The way in which musicians promote their music has changed radically over the last few years. Musicians are seeing the value in taking more control over their image rather than letting a second party like their record label do it for them. The personal nature that social media offers provides a sense of closeness to the artist for the fans and ownership for the musicians themselves. The image of a musician has become more tangible in today’s world compared to the fabricated enigma it once was. The more a musician contributes to their social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the more approachable they seem. Social media has become the press kit of the future, acting as a one-stop shop for photos, tour dates, discography and samples of new music.
In the past, musicians and music lovers relied on magazines, television and radio as their preferred media channels. I distinctly remember treating magazines like Rolling Stone as my music bible – they were a heavy influence for my then impressionable musical taste. Today, most people rely on social media as a way to discover new artists and keep up to date with the world of music in general. We’re given instant access to information by artists and self-appointed musical enthusiasts over blogs, Tumblr sites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. These people have come to be more trusted than big name labels because they run their social media pages out of passion, not obligation.
Artists have been cleverly using social media to their advantage. Through music sharing mediums such as Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, MySpace, Rdio and 8tracks amongst others, they can upload tracks and share them with fans and the most authoritative online music voices.
MySpace has come a long way from the days when musicians bombarded users with animated backgrounds that slowed down computers and songs that played automatically with no pause button in sight. As of September 24th, Justin Timberlake partnered with MySpace to bring, ahem, sexy back to the site. The homepage now features a variety of entertainment news and user pages look very similar to Pinterest, where posts are set up in an aesthetically pleasing grid-like formation. MySpace’s overall goal now is to visually entice you enough to get you listening to its artists’ music.
Another popular sharing method nowadays is to “Tweet For A Track”. Bands/musicians upload a song to their official website for free and post a message to Twitter and Facebook saying that in order to download it, the fan has to repost/retweet the original post. These free treats fuel fan loyalty, as well as extend the artist’s audience through their fans’ shares – creating a domino-like effect that is useful to the musician’s overall self promotion.
While some artists claim that social media has helped maintain their image and helped develop a loyal fan base, others are more thankful for it because it launched their career. The most notable example is, of course, Justin Bieber. As a young’in trying to get his music noticed, he found that the best place to have his work seen was on YouTube. His child prodigy act attracted Usher Raymond’s talent manager Scooter Braun’s attention and quickly proved that his online self-promotion paid off. Bieber met with Raymond and was then signed to the Raymond Braun Media Group, being offered a recording contract with Island Records not too long after. In an interview with Forbes he stated that “Social media helped launch my career. Without the Internet and without YouTube, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to put my music out there and have people hear it.” In the interview, he explains how he understands the importance of “removing the mystery” from the artist and making himself seem more down to Earth by “Instagramming at a coffee shop”.
Due to Bieber’s nonstop schedule, he has a team that helps him with maintaining his brand on social media, but he tries to be as hands-on as possible to connect with his fans virtually. He reads all of the comments on his Facebook and Twitter, giving directions to his team based on the responses from his fans. Braun says that he and Bieber even argue over the direct interaction with them. Bieber also prides himself on the fact that he was one of the first artists to follow back anyone who follows him on Twitter. His eagerness to relate to his fans has lead to him to have one of the largest number of followers on the site, at 31 million and counting! However, Lady Gaga takes the lead at the moment with Bieber lagging behind by just under 800,000 followers.
Other artists who have a strong social media presence are Demi Lovato and Mariah Carey. Lovato, who has over 5 million followers on Twitter, engages her audience by asking them questions and responding to tweets by fans. While she may put out a few too many all-caps tweets, she’s definitely targeting her key audience – pre-teen and teenage girls who relish in the caps lock excitement and don’t find it obnoxious. Social media isn’t just for younger musicians, despite all of our Bieber, Gaga and Lovato talk. Mariah Carey consistently plugs her various social media sites and gives her Twitter fans follow back incentives. She hosted a contest through Twitter that involved following the fans who responded to her using personalized hashtags. Winners were acknowledged on her Twitter feed and had their reactions retweeted. Kanye West is also a prime example of an avid social media user. Unfortunately, his Twitter account has been paused for the time being, with all of his self-indulgent (yet hilarious) tweets having been curiously removed.
Marketing strategies for both the younger and older generations of musicians are quite varied. Those who have already established themselves pre social platforms concentrate on maintaing their brand, promoting themselves with only the occasional fan interaction. The younger generations, on the other hand, are building their image by responding to as many fans as possible so that they’re viewed as down to earth individuals, with less of an emphasis on blatant self promotion.
As Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun stated in the Forbes interview – “artists themselves are their own network”. Their social media outreach is off the charts. It’s come to the point where musicians are expected to have a few social media channels and take an active role within them. Anything less is doing their brand and therefore also their career a disservice. Upkeeping a strong social media presence might seem like alot of work to some, but the results speak for themselves. Gone are the days where artists can act aloof and expect fans to come running. Audiences crave a closer connection to their favorite artists, so it’s become almost imperative that a musician or band delivers a tangible image as well as their music through a number of social media channels if they expect to see success in today’s day and age.