The Lovely Bones (of contention)

Hello there.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. It’s been a while since I’ve posted there. Anywhere, in fact.

Music has taken a bit of a back-seat of late, as has my social media activity. As we approach the end of a long and sometimes arduous academic year, I’m looking forward to time away from my real work life and more engagement in music, friends and family. This means that my Twitter presence and Facebook status will probably be ‘on hold’ for a while, or at the most, minimal. The odd post about music or art will probably surface occasionally though.

Also, I’ve set up a Tumblr page. That’s going to contain random ramblings about (mainly) non-music related stuff and some half-arsed photography.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking. Yes, I know…..it’s a dangerous thing. But I have been having some thoughts about music/promotion/social-networking. The issue is a bone of contention and one that didn’t really exist ten or fifteen years ago. It’s all new….. as we, as musicians and particularly as independent/DIY musicians, try to come to terms with old certainties not being so certain any more.

Here’s a post about Facebook. This is what got me thinking.

Hmm, interesting? Nearly. But here is where I start to get a bit sceptical. Y’see, the thing is; I’m not sure whether Facebook and Twitter really work any more. I’ll try to make sense of this as I go along……bear with me. There’s also going to be a fair bit of honesty included in this post which may lose me some ‘followers’ or ‘likes’.

I’m a musician who likes, and whose music requires, a fair degree of anonymity. I’m not sure that I really need to connect personally with my audience. My music is not really personality-based. It’s evocative, perhaps. It’s ‘cinematic’, maybe. But it doesn’t rely on my being there, giving great gig. Or being directly associated with my instrument, like guitarists for instance, or jazz musicians.

I don’t mean that I don’t appreciate my listeners, or that they don’t matter. Actually, I’m all too aware that the opposite is true. But I don’t play live, I don’t really photograph myself, I don’t feel any compulsion to share any aspect of my personal life with daily tweets about what I’m doing on a minute-by-minute basis. I do share stuff I like. But this is infrequent and absolutely inconsequential.

I do connect with some people on Twitter and Facebook….and, except for distance and time, these are people who I would happily meet to chat and discuss and laugh with. But these people are few and far between.

So, as a musician, what does soc-net (social networking….in case you didn’t figure that out) mean? The promised land of Twitter and Facebook is a duplicitous one. Unless you use it personally also; though, even then, it’s still a bit of a facade. It could be summed-up thusly:

“I like cake; I like ‘Alien’; I’m sharing a video; be my friend; now listen to my music.”

The idea of musicians ‘keeping it real’ and being ‘authentic’ due to their use of Twitter, for instance, is a misnomer I think. At least it is presently; it wasn’t always the case. But there’s a certain amount of cynicism in me now that makes me think bands and other artists are ‘interacting’ only to expose their music. That’s why they (‘we’) set up Twitter accounts under our band names. But then we claim to be there to interact and connect in an authentic way. In some ways, it was better to just go the old route and rely on labels/promoters to do the promotion. It was more honest.

As for Facebook, as the article says, it was ambivalent to musicians until fairly recently. Now, it seems to be about numbers. The more ‘likes’ you have, the more people see your posts. But how many people actually listen to/buy/like your music? I don’t have access to statistics (and I don’t necessarily trust them), but I assume only a fraction of your likers/followers actually listen to your music.

Just one more point. The problem with DIY is that anyone can do it, though not everyone is successful at it (including me). With articles like the one above in existence, and other ‘How To’ guides, it levels the playing field a bit too much.

The secret to success becomes useless once it’s no longer a secret.

Now, I am playing devil’s advocate here. I genuinely feel that much of the above is true; but I am also generalising wildly. There are musicians who genuinely interact well, and honestly, with fans. In fact, the success of their music relies on it. That, and good music. And there’s the crux…… at the end of the day, no amount of social networking can help you if your music is shit*.

In conclusion, I don’t think social networking is the ‘bright new way’ to promote your music any more. It’s in a transitional phase at present: still in its infancy in some ways, but also not so novel, not so new. Audiences, unless they’re supremely naive, can see through promotional ploys and I’m not talking about out-and-out spammers/blanket tweeters; but that in itself could be seen as a more honest way of promoting music…..just not very clever….and very, very irritating! Now, there’s a bone of contention for you.

 

*Shit = plagiarised, derivative, lacking in artistic merit, y'know....shit.
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