The Cost of Using Social Media As a Soapbox for Indie Artists
THE COST OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA AS A SOAPBOX FOR INDIE ARTISTS
As I peruse the Twitter landscape with the recent elections that happened, I see lots of political talk and some very extreme views being posted by artists that are trying to grow a fan base. These same artists also are always commenting on how they are losing or can’t keep followers. Their numbers barely grow for the important fans they need and the impressions to attract the interest of endorsements and labels.
The problem with politics or religion is that half of the people believe one way and the other half believe the other. If you, as an artist, come out with your views and are upset or mad based on the current political climate, you risk alienating part of your current fan base or potential fan base.
A lot of artists will point out people that have made it in the past and have had several political hits, so let me address that. Number one, this is a different day and age. This isn’t the time of the Vietnam War, and number two, most of those artists that have been pointed out were already established and had a fan base. It’s much easier to point out the exception to the rule than to be the exception.
Musicians tend to express themselves much better through their music and not 140 character rants on Twitter. If you truly believe you are a great songwriter, then let your music do the talking and put your message out there. Let your music plant the seeds of your messages and change the world in the way that suits you the most. Music is the most powerful medium there is, so take advantage of it! It is easier to attract people with honey than it is with bitterness. Don’t alienate your potential artists for a rant box. Be professional and use your music to convey your message.
If you truly need another outlet to express yourself besides your music, create a separate Twitter account and rant there. Don’t associate it with your music account or other music professionals who may support you, work with you or endorse you. You have a responsibility to them and their image as well. Not everyone believes as you do and they don’t want your rants reflecting on them. Marketing is very important and so is your voice so do both smartly and effectively.
You as the artist have to decide what is more important. So ask yourself – do you want to be heard for your opinions or your music? Is your opinion more important than the career you are trying to develop? In the entertainment industry, you have to be careful about alienating yourself before making a name for yourself. Is your personal crusade affecting that?
Yes you can niche market to people with the same beliefs as yours, but what are your goals, how much money do you need to make to survive and are you just singing to people who already agree with you, or are you trying to change the world?
Excellent! Should be required reading for all aspiring artists/entertainers.
Great – Its hard to believe people dont grasp this concept.
oh especially those negative rants
Well … if you happen to be Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul and Mary or Phil Ochs or Tom Paxton or Joan Baez or Mark Spoelstra or …
If you had read what I said in the blog, i had addressed that. That was a very different time when speaking out against something was encouraged and most of the country wrong or right felt the same way. This isn’t then and they were the exception. MUCH harder to get discovered and signed being to vocal about something. Let your music do the talking.
Oh my goodness, I suddenly have this tremendous urge to rant (having been told I shouldn’t) but I won’t!!! :o) Thanks for the good advice, as always.
I respect your expertise in the music industry and the pertinence of your advice for artists and entertainers. However, I think your sound, clear advice spans far beyond those boundaries.
I run into people frequently who must have taken a course called “Market Yourself by Creating Controversy.”
Okay, yes, it’s true that there is a potentially-viral or attention-getting element to creating controversy and shouting loudly from a bully-pulpit soapbox. But unless that controversy is in support of some basic human need or truth (and then, I’d question whether it’s truly “controversy”… is anyone who’s sane or moral *not* against genocide, or breast cancer?) the strategy is generally flawed for those who look to garner a large following or fan base. Especially if the purpose of the speaker is not politics, media, or addressing the soapbox issue at hand.
In short, unless the controversy *IS* your message, it’s smarter to avoid it, and avoid alienating a large portion of the potential audience for your real message.
So, whether you are an entertainer, a small business owner, a blogger, or an Internet Marketer, there are many better ways to engage an audience, attract a following or fan base, and spread your real message (your music, your marketing, your writings). We suggest doing so with kindness, with humor, with a helpful “Pay It Forward” spirit. Again and again, we’ve seen those qualities attract good people like magnets attracts iron.
By the way, in case there are detractors who may cite this as disingenuous, it’s far from it. I have political beliefs. I have an opinion on most controversial topics. When appropriate, I share my opinion through voting, or in ways that I feel might produce real change. But if you follow me on Twitter, where we market our small business, you certainly will not know what my opinions are. And nor should you.
Keep up the great work, David. I’m glad we connected with you on Twitter.
Mike (& Kali) Kunkle
DreamWorthy Gifts LLC
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Mike and Kali,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and respond to it:) I appreciate the kind words and am glad we hooked up as well!
Yes, yes yes – you catch more bees with sugar than vinegar 🙂 Common sense really. If you must express your personal opinions have a separate web persona where you do that – but don’t mix personal with business. That is hard for artists though who see their art as personal rather than business.
It is easier for someone like me who started out online as an entrepreneur and then branched out into being an online poet. I started from a position of ultra-caution and then slowly loosened the constraints. Trickier in the other direction.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment on it. I appreciate your opinion and look forward to more comments!
I think is great advice if your goal is to gain public validation, have your ideas be shared only as a means to gain favor or if you prefer fans who like you for who you aren’t. If you are none of the above, then this advice is just another route on how to manipulate your audience by muting who you are. If you have beliefs and they are truly yours, what difference does it make if they come from your mouth sung, spoken or typed? The one kernel of truth will always remain true– everyone will NOT like you or your music. Why try to win fans who will not appreciate who you really are?
To actually make a living doing music, you need as big an audience as possible. You have to earn the right to speak into their lives. You play the averages to make a living. Once you have an established base you can open your voice a bit more and speak your mind. If you do, you always run the risk of losing an audience, but possibly always gaining a new one. This is general advice on how to increase your chances of making a living at music. If you plan is to be vocal about your beliefs, then you severely limit the chances of making a good living. It’s much more likely to happen after you already have a successful platform. Most people don’t really listen to music to hear a “message”. They listen for fun. You have to decide what it is you want out of your career and go for that. Just realizes the choices you make and the consequences of them.
I enjoyed reading this post and especially appreciate the subsequent comment by Stella and the response to it. By understanding our vision and outlining our goals clearly, we can make the choices that are right for us at any given point in time. One thing I want to add is that affiliating yourself with a cause is something I suggest doing with authenticity. Many artists use benefits as a marketing tool. And that’s not to say that it is wrong, but I feel that affiliating yourself with a cause SOLELY for marketing reasons is a bit disingenuous…at least to me – unless you disclose your intentions and reveal the win-win proposition clearly to the organization and your fans.
Also, if you are out there supporting every cause on the planet to get attention, then I think you might be sending a confusing message. In this case, I feel that starting with your heart and then applying your art is a good strategy. Pick something that matters to you if you plan to be its champion. And if you affiliate yourself marginally with other causes or partner with other artists in supporting something, I feel that it can be helpful if the cause and the missions of the other artists align with your vision or some personal experience so that your reason for involvement is clear. Maybe it is something affecting your local community or it is related to some family experience or it is something you’ve researched and you’ve decided to support it.
Just be aware that some things like cancer research may be more palatable to a wider group of people than some other causes. Be aware of which ones you want to share with your audience and which ones you prefer to pursue in a more anonymous fashion, perhaps.
Finally, try to make it possible for fans to buy some of your merch without tying the sales to a cause. At least give them the choice. I have met fans who don’t want a percent of CD sales to go to any kind of cause. They don’t want to feel like they are roped into supporting a particular cause just because they want to buy music from an artist. One solution for this is enabling organizations you want to support to offer their members a chance to buy your CD. You can give some or all the money from member sales to the organization. Also when people pay for things, I think they tend to value it more (though I know when it comes to music, this is a huge debate). Still if the teachers at your local school pay $10 for your music, they have the satisfaction of knowing that money is going to the school and they get to listen to your music. So that’s something that can be approached in multiple ways and enables you to have to avoid marketing the cause to your entire fanbase or making every person who buys your CD automatically have to support something that matters to you. Just ideas.
I am writing this second post because I meant to subscribe to follow-up comments when I submitted the previous one and I forgot.
I respectfully, yet completely, disagree with you.
As you say, to be successful as an artist, you have to build a large audience. To build a large audience, you have to go where the people are. The people are on the social web, so artists MUST be there.
What you’re really calling for is common sense. I have a broad Twitter following. I’m entertaining and interesting. I don’t get too political or religious or “too” anything. That’s common sense for ANYBODY on the social web and especially artists. So yes, if they’re always on the brink of a John-Mayer-esque breakdown in common sense, stay off. But if you have a little self-discipline, there is no better way to spread your art and connect to your fans than through the social web.
There are some people who have political beliefs, but like to keep quiet about them. I’m one of those people when asked, I just respond, “I’m an author, so I doubt my opinion on such issues would count for anything. Therefore, I decline to comment.”
The wide as net as possible conflicts with 99% of all marketing methods… granted there is a difference between targeting a niche vs alienating a wide swath. By the same token, it would seem more productive to capture a few passionate fans than twice as many lackluster ones, at least from a future potential and growth thing. Alas, one still has to eat in the short term.
One of the greatest lessons my dad ever taught me was the concept of learning the proper time and place for things. Words, thoughts, actions… “Can’t sew seed when the wind is high” he’d say. “It’ll scatter and never take hold. Be patient until conditions are right for planting. Make it count”.
Thanks for the nice read, David. Appreciate the resources you all kindly provide. All the best!
Thank you for reading my blog and the kind words! Sometimes common sense seems to have been thrown out the window. Change only comes when people trust you and give you license to speak into their lives whether personally or through music.
Good post – as much as I’d like to think I can separate my entertainment from my opinions, I’m not that talented. I have found myself thinking about a person’s politics when trying to enjoy their writing, music, acting, etc. So, I figure my audience is the same. I want them to read my writing without any distractions. Even if the distraction is ME!
Thanks for reading it! Even for me, when I read an artists policital stance, if I don’t agree with it, it may cause to me to lose interest in this artists music. It is hard to separate the two. When an artist is starting out, it can be devastating to developing a fan base as it potentially alienates half of your potential listeners.
If your band is political in nature or one that has a fair amount of “messages” then that band has to learn how to tap into that market of PR that promotes that agenda to maybe help get the word out to a market that may appreciate them.