers. That was never the point. But as a listener, it's far more fun to engage with artists who are paying attention to something other their own navels occasionally. Of the musicians I follow on Twitter, the ones that seem to excel just seem to be having fun with it.

Anyway, this is a lot of wasted breath and pixels. It doesn't matter what we think of "social media" individually as artists. It's here, it's relevant to a lot of people's lives, and those people don't care if we decide not to participate because we think it's dumb. Misanthropes need not apply.

August 11 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Bruce, that's my point exactly: and if the truth is you are promoting your band it's the online equivalent of a flyer that you give to someone whilst admiring their T shirt.

@Loon I identify with the jelly feeling, particularly on Twitter.

August 11 | Registered CommenterTim London

"To be successful, 70% of your time should be spent on your marketing and sales and 30% working on your business…"

So true! The day I realised this was the day I stared actually making a livng as a musician. From age 10 to age 30 I've spent my life learning to play my instrument, how to sing, how to write music, how to improvise, how to read chord charts.. basically the tools I nedded to be a working musician. But it wasn't until I actually started concentrating on the marketing of this hard work (and talent) that I started to see real results.

I'm now applying this same rule to my debut album as a solo artist and it's working. The CD has been out for a month and it's already getting quite a bit of attention.. all from hard work and many hours on the internet and making phone calls.

Great advice.


August 15 | Registered CommenterDavid Philips

I like the idea of using social media to build up a solid base. Im well aware that quite a few bands have done it in the past & I totally agree with the Australians comment that bands can get popular based on how good they are at marketing rather than how good their songs are. But if you have both good marketing & songs then your on to a winner?!

I like the idea of each member of a band having an account on twitter, this way the fans can communicate with each member individually. They can also get involved with conversations that the band is having between themselves.

All great comments! I learned a lot by matching them with some of my own experiences --and yes, frustration. But as the wise ones say, keep your attention on the action not the result. Because how much of the results are actually within our control? If they were, we'd all be rock stars by now! LOL
I like the point about having fun with it. Keep it light.

Also, if your music is relevant to people and they somehow actually get to hear it a few times and then like it, they'll feel grateful to you.
I like to think of it as keeping my sign up in the window.
At the end of the day it's all about word of mouth.

Great article. Thanks!

August 23 | Unregistered Commenterdavidsony

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