I just wanted to type up a quick post talking about what Radiohead have been doing recently to promote their new album – A Moon Shaped Pool – and why it’s awesome. I’m not even a massive Radiohead fan (don’t get me wrong, I like their albums, but they’re not one of my favourite bands), but even so, you can’t help but admire their marketing approach. There’s two sides to it that I want to talk about: going against the social media grain, and not making the album easily accessible…
The social media disappearance
I didn’t even realise that Radiohead were releasing a new album until a couple of weeks ago when half my Twitter feed shared articles about Radiohead’s social media disappearance, i.e. keeping their profiles/pages but deleting all old tweets and status updates.
I recently got into a bit of an… umm… ‘altercation’ with a South Wales-based business (who shall remain nameless) via Twitter. They followed me and then sent me multiple copied and pasted @mentions basically saying: “we’ve followed you, so the least you can do is follow us back.”
I politely told them that this wasn’t a good approach to social media, to which they replied telling me that while they appreciated the feedback, they were annoyed at me for doing it in a way that was public (i.e. not via DM or email instead). I informed them that in a social media space, others wouldn’t afford them that luxury (and would be a lot harsher than I was), and reiterated that I wasn’t having a go – I was only trying to help. They then unfollowed me (charming… but quite funny).
But it’s true. I wasn’t having a go. I was trying to help. I was speaking from experience.
You see, my first ever online marketing campaign – years before I got my start in SEO – was for myself, as a solo musician. In early 2006 I released my first CD (Bad River, a 5-track EP) and wanted to promote it online. So I did it via the social media website I was most prominent on at the time: MySpace (my MySpace profile is still there by the way).
If you’re obsessed with music as much as you’re obsessed with the SEO industry then hopefully you’ll like this post…
For those unfamiliar with Last.fm, it’s a service that “scrobbles” your plays from your devices, working with all the usual suspects: Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp, Spotify… a full list (of apparently 600!) can be found here.
After befriending a few SEOs via my profile, I thought I’d put together a list of SEOs who actively use the service!
Want your profile added to this list?
If you’d like to be added to the list, please tweet me, email me or leave a comment below. Here’s the criteria though:
You must work in SEO (or at least something closely related: digital marketing, inbound marketing, etc.),
Your profile must’ve seen some activity within the last 30 days,
Both individual and agency profiles are welcome (e.g. if the latter is an office playlist).
I’m happy to add everyone/anyone who gets in touch, but given the industry that we operate in, if it seems like you’re only doing it to get the link(s) then I might still say no…
Anyway, here we go… Individuals first (alphabetical by surname), then Agencies. Enjoy…!
Those of you who know me well will know that during my uni days at Lancaster Uni, I was heavily involved with the live music scene, both as a performer and as a promoter. A few weeks ago, I revisited Lancaster for the first time in years, after organising and hosting a reunion with some of the guys from LULUMS (Lancaster University Live & Unsigned Music Society).
While I was there, I got chatting to one of the bar staff in one of the local live music venues (who I’ve known for years – he used to work there when I was at uni and still works there now), who told me that the local live music scene has slumped considerably in the last couple of years. His reasoning? People have become lazy and social media – including Twitter and Facebook – is primarily to blame, as in his opinion, people would rather stay at home and mess around on social media than make the effort to come out and see some bands. I think his exact words at one point were: “social media is destroying live music.”
Before I continue, I’d like to say that I think it’s a bit of an extreme and outlandish statement (just a bit… hehe), but given my involvement with live/unsigned music as well as my background in online marketing and social media marketing (and the fact that I blog about both music and social media on here), I was curious to see what other people thought.
So I asked various musicians, merchandisers, marketers and journalists a question: “Is social media destroying live music?” Here are their answers…
Disclaimer – I originally asked for “tweet-sized comments,” but when I got John’s comment back (the first person I asked), I could see that asking people to limit writing on a subject that they were passionate about was a foolish thing to do! Therefore I’ve published their thoughts/comments in full, rather than cutting anything out or asking them to make their answers shorter.
I think it’s a bit more complicated than laying all the blame on social media. I think that live music is still alive and well in many places, but how it’s consumed has changed.
There are a lot of bands out there, and also a lot of venues and I think that live music has suffered a little due to a lack of quality control in certain places. The promoters and venues that consistently put on good bands, have a good PA system, don’t charge an unreasonable amount on the door, and treat bands well generally have thriving nights. Take A Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester – they’ve almost sold out of their first round of tickets two months before the event, and by putting on good bands in good venues and planning it carefully (as the name would suggest) they’re on for a very successful weekend.
Those that don’t do any promotion, will take any band that wants to make noise and don’t seem that bothered in actually making a good night tends to scare off people going to see live music, and I think you end up with a general opinion that local band nights are ‘rubbish’, which doesn’t encourage others to go. The nights that take advantage of bands with high ticket prices and the “you must sell 50 tickets” mantra also damage the live reputation in my opinion. If the band aren’t popular enough to sell 50 £8 tickets to people that aren’t their direct friends (which is what usually happens) they should be doing cheaper gigs that are based around established nights.
It’s such a fine balance between charging enough to pay for venues, promoters, sound engineers and also giving bands a few quid for fuel etc. and charging too much so that people won’t come.
This leads to a point where all but the hardcore live music goers are less likely to take a chance on a live night (due to cost/time) unless they already know the calibre of the band, and they’re guaranteed a decent night. I think this is why bigger gigs (like arenas and mid to large venues) thrive, because for your £10-£20 ticket you are almost guaranteed a decent performance, some entertainment, and a night that doesn’t suck. Smaller gigs suffer because they can’t provide this with such certainty.
This is where social networking and technology is useful – getting live videos, recordings and information out to fans and potential fans is crucial so that they can almost ‘vet’ you before they come.
I think a lot of bands don’t use social media enough, or they don’t use it well. You have to think of it as a band entity, an extension of the collective personality. I don’t want to follow a band that just tweets “We have a show here” and “Buy our single on iTunes”, I want them to have a bit of personality. Give me a good reason to follow you and I will do so.
For me, social media has given the band a platform to get our music heard without the backing of management or a record label. It has also enabled us to share demos and live recordings instantly, allowing our fans to get more from us than would’ve been the case before the world of Twitter/Facebook/SoundCloud.
However whilst the above has allowed us to build a ‘fan base’ online, I would liken it to how many of your Facebook ‘friends’ are true friends – the people you would have a drink with tonight. There will always be a difference between the number of people who like a band and the number who are able to attend gigs, but I believe social media skews this further. It’s easy to listen to a band on your phone, but it takes commitment to pay £5 and take your chances on new music on a wet Thursday night.
We are truly grateful for the number of people who have seen our band play and continue to come to our gigs, but I believe that social media deters those that ten years ago would’ve taken a chance to hear some new music live, as they can now listen to and enjoy it for free, in the comfort of their own homes.
For the individual, this is perfect, but for bands like us, we want to see people enjoying our music, getting drunk, running on stage and hell, just having a good night out with friends. In addition, the music venues need people through the door to make a profit and the recent closures of long-standing music venues such as Barfly Cardiff massively reduces the opportunities bands have to play live and strangles the local music scene.
In summary, the rise of social media makes it vital that a band utilises all avenues to share music and promote gigs, as this is how the majority of their target audience interact. Yet the very system that allows a band to become well-known locally is the same system that deters people from attending gigs and supporting live music.
The answer? Take a chance. If you like a band you’ve heard via social media, go and see them live. It’s highly likely that those also playing on the bill will be of a similar genre and you’ll discover bands you may never have heard by staying at home.
Ever since the start of the music industry as we know it, people have been concerned that the next new development will signal the death of live music. When radio first appeared people were concerned that nobody would go to see live music. Then vinyl meant everyone would stay at home rather than go out.
Of course, live music has peaks and troughs, but our desire to listen to music while surrounded by like-minded people is as old as humanity itself and isn’t going anywhere soon. And while the big record labels cry foul about downloading killing sales revenues, bands are just being ever more inventive about the way they money from their music. The music industry as we know it has been around less than 0.25% of the history of music. And while the industry may change, music will always be around.
The marketer’s perspective
Russell O’Sullivan – Digital Marketing Manager, Roland UK Web | Blog | Twitter
Personally, I don’t believe that social media, the music platforms, etc. are killing local live music, in fact just the opposite. Small venues, bands, musos, etc. should embrace the ability to connect with the wider audience in the environment that their fans are always in. If your target audience or potential fans are on FB then you have to advertise on FB, same goes for YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, etc. An added advantage, it doesn’t cost anything to invest time and effort on social platforms, whereas flyers, ads and so on are a literal cost.
The ability for a niche band or venue to create a wider fan base – not just in their local area but across the very linear Internet – is something that they need to get involved with and understand that it’s not going away.
More bands and artists have hit the headlines and have been successful over the last five years or so from singing into a camera in their bedroom, than pop up on the dire reality TV shows… so I think that says a lot in how the digital and social channel can elevate them into new audiences and hopefully success…
Social media can act as both an enabler and a barrier to whatever it engages with. The uses of Facebook and Twitter in respect to live local music seem multi-faceted: musicians, venues and promoters utilise it to promote their shows and themselves; an audience will often learn of local gigs through social media; and a buzz can most certainly be generated about a local band within these ‘virtual’ realms either in response to actual shows or to a band’s online promotion. So there are definite positives, especially if the underlying assumption in asking whether social media is destroying local live music is that audience members use it too often in order to attend shows. To me, that suggests it’s a viable tool to be utilised in promotion, alongside the age-old staples of word-of-mouth, postering and flyering.
That said, I do think an over-reliance on social media by local musicians, promoters and so on could be dangerous for the local scene. There is an inherent transience to the online realm; tweets come and go, as do Facebook statuses with many of them going unwatched or unnoticed. To rely on it purely without any further direct engagement with potential audiences assumes that, because people use social media, they will instantaneously turn up at your gig at the creation of a Facebook event. Though I can’t speak beyond anecdotes here, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Reprise (The commenters’ perspectives)
What do you think? Do you agree with the staff member of the live music venue in Lancaster who originally made the statement? Or do you agree with some of the comments above? Do you have a different perspective entirely? If so, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
[Smashed guitar image credit: Eva Rinaldi; all logos courtesy of each person’s/band’s/company’s Twitter profile, except for Roland UK’s, which was grabbed from here (with permission)]
My evolution as a music lover over the years has basically gone something like this:
1. Buy everything I like on CD
2. Listen to everything on Spotify instead
Since discovering Spotify two years ago, shortly after it came out in the UK, I have stopped buying CDs. I don’t need them anymore. I’ve also run out of space for them in my house, but that’s just an aside…
These days, the majority of my music-listening takes place on a computer, so Spotify is fine for that need. 90% of the music I like is on there. I’m a proud premium user: I hate the ads and I am an iPhone user, plus I used to spend £10+ per month buying CDs (that’s about one CD per month), so I’d actually argue that the Premium is a bargain in comparison.
Even so, there’s just two albums I really, really want to buy on CD at the moment:
1. Adele’s 21
2. Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs
Because they’re not on Spotify.
As I said, “90% of the music I like is on there.” Whatever the reason for that other 10% not being on there, I’d argue that it’s potentially a good move on their part.
The musician’s mission is the musician’s dilemma
As a musician myself (from way back when), I can personally vouch for the two words that describe the goal of the little-known, unsigned musician: maximum exposure.
If/when we can afford the time and money, we market ourselves in a particular way because it’s the norm in the industry: we have to record demos or a proper album; we have to get a website made; we have to get on MySpace (once upon a time), Facebook, Spotify and various other social/music sites. The more you do, the better chance you stand. The goal is to maximise exposure, and by doing some or all of the above, you are attempting just that. I know because I did it. I even got myself onto Spotify, even though I’d stopped playing live by that point (note: for the curious among you who want to have a listen via that link, it’s the two EPs – the albums are by a different Steve Morgan).
Of course, fully-fledged signed musicians can be more selective, which their label/agents/managers/etc. will be responsible for, and yet Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and more are all working with Spotify, according to Spotify’s Labels page.
Is this a bad thing? Yes and no, depending on how you look at it. No because it’s maximising exposure. Yes because it’s not profitable.
Spotify is not profitable to musicians. David McCandless’ infographic highlights the differences between Spotify’s royalties (£0.0012 per stream) and other ways a musician can earn money by selling their music. When Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” reached 1 million streams, the biggest news about it was the fact that she only earned £108 in royalties from it.
Pirates gonna pirate, but…
Arguably, tenths of pennies is better than nothing at all, say if someone were to download music illegally. Of course, if people are that way inclined, it’s likely that they’ll always download the stuff for free, regardless of whether it’s on Spotify or only available on CD.
However, what about those who don’t download illegally? Whether it’s a case of ethics, wanting to own ‘the real thing’ or they’re simply scared of ever getting caught, those who choose the non-piracy route (myself included) will want to hear the music by legitimate means. A CD might cost about £10, but Spotify membership is £10 monthly and I can listen to numerous albums without any ads interrupting. I know I’m basing a lot of this on my own experiences, but I’m sure I’m not the only one, and that a lot of Spotify users are in the same (or similar) boat at the moment.
So why wouldn’t a musician be on Spotify? It could be that their label hasn’t yet negotiated terms with Spotify, or maybe they simply don’t want to be on there. Adele’s latest album and Arcade Fire aren’t on there, so what’s the alternative? To buy the CDs or MP3s. If they were on there, I’d probably listen to them on there, without the need to buy the CDs.
Time for some quick maths: if I were to listen to the Arcade Fire’s album in full five times…
– It contains 16 tracks. 16 x 5 = 80. 80 x £0.0012 = £0.096, or £0.10 rounded up. 10p. Wow.
Now there is the assumption that someone could listen on Spotify and then buy on CD as well, but that will still depend on a person’s needs. Someone might buy the CD so that they can listen to it on a proper stereo, in the car or so that they have the physical copy, but if someone can listen to an album for cheaper or for ‘free’ (depending on their type of Spotify membership), they probably will. Fair enough if you do, but why buy the CD if you don’t need to?
Profit comes from demand, demand comes from desire
I’m not saying that musicians have to become capitalists, plus there are other ways musicians can support themselves (e.g. touring and merchandise), but let’s be fair… The way the music industry is heading at the moment is ridiculous, with musicians expecting to pay money to record and release music that people will then listen to free or for a pittance – Spotify’s low royalty fees are reflective of that. That said, it can be argued that that’s a result of there being too much ‘supply’ and not enough demand: i.e. lots of people playing and recording music, with listeners only being able to invest so much of their time and money into a finite amount of music. Even if they are a fan of dozens or hundreds of different artists.
So what’s a musician to do? In the case of Adele and Arcade Fire, people who’d usually do all their listening via Spotify will be more inclined to buy a CD. For once, not achieving maximum exposure via every possible outlet might actually be beneficial to them, in that it forces people down a particular route, which might require spending more money than listening via a cheap or free alternative.
But then that’s easy for big artists like them, who are supported by big record labels. What about the small fry – the little guys – the unsigned? Well if you make all of your music available via Spotify and similar services, then less people will want to buy your CD. So give them a reason to want to buy: maybe only make your music only available via CD and at gigs. Create excitement. Create demand. After all, if you offer everything, people will gladly take everything.
Easier said than done maybe, but at the end of the day, if people want something that they can’t have for free, they’ll pay.