Conversations about whether musicians should use social networks tend to be completely polarised, and usually take no account of the fact that there are about as many different motivations for writing music as there are people writing it.
In this recent article, we see Universal Music suggesting that they are disinclined to work with acts who aren’t knee-deep in social media tech…
“There may be some indie hipper-than-thou artists who want to let the music speak for itself. They are probably not for us. We believe an artist has a responsibility to communicate with their audience…We embrace the world of technology and the vast improvements in communication”.
While there may be some validity to this, (after all there are far too many people in music who labour under the delusion that ‘if you build it they will come’), I think that the use of this sort of technology must necessarily come down to a question of temperament.
We, (Blu Mar Ten), are pretty sociable people and we’ve always enjoyed talking to people who like our music, and other music in general for that matter. We’ve been chatting with ‘fans’ ever since this guy sent us our very first email of support some time back in the mid-nineties. Many of these people have stayed with us for a long time and some have become firm friends both on and off line, giving us access to a globally connected network of nice folk who all enjoy more or less the same things. As time has moved on we’ve embraced all the new forms of social media, not because we think we should but because we enjoy basic human interaction.
However we recognise that it’s not something that everyone likes, or should be involved in. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone trying to engage with their fans when they clearly don’t really want to be doing it. It’s as awkward as watching someone who’s been forced to go speed-dating trying to muddle through and make the most of it but ultimately cocking it all up. Engaging with people in a disingenuous fashion is as easy to spot in the virtual world as it is in the real world, and is just as repellent.
There’s an argument to say that artists shouldn’t get involved with their fans because it destroys any sense of mystique and distance that serves people like Prince so well. I think that’s probably true, but then when I look at the state of the music industry and the way in which avenues of compensation are being shut off to musicians on a virtually daily basis, (sales collapsing, sync opportunities being eroded, live work diminishing), it seems a shame to close off something that gives you pleasure. There’s little enough reward in this game as it is.
It’s my feeling that you should use these tools if you’re already predisposed to a sociable sort of behaviour, (many musicians are), and avoid them if you aren’t, (many musicians prefer being private). In either case you should accept that there will be benefits and disadvantages as a result of your (in)actions, but for anyone to suggest that musicians should do one or the other displays a woeful lack of understanding regarding artistic motivation.