Social media has changed the way we discover, share and listen to music forever. There, I said it. Although it would appear that the music industry today is a collapsing giant, saturated with artists scrapping with all their might to sign a big record deal and get their records played, things are not as bad for new artists as it would seem. Whilst the collapse of the music industry as we once knew it may be true, in many ways the industry is now moving in a very positive and progressive way: fast paced; fresh; innovative; vibrant; and more importantly, is now very much in the hands of the artists and the fans themselves to push things forward and shape the industry. Certainly, in terms of the way we 'experience' new music, social media is fast becoming 'the' primary source. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, right now, as a result of the current engagement, activity and scope within social media, the music industry is an incredibly exciting place to be if you're a new artist.
In light of this, below are six ways that new artists can utilise social media to engage and interact with fans, raise awareness and create buzz around their content.
1. SoundCloud & the concept of the "social download" - SoundCloud enables fans and artists to quickly and easily upload their tracks, create a music player for their their track or album and then easily share and embed this player across any of their social media channels. The SoundCloud player can also be set to enable people to download the track directly from the player or share the player within their own Facebook page, on their blog or website, or post the link to Twitter. Essentially, the widget can pretty much go anywhere, making it a fantastic tool for enabling people to share an artist's tracks whatever their social network of choice. Another interesting feature of the SoundCloud player is that once the player is created, people can then comment on the track within the player itself as they listen to the song. Their comment is then integrated into the player and as more and more people share the track more and more comments pop up as people listen- almost transforming the player into a mini-social network of its own. More recently SoundCloud has also developed the concept of the "social download" through a new app enabling artists to distribute their track for free in exchange for a social interaction from their fans. For example, the track is posted by the artist along with sharing buttons for Facebook and Twitter, the fan is then given the option to download the track for free simply by sharing the track on their own social network. This is a fantastic example of the way social media can be used as currency and is certainly a useful way for new artists to reward their fans for interactions and engagement.
2. Blogging via WordPress / Tumblr - As the world of music blogging continues to grow more and more each year, creating and managing a WordPress or Tumblr blog is an absolute must for new artists. Essentially, blogging platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr provide artists with all the tools they need to quickly and easily set up, design and launch their own website, without the need to learn a raft of code or outsource to a web design company. Moreover, blogs are a hugely effective platform to not only engage and interact with fans but also engage with music bloggers and journalists, often resulting in a feature on other blogs or blog posts being shared and re-posted to multiple social media networks. All of which ultimately lends itself to a much-welcomed increase in visibility and a fantastic opportunity for new artists to build and develop a strong online fan base. Additionally, there is also a lot to be said for new artists that link up with tech-savy PR companies to help them take things even further within the world of blogging, as this can often prove to provide a fantastic push onto the radar of bigger blogs.
3. Foursquare / GetGlue - I'm convinced that we are not even close to seeing the best from location-based / check-in apps such as Foursquare and GetGlue yet. Especially when considering the huge potential that both apps present within the music industry as a way for new artists to interact and engage with fans on a new level. For example, artists can utilise Foursquare to extend the live show experience by integrating an exclusive Foursquare promotional offer alongside the live show. Fans checking in to a live show venue could be rewarded with exclusive tour-only tracks, live content or videos that would not be available elsewhere. Additionally, GetGlue can be used to reward fans for checking-in and sharing activities that relate to the artist, such as listening to new singles, albums or watching videos. Certainly, by enabling fans to unlock exclusive GetGlue stickers and promotional discounts, such as free downloads or free guest-list places to a live show is a fantastic way to utilise the current check-in trends to get fans interacting with the artist's content.
4. BandCamp - Through BandCamp artists are able to quickly and easily create their own online music store, where they can then create pages for all of their upcoming releases. Artists can upload singles or albums along with their artwork which BandCamp then creates widgets / players from. These players can then be embedded within Facebook walls, Tumblr posts and online sites enabling fans to stream tracks and post to their own social networks. However, what makes BandCamp such a fantastic social media tool is the feature for artists to distribute their music and downloads to fans through a "name your price" or (free) download option. Essentially, a BandCamp player can be posted to Facebook, shared across multiple fan Facebook walls with tracks then directly distributed to fans straight from the artist. Interestingly enough, even in a world filled with free downloads, a large number of fans, when given the option to "name their price" will pay for an artist's tracks. Not only this, but given the option, an even bigger number of fans will share or post an artist's tracks to their own followers - and it is this feature that really is changing the way new music is discovered and experienced.
5. Twitter - Through Twitter new artists can stay in touch with their audience, engage and interact with fans, build relationships with online music press and music bloggers, announce tours and news and give away exclusive links to new tracks. More recently we have also seen that more mainstream artists are taking note of the potential of Twitter by using their feeds to give away exclusive videos, images and mp3 downloads to their followers. Two great examples of this in particular are those of MIA and Kanye West. Creating a new music video on her smartphone, MIA Tweeted the video to her millions of Twitter fans rather than following the more traditional approach of launching a video. Additionally, Kanye West took to Twitter when it came to the launch of his latest "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" album, Tweeting album art, track listings, videos and even giving away a free track every Friday through his Twitter feed as part of his G.O.O.D. Fridays campaign. Needless to say, both campaigns were hugely successful. Interestingly, Twitter also presents the option for artists to utilise the "Tweet for a Track" app, whereby fans get a free download for Tweeting or posting an artist's track. Again, a fantastic way to both reward fan interaction and increase awareness.
6. Facebook - Facebook really is a perfect platform for discovering and sharing new music, and one that an ever increasing number of new artists are looking to now when it comes to interacting with fans and sharing their latest tracks. By setting up a Facebook page or BandPage and promoting these through other social platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, Facebook really can become a centralised place that integrates multiple online PR activities. For example, Facebook is a perfect place for artists to share their tracks via SoundCloud and BandCamp players, upload new music videos or behind-the-scenes studio footage, announce tours and news, and event create events and tour apps to give away guest-list places at live shows - pretty much anything you can think of. Most importantly, is the fact that much like Twitter, Facebook enables new artists to develop a much more personalised connection with their audience and interact with their fans in a way that wasn't possible before.
It's no secret that people love discovering new music and sharing their discoveries with friends - there's something particularly rewarding about being able to recommend a new artist before anyone else has heard of them yet and this sentiment goes way back. It's no surprise then that social media presents a fantastic opportunity for new artists to connect and interact with their fans in a way that didn't exist before. Making it easy for fans to share content is key and through new platforms such as BandCamp and SoundCloud artists really are able to get their music out into the big wide world. Taking the time to pull everything together and integrate multiple social media activities as well as nurture relationships with fans will ultimately lead to artists successfully growing their fan base in a way that up until recently really wasn't in the hands of the artist.