Many moons ago the way you found about new artists was by someone recommending them or hearing them on the radio or in a club etc. To be approached by an artist directly was unheard of and was certainly not something that ever happened to me. But now it’s an entirely different story. In the age of social media artists are using various sites to increase their fan base and also their selling power.
But is this a good thing? Does it have the same meaning behind it as in the past or is it just an easy way to gain fans without doing the hard work? Conundrum.
Well for me, I was always an album buyer not a singles fan. It was very rare that I bought a single and if I did it was for a specific reason (cool b-side, limited edition, bonus tracks etc). Usually I would hear the single and decide that it was the entire album for me. My friend Roger is the same. He told me that he bought Frampton Comes Alive! because he loved Show Me The Way so much. He was something of a pioneer in his day! But what has this got to do with social media? Okay, I’m getting to that.
Nowadays bands use sites like Facebook and especially Twitter to promote their music to the masses. And the way it’s done in part is very clever. So clever in fact, that it inspired me to write this blog post about it. Come on then, how is it so I hear you ask. Well, here’s the thing. Twitter is on its most basic level about how many people follow you and how popular you are. And we all want to be popular now don’t we? The more followers you have, obviously the more popular you look. So as an up and coming artist you want to have a lot of followers and look popular so what do you do? Start following as many people as possible that’s what. In turn they will more than likely follow you back and your numbers will increase.
As an average Joe on Twitter there is nothing more rewarding than being followed by a bonafide band, trust me. And if it’s one that you love, it’s even sweeter. And what has this to do with singles and albums? Well, bands don’t have to have completed an album to start promoting themselves in this day and age. A couple of singles or an EP will do and you’re on your way. No more waiting for a full album to be available before you can start selling your wares and this in itself means you can have a solid fan base in advance. Not so good for me and Roger and our album ‘issues’, but hey-ho!
For me, there’s a whole other side to this medium as well. One that has brought me a lot of enjoyment for a start. I’m talking about the discovery side of this little play. I have been lucky enough to be followed by many, many bands over the last few years and I have a rule that I use with all of them which is that I do my homework. As a bit of a music geek I am nothing if not interested in new music so I will always, and I mean always, go off and listen to anyone that follows me. If I like what I hear I will follow back. It’s as simple as that. If I like you a lot, I will recommend you to other people and retweet your stuff. But what comes with this is something that frustrates me each time it happens. It’s these 2 things:
- bands that don’t wait long enough for me to make a constructive decision and unfollow before I’ve had a chance to listen to them
- bands that unfollow you after literally no time at all as they want to find the next bunch of willing participants as you’ve served your purpose now. See ya…
Not good tactics people. I have unfollowed because of this as I don’t take too kindly to being messed around. You have been warned.
If it hadn’t been for this method though, I would not have discovered artists like Elliott Minor and so many more that make such good music. They are using Twitter as a platform to gain new fans and publicise their music which I think can only be a good thing. If it opens people up to new things and you get introduced to an artist which changes your life then it’s served it’s purpose.
It also enables fans to get close to their idols in a way that was not possible before. In the good old days if you wanted to get in touch with your hero you had to write off to some obscure PO box address somewhere in the middle of nowhere and hope that the person you were writing to actually got your letter. Chances are they probably didn’t, but what else could you do? Meet and greets were rare and the bands stayed very detached from their fans. You saw them live on stage and that was it. Now that has all changed. With so many artists on Twitter you have a good chance of actually engaging with your heroes. I know I have. My all time hero is Neil Finn and not only does he follow me on Twitter (I know!), but he has actually replied to my tweets. There is no way that this would ever have happened years ago. Now, I do realise that he will still have absolutely no idea who I am, but for me the fact that he replied and acknowledged my existence means the world to me. Such a small thing that probably took him two seconds to write made my day. It’s an amazing thing and it is happening more and more and in fact, I have been privileged to meet and spend time with some of my favourite artists because I have talked to them online. I consider myself incredibly lucky indeed.
I guess it does depend on the artist though. The person I actually joined Twitter to follow does not appear to be someone who really engages with his fans. I’m not sure why, but I don’t often see him responding to anyone other than his in-crowd of friends or talking about himself which can be somewhat disappointing. There is so much potential there to connect with people that I think it’s a real shame if you decide not to take it. It’s entirely up to the artist of course and there do need to be limits as they are (surprisingly) human beings at the end of the day.
I have an endless amount of love for Fall Out Boy in particular as they do take the time to answer their fans as much as they can. I have only had replies from Patrick, but I treasure each one as he gets so inundated with people tweeting him that it must be like a mission impossible to pick which ones to actually reply to. He is a true gent and has been regularly online in the past for hours doing Q&A sessions with fans as he appreciates how much it means to us. A small token which is gratefully received. Just remember though that they are real people and they do not owe the fans anything and may not want to engage. I’m just pointing out that there is a large potential there if they want to go down that route.
So, has Twitter changed music? I think the answer is yes. There is more connection with the artists now, you can discover so many new bands and find unbelievably good music that you would be a fool not to be part of it if you consider yourself to be a music fan. I have made lots of friends online and now have people I can discuss music with which is something I have struggled with in the past. Finding like minded people is such a bonus as they can also introduce you to other fans or artists that you might like. There are also loads of music magazines and record labels with profiles so you be part of that side too. It’s a total win-win for everyone. But is it an easy way to gain fans? It can be, but people are so fickle nowadays that you need to do something to gain their interest in the first place and it’s not a given that you will be popular from the off. You need to put in the work and be engaging with your fans to make them stay so it’s not always an easy task.
Anyone reading this who is a music fan and is not on Twitter, I would recommend that you get on there now as you are seriously missing out. Any bands out there who want me to listen to their stuff, let me know. We might only be a small site, but we are interested in all music and promise to give your tracks a listen. I am now a dedicated fan of Elliott Minor and this is all just because they followed me on Twitter. You see, good things do happen so jump right in.