The majority of artists despise branding, marketing and social media. Why put a label on music? Surely that distracts the listener from the actual music? People should want to listen to your music, right?
If you started reading this post with this cynicism, then I pose these questions to you: How can you convince people to listen to your music if you don't have any way to communicate with them? How can you put across the actual music without finding a way of playing it to them? How can you expect people to spend money on you when they have no idea what they're paying for?
You're not going to like it, but I know you know the real answer: you can't.
A lot of critics have written about the rise of Amanda Palmer and how she has conquered social media, building a mass army of supporters. I'd be a fool not to mention her in this post and you'd be a fool not to read up on the analytical articles trying to explain her success.
To give you some background, she raised $1.2m to record an album and do a tour through a kickstarter campaign. Many bands have since tried and failed with this method, but, as David Emery points out on the matter, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another.
Exact methods aside, Amanda Palmer's approach to social media is simple and evidently highly effective: it's all about the human touch. She tweets about her life, and interacts with her fans and anyone she comes across. She brands herself to be all loving and all trusting.
As an artist, you need to use every resource to be able to have a financially sustainable career. It's not good enough to tell your friends, family and the occasional stranger in the pub that you can't imagine a life without music; you need to prove it.
Perception is reality
The trouble with branding is that you inevitably create a stereotype, which is a terrifying prospect. However, if you play your cards right, that stereotype could do you a lot of favours.
The initial questions that I drew your attention to the beginning focus on fear of misperception, in particular, fear that the brand will destroy the music. The media is powerful, the media could destroy you, but it would be your fault. YOU are the brand.
Keep up with the times
This time two years ago, I was doing a piece of coursework at Brighton Institute of Modern Music that required me to create a myspace music page based on the concept of branding. The majority of tutors at the time were fans of the saying: "Forget twitter, it's all about myspace." Three months later, they really regretted this.
Can you believe that the myspace hype was still going 2 years ago? Back then there were only a few ways to showcase your music: facebook, myspace, soundcloud, tumblr, youtube and twitter (if you really must). Now, we've got spotify, facebook, soundcloud, mixcloud, storify, instagram, vimeo, youtube, pinterest, twitter (if you're not on it, you're a fool) and many more.
It's a little daunting, but if you can learn to master an instrument, you can figure out the meaning of a few hashtags.
Your listeners are on these platforms, sharing their lives to their friends (or themselves). Give them your music to listen to while they browse: if they like it then they'll share it.
Neal Mann, Social Media and Video Innovation Editor of Wall Street Journal, frequently speaks of the importance of engaging with your twitter community. An example of this can easily be drawn from the efforts of Paul Lewis with his methods of researching and reporting the London Riots in 2011.
If journalists can gain followers and draw attention to themselves by writing about the sad facts about the world, surely musicians should be able to do the same, if not more, by writing nice 'don't-worry-be-happy' tweets?
Of course, there's only so far that 'listen-to-my-band-man' tweets can go. Just like journalists, you need to engage with your audience, find out what else they're listening to and show support to other bands.
Although twitter is the most powerful form of social media, every artist should apply the 'engagement' approach to a variety of social media platforms. Think about it, how chuffed would you be if an artist you loved responded to you? Regardless of your self-esteem, there is someone out there who would be made if you gave some of your attention to them.
Just do it
Stop making excuses and get on with it. If you feel that your music is worth the time of your listeners, prove it by spending some of your time showing it to them.
Top 4 social media tips for upcoming artists
1. Engage with your audience on twitter
2. Follow music journalists and organisations
3. Use instagram to give people a visual insight into your world - press feature photos don't cut it anymore
4. Keep your listeners updated on important information via facebook
Interesting articles mentioned during the article: