Some of the biggest platforms in the world are social media platforms, with roughly 2.34 billion users worldwide. Gone are the days of Bebo and MySpace where social media platforms were used solely to post on your friend’s walls; now they represent a legitimate and powerful business tool that is not only great for business, but necessary too.
This remains the same for the music industry. Music artists must connect with fans in as many ways as possible, and platforms like Facebook, the king of connectivity, are one of the best ways to do this. But, is it all rosy? We explore whether or not current social media platforms help or hinder music artists.
A bit of history
The music industry, somewhat unfortunately for them, is always bound by the current technologies and innovations on the market. It always leaves the industry one step behind, so rather than paving the way themselves, music artists are forced to adopt to whatever the latest trend is on the market.
Thirty years ago, the compact disc, or just CD, was the big thing on the market and no-one could see it changing. Fast forward a few years, and you had services like Napster hit the market and the game changed. Napster originally started as a P2P file-sharing site, with a particular emphasis on digital audio files. The music industry was in uproar over copyright infringement, and rightly so, and so Napster was shut down. But the damage had already been done. People had a glimpse of what life without CDs was like.
Compact discs (CDs) used to be the primary way of music artists selling their music
Fast forward a few more years and now we have streaming services like Spotify and You-Tube and hardly a CD drive in sight, particularly if you own a MacBook! The music industry has had to adapt and change to the way technology has over the last few years, and this is the same for social media platforms. It’s clear that the streaming services haven’t quite nailed the balance in the music industry yet, what with high-profile cases like Atoms for Peace and Taylor Swift withdrawing their catalog. Despite the fact that music artists are somewhat bound by the changing world around them, it doesn’t mean it should be unfair to them. So are social media platforms any different?
Where social media platforms have got it wrong for music artists
Let’s talk about the negatives first. And let’s start with Facebook, the largest of the social media platforms. It’s highly likely that you haven’t read Facebook’s lengthy 14,000-word terms of service document. But if you, or a music artist, hasn’t, then are you aware of just what Facebook owns when it comes to your user data?
We are all aware that Facebook has a licence to any photos or videos that you upload, and that any user data you had will be retained by the company even after you delete your Facebook account. But, more seriously for music artists, they don’t own the rights to see any of the data to those that have liked their page. So a music artist will know exactly how many people have liked their page, but they won’t know who has liked it.
Why does this matter?
It matters because artists don’t know who they’re talking to when they are posting status updates or planning tour dates. It matters because artists are essentially just stabbing in the dark when it comes to each new way that they try to engage with their fans.
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if Facebook hadn’t already openly admitted that organic reach will be declining over time, and people who own fan pages will need to pay for their updates to get a further reach. So essentially, music artists are expected to pay for a Facebook status to further reach the people that have liked their page when they don’t actually know who they are reaching out to.
Of course, they can be fairly certain that a large chunk of the people that have liked their page are true fans, but there is no absolute way to guarantee this. And there are plenty of fake accounts floating about on the internet.
Of course, Facebook is a business, and they need to monetize in as many ways as possible, and so they act as gatekeepers to your information. But music artists are also businesses, and Facebook clearly hinders them in this regard. Businesses sell, adapt, and even rebrand based on who their community are, and if music artists aren’t given access to their Facebook community, which is ultimately going to be the place where they have the most connections with fans, how can they know exactly what to sell or produce?
What benefits does Facebook have?
Facebook can be great for bands and artists and that can’t be denied. Facebook ‘likes’, even if their user data and email address is inaccessible by the artists themselves, are a good measure of success and status in the industry, and some managers use this as an indicator of a band worth listening to.
But much more than this, Facebook is a great tool for promotions. There have been digital music companies launched in the past who have attempted to revolutionize the music industry and subsequently failed, such as Imeem and iLike. The trouble with these companies is that they attempted to build a brand new social media platform, and they weren’t able to muster the sufficient competition to take on the likes of Facebook.
Newer digital music platforms such as GigRev and Disciple Media have realized that you can’t take on the Facebook’s and the Twitter’s of this world. The point is to work in unison with them, and not against them. This is in the same way that platforms like Spotify allow you to connect and share via Facebook. This is because Facebook is the largest social media site on the planet, and is soon to be the largest website on the planet. It’s foolish to try and tackle it.
But it’s also foolish to not see its benefits. Sure music artists don’t get access to the fans that have liked their page, but they can still build a fan page for free, promote their new tracks and merchandise on it and push fans over to their own personal website.
They can also rely on the heavy sharing nature that the world now experiences. Businesses and music artists alike are in a fantastic position where they can rely on their fans to promote their content without even having to ask them. We’re all familiar with shares, retweets, and word-of-mouth. If a music artist posts up a hot tune, chances are it will get shared around the digital world hundreds, maybe even thousands of times.
The use of regular social media through items such as smartphones allows for the discovery of new music artists
To put it simply, there is no better tool than Facebook for this. But, it is not the be-all and end-all solution for music artists.
Are Twitter or Instagram any better?
Many would argue that Twitter is a better social media platform for artists than Facebook is. It’s much easier to take part in real-time conversations regarding music than Facebook, simply by typing in relevant search phrases or hash-tags.
Twitter is built for engagement, whereas Facebook puts only the most relevant content at the top of a user’s newsfeed, so they may not even see a music artist’s update. They’d have to pay for the update to guarantee this of course.
It’s also more socially acceptable and engaging to tweet a lot more in one day, with around 14 tweets per day being a good number, compared to Facebook’s twice per day, or seven per week. Twitter is built more around striking up conversations and having discussions.
Music artists can use it to engage on a much deeper level with their fans, find out what they truly do or don’t like, and adapt their business model to suit this. And a 2013 report found that music was the third most talked about topic on Twitter.
The downsides to Twitter for artists and bands, or for any user for that matter, are that tweets are extremely likely to get lost and buried in among the thousands of other tweets from accounts that a user follows per day. If a music fan isn’t checking their newsfeed regularly, then the artist needs to rely on the fact that the fan will specifically visit their page.
It also has the infamous character limit, and so Twitter users are extremely limited with the depth of content that they can share. This doesn’t make it impossible and it simply requires a cleverer strategy, but some things are extremely difficult to get across with such limitations.
Instagram, apart from the obvious limitations of not being such a text based social platform, offers other good benefits for music artists and bands. Statistically, videos and photos shared on Instagram have more hits and reach than those posts that go up on Facebook or Twitter. But again, there are limitations, and it doesn’t allow artists to connect on a deep enough level with fans.
Do platforms like GigRev or Disciple Media offer a solution for music artists?
It’s clear that social media platforms aren’t built specifically for music artists, and that music artists need the platforms more than the platforms need them. They are a great solution for artists, but they aren’t the perfect solution. New platforms such as GigRev and Disciple Media’s while label social platforms mentioned earlier are designed as social platforms that will work alongside the big names, but do more in helping artists by giving them complete control over their own data and how they connect with their fans. This will, ultimately, help artists in a way that other social media platforms simply hinder them.