Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Social Media: A Lesson in Self Defense for Musicians

Social media has become a massive part of our culture. In fact, it has changed our culture. It's changed the way we do business, how we talk to each other and how we entertain ourselves. It's also changed how music fans experience music and how they experience the artists behind the music. So if you are an artist promoting your music on the Internet and you're not already plugged into a social media outlet or two, it's time to jump in. If you're not connected, you are quickly becoming disconnected with what's going on around you, socially speaking.

The explosive popularity of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter demand that you, as an artist, become more immediately accessible to your fans. It's not enough to have a web site or even a MySpace page anymore. Your fans want to know you, they want to follow you and they want to interact with you. They want to chat with you personally, comment on your music and see what you're doing right now. Your fans expect you to be part of their daily "friend-checking" routine. Your life is interesting to them. Your life is entertainment to them. Your life is a reality show and you didn't even know it!

If you ask me, it's all getting just a bit creepy.

On one hand, the level of personal interaction social media encourages is a good thing. When it comes to Internet marketing, developing relationships with your fans is a key element. It always has been. But now, as you get more involved with social media and start posting your "status update" several times a day for the world to see, things begin to get personal, perhaps a little bit too personal. How do you cope with this?

Having been active in the social media world for a while now, I've discovered the importance of setting boundaries for what I do and do not post for the world at large to read. I have learned that if you cross these boundaries, there can be social consequences. Have you ever really thought about how the words you post come across to your fan base? What you post can drastically change your reader's opinion about you, in both good and bad ways. While a fan might be thrilled to find you on Twitter or Facebook at first, after following your posts for a while they may actually become bored with you, disappointed in you, turned off by you or even angry at you.

Social interaction with your fans is a good thing... to a point. But it would be wise to give yourself a few rules to go by; rules to help protect you not only from yourself (you can be your own worst enemy), but also those who follow you that may or may not have your best interests in mind.

Consider this a lesson in social media self defense. Here we go:

1) Measure Your Words Carefully. And Then Measure Again. Think twice about every word you're about to post before you actually post. When you first get involved in social networking, the most natural thing do to is to just "be yourself" and post your true feelings, thoughts and opinions about everything under the sun. This can be a two-edged sword when it comes to how your fans perceive you. Your fans like your music because they relate to it somehow and as a result on some level they think they know and understand you. But the truth is, they don't know you at all. That means that with every word, thought or opinion you post there is the potential to taint someone's image of who you are. Always measure how your words match up with your public image. If you write beautiful love songs, but your posts are filled with cynical ramblings, crass language and sexual innuendo, how does that affect your fans image of you? Destroy your fans image of you and you will cost yourself future sales. So, before you post your opinions on this or that, always make sure what you post is truly how you want to represent yourself to your fans. This means you should…

2) Be Wary of Discussing Politics, Religion and Controversial Subjects. That is, unless those very things define who you are as an artist. If your music is political by nature, you can be political in your commentary. If your music is not political, and you spout off in a negative, cynical way about politics or the leadership of your country, you'll likely put off some of your fans who may respond as if you are attacking them personally. The same is true about religion. If your faith in God defines you and your music, then by all means be that person of faith. Don't hold back. But if your music isn't defined by your faith, just know that if you start praising the Lord in your posts you might put off some of your fans. Politics and religion are potentially divisive topics, as are abortion, gay-rights, immigration and even extreme environmentalism. Being controversial can be good for publicity, but when you're trying to develop relationships with your fans, going on and on about your political, social or religious views can be the very thing that turns them against you. Be very careful not to use your status update as your own personal soapbox to preach from, unless you feel so strongly about those things that you don't care if you lose fans and sales over it. It may be that you don't care if you lose fans over expressing your opinions, and if you don't, then go for it. Be who you want to be. Your strong opinions will likely appeal to a few like-minded thinkers. Just be aware of what you post, how it might come across, and whether you're OK with how it effects others' perceptions of you. The question I always ask myself before posting something potentially controversial is; "does what I'm about to write define me as an artist and a person? or am I just venting?" My politics, for example, has nothing to do with my music. So I keep my thoughts on politics to myself, generally speaking. I am not defined by my politics. I am defined by my faith in God, however, so I, personally, have no problem praising the Lord in my status updates. I just do it tastefully. Not every post I write says "Hallelujah," but I'm also not afraid to thank God publicly for a beautiful day. It's all about balance, and being watchful of your public persona.

SUGGESTION: When it comes to politics, especially, I understand how hard it can be to restrain yourself from venting your political frustrations in your status update. If you find you simply can't restrain yourself, let me suggest you create another outlet specifically for your political rants. Perhaps a Twitter account specifically set up to let you express your political views, one that doesn't have your name on it. Then you can have the satisfaction of expressing your opinions to the world at large without destroying your relationships with fans of your music that have an opposing viewpoint.

3) Stay Positive. Don't Worry. Be Happy. Listen, no one likes a complainer. Don't use your status update to tell the world how lousy you feel, how stressed out you are, how hard life is, how unfair you've been treated, how misunderstood you are or how much you hate your job. People tire of whiners quickly. Do you enjoy listening to people complain? Neither does anyone else. Complaining is the fastest way to lose friends and followers (in real life too). Whatever you do, when you post a status update, be positive and encouraging to others. Present your life as good, blessed and happy, even if it isn't at every single moment. If you are a joyful person, people will be drawn to you. When you post, do so with a smile, and you'll make your reader smile. Smiling is good.

4) Be Interesting. Be Inspiring. If you're going to update your status to tell the world what you're up to, find ways to make your posts exciting to read, even if it's just the way you phrase something. Don't post an update that says… "checking e-mail" or "watching tv" or "just chillin'" Blah. Who cares? Be creative. Be imaginative. Be specific. Make every post count and mean something. If the post you're about to write isn't something you'd care about if someone else wrote it, then why bother writing it yourself? Make sure that, from your readers' perspective, you lead a very interesting life. If you don't feel like your life is very interesting, then do something about it. Don't just sit there staring at the TV. Make your life interesting. It's in your power to do so. Then talk about it in happy, positive ways. Make your life sound like the "dream life." Your fans don't expect you to be dull. Life is too short to be dull. Don't be dull!

5) Watch Your Back. Guess what? Not everyone who follows you is a "fan." Did you know that people might follow you who don't care about you or your music? It's true! It's easy to forget this sometimes. You just happily post away assuming everyone loves you and thinks you're terrific. But you never know who's following you, and not everyone who follows you is friendly toward you. People who are curious about how you do business might follow you. You ex-girlfriend with a grudge, stalker boyfriend or an overzealous fan might follow you. People looking for ways to tear you down might follow you. People who want to test your integrity might follow you. People who are looking for good ideas might follow you. People who want to copy what you're doing might follow you. Always be aware that people might be following you who don't have your best interests in mind. So don't be giving away all those family/trade/business secrets and don't be too revealing about yourself. Don't give your enemies ammunition to use against you.

6) Keep Your Private Moments Private. Doing something cool and fun with your family? Use social media to tell people about it after the fact, not before. Don't post a status update saying… "Taking my kids bowling at Lois Lanes in a few minutes. Should be fun!" That will just invite curious fans to come down and join you. Might be OK. Might be weird. Instead, wait until you've finished your fun family outing and then post a message about the great fun you had earlier in the evening. There are, of course, times when you want your fans and followers to meet up with you somewhere; when you're playing a show, or just a special meet and greet with fans, for example. But keep your private moments private.

7) Don't Ignore Your Fans. Respond With Enthusiasm. When you start posting frequently, fans and others will respond with comments of their own. Respond back, acknowledge them and be positive, enthusiastic and encouraging. If folks respond to your comments and you repeatedly ignore them, some are bound to take it personally. Always engage your fans. If they comment on a song or an album of yours, thank them and let them know you appreciate it. Tell your fan their comment made your day and in doing so you'll make their day. Just think - every day you can chat with dozens of total strangers, encouraging them to share your music with their friends and family. Do you realize the power of this? If a hundred people are following you, that's a hundred people you can ask, via your status update, to spread the word about your music. With social networking, you always have a crowd at your fingertips. Work the crowd.

Social media is a great thing, and a fantastic way to stay in touch with your fans on a day to day basis. But words are powerful, lasting, and shape people's perceptions of who you are. So always be watchful of how you present yourself in writing. Think twice before you post, stay positive, be enthusiastic and avoid being negative or boring.

-----

David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy and Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

41 comments:

Ellie Maybe said...

While most of this offers good advice, I can't agree with #2. Downplaying your beliefs or politics to maintain a fanbase is both dishonest and counter-intuitive. Art, and music especially, is built on creative expression of one's passions. Stifling those to keep up your Twitter count is just silly.
You'll make more fans that will stick around and support you if you are honest from the get-go - about your politics, your religion, and your opinions. If you play nice with Christians on your Twitter device and one of them hears the song "Ain't No God For Me" on your MySpace page, this creates a conflict of interest.
I, for one, am a spiritual atheist and have no reservations about professing such, so long as I am respectful to people who believe otherwise. I believe in gay marriage, I think the welfare system is broken, and I believe churches have as many rights as any other organization - there are some people who will disagree with me, sure, but my opinions - and theirs - will eventually come out into the open and if I lose a fan over it, so be it.

To summarize: It's far more likely that someone who agrees with my opinions will become more passionate about interacting with me than it is likely that someone who disagrees with my opinions will remain a fan because I've censored myself.

Zach Maxwell said...

I really appreciate this post as it's been something I have been wondering about as a musician. I have a facebook profile that all my college, high school and close friends have access to. I post pictures of my life, my dog, my girlfriend and they are all somewhat personal. Do I want the whole world to be able to see that now that I am building more of a social network? Strangers etc? even if they are fans of my music?
I am thinking that I should start a seperate page on all my social networking sites so I can maintain my privacy as well as reach out to fans of my music. Who would have thought that we would have to think so hard about how our status might impact our career. Times are sure a changing.

Beckymc said...

Your blog hits the nail on the head for those in the spotlight. It is nice for fans to 'get to know you' but sometimes they can get a little too personal, invading your space and privacy. Keep it safe, fun and effective. You can always have a private account for your family and friends. Leave the fan spots for your followers.

Andrew said...

Stars can loose fans real quick with social media. I recently noticed Erykah Badu was twittering but you had to request permission in order to see her posts. I guess I wasn't as cool as her other 35k+ followers to get approved. But she definitely lost a fan!

music business said...

social media nowadays has a big important role in musicians..they help promote and reach out other people...

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neerav said...

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really i love to listen music at any time

You'll make more fans that will stick around and support you if you are honest from the get-go - about your politics, your religion, and your opinions. If you play nice with Christians on your Twitter device and one of them hears the song "Ain't No God For Me" on your MySpace page, this creates a conflict of interest.
I, for one, am a spiritual atheist and have no reservations about professing such, so long as I am respectful to people who believe otherwise. I believe in gay marriage, I think the welfare system is broken, and I believe churches have as many rights as any other organization - there are some people who will disagree with me, sure, but my opinions - and theirs - will eventually come out into the open and if I lose a fan over it, so be it

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Chas Hathaway said...

Great post. It is true that the world is going the way of no privacy, no censorship, and no boundaries. But this does not mean we need to flaunt everything in our lives to the world.

I agree with you, David, and I think when we take the approach you suggest, it leaves a more respectful impression on fans.

It's not that we are hiding things about ourselves, but we are acknowledging that there are things in our life that don't need publication.

Besides, our strong opinions and complaints are often not the result of deep thought, research, and forward thinking, but are passing thoughts lacking all those things.

Why should we muddy the water of truth and understanding by voicing those untempered thoughts? If we simply wait until we've done our research and weighed the balance of the things we post, then we will be able to actually do some good for our fans, rather than just ruffle feathers.

- Chas
http://music.willowrise.com

liz said...

Overall, you bring up a lot of good points about how to conduct yourself on social media that are applicable to most professionals, not just musicians. I do have to agree with the overall sentiment of Ellie Maybe's comment though-- I think if you can express your views in a thoughtful and intelligent manner that clearly isn't intentionally offensive, then it is more likely to garner you more respect from your fans than alienate them.

Jambi said...

The Dixie Chicks are a prime example of how political comments by musicians can get artists in a heap. I suppose if Steve Earle had made the same remarks it would have only helped his career. I agree one should exercise care in posting details about their future whereabouts. I know of one musician who did that, and since it wasn't a booked tour with someone housesitting, he came home to find over $100K of collectible Martin guitars missing.

ebizzpr said...

The main thing is that social media is being a part of our daily life,so to maintain a similarity we could ignore the active response of social media.

ebizzpr said...

The culture that we try to changed and make it flexbility of outside culture,social media has done for us and is going on doing .

ebizzpr said...

The culture that we try to changed and make it flexbility of outside culture,social media has done for us and is going on doing .

Scott James said...

If you really want to improve your communications with your fans then you might need to dig a little deeper than the surface.

If you're an artist in the truest sense of the word then I don't think the art stops with the last note of a song. Your life can be your greatest work of art. Social networking sites are all tools to create your art. The key is to be conscious. Don't sleepwalk through it. Stay in touch with what's really important to you and line up your actions (including social networking posts) with your values. The difference between say complaining and bringing people down and making someone's day or creating positive change is just a matter of awareness. When we're sleepwalking through life we tend to be reactive and we tend to perpetuate our old habits forged from the path of least resistance. When we're aware, then any one of us can use the tools at our disposal to create things that more amazing then we'd usually dare to dream of.

So how do you become more aware? Start by asking questions. Difficult questions that scare the shit out of you. If you pursue the answers to those questions with complete conviction then a world of doors will open to you and you will become more aware. You'll become stronger and more powerful then you've ever been. Just start asking questions with conviction. The Universe will take care of the rest. Google is a good place to start...

Piano Lessons by QM said...

Great post as always David! Learned a lot.

Chuck said...

I think Ellie raises an interesting point regarding downplaying your beliefs. I lean more David's way on this one, but I would suggest that there is some middle ground...and it comes from knowing ahead of time what you're trying to accomplish with political or "beliefs" comments.

For example, I get very weary of hearing people perform or show up for interviews who all seem to feel obligated to display their political "savvy" by making some disparaging comment about the Bush administration and what they did to the country. Look, I don't care how you feel about Bush or Obama or anyone else. And I don't care if you are an atheist or a Christian until I know who you are. Show me your heart thru your music, and I'll decide then if there's even value to me in what you're offering. Then, and only then, do I want to have some deeper understanding of who you are as a person and where your art comes from.

So...to clarify:

1. I'd be careful about wearing your beliefs as a badge when you walk in the door. It's inappropriate, until some relationship exists.
2. Ask yourself...what are you really hoping to accomplish? Do you really want to polarize people? If the country is 47% conservative and 53% progressive...do you really want only people of one stripe to find you credible and appealing? We live in a country where we have freedom of speech. But having the right to do something doesn't always make it wise...artistically or business-wise.

On my site, I do take the time to share some of my beliefs, for those who are interested. But I keep my music out front. If someone likes it well enough to hang around, they can learn more about me. If not, that's OK. I sure don't want them to feel "put upon" in an inappropriate manner.

Just my two cents' worth. ;-)

Dan said...

I think your advice hits the nail on the head. although I will say if you're going to market yourself through social media outlets then be prepared for the best and the worst of both worlds! It's like you said... You never know who's following you. For the most part just be yourself and watch your P's and Q's.

Jingle said...

Thanks for sharing such a useful lesson

Anonymous said...

thats real good stuff,very informative!! keep it up


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Create And Record Music DIY said...

Thanks David,
Another post of quality.
For many of us our beliefs tie in deeply with what we produce not only in our music but our lifestyle as well.
And very often what we believe in our heart ends up coming out of our mouths or is written by us at some stage.
Personally I like to re-read my posts before I hit publish and ask myself this question.
Is this post truly a reflection of what I am and stand for and will it make an impact that is for good or bad?

Anonymous said...

Complexities beget complexities. Engaging dramaturgy, calculated discression yields security when one markets via mass media one's musical artistry.

Shelly said...

Whilst I appreciate the sentiment behind the post, advising artists not to alienate their audience, I agree with what @EllieMaybe said - Downplaying your own beliefs and opinions is a sure fire way to lose your following in the longrun. If all a band is ever going to do is play to the masses and follow trends just to get famous and make money, then I think that they may as well just sell out and go on X-Factor and be an industry brand rather than an independent band. ;)

I think that social media is giving a lot of power to bands and in turn taking it away from the major record labels. With MySpace being the success it was, and now networks such as OOiZiT.com (where you can sell your music without having a record contract AND STILL GET INTO THE CHARTS) coming into play. I think the labels are fast realising that the monopoly they once had to make or break a bands career, just isn't there any more.

Taking away their power to influence a bands image and music can only ever be a good thing (and stop us having to conform to their opinions in order to have a career)

Marcus said...

I agree, some great advice here, but to gain fans you need to create a personal connection, so honesty is key. Being controversial, stating your beliefs will more often than not make fans see you as more dominant and powerful as you're expressing an oppinion.

Marcus Taylor

lee said...

"Social Media.. this is great medium for musos to get their word out on the street.

Andrew Ward said...

This is a really interesting topic - to what extent should we be open about ourselves and to what extent do we maintain privacy.

In order for a Twitter / Facebook account / blog to serve any purpose as a marketing tool it needs to feel "real". Followers / readers need to feel that they're getting to know the real you...

... but at the same time, there clearly are boundaries - you've got to protect your privacy and your family's privacy, and protect yourself against stalkers etc!

As far as controversial topics go, Ellie Maybe makes a good point, but I think it depends hugely on who you want to be as an artist. As David said in the post, if you want to be seen as edgy or spiritual, then by all means post about that, but if you're targeting a broad market then business-sense suggests that you shouldn't alienate that market. If you want to "be yourself whoever you offend", then that's a decision to be edgy, which means you'll appeal more strongly to the niche of people that agree with you on a wide range of topics.

Bottom line: do you want a small number of passionate fans, or a larger number of less passionate fans? Tricky call.

Finally, regarding Zach Maxwell's comment: I would definitely use separate accounts for separate purposes.

My personal Facebook account is for my friends and family. I don't make friends with people who don't know me. Facebook is designed as a closed network of people who you really know - so I'd keep it that way.

For more public social stuff, use Twitter, use Facebook Fan pages, use MySpace, use blogs etc. This is your public way to connect with your fan base.

--
Andrew
MyLiszt.com
Tools for musicians

Julius said...

Artists should always be careful on what they post on their social networking sites to prevent fans getting disappointed of the artist's comments.

Julius
http://saybasic.com

Clay said...

The more prevalent the internet and the "web 2.0" society becomes, the more we become a fishbowl society. Like you said, it can be a good thing if you're trying to connect with fans, but it can also get a bit dangerous if you're not careful. Now the capability exists for "friends" to see exactly where you are via your GPS enabled cell phones. Those who don't exercise caution and censor their most controversial views may, in fact, be endangering themselves. Technology: a double-edged sword!

Great stuff, as always, David!

Clay
www.MusicIsMyBiz.com

CD Printing Services said...

I really appreciate your advices it helps me a lot. It gives me more idea to maintain my fans but I still believe If man loses his fan he loses it. It will never be back again. But life must go on.

Thanks for the advice you give I can apply it on my everyday living. Thanks a LOT

Anonymous said...

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http://hubpages.com/hub/Goods-ways-to-promote-your-music

Mari Medina said...

I just love you, you are very smar, I love this, i love it so much it´s incredibly and insainly interesting, and very useful to me. Thank you so much, God bless you.

The Music Dude said...

great advice thanks =]

LK Hunsaker said...

Wonderful post that works as well for authors. I agree about the politics etc points; you will lose readers/listeners if you polarize them when your work doesn't reflect your statements. There's also a way to comment on devisive issues without being rude, and rudeness should always be avoided.

I talk politics now and then on my Facebook, but then, my books include political/societal issues so anyone who so vividly disagrees with me will likely not enjoy my books much, either.

I have stopped buying from other artists who are too politically derisive. There's a line and a time. Cross either and you're hurting yourself and helping no one.

MINISTERDMAX said...

Thanks David,
Another post of quality.
For many of us our beliefs tie in deeply with what we produce not only in our music but our lifestyle as well.
And very often what we believe in our heart ends up coming out of our mouths or is written by us at some stage.
Personally I like to re-read my posts before I hit publish and ask myself this question.
Is this post truly a reflection of what I am and stand for and will it make an impact that is for good or bad? And, What is the purpose for this post?.......

Amanda said...

I agree with Ellie to a point and agree with you also about political opinions. Many artists of classic rock did just that for example Neil Young, very political. But then it's how you view the politics but I do agree and when you post something even if you realize after it may have been harsh and re-tract with a delete who knows how many have seen it and makes you look very dishonest and questionable, so if it's something you want to say make sure it's something especially as a musician your PR department would let you say in an interview. Remember there is no such thing as bad press and where your opinion lays your guaranteed in a world of 6 billion people you'll find quite a few that will probably agree with your opinion.

I would agree with you on all other points and stress to musicians I work with they must utilize their social media interactions if they want to advance with their music, but it's always best to hire a consultant who knows how to social media network and keeps up with the latest trends of social networking.

One thing I stress never to do is do the 'friend finder' or 'follow you, follow me' because that's when you get people who don't care what you're doing or saying whether it's a business or independent musician.

You know a good and honest social networker with a real following on Twitter is a you follow < those who follow you.

Amanda said...

I agree with Ellie to a point and agree with you also about political opinions. Many artists of classic rock did just that for example Neil Young, very political. But then it's how you view the politics but I do agree and when you post something even if you realize after it may have been harsh and re-tract with a delete who knows how many have seen it and makes you look very dishonest and questionable, so if it's something you want to say make sure it's something especially as a musician your PR department would let you say in an interview. Remember there is no such thing as bad press and where your opinion lays your guaranteed in a world of 6 billion people you'll find quite a few that will probably agree with your opinion.

I would agree with you on all other points and stress to musicians I work with they must utilize their social media interactions if they want to advance with their music, but it's always best to hire a consultant who knows how to social media network and keeps up with the latest trends of social networking.

One thing I stress never to do is do the 'friend finder' or 'follow you, follow me' because that's when you get people who don't care what you're doing or saying whether it's a business or independent musician.

You know a good and honest social networker with a real following on Twitter is a you follow < and not = to those who follow you. When starting your twitter account you'll be following more then who are following you but when you optimize and understand the way Twitter works and use it in your other social networking tools the ratio should change overtime.

Local Bands and Concerts said...

social media is doing some great things for the music industry too... taking some decision-making out of corporate boardrooms and into online forums and grass roots efforts. A lot of artists are developing their fanbase solely thru guerilla twittering.

Local Bands on Facebook

music promotion said...

Thats real good stuff,very informative!! keep it up

mp3 indir said...

I really appreciate this post as it's been something I have been wondering about as a musician. I have a facebook profile that all my college..

Sarah LaCroix said...

For the longest time, I had a really hard time balancing the online presence between my performance self and my private self.

Eventually, I realized that there was no way that I could strike a happy balance besides creating two Facebook accounts and blogs.

It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, because I am now free to be who I want to be.

Blair said...

This is great advice. I want to connect with fans on a musical and creative basis and keep my personal life personal without alienating anyone.

Musicians Journey said...

Social media is such a great tool for musicians nowadays. It's free and all it takes is man hours. Sometimes it's very easy to get addicted to it and spend too much time on it!