Using social media to build your musical career is nothing new. However, when I attended a recent discussion held by Martin Atkins at the SXSW Music Festival, I wondered if people are being as effective as they can in their usage of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. I also wondered if women musicians could avoid the pitfalls that many encounter when trying to get signed by a label and during the marketing process -- being judged on their image and not their musical talent -- by fine-tuning their usage of social media applications.
I just completed a manuscript that is centered on women in the music industry, and one of the main concerns is image. Not everyone is able to get on one of the summer's big festival tours, like the newly-invigorated Lilith Fair, where women artists are almost guaranteed to create a fan base that is not so interested in how pretty they are. Because of declining album sales, record labels are not willing to take risks on artists who, despite creating great music, might not be economically viable, based more on what they look like than their musical prowess. However, we are also seeing that independent artists are in some ways, proving the majors wrong. Every band can have a fruitful following.
Despite the provocative title of the one-hour session ("Welcome to the Music Business ... You're Fucked"), it was lighthearted and incredibly informative talk. Atkins, a musician, producer, label head and professor, (who drummed with Public Image Limited, Ministry and is the founder of the industrial metal band, Pigface), had some salient arguments as to how independent musicians can enhance their careers by using social media to their advantage.
Atkins noted that musicians know what is out there, but how well are they utilizing it? Even though music video channels seem to be pulling away from airing music videos and are focused on reality shows, videos are still an important tool. Using the newly re-designed YouTube as an example, Atkins encouraged the audience to utilize two major applications:
Hot Spots: By figuring out which scenes in your videos are the "hottest," you can edit or enhance those sections to keep the audience engaged. By using the Insight tab on the Video page, musicians can see which parts of the video viewers are watching and skipping.
From the Insight page, you can also get more information about the Popularity Map, which will show you the geographical locations of your viewers. The dark green portions are the locations with the most amount of viewers, and the light green areas are the least popular locations. Atkins believes that this tool is especially important when planning a tour, so people can avoid going to towns, cities and even countries where the chance of getting a good turn-out at your shows is not likely. For more information on both applications, you can check out the Advanced section on the You Tube Help page.
Atkins also suggested using a number of other social media applications to track your success online. Hootsuite is one of the best applications to incorporate all of your social networking tools into one platform. It also allows you to follow your "brand" online -- figure out who is watching you and what people are saying about your music.
For touring, check out Atkin's Web site, Tour: Smart and get more information on his book, his seminar series and additional information about utilizing social media to bolster your music.
Despite MySpace being an essential tool for artists to post their music, the format is dated and people can no longer just rely on the site to get people to check out their music. As a journalist who relies on MySpace to get information on the bands I review, I found that the more artwork that is posted on the site, the more problems I have loading the pages. People who want to post a comment have to create an account -- and like Facebook's personal pages -- you have to be accepted in order to get commenting access. With Facebook, many artists create "artist" pages separate from their personal ones, where people have immediate access.
Rootmusic has just announced that they have created an application to assist musicians in making their Facebook pages more user-friendly. Musicians can add a custom banner, change the colors on a page that features the artists' music (up to two hours worth), add photos and their Twitter feed. Just like MySpace, they can add their tour schedule and biography while creating a continuous stream of their music.
If you have any useful ideas for musical artists who are looking to expand their fan base, please leave your suggestions in the comments.
Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture
Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com
Writer: Hellbound: www.hellbound.ca
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