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The Music Industry & Social Media

A Pair that Can't Be Muted

Internet Killed the Video Star

Music Videos’ pinnacle was undoubtedly between roughly 1985 and 1996. Most would likely refer back to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, which was, and still is, one of the most influential music videos of all time. It’s achingly archaic, so much so that Vanity Fair went as far as to say it “changed the business” entirely. Production costs back during their prime would be laughed at now. The major labels would slay away and pour thousands, and eventually, multi-millions. MTV reaped the benefits, up until the music business had the door slammed on them by digital piracy and file sharing. MTV, which had started as a 24/7 music video programming station, soon found itself gravitating away from its original platform, and more towards actual scripted programming. Fast-forward to today, “music television” has been rightfully stripped from their logo altogether. YouTube and other online video platforms now sit on top of the video sharing throne.

Another music video, notable for different reasons than Thriller, was posted on YouTube back in 2006. It’s name? “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go. This music video quite literally showed us just how much the music video game had changed. The video was low budget, homemade, and nothing that required hours upon hours of video editing. What it lacked in unprofessional nature, it made up in cleverness. Here It Goes Again ultimately ended up receiving over a million views in the first week it was posted online, multiple parodies, and a Grammy award.

The zombies in the Thriller video aren’t the only things that’s decrepit in the music video biz. The OK Go video was one of the first to show that video’s don’t have nearly as much riding on them as they one did. Their romanticism has faded, as has the notion that MTV is the primary outlet of promotional advertising.

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The Swift Effect

If the name ‘Taylor Swift’ doesn’t automatically register a vision of curly blonde locks whose list of accomplishments is likely longer than the SAT, you may need to make sure that you live on planet Earth. Whether or not you personally enjoy her music, she’s an important figure in today’s music industry. She’s been awarded recognition into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, seven Grammy Awards, 22 Billboard Music Awards (now would be an appropriate plug for the song “22”), 11 Country Music Association Awards, and most recently, as the youngest woman ever to be included on Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” list. A force to be reckoned with, Swift proceeds to keep raising the bar higher for herself. Her presence on social media is notable as well, and she often iterates just how critical it is for her to utilize these outlets to connect personally with fans. In one interview with Entertainment Weekly, when asked about how she views her power on social media, she retorted with, “One way I’ve been using it [social media] recently is to insert myself into their online communities and be in on their inside joke. Not just by posting industry-career centric things. I want them to know that they’re the only ones in my life that make it feel normal.”

But Swift doesn’t exclusively use her social media presence for her fans or for her own marketability. Recently, she’s been using it to bring awareness to other artists who are on the cusp of making it big. “1,000 Ships” and “Fight Song” singer-songwriter, Rachel Platten, received much more attention after having Swift share her videos with her 34.7 million Instagram followers. She also catapulted Echosmith’s online visibility when she shared the stage with them this past year. The band BORNS received a heavy dose of T-Swift approval when the 25-year-old tweeted how much she adored the single they had released. Both bands went on to have immense 2015 tour success, which included summer music festival performances. Not that the bands couldn’t have made it without Swift’s seal of approval, but her social media plugs certainly didn’t hurt their publicity; furthermore, iterating just how intense the Swift conglomerate is.

The Fantasy of Festivity

       Fact or Fiction: 32 million people go to at least one United States music festival every year. Fact or Fiction: Billboard recently released an infographic demonstrating how staggering the music festival numbers have proved to be in the last year. One could argue that music festivals are a relatively newer art form in the span of human history, but the art of live performance is an antiquated one. The 21st century has completely harnessed the eclectic beauty of gathering thousands of people together to listen to a list of bands in the span of a handful of days. But harnessing this explosive art form couldn’t have been done without the assistance of one friend; the friend that always wants to share stories and compile similarly linked text and photos.
                                                              Social Media.
When examining Glastonbury’s social media use, Matt Frew and Jenny Flinn argue that “social media provides a window of connection and immediacy into festivity which creates new opportunities and challenges for festival and event organizers.”

The spontaneity that festivals portray is partially due to the fact that the product has now been able to be constantly captured, yet not without constant virtual mediation from festival media advisors. Festivals have now become this co-created product because of the audiences’ newly engaged nature. Of the 32 million mentioned in the first sentence of this post, 14.7 million are Millennials, which are the most targeted demographic for advertisers of this particular sector. Those 14.7 are more likely to engage in interactive twitter festival lineup reveals, YouTube video featuring previous iterations and montages, and comments to festival affiliated blogs. To not properly harness all of social media’s options, a budding music festival in the present day might as well expect it’s first year to be it’s last.

What Musicians Are Doing Wrong with Social Media

Though not exclusive to the music industry, bands and musicians appear more susceptible to committing most of the following bad social media habits. These are typically good intentioned, yet they won’t produce the type of conversation and loyalty you’d want with your fan base. CyberPrMusic recently released a brilliant and most certainly valuable article written by Joshua Smotherman on the dont’s of music social media marketing, and it’s worth even further analyzing:

  1. It’s All About Me Marketing 
    1. This ‘don’t’ fixates on the premise of “one-way marketing” and how it lacks engagement. This usually comes in the form of “Buy my new album ____!” or “Listen to my new single! Link’s in bio”. Smotherman beautifully illuminates alternatives to avoid simply promoting yourself with every post you make. Some alternatives could be sharing music industry based news, stories that personally connect with your band, or news that accurate reflects your band’s personality and opinions.
  2. Viewer count and followers aren’t what actually count
    1. How many likes your band has on Facebook and how many Twitter and Instagram followers you have is a useless gauge of your fan base. What’s more important is establishing an email list and good relationship with people you have met and connected with at concerts.
  3. Not doing Contests or Collaborating 
    1. This last tid bit of advice advocates for using contests to gain organic likes and following. If you pair yourself with other artists or local businesses, you extend your recognition and create a larger pool for yourself. Plus, it’s an impeccable and simple way to get your audience involved and engaged. Just as much as the distribution of music has changed, so have the collaboration capabilities. According to Elaine Lally, Kompoz.com is a platform that allows musicians to collaborate with others, and also allows for both finished and in-progress songs to be viewed.

Coldplay’s Unique Use of Social Media with Album “Ghost Stories”

Last spring, Coldplay fans were left to release the new album’s lyrics to the world rather than Coldplay themselves. The four man British band carries with them much prestige, recognition, and clout, having received awards from 25 different internationally and nationally accredited music organizations. Over the years, they’ve been awarded 8 times from the Brit Awards–winning Best British Album three times and Best British Group three times. In the United States, they’ve racked up 7 Grammy Awards from 30 nominations, with 2009 proving to be their best year. Due to their highly established identification in the music sphere, they were able to accomplish an international mission successfully, but not without the assistance of social media.

For their seventh album, Ghost Stories, Coldplay wished to extend their art directly to the fans before the album’s actual release date. Chris Martin, the lead singer, hid his handwritten lyrics in ghost story books in 9 countries around the world. The band posted tweets revealing their plan and clues to locations of hidden songs paired with the hashtag “#lyricshunt”.

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In a seemingly worldwide treasure hunt, fans from every country flocked to libraries in the hopes of stumbling upon an envelope with Martin’s scripted lyrics, and also, a ‘golden ticket’ for fans to travel to London for one of their shows. The band’s twitter kept tabs of updates from fans, posting pictures from those lucky enough to find the lyrics. Their choice of utilizing Twitter as their platform of social media was wise, especially considering the fact that Twitter is used the most as a technology to support fandom, serving more of a purpose than TV and other streaming audiovisual media, according to Tim Highfield.

Coldplay’s interactive promotion of Ghost Stories proved an advantageous move for the British group. Not only did the act attract a lot of media attention, it also awarded them the People’s Choice Webby Award. The Webby’s are a leading international award organization that recognizes excellence on the Internet, in particular with promotion.

What Happens When You Press ►

Social Media and the Music Industry are their own massive conglomerates individually, but it is ill advised to ignore their synergy or refuse to follow their relationship. Social Media would be a blank forum if given nothing to perpetuate, such as music. Though music hasn’t always relied on social media, it has always relied on accessibility, promotion, and engagement. Now, all three have dynamically disembarked from record labels to the fans.

One could argue that within the last half century, no commercial industry has combated more change than that of the music industry. With music perpetually being at the mercy of technological advancements, YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many more have caused for record label and musician adaptation. What was once an uncomplicated and easily understandable business model (band or artist records song, record label sells song, artist and record label make money) has now transposed itself into one of undeniable flux and one that relies heavily on the consumer’s interaction and response. The antiquated one way business model has now formulated into a two way model(page 28), allowing fans to share their opinions and even promote the band/musician themselves for a much larger viewing scale.

The archaic major record label has gradually become less pertinent for twenty-first century consumers. The Internet is simply more accessible and effective in reaching consumers. And because of social media websites providing a platform for artists to market and distribute their own music, independent labels are hastily growing. Billboard’s midyear breakdown of Nielsen SoundScan data showed independent labels with a 34.5% share of unit sales of albums and according to the American Association of Independent Music, or A2IM, indie artists make up about 35% to 40% of Pandora’s streams, and about 12% to 13% of broadcast radio’s playlists.

These substantial changes in distribution have left major record labels in turmoil and in dire need of a successful countermove. This Internet evolution may have imposed mayhem for the major labels, but it has spurred more creative room for musicians. Maybe this movement of online streaming has positively shifted attention from financial aspects of the industry to the artistry itself, which is really what matters.

Time is of the essence for the music industry.

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