Social media isn't what it used to be for musicians. So what can artists do?
“Like us on Facebook!”
This phrase is ubiquitous amongst musicians. We plough all the effort we can muster to drive our potential fans to networks that, ultimately, we have very little control over. I’d like to present a different viewpoint to you – it’s absolutely imperative that you control your own network.
We run the risk of falling into the same trap as we did with MySpace. How many of us remember spending hour upon hour building our networks there, only to watch helplessly as it slipped further and further into obscurity? Yet here we are, our best advice being to like us on Facebook.
Much like MySpace, Facebook won’t necessarily be around forever, and even now it isn’t what it used to be for bands. I remember when the first big page algorithm changes came around, and the uproar when page owners realised this meant that the reach of their posts was severely diminished. We each waved an impotent fist at the audacity of it. How dare they! But, of course, our outrage was ultimately futile; as much as businesses like Facebook like to present themselves as altruistic, we must remember that they are essentially just that – businesses. The same can be said of Twitter, Instagram, and whatever social network you care to mention.
Beyond social media
That said, it isn’t all doom and gloom, and there are certainly some more weapons you can add to your arsenal. Mailing lists are a prime example of that. Particularly with the rise of smartphones, it could be argued that these are more relevant than ever before – why waste your time fretting about algorithms, when you can send out an email and you know it’s going to ping up on a person’s smartphone, wherever they are? A mailing list is only a single piece of the puzzle, however. Another can be building your own website.
There are many benefits to owning your own website, not least of all the perceived legitimacy of your outfit. It’s a lot easier to be taken seriously with an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, rather than email@example.com. On top of this, through the use of Google Analytics, you can find out how many people are visiting your site, where your visitors are, and even information about their demographics. Importantly, when you know the amount of traffic your site is getting you can also use those figures to barter for advertisement revenue and, in this industry, you’re going to need all the money you can get!
I’m certainly not saying that it’s not important to have a presence on social media, it is. Embedding ‘widgets’ of your social media profiles to your website can allow people see your posts from there, and even like or follow you without leaving your own page. Think of it this way; why send your fans to YouTube for your new video when you can embed it directly into your website? You’ll still get the views stacking up on YouTube, because it’s the same video from the same source, but you’ll also get the traffic coming to you. The same can be applied to Soundcloud. Whenever you tell people about your music, make sure you send them to yourbandname.com/music, rather than soundcloud.com/yourbandname.
Ultimately, this is a tough industry to catch a break in, but you needn’t feel like you’re fumbling around in the dark, searching for the light switch. Take some time to consider and research your options. It’ll be worth it down the line, trust me.
By Matthew Tuck