01 January 2010

5 Social Media Trends Artists Need To Understand

For musicians, proper marketing and networking using social media can be tough. The possibilities are seemingly endless and as such, musicians are likely to spread themselves too thin. But not all forms of social media will give you the big pay-off. In fact, some methods are a complete waste of time for musicians looking to grow their fanbase, sell more albums, tracks and tickets, and who are ultimately achieve enough success to sustain a viable career within the industry.

It is very important for musicians not to get caught up in the semantics of every new thing, yet is just as crucial to follow and understand the current trends of social media so that their efforts are not in the wrong place. Why is it important to follow the trends? Simply put, the bigger the trend, the more likely it will be that you see quicker and more significant advancements within.

The following are 5 current trends in social media that all musicians NEED to know about. Not every trend will apply to every artist, but not understanding and assessing if they are right for you is a wasted opportunity:

1) Fan-Funding Campaigns:

Finding the funding for an upcoming project can be an extremely difficult process, as more than ever before, labels are only looking to invest in artists and bands with proven high-volume sales records. Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, has stated that the 10,000 units (albums) sold mark is called the 'obscurity line' - upon this achievement, you are no longer seen as an obscure artist within the industry, and it is not until this point that labels will take an interest in you.

This new trend in social media is one that absolutely every musician should take a look into. Fan-funding (or crowdfunding) is the simple concept of empowering the fans to raise money for you- to FUND your project. Typically this is done through an incentive system, in which the artist will set a monetary goal, and has a set amount of time to reach said goal. There are then different levels of rewards that vary based on the amount a fan contributes towards the project.

A fan-funding campaign is an excellent way for emerging musicians to create a grassroots marketing campaign around their next passion project. But be forewarned, this takes both significant amounts of time and effort in preparation and execution. Most fan funding platforms, such as Kickstarter, Pledge Music and Rockethub, require that the entire goal be hit before the artist sees any of the money.

2) Metrics:

The internet has made it easier than ever for artists to make effective, informed decisions about who, when and where to target their audience. But a bunch of analytics/ insights start-up companies have set out to make this process even easier and effective, by giving artists the ability to obtain actionable data about their music and their fans.

Each start up offers a slightly different variation, but the goal is to supply artists with analytical data based on fanbase growth, fan engagement and/ or online music streams across multiple platforms. Many of the services can even track the geolocation of the plays and/or fans helping artists understand where their fanbase is the strongest. Tip: This is HUGE for when you are preparing your first tour. Some of the most popular music analytical services are:

- Band Metrics
- Next Big Sound
- GigsWiz
- Music Metric
- RockDex

3) Social Currency:

Social currency is the evolved idea of giving music away for free. The myth that giving away music for free would garner new fans has been (somewhat) busted, as more often than not, the music will be given away, yet the new 'fans' will never return. The exchange was off-balance.

With social currency, musicians create an even-exchange by 'charging' for their music through an exchange of a track or an album for a tangible return that will increase their reputation and reach, rather than their bank account. The most ideal choice of social currency is to exchange music for an email address (and location if possible -this will come into play next), as it gives artists a direct connection to their fans. Bandcamp does an excellent job of facilitating this exchange for artists.

Other forms of social currency that have recently become popular are tweeting for a download, and a similar idea of a Facebook wall post for a download. Both of these options have the pitfalls of being less beneficial for the artist in a long term sense, and are unfortunately seen by many as just a new form of spam. A few popular tweet-for-a-download services are Tweet For A Track and Pay With A Tweet.

4) Geolocation Marketing:

In the past year, the use of geolocation has become one of the most important advancements in social media. Through services such as Four Square, Gowalla and more recently, Facebook Places, users can 'check in', leaving an update focused on their current location rather than their current activities. While most geolocation based social networks include some form of gaming component, rewarding long-term use and excessive exploration with unlock-able badges and the like, it would be easy to overlook the benefits that these services offer to musicians.

Two of the most popular mailing list services, Fan Bridge and Mail Chimp, have both included a geolocation feature called Geo-Targeting, which allows artists to send out location specific announcements/ updates. In other words, if you have a show in NYC next week, you can send out an announcement of the show or special offer to those on your mailing list who are located within and around the NYC area.

Geolocation marketing also gives artists new opportunities for fan engagement. The idea that an artist or even the fans can now 'check in' when and where they arrived at a specific location creates new possibilities for the artist to engage with the fanbase through competitions (i.e. first 10 people to check in at a specific location gets a free album), scavenger hunts for free tickets, and even unannounced concerts.

5) Streaming Video:

The Youtube craze has been sweeping the emerging music community for quite some time now, but streaming video, through services such as UStream and LiveStream, is a trend that is just starting to explode. There are numerous ways that artists can use real-time streaming to offer additional value for fans, such as streaming live performances for fans who cannot attend, stream jam sessions or intimate acoustic performances from the comfort of their own home, or even engage directly with fans through a real-time question and answer session or even a fan request performance.

By Jonothan Ostrow of Hypebot

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