Rant – Is Social Media Worth It For Musicians?

Comments: 41

Social Media For MusiciansShow of hands… Who has 1000+ Facebook friends and hasn’t sold a single album or made one red cent as a result?

…I thought so.

Social media has always been a very misunderstood platform for many. Part of that is because so many people with ulterior motives have built lucrative careers for themselves as “social media experts”. Making mountains out of mole hills and sticking us with the bill along the way.

This is not to say that social media has no value. It does.

It’s simply that many people seem to hold some misguided view that social media is in itself, something separate from traditional networking and/or marketing. It is not.

For us as musicians, social media serves two potential purposes…

1. To be used as it was intended as a relationship enhancing tool.

2. To drive traffic.

Social media as a relationship enhancing tool…

The former requires more explanation than many might think. Enhancing real world relationships with social media is pretty straight forward, and most of us are engaged in it to some extent every day.

But, relationship building with your FANS is something altogether different. I see too many artists posting things like…

“Check out my new YouTube video!” Respectfully, who gives a crap?

That’s not to say that there is not a place for that kind of thing, but trying to engage your fans that way is not going to serve your ultimate goals.

Instead I suggest that you think of all of your outbound communication to your fans as “your channel”. While your mailing list should be your primary channel, your social media feeds are your “short attention span channels”. But they are all essentially serving the same purpose: to engage and entertain, and keep people watching/listening/reading long enough that they eventually BUY when the right offer comes along.

Think of it like you would a television channel. If the content is no good, we click. Same thing goes for the computer.

Musicians would be well served to consciously define their brand and create a supporting channel around that.

Tell the real story of you as an artist and human being. Whether you like sleeping with groupies back stage or just collecting stamps… Your story is your channel, and to some extent your music is the advertising that funds the programming. This is counter intuitive for most musicians who feel that it’s the music that keeps people reading the emails. But in reality, the opposite approach will yield far better results.

After all, its the “experience” that people want. Not a download.

Social media as a traffic source…

The alternative way of viewing social media is simply as a traffic source. Your Facebook and Twitter walls should not be mistaken for your “sales funnel”. They are a poor replacement for a well constructed and privately hosted sales funnel.

However sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be a great way to get visitors over to an offer for a free download in exchange for an email address. Outside of the music world this is called “lead generation”. Why more musicians are not actively engaged in this is mind boggling to me.

To do this you simply need to understand the behavior of each network’s users and offer value accordingly.

For example, a high percentage of Twitter fans tend to respond in kind when you follow them. So by following large numbers of Twitter users and then following up with an automated DM (direct message) with an offer for a free track, can be a great way to consistently drive traffic to your site. But again, not until AFTER a relationship has been made.

Another example is Facebook’s “like” and “share” functions. By creating entertaining content either on your blog or within your Facebook feed itself, you stand a good chance of picking up some viral traffic. I’ve had pages literally receive thousands of “shares”. The reach of something like that can be tremendous. In fact almost every time I post anything on my blog it’s followed by a significant serge in subscribers because of the emphasis I sometimes put on clicking the share button and the resulting traffic that follows.

Other sites like Stumbleupon and Youtube offer their own nuances and user behavior patterns which, if tapped into properly, can become a tremendous sources of free traffic.

What Social Media Is Not!

For the love of God people! Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc, are not places to simply post “check out my album on itunes” on other people’s wall’s. This is spam, it’s stupid and it’s not going to get you where you want to be.

Spam is absolutely pointless from a marketing perspective. Especially for musicians who CANNOT succeed without fan loyalty and genuine affinity. Non-permission based direct marketing is a great way to kill a relationship before it’s even begun.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with automation, marketing aggressively, or doing things on a mass scale. And I’m definitely not saying that leveraging the various enticements that social media sites have in place is wrong (IE “like” and “retweet”). Quite to the contrary…

But if Myspace taught us anything, it’s that a social media fan is not equivalent to an ACTUAL fan. Friend adders and message spam did little more than destroy what was once one of the most popular websites on the planet.

To recap…

1. Understand the nuances of your social media platform.

2. Decide what it is that you are using it for and how the site you are working with can enhance your broader business model.

3. Offer value and they will come.

It’s that simple.

What do you think? Is social media having an impact on your music career?

Leave a comment below and let me know how social media has helped or hurt your career.

PS – I’m working on a follow up post to this one as we speak. It should come out early next week and I’m going to reveal a NEW social media strategy that I’ve been using that is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. It uses social media in the way it was INTENDED to be used and it get’s SERIOUS results. More on that shortly.


  • Kaycee says:

    Dear Rev PeaceBang,Thank you for this lovely pastoral letter. It’s all coming back to me no2h78w11;t&ere&#821#;s Christmas magic in the air but there be dragons as well!I may have to print this post and keep a copy in my purse, on my pillow, and one next to the coffee maker…. [Hugs to you, Rosemary! I hope this keeps you good company throughout the season! – PB]

  • Sean says:

    Now I always thought it was more annoying when a band posts stuff like “just rolled into Houston, looking for a wawa” As opposed to “here’s some new free media” shouldn’t the music be more interesting than whether or not the band has to hit a rest stop to piss?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Sean. Totally depends. In my experience if you are just self aggrandizing then yes, it’s irritating to tell people what you had for breakfast, etc. But if it is part of a greater story, or if it’s the hallmark of your “tribe”, then I think it is perceived as value content.

      Same can be true of free music. It can feel like just another promotion if the delivery is wrong, or it can be a well received gift.

      It’s really just about figuring out what you want to use the traffic for and crafting a campaign accordingly.


  • A. Myrén says:

    Thank you John for sharing.

  • The biggest mistake I and most likely many of you, had made with myspace is adding everyone that requested as a friend. Why the hell would John-Q rap artist care what a metal guitarist is doing and visa-versa. I am much more discrimintating with my youtube account. You have to be into the same kinds of music I am. Your channel page has to have something on it, video faves, a little bit about your likes and dislikes, a photo of some sort… If not, I don’t add you as a contact. I do not have a public FB page. I know it will be a massive drain on my time with little to show for my efforts! No one is surfing the internet looking for new music and if they are, they want it for free!

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Michael,

      Great points about exclusivity. I respectfully disagree about the search activity surroundIng music. It’s actually one of the more searched niches in the world. But that’s a topic for another pos 🙂

  • Another question, on my You Tube Nandalal108 firstly they put a red triangle, on one track 16 Rounds. I wrote on the dispute form, all tracks are my own creations and material as listed, I have the written notes on each track and disc data as proof of this. Now on Rock For Radha, they put another red triangle but when I wrote and said that on the last one I notice the red thing has gone but this time it has stuck and been there for some time. Also says its been ‘blocked’ in some countries. Can anyone explain to me, how all this works and how to get that ugly red inverted triangle out. I tried to write the same thing but the red thing is still there. I don’t understand how can this be offensive in some countries and when I tell them clearly this IS my own material how can I copy bits from myself. Its like a kangaroo court, seems like there is no recourse to justice and that this time they won’t remove those things. I tried on the web to find something relevant to this issue, where nothing really eplained, how to counter You Tubes complaint, and also three strikes you are out. This doesn’t seem right or is You Tube a law unto itself. I can’t figure out how to get rid of the red thing and also where to ask, what are you saying that I am supposed to have copied and also how to fix it up. I am a lamb in a forest with this stuff, I don’t know what to do and the three strikes out thing makes me wonder who does complain and why? I haven’t copied anything. It just seems totally unjust, no real recourse to find out the ins and outs of all this. Thanks if anyone can explain.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Nandalal, I’d check out some of the Youtube support forums. Sounds like a copyright issue. Perhaps with the images in the video? You can always try re-uploading the video. It may avoid the flag with a second upload.

  • dogpossum says:

    I buy music for DJing based almost entirely on a band’s a) live performances, and b) the availability of their music online. If you can’t make your music available to me at live gig on CD, or online via postal order, or much more importantly – by digital download – I won’t buy your music. I won’t play it for dancers. They won’t buy your music. And we won’t hire your band for live gigs. I am more likely to buy your music from an independent online provider (eg CDbaby or bandcamp) than from a big business like itunes or amazon, which is expensive and has crazy geographic restrictions on prices and availability.

    If I’m not DJing your music, I (and the venues I work) aren’t going to pay fees to APRA and other copyright money collecting bodies.

    I book jazz bands for swing dance events based on a) their reputation as live performers (and whether or not I’ve seen them), b) their online profile (most importantly, whether they have audio and visual clips on their FB pages and websites), c) digital audio clips of their performances/recordings.

    I won’t hire your band if I can’t hear your band play.

    I keep in contact with bands in other cities via twitter, FB and email.
    I won’t hire your band if I can’t contact you.

    Dancers promote – rave about – bands using their blogs, discussion boards, FB, twitter, email – all that stuff.
    I will hire your band if you get rave reviews from dancers.
    This clip, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRcTL3d1kbU is enough to make me want to fly this band from the US to Australia.

    Basically, if you’re a hot jazz band looking for a gig with dancers, you need to get ON that social media. You need to use twitter, FB, bandcamp, CDbaby, emusic, itunes and youtube to lift your profile. You need a simple, accessible website of your own with audio clips and links to the places I can buy your music.

    Because social dancers are big social media users.

  • Good rant, John. I’ve been trying to understand the world of social media for the last year, and after working with a couple of social media coaches, I have come to the conclusion that they just don’t get it where musicians are concerned. I’m sticking with you to help me solve he puzzle. An incredibly lot of time can be wasted with social media – time that I could be sending by creating. Enjoy MMM so much. As Small Barn Sound say, I’m Not Alone!

  • DaddyPlugin says:

    I agree with the anti “listen to my record” approach, as it’s self indulgent. A better approach is to hit on the audience’s desire.
    If your audience is a bunch of Guerrillas, obviously giving them bananas will get them to follow you. Feeding them your conjured simulated banana won’t do. Musicians are more effective when they exchange value, with the audience. That’s the essence of money. It’s an exchange of established value.
    It’s about who likes what, where are they and what must I do to give it to them, in exchange for how much of whatever they can give me.

  • well John that aii sounds great but if you have a cd like I have called LIFE I only tryed everthing to get it to the masses so how would you go about doing that the big people at MUSIC ROW only want money lot of it and to change you and your music to be pop when you are a country song writer and singer recording artist Vietnam vet 45 years in this 8 cd lp I’m on cdbaby and many of sites I sold more before 9-11 than now baby you have some thoughts Thanks Musically

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Elvis,

      I really try to urge artists to avoid the pit falls of the “old music business” and develop an online sales funnel. Artists need to stop thinking of marketing music as being about “exposure” and focus on proven sales tactics. This is what I teach in MMM.

  • Thank you John, great rant. Whether on FB or Twitter for which I am just starting to discover the potential, I have never made a relationship by saying “Buy my stuff”. Instead increasingly trying to understand what interests my tribe, and posting content that I find interesting and I think they might also, has occasionally led to a surprise inquiry about how one may contact me for an interview, a booking, or a retweet about an upcoming show, or a song. On Twitter I observe the law of 9 out of 10 tweets are about Kudos to others, introducing people to each other. Automated DMs turn me off. Being sent a Like my whatever the minute I follow someone too. The fact that Social Media is so available and free doesn’t make me motivated to read it all; it’s like the phone book, just cause I have one doesn’t mean I’m going to start calling everyone…and telling them how great I am, even though I’m on a fixed rate calling plan.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Clara, great approach. No surprise it’s working. Creating value always works.

      Auto DMs can be a bit lame, but if done tastefully they are a valid traffic source to get people on to your mailing list where you can genuinely build the relationship.

      I’m actually not against activities that are a bit less personal, as long as they are within the terms and conditions of a platform, offer value, and are permission based. The important distinction in my mind is that you know why you are doing whatever it is you’re doing. If it’s traffic then that stuff can pass. If it’s relationship building then you are probably hurting yourself.

      I’m not trying to say we all need to be cyber nuns about our marketing, just smart about it 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback and great job with what you’re doing.

      • Hi again John, had some of the same thoughts as in your response after I posted above. I need to do social media in a way I am comfortable with. But the main thing to remember I agree is why we’re there. Mainly I want to make a living at what I do. And the time I spend on social media needs to accomplish that. I totally agree that the only place I can genuinely build a relationship is on my list. Some FB friends rise to the top and I can move them to my list. I think gradually I am becoming more open to tasteful Auto DMs, just as the auto responder on my site: I don’t have time to write back to every message! Thanks for staying in touch, CB

        • John Oszajca says:

          Hi Clara,

          Thanks for your comment. You bring up a great point… when you are doing social media right, some people will standout as real connections and those are the same people who will be open to opting into your list. That has to take place organically though and can’t be forced, which is unfortunately the equivalent of spam, when you get down to it.

  • Solveig says:

    Well said. Marketing 101: Define your brand, THEN promote it.

  • Jim Yeager says:

    I find it interesting in this day and age that based on where we have come through the technology of non-face time communication methodologies, we have to debate on the definitions of words like “relationship”.
    To me, trying to market your music through your (or others) walls on FB is equivalent to leaving a greeting message on your phone something like “hi you have reached Bob, Sue, Scruffy …and xyz entertainment . Please leave a message at the beep”. …or like putting a handmade sign in your front yard “computer repair and flower arrangements” . I think the general social media community is sceptical fro the get go due to sooooo many BS scams and people who frankly are just not serious enough to have earned their attention. The museums and amusement parks have the right idea…give them a show to remember and then dump them off at the gift shop where if they sign up to be a “preferred customer”, they will get deals on stuff that mere morals cannot.
    1) have a product you’ll bleed for
    2) never stop believing in it
    3) have a place where people can go to get your product
    4) keep those people who bought your product (fans) interested through regular (exclusive) communication and incentives .
    5) new product
    6) repeat
    7) give your fans the tools to market FOR YOU

  • I think a lot of the problems with social media stems from the fact that it’s just too easy. Musicians in general take the easy road of saying something promotional, then posting it through an easy medium and somewhere in there is a magical recipe for getting ignored… or pissing people off. When things are easy you can expect more people to do them and this compounds the problem. I would like so see more musicians take some time to look at posts that get a lot of “likes” and try to reconstruct their message using a similar blueprint. Most of which is simply coming up with short, engaging commentary and linking to engaging content, whether that content is your own website or your youtube channel.

  • Hi we are Poetic Justice and we produce and perform Hip-Hop Music. If you would like to checkout our music click the link above.

  • I think you’re right on. I have a presence on social media because it’s an easy way for people to find me, initially, especially if I’ve just played out. But not everyone – believe it or not – is a big fan of facebook. You have to look at your audience and make sure you’re communicating with them. So I try to find other ways to drive traffic to my site, etc.

  • Sully says:

    Great post John! Thanks, Sully

  • PoWlo says:

    nandalal – it means Direct Message dude 😉

  • PoWlo says:

    As someone who has been plugging their music on the net for a few years now and is only just beginning to establish a small following , I have to agree that you can spend a hell of a lot of time using Facebook and Twitter the wrong way. Early mistakes I made on Facebook caused some embarrassment to say the least and it took me quite a while to pick myself up. However, now I have established a presence through my sense of humour and other means as opposed to just saying here’s my new piece of shit you gotta listen to it, people will listen to and share my tracks when they appear now again. I have found Twitter used correctly and not just selfishly i.e. retweet other peoples stuff as well as yours can also be very useful. I’m not so convinced however, about music sites where all the musicians vote for each other in an attemp to get to number one in their respective charts. I’m doing well on one at the moment but I just don’t know whether to be that proud really…lol. Great article though John. Glad I found you 😉
    http://www.reverbnation.com/powlo (Excuse the plug. lol)

  • Another brilliant post, rant or not! Dead on! I must agree with Felix – I find better results by waiting until I think new followers would be interested in the music. Many follow just because of a joke or simple comment, without even realizing you are a musician.
    This post will be shared…

  • felix says:

    Following someone on twitter and having them follow you back is not forming a relationship, it’s an introduction.

    If you want to make sure you never form a relationship with them, spam them with unsolicited DMs as soon as you’re introduced.

    • Frank says:

      Ha ha hhaha – Got here via your email. Love that you are so honest!

      I can imagine. My deepest compassion!

      But I couldnt help laughing. –

      You are right. The same shit as what happened to email
      will happen to the social media if we dont watch it. SPAM.

      But how do you think about this idea then:

      and on FORUMS.
      Ask them “Who do I sound like?”
      Extract a few names, WHO YOU REALLY DO SOUND LIKE.
      Look up the facebook music profiles for
      those names and post on the walls
      of THEIR FANS (Their “likes”) –

      And then post. “I you like Peter Gabriel, there is a chance
      that you will enjoy this music as well”

      Curious what you think about this idea,


    • hey hate to sound dumb in all this but felix, what are DMs. I had enough hassle as an old guy finding out what sick and gross means. Now I say it to everything, like on the bus, and shops, eg nice day mate, ah sick and gross dude. So much lingo flies around. Whatever happened to seventies peace and love bros. hare krishna.

      • Jacob Cremer says:

        I believe DM stands for Direct Marketing, so the “unsolicited” variety would be spam. Essentially it applies to sharing a link that generates an amount of interest that isn’t strong enough to entice the reader to make the effort to click it and listen to what they very well might not care for.

      • On Twitter, DM means “direct message”, or a private message sent to someone who is following you on Twitter. If the person is not following you, you can’t send them a DM.

        There are ways to automate direct messages to your Twitter followers, but “auto DMs” are often seen as spam, and if used, should be done thoughtfully.

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