Do you know the story of Sixto Rodriguez? After releasing two albums that didn’t really take off in the early 1970s in the US, his label quietly dropped him. He ended up being a builder to make a living. Unbeknownst to him, he became a legend in South Africa; practically “bigger than Elvis”! As his fans in South Africa believed him to be dead, no one reached out to him until 1998. He finally did an unexpected comeback tour in South Africa (as documented in the excellent film Searching for Sugar Man, photo).

I don’t want to destroy any dreams here, but the bad news is: the likelihood that you are a local, undiscovered Justin Bieber somewhere in the world is pretty low nowadays. Then again, the good news is: the likelihood of attracting fans somewhere on the planet is higher than ever before.

Sure, the advent of digital music business and social media has created a highly fragmented environment. Fans as well as artists have to invest a lot of time to manage and visit different services. Artists are seeing their share of revenue from the creative process continue to decrease, while fans feel alienated from their former idols, due to the noise created by so many different services.

On the other hand, it has never been easier to make direct contact with people all over the world. Artists can use that to spread their message and to win fans anywhere. I hear you: managing social media channels is not among your top 10 most-liked activities and you’ve got better things to do (playing music, managing a band, finally inventing that time travelling thingy). But, hey: knowing where to find your core audience, reducing the necessary steps to reach them and finally understanding how to interact with them can make all the difference. So what’s the best way to get started?


1. Which services should I start with?

The music industry has always been one step ahead in terms of adopting new technology. Consequently, there are countless places where people are looking for their next favourite artist. The likelihood to be found and to find the right people certainly increases with the number of online profiles you create. We usually recommend starting with 3 services to get a feeling and enhance as soon as you feel comfortable.

After conducting interviews around the world with hundreds of music professionals who spend 10 hours or more on social media per week, we’ve found out that almost 100% of them have a presence on Facebook and Youtube. Twitter (94%) and Soundcloud (82%) are also used by the vast majority. Instagram (71%), WordPress (70%) and Tumblr (47%) follow.

If you’re comfortable with managing these decentralised services one by one, you should continue doing so, but if you’re curious on taking the next step and boosting your existing and new fan relationships, you should head over to FanCaptain.com, or to similar services, and try out their holistic approach on analytics and posting.


2. Which platforms should I focus on later?

That is the most exciting part. You should define by yourself your ideal fans and how you would like to interact with them. For example, if you want to be successful on Twitter, then you’d better use it as a communication tool, not so much as a broadcasting service.

Hence you should create accounts for the most common services, and then you will find out whether you’ve found your ideal fans there and whether they are attracted by your activities the way you’ve intended it to be. Big data products that analyse your online fans will help you understand your audience and benchmark your successes with comparable artists or equivalent fan demographics.


3. Sounds terribly like marketing bullshit…

Yes, indeed. I’ve heard people saying that being a great musician isn’t worth anything anymore. As if pushing the right buttons on your social media platforms is more important than pushing the right keys on your instrument. Obviously that is not true, it is still the content that makes people loyal fans. No one would expect a marketing manager to be a great singer (at least as long as he is not from Ireland. These guys are always expected to be great singers). People want musicians to create and play music. So do it and focus on that. Online music marketing doesn’t have to be pushy. It can be talking about people and things that inspire you, it can be giving insights on your daily routine. Why not just tagging and mentioning people you are working with and recommending other artists to your fans? Everyone will love you for that and they might start their own discussions that will create benefits for all. And if you’re on tour, the buzz will come almost by itself as soon as fans start talking about their experiences. It is not wrong to engage them to do so.


4. No time, no money, no effect?

Ok, it will take time anyway. Posting from one central tool to several platforms will at least help you save some time, as long as that tool offers you the chance to slightly adapt the original message to each platform, if you want to. Remember: sometimes you want to communicate differently on Twitter and on Facebook. Your fans will be grateful for that. And having grateful fans is exactly what you want. Social media is not necessarily about quantity, it’s about quality. As you attract a loyal core fan base, a real community around you that feels like home, you’ll have a modern street team: online and in the ‘real world’. They will be your free and true-blue promotion and sales force, converting others to join and to purchase. This is where sophisticated technology for big data comes in: network analysis allows  you to find out who your most precious super fans are from various standpoints. It is basically all about behaviour and who is interacting with whom:

– Credibility: Who’s connected to most of my other fans as a friend?

Reach: If I could reach out to only one fan, who should it be to spread word across as many people as possible?

Loyalty: Which fans that are the most loyal to me?

Consumer behaviour: Whom should I target when promoting certain products and who should I exclude in order not to make some fans leave?
Eventually, only artists with such  an engaged fan base will be visible to citizen journalists like bloggers and other tastemakers.


5. The best social media management tool…

…does not exist. It depends very much on your needs. Maybe you’d like to focus on posting, rather than managing media channels or analytics. Then you may pick something completely different than your colleagues. The same is true regarding the supported platforms. Many services today, including ours, help you spread your message efficiently and understand your audience.

Our industry is at the very beginning of exploring the possibilities of digital fandom. The opportunity to leverage knowledge through network analysis and graph algorithms is a particularly exciting domain right now. You are invited to join us and start using our beta: all feedback appreciated!


Tobias Schiwek is CEO of FanCaptain.


About Author

James Martin

James Martin is Head of Social Media for Midem organisers Reed MIDEM. This includes defining and rolling out Midem's social media strategy, editing midemblog, influencer outreach, developing Midem's fanbase of 75,000+ music professionals and more.

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