T. Dann asks:
Professor, How can an up and coming artist use social media like Twitter and Facebook to gain a following in a certain geographic area?
Cyber-space is an ever expanding universe. Love it, or not, humanity is streaming into the collective digital-mind at the speed of thought. The Internet is powerful and dangerous. Eventually, It will change the way everything is done. Where there is a vacuum, digital will fill it. Where there is resistance digital will erode it. The postmodern record industry is rich and powerful. It is suffering because its core product, the long playing compact disc, has lost its market share.
Free file sharing has expanded the use of music, but the old business model needs a major overhaul. Only ten percent of the recording and performing artists will reach the survival level. In the past, the big four record companies maintained expensive A&R divisions to sort through the millions of acts competing to be the true professionals. Thousands of A&R minions scoured the bars, night clubs and college campi selecting the acts that the labels would present to radio.
The A&R process has reversed itself. The A&R search is conducted from the cyber-roots up. The old system of find an act, develop the repertoire, polish the live performance, record an album, send a single to radio and climb the charts is not longer viable. Radio has a finite reach and a fixed time frame. As a music source it has lost its preeminence to iPod efficacy, convenience and cool. Record labels are hesitant to risk millions on radio promotion, if no one is listening.
In the music renaissance the new artist faces a myriad of forces vying to influence the new music industry paradigm. The strongest winds are coming from all things digital, instant on demand access is more important than "owning" content. There are many delivery systems competing for the Internet music dollar, Apple is preeminent but its a Marathon, not a dash, any one could win. The fundamental difference is that, today, the artists is directly connected to the fan base.
Ninety percent of the artists will fail to survive. Success will accrue to those who bring the most unique ingredients, in the greatest quantities, to the mix. Considering there is talent and a good live act, in support of strong material, the next most important element is a strong business mechanism. The first step is to create a web presence that links the artist to the customer.
An entire generation is growing up under the microscope of "reality" television. They are focused on an Internet search for artists and music that are new, extraordinary, revolutionary, hip or cool. When they find"it" their iPhones light up, as they text, tweet, blog, face off and share the news. Organic, viral, SOCIAL MEDIA networking is the primary force in music promotion.
The fan wants to belong to a tribe. He has very high standards and only "feels" a certain genre of music. His exposure to reality TV makes him curious about the mind set, lifestyle and personal habits of his heroes. The band's web site must sell that message in a creative and entertaining manner. The goal is to hold the attention of the visitors and enroll them in the fraternity. They are more important to the act's survival than ever before. Make them part of the "viral" squad.
There is a definite distinction between "social" media and traditional "industrial" media. The social media is online, highly accessible and user friendly. It is an ubiquitous and multi-faceted fusion of societal and technical forces that democratize the sharing of information, as well as user-generated, and consumer-generated content. Industrial media includes the traditional main stream print, film, broadcast and cable outlets of the mass media. .
All music brand exploitation must utilize both channels to form and maintain an interactive personal relationship with the artist's entire fan base through the mass media. Social is free and immediate; industrial demands significant resources to get a band's image into the main stream promotion mechanism. Both can reach small niche groups and large global audiences. The web is real time, easy access and low cost. Professional public relations services are expensive and random. Also, there is never any real proof that the story you got resulted from the fee you paid.
The audience can participate in social media by adding comments, instant messaging or even editing the stories themselves. All forms of participation matter, blogs, forums, wikis, podcasts, webcasts, email, instant messages, texts, tweets should be hyper-linked to build a critical mass. At a certain level of accumulated unique visitors an artists web site will become an income stream.