Facebook and Social Media Versus the Modern-Day Band

I remember when I first began trying to market the humble music I was writing. The tools and outlets at the disposal of today’s songwriter/band are countless and potentially useful. While many of these tools do indeed aid in the development of countless bands around the world — social networks, easy-to-build websites, YouTube, Reverb Nation, etc. — they also sneakingly make things a lot more difficult; at least in terms of “getting noticed.”

I speak as if I know some secret to decoding the labyrinth of attempted musical success. Rest assured, I don’t. However, I do have some modest experience trying to navigate the said labyrinth. The fact that I’m currently stuck in that labyrinth with supplies running low and no way out in sight is a fact you, my reader, should at least have a passing awareness of. The meat of this piece is as follows: despite their apparent effectiveness, social networks actually hurt our percentages at cracking that vault of musical success. Notice I said it hurts our percentages, not our music. On a case by case basis, it helps each of us, at least in our own little corner. I’ll elaborate.

My music, or anyone else’s not currently enjoying popularity, is most certainly aided by these social networks. There is no way around admitting to that fact. Mine certainly has been helped. So, on a case-by-case basis, we benefit. Even further, there are indeed bands that have found astronomical success due to these networks: Justin Bieber on YouTube, Fleet Foxes on Myspace, etc. –Congratulations, reader, you have just read one of the approximate six pieces on the entire internet giant where Justin Bieber and Fleet Foxes are used in the same sentence. However, when you leave the “case-by-case” scenario and start looking at the big picture, the scene darkens for most of us independent musicians.

Suddenly, thanks to YouTube, Facebook, and whatever else is your soup de jour of social media, everyone that ever picked up a guitar and played “Wonderwall”, feebly poked “Fur Elise” on a piano, or sang a Disney song in the shower (admit it, you’ve done it) now has a Facebook page to be “liked,” a YouTube channel to be watched, and a music destiny to be fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begrudging anyone’s right to take full advantage of these tools, I’m simply saying to overlook the complications having this many fish in the sea creates is to overlook an important fact to try and navigate through.

Social networking has brought some phenomenal improvements for the fans.The general concept of these improvements can be seen nicely in Alexandra Topping’s article found here.

Back to the fish in the sea analogy. Let’s say the big fish are the “good” bands and the little fishies are the “not so good,” or “still developing,” bands. The fisherman can be whoever you want him to be: potential fans, record labels, bar owners, etc. As Topping mentions via Dave Haynes of Soundcloud, “Social networks were putting the power of discovery into the hands of fans.” While, on the whole, I think this is a good thing, gifting the power of discovery to the fans also inherently assumes those fans are going to want to do the extra work to find new music. For us musicians, that should be a scary assumption to make given the current generation’s general ADD concerning the music they listen to. You don’t have an album to make an impression, you have a song. You maybe only have a clip. No matter what, your window to impress seems to shrink with each passing year.

Again, with that many more fish in the sea, the chances the fisherman is going to catch the one fish you want him to are all the more slim. That being said, those of us attempting to make a noticeable impact in the music world amidst the social networking boom aren’t alone. Social networks have caused virtually the exact same, for lack of a better word, predicament in most of the other major media outlets: film, gaming, literature, etc. We’re all in the same boat.

This piece isn’t any type of complaint against the way things have developed, just simple observations from someone that is fascinated by how it all works, and continues to try and massage it to his advantage.

After all, stardom is just a YouTube video away.

Brian is an active musician and songwriter with the band Something With Trees and spends a lot of his time perusing around the music world in one form or another. Follow his music blog if you’d like. He also contributes occasionally to Paper Trail Music; an indie music blog out of Brooklyn.

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