People don’t really want to hear about your band. They don’t want to hear about how great your practice was. They don’t want to hear about how hard it is to find a producer. They don’t want to have to be forced to look behind the curtain. There needs to be a certain mystique to rock and roll and social media has ruined a lot of that. It has left us overexposed to the inner workings of the industry and frankly kind of pissed off at a lot of our favorite bands -many of whom overindulge fans by giving them updates about every minute of every band practice and leaving people frustrated. The social media game in the music industry is a tricky one and navigating it from tip to taint isn’t necessarily obvious. The thing I’ve been noticing lately though is that if your updates are too minor then you just end up the father of a tired old circle jerk that will never get anywhere and only make you look bad.
I know that their is increasingly a bitter nihilism around social media. In the words of one disgruntled friend, “We had our seven thousand Facebook fans, but we knew we could reach them and that helped our band, it was really all we had, now we make a post and no one sees it.” Even for the bands I manage that have tens of thousands of Facebook followers, an unsponsored post is probably only going to get a few dozen likes at most. It’s a pretty awful thing and it’s frustrating to think how much of this industry has been crippled by the changes made in recent years by social media platforms. It means that suddenly there is a lot more pressure on your band to make effective posts and figure out how to promote yourselves because while in old days posts about being in the studio could gain some traction now those posts get literally no response, or, somehow worse – a single corny reply from a parent.
At this point your social media posts need to be all about maximizing shares. I’ve discussed in the past how memes can work to your advantage but you need to look at what other sorts of content can generate likes from your fans. There aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules as far as I can tell. However I have picked up that generally speaking, links and photos tend to do a lot better than just text posts. Furthermore – if you try and make simple text posts then most of the time they will just be outright ignored. Imagine if you only had fifty Facebook friends – that’s the kind of outreach you get if you have over a thousand Facebook fans these days. You simply can’t expect people to be jumping over your silly statuses about funny quotes from band practice. Even if you post videos – unless there is new content in them (And even then…) the odds are that nobody will actually care about watching you and your buddies in your band goof off.
“But Matt!” you’re saying – “All of my favorite bands get away with this sort of stuff all the time -aren’t you always saying we should emulate the big guys?” Well champ, the thing is people CARE about the big guys. You need to realize that public opinion is a resource that you have to earn, you don’t have people interested in checking out your stuff ‘just because.’ There is too much content out there for people to be stumbling into your stuff these days. Every fan you earn is part of a hard fought battle that goes far beyond just practice. The fact that those bigger bands are able to post silly videos and get tons of comments is a testament to their hard work. Even huge acts who do those things though often get less traction than you would think. A legendary band like Cynic will do video chats with fans and only see thirty people show up. It’s telling that even they have difficulty getting people to care. You can’t just do what your favorite bands do because you haven’t earned those fans yet.
This isn’t even a question of entitlement. I think it’s awesome that you want to make derpy videos with your buddies and I agree that having extra content isn’t going to do you any harm. Rather, realize that when Brad Paisley posts a studio picture to announce new material it’s cool, but when you do it it looks like an attention grab. There isn’t necessarily a solid point where that shifts over – but I think you can feel it rather than be told. It’s the point where people you don’ know start to care about your band and praise your work and apparently actively care about getting more material from you. It’s the point when people start to get excited for more that you can start to do fun stuff for your fans that isn’t just memes and major announcements. You have to cultivate the public opinion of your band and if you have douchey or meaningless Facebook posts then people are going to have a hard time respecting all that you have built up.
So keep playing the social media game but don’t bust your balls over it. Realize that the posts on your personal pages are going to inevitably gain more traction because nobody really checks out band pages anyway. That doesn’t mean your band page shouldn’t be up to date – but it also means that you don’t need to keep busting your balls over it in the name of ‘getting big’. Rather you need to find balance, come to terms with the simple brutality of this thing and embrace the dark future. I know that sounds pretentious and silly but hey man, you’re the one trying to make it as a musician. So come out and groove with the madness and pray that the social media game will get easier in a year or two.
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