There are many ways to use social media for musicians. Some famous stars have been successfully creating music marketing explosives. The more unexpected the campaign, the bigger the chance to get media attention. The difficult part is the idea. What is it you can do what others didn’t?
It’s not enough to just be on Facebook and Twitter these days. And it’s not enough to just release an album and go on tour. The current art world puts musicians on a challenge and expects new innovative forms of communication. Unusual social media for musicians is fun and has proven to work.
#1 Create a game around your new record
This example shows social media for musicians not only includes Facebook posts. Back in 2007 NIN came up with, what media back then called, a “multifaceted Internet scavenger hunt”. “Year Zero” is the 5th NIN studio album; that came out on April 17th, 2007. But a few months earlier the band and its management started a very peculiar online campaign with the same title. It all began with fans discovering highlighted letters on NIN tour T-shirts that spelled “I am trying to believe.” Web-savvy fans added a “.com” that led them to a thought-provoking website. The 42 Entertainment-created website showed contemporary policies of the United States government by presenting a dystopian vision of the year 2022. The “Year Zero” was an alternate reality game, which encouraged players to get involved both online and offline by using their imagination in reaction to the seen. The hidden messages were widely discussed on forums and media. The buzz was growing as the fans were discovering more and more of the dark future on various websites. Part of this promotional campaign involved USB drives with the new songs that were left at concert venues for fans to find during Nine Inch Nails’ 2007 European tour. The largest US newspapers were talking about this game, while Trent Reznor was saying:
“The term “marketing” sure is a frustrating one for me at the moment. What you are now starting to experience IS “year zero”. It’s not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record – it IS the art form… and we’re just getting started. Hope you enjoy the ride.”
The unusual game lasted 18 months; keeping the fans intrigued from all over the world. Such a great mix of offline and online media combination was not only ground-breaking but also extremely electric.
#2 Surprise the fans with a new record or free download
In 2013 Beyoncé released an album without a marketing campaign. A self-titled record appeared on iTunes as a huge surprise to all fans. There was absolutely no prior media buzz. After the release Beyoncé shot 17 videos across the world, all available for purchase. David Bowie came with a similar surprise after ten years of silence. It was a birthday present on his 66th birthday to his fans. Bowie released a video to a song “Where Are We Now?” giving it away as a free download with pre-order of his new album. “The Next Day” became Bowie’s first number 1 album in 20 years.
Even young bands can do similar tricks, just less spectacular. Secret small gigs are always a great treat. Where and how you do them makes a big difference. Fans need a feeling of exclusiveness. It creates the urge. There is always a way to do common things differently. Instead of releasing the whole album at once, why not release a new song each month, announcing it via Facebook, Twitter or Soundcloud?
#3 Include fans in your work
How to make social media talk about you? There are many known ways and some more to discover. A Swedish club DJ Avicii launched a campaign in partnership with Ericsson, to create the world’s first ‘crowd-sourced’ hit song. He made his fans feel special, by allowing them to contribute to the single. Fans sent bass lines, effects, melodies, rhythms and vocals to Avicii for him to edit and release as a finished track. He also marked his three millionth Facebook fan with the track “Three Million”. How would you feel if the song was dedicated to you or contained your piece of creation? Exactly, you feel extremely valued and share the song like crazy. Avicii used social media to build a loyal fan base, which shows the great power of the Internet and its endless possibilities.
#4 Let fans do your video
Several musicians, like Placebo, David Lynch, The Mars Volta and many others, have given fans a chance to make a music video for a band’s single. As a fan, you feel forever marked in a music history. Social media here plays the main role again, as the videos are being uploaded online and voted by others. In addition, it creates a lot of other people engagement, through comments and content being shared. Warner Music Nashville/Atlantic Records recording artist Hunter Hayes ran a YouTube campaign, which enlisted a range of ‘Youtube Stars’ to post their own versions of his song, “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me”, with Hayes and Justin Mraz creating a mash-up of the videos in a one-shot music video.
“This unique approach to filming YouTube material for a song meant that Warner Music Nashville could run a lengthy campaign that engaged significant numbers of music fans.”
– Says IFPI Digital Music Report 2014
#5 Manage social media channels yourself
What does social media for musicians mean except using Facebook and Twitter? Using modern social media tools can cause real emotions. Just like Katy Perry’s “Roar” lyric video. It expresses the text through emoticons, which are so familiar to most of us. This video has reached 360 million views on YouTube alone, with Katy Perry being the most followed personality on Twitter. Why so? Katy is being very authentic. She does it herself, sharing images from her daily life or dropping Questions and Answers tweet. Social media takes time and usually being managed by online marketing experts, but those musicians who run the platforms themselves, get more fan attention. It can be really weird to read
Social media takes time and usually being managed by online marketing experts, but those musicians who run the platforms themselves, get more fan attention. It can be really weird to read Facebook posts that are written from a third-person. It gives an alienated feeling; there is no personality inside. Such wild Facebook profiles like Die Antwoord and Peaches grab your attention because they speak in first-person. They are extremely open about who they are, what they do and think. Their edginess is genuine.
Arcade Fire made a very interactive music video for the song “We Used to Wait” implementing Google Maps. With HTML5 help users were asked to enter their childhood address in the beginning of the video. What happened next was that you saw the street view from your old neighbourhood! It is innovative, nostalgic, emotional and simply cool.
#6 Talk to followers as friends
Another musician who uses social media very proactively is Amanda Palmer. But for her, this is not a medium of advertising, but rather a way of talking to people. She is a brave performer both offline and online. Facebook and Twitter are her main choice to discuss essential topics. And this is how she built an intimate bond with her fans. For her these are friends and not just a growing number of fanatics. It’s the attitude, that makes Amanda Palmer so phenomenal.
She is a crowd-funding pioneer, a TED speaker, and simply an inspirational personality. Amanda is an artist to follow and get inspired. After she left her label she raised $11,000 for a T-shirt idea in a few hours! Twitter was the place where it all started with a hashtag #LOFNOTC that stands for “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Voila, it ended up on a t-shirt.
“I’ve gotten to know myself. As a creator, as a songwriter, and as a recording artist, I thrive on instant gratification and a direct mainline to my audience without having to go through labels, distributors, the machine, the mass media. I love making things and INSTANTLY sharing. And I know my fanbase: you’re smart, kind, supportive, future-embracing people.”
– says Amanda.
Find an exclusive way of communication, load the social media gun, shoot! There is no school for that, there is only you talking to the world. And how you do it, is really up to you. Believe me, social media for musicians can do magic.