Academic Writing,

How Musicians Use Social Media.

October 01, 2016 Rebekah E. Goodall 0 Comments

Singer/Songwriters use social media in a particular way, different to the common user talking to and making friends through websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, and the like. Understanding already that success on YouTube, in particular, can hugely benefit a musical artist because views on music videos are counted as airplay by the billboard music charts, YouTube is then a great pathway to go down as an independent artist. What does the literature say about musicians using social media platforms; Twitter, Facebook, blogging and the video broadcast medium that is YouTube? What other benefits can an independent musician gain with a large, global following? How do these different platforms allow an artist to create an online community surrounding their music, and why should they use multiple websites to do so? 
The history of musicians and social media began as explained by Mjøs; “Artists have relied on physically promoting themselves, distributing flyers, fanzines, videos, and music on CDs and hoping that their music videos were shown on local or national television shows, but the emergence and take-up of social media have begun to influence their practice”. (Mjøs, 2012, p. 2). Social media allows artists to now promote their work, their music, tour dates, and events themselves. “By late 2010, electronic music practitioners had been active within the global social media environment for around five years. They first adopted MySpace around 2005 and then other global services such as Facebook and Twitter." (Mjøs, 2012, p. 2). This technology hasn't been available for longer than a decade, but it defiantly has a large impact on how musicians think and operate.
What Social media is usually used for can differ from how a musician might use it. “These sites (Facebook, Ning & LinkedIn) have evolved … and become a powerful way to remain in contact with your friends and even help make new ones.” (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, p.188) The common account is used to communicate across the globe, and make friends. (Lastufka & Dean, 2008) informs that when you have a large number of friends or followers on these platforms, what you then post can make a big impact. What you put online is shared further to people who are friends of your friends or followers, resulting in successful marketing. This is something that happens for musicians, and other accounts using social media, it is not exclusive to public figures. What is exclusively common in musicians, is hiring someone to run the online accounts for artists. Especially when they do not have the time to do it themselves, (Denis, n.d., para. 3).
How can musicians create or join their online community? According to (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, pp. 160-167), networking can be achieved on YouTube with video responses, collaboration videos, collaboration channels, contests, and YouTuber advocate channels. These are successful ways to gain attention from new people, and there are ample methods to use another if an artist finds one is not working right for them. What is important too, is keeping the audience's attention. Tom Law explains that he found community when he stepped back from only posting music to his YouTube channel. “I think it was the sole reason people knew who I was, they felt like they knew me”. Law explains why adding vlogs, with conversation, rather than just music, was received so well as an addition to his channel. “They were no longer buying music from a random guy on the street, the thought was then ‘oh, we know him, we have a relationship with him, we can interact with him’.” (Cook, 2013). What the literature says about growing a community surrounding an artist's music, to gain sales and recognition for the music, is in fact that putting the focus on the music is wrong. What the literature says is that the artist, themselves, is what the community should surround. Law says that he found sales growth when he showed his personality and ideas to his audience, through  open conversation. Communication can be very self-gratifying says Humphrey (Cook, 2013). Whether it is criticism or comedy people are there to tell you if they agree or do not think it is funny. Alex Day too, says this about the content on his YouTube channel. "There are many videos in which I don’t mention music at all and I think that that is a really good thing. (Cook, 2013). Open conversation is more inviting for potential new fans of a musician's content, than only presenting the music as a product. Consumers enjoy making friends with the creator before seeing them as a musician.
YouTube, in particular, has allowed musicians to make a living without having to approach a label; the traditional way, before the internet. "YouTube is a really good platform for musicians who want to have a career doing music but don’t necessarily want or need to get into the mainstream music industry," Charlie McDonald posits, (Cook, 2013). "Record labels are definitely dying out and I think we’re making a lot more money than they think we are," Brian O’Reilly adds, (Cook, 2013). As Day's song forever Yours was 4th in the UK charts on Dec 11, 2012, this too is an example of what a dedicated following can do for musicians in the place of a label. There are ideas too, about an audience getting upset if a YouTube-based artist becomes 'sold out' to the mainstream media, after they have followed the artist’s journey from an early stage, and before they had this success, (Cook, 2015). But once a musician gains a major following they should, in fact, approach a label, for growth in other places, such as getting their name onto billboards. “Think bigger than YouTube, but know that YouTube is an amazing thing that can help you,” Alex Day justifies, (Cook, 2013).
YouTube can open doors and new career opportunities for its content creators. Lagore explains that Smosh has branched out beyond YouTube with mobile and Xbox One Applications. Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellburg has received mainstream media attention as well, appearing on South Park, (Lagore, 2015, p. 225). It is not only within the social media websites where attention is given to a successful account; the creator is given recognition which spreads to magazines, national newspapers, and other mainstream media, (Cook, 2013). Grace Helbig's work  on her videos gave her the chance to work in conjunction with a multichannel network. She was again later afforded the opportunity to release a New York Times Best-selling book, (Lagore, 2015, p. 225). “YouTube personality Troye Sivan has been able to leverage his following to advance his music career”. As a result, his First EP, TRXYE, “debuted at No.1 on iTunes in 55 countries and made No.5 on the Billboard 200 a week later,” (Lagore, 2015, p. 226). YouTube has proven a very significant tool as many musicians choose to include it in their career path. Sivan, Day and Law have both had members of their following attend concerts and purchase their music, as a result of knowing who they are from their videos on YouTube. It’s important to create an engaging and invested community says John Green, Michael Dean, Tom Law, and Alex Day. The point of creating a community with your followers is “to make people care about you as much as, or more than, the music,” says Alex Day (Cook, 2013). It is really about building a relationship, and making friends with your audience, they declare.
Blogging on its own can become a well-paying occupation for those who can accumulate a large following, and understand how it functions as a significant part of the internet. “Blog posts can simply contain text or can offer an embedded video or an MP3 download of the music you used in the video,” (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, p.189). This means if a singer/songwriter has a blog, they can then offer their own music for download on their blog. "Every article you write becomes another portal through which potential fans can discover you," (Bolton, 2012). New articles, project updates, and other personal posts encourage readers to return, as well as allow new readers and fans to discover the musician through search engines. “Blog posts are easier for search engines to index than videos are. Search engines "love to read but can’t view videos,"  (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, p.189). Laustufka says text from a blog is worth more to a search engine such as Google, than the simple descriptions of YouTube videos. Text data is sent more quickly through the servers than video data which can take weeks to process, (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, p.190). (Bolton, 2012) explains that posting anything on Facebook or Twitter is in fact blogging but on a smaller scale. Content creators who post on YouTube are also blogging in video format, hence the name vlog: video blog. Having a website, (Bolton, 2012) says is the home-base of all other forms of blogging, and is where those profiles should direct to. The many other platforms use advertisements and pop-ups to other owners’ content. Therefore having a blog is ideal because one can control all of the content shown, including the design, content, advertisements, and follow functions. A blog is a place for a musician to have control over what their audience sees, reads, and is linked to. Theses sources say a blog is different from other social media in this way, as musicians can write about anything they please and make it their own regulated place on the internet.
Facebook works for musicians in methods unlike a blog of YouTube. (Smith, 2012) explains that through learning to use other social media platforms, initially, Facebook has proven to be difficult to understand; as it operates very differently. (Hyatt, 2015) cites that the expected engagement on a fan page is from 6% of the people that follow the page. This is very little and is detrimental to a musician wanting to share news with all of their fans at once. Hyatt goes on to explain why it is so hard to get many people to see posts, and that is because the site was designed for connecting with friends and family; not potential fans who do not yet have any association with the musician attempting to gain their support. This makes it very hard to gain new fans through Facebook. Facebook success depends on the EdgeRank algorithm, says (Smith 2012), which means the more engagement a post gets, the better their chance of it being seen by more people. (Smith, 2012) suggests ways to increase engagement of a post; including the use of square or portrait photos over landscape, posting lyrics, and encouraging comments with questions, and replying to them.
How Twitter functions in favor of singer/songwriters is different again from YouTube, Blogging, or Facebook. “Twitter also has proven useful for Helbig as a means of reacting alongside and engaging with her excited fans when announcements about a new project surface on days that she isn't scheduled to post a video,” (Lagore, 2015, p. 226). Twitter has a character limit of 140 per post, which is motive to having a blog, for longer posts. Twitter is subsequently used by musicians to share that a new video, article or music is available. (Dubber, 2013) agrees that Twitter is an important feature, additional to other platform use. It is secondary to a blog or YouTube channel, but it is useful as a means of notifying followers of new content through links and endorsement.
What the literature says of using all social media platforms, or having only a selection of accounts is this; "An artist could viably create 50 profiles and optimize search-ability online," (Denis, n.d., para. 5). Denis makes a point of how having many accounts can benefit an artist by improving their search results. She, however, advises having three networks on which to focus on at first. Other accounts can be made when the first websites are mastered in their use, (Denis, n.d.). (Lastufka & Dean, 2008, p.190) puts forward that “Any of those sites could be closed, purchased, or removed at any time. Websites come and go, and when they go, they usually take all their content with them." This is a reason to use multiple accounts on secondary platforms and hold complete control of one’s own website, blog or YouTube channel. Lagore also brings up that secondary platforms can be used to assist in other ways; “Helbig has used other social media -including Tumblr and Facebook- to source fan questions for Q&A style videos,” (Lagore, 2015, p. 226). Each has a different purpose as one should be an artist's home base on the internet, such as a blog website or YouTube channel, then others such as Facebook and Twitter should be used to traffic readers and viewers to it. These are the beliefs of Bolton, Denis, Dubber, and Lagore.
In conclusion, social media use is structured differently by musicians, focusing on one or two main platforms, and use of other websites is to promote new content on their blog or YouTube channel. Benefits of success online through blogging or YouTube can open opportunities for mainstream media coverage, and growth in sales. This comes from creating a community with one’s audience by opening conversation and encouraging engagement, through commenting back and growing the audience’s interest in the artist, not only their interest the music.

Resource List:

Bolton, C. (2012, January 23). Start a Blog | How to Grow Your Fan Base With A Blog [Web log  post]. Retrieved from

Cook, B. [ninebrassmonkeys]. (2013, May 3). Musicians on YouTube | BECOMING YOUTUBE | Video 8 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Denis, C. (n.d.). Social media and online marketing for musicians. Interview by Cyber PR Music. Retrieved from

Dubber, A. (2013). Radio in the digital age (4th ed.). Retrieved from

Hyatt, A. (2015, July 22). Social Media House Series - Part 3; Facebook [Video file]. Retrieved from

Humphrey, M (2011) ShayCarl's Epic Journey To YouTube Stardom, Forbes.

Lagore, J. (2015). pp. 224-229. In D. Coombs & S. In Collister (Eds.), Debates for the digital age: The good, the bad, and the ugly of our online world. Retrieved from

Lastufka, A., & Dean, M. W. (2008). YouTube: An insider's guide to climbing the charts. Sebastopol [Calif.: O'Reilly Media.

Mjøs, O. J. (2012). Music, social media, and global mobility: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube. New York: Routledge.

Smith, C. (2012). The Definitive Guide To Facebook For Musicians. Retrieved from

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