Why Musicians Need To Do More Than Make Music

In the last week, I’ve talked with Jordan Kawchuk (Producer of the Radio 3 video podcast, R3TV) and Grant Lawrence (Champion of Canadian music and web radio/satellite radio/podcasting host) before they spoke at panels about  ‘web 2.0’, ‘music 2.0’, and ‘the youtube era for musicians’.  Jordan spoke to a group at the Western Canadian Music Awards and Grant was moderating a great panel at CMJ in New York – thousands of miles away, but both organizers wanted a lot of the same advice for artists.

This makes me think that there’s a lot of musicians who are still daunted by the prospect of all the tools available to them on the web, who aren’t sure what kind of content they’re supposed to create with them, and who don’t understand why they’re so vital to their future success.

Whether you’re signed to a major label, signed to an indie label, or making music in your basement, you need to do more than make music and put it on MySpace (and New Music Canada, of course 🙂 ).

Here are the basics.  I’ll have more detailed thoughts on creating relevance and credibility online in the coming weeks.  But the price of entry is this:

You need to blog.  You need to use Twitter.  You need to use Flickr. You need to use Youtube – and not just for posting your music videos.  You need to participate in communities and comment on other people’s blogs.

Why? You need to build a community, communicate directly to them without a filter, and empower them to help make your music and your other creative projects reach more people.

If you’re a music artist looking to get more people to hear your music, looking to tour more to places outside of your hometown, province / state, or want to sell more of your music, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a blog?
  • If so, are you posting daily?  Or at least weekly?
  • Are you on Twitter? (Do you know what Twitter is?)  Are your tweets creating value – ie: should I as a potential new listener care about what you’re tweeting?
  • Have you put anything other than a music video up on YouTube?
  • Have you put up any photos on Flickr?
  • Do you visit and comment regularly on the blogs of music fans (especially those who write about your genre of music – or even better, YOUR music?)
  • Are you using Facebook, MySpace, Upcoming, New Music Canada, etc to post your gigs, album releases, etc?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is ‘no,’ you’re missing a chance to connect with and grow your audience and community.  What are you waiting for?

14 Replies to “Why Musicians Need To Do More Than Make Music”

  1. I think it depends on the type of artist, the type of music, and the audience for that artist. For me, the point isn’t that you have to be on every social media platform, but to experiment and try and learn the ones that work best for you.

    The big music weakness for Facebook right now is that it’s not really designed for a pure music experience. There’s no built in music player for groups or pages (there are apps, but most artists don’t seem to be using them), so you can’t actually HEAR as much music as you can on MySpace. But, as you know, MySpace can be a navigational and design disaster – which is why Facebook’s consistent and easy user experience has overtaken MySpace for most people.

    Each one has something unique to offer and my advice again would be for artists to use both (plus NMC!) and then see which one(s) provide the biggest benefits and distribute your efforts accordingly.

  2. I think it depends on the type of artist, the type of music, and the audience for that artist. For me, the point isn’t that you have to be on every social media platform, but to experiment and try and learn the ones that work best for you.

    The big music weakness for Facebook right now is that it’s not really designed for a pure music experience. There’s no built in music player for groups or pages (there are apps, but most artists don’t seem to be using them), so you can’t actually HEAR as much music as you can on MySpace. But, as you know, MySpace can be a navigational and design disaster – which is why Facebook’s consistent and easy user experience has overtaken MySpace for most people.

    Each one has something unique to offer and my advice again would be for artists to use both (plus NMC!) and then see which one(s) provide the biggest benefits and distribute your efforts accordingly.

  3. I guess my dilemma with MySpace is that it in most cases replaces the artist web page. And as you have touched on in a terribly un-unique user experience. Most artists will rely on the MySpace page and create a web site that essentially is a splash page that redirects me to MySpace, which for me as a fan is a huge turnoff.

    I think why Facebook has it right is, that it taps into the if you like person a and see that they are a fan of thing b, that you’ve not heard of, then you’re apt to check them out based on liking that person, which give you a skipping location that takes you back to their web presence.

    Where Facebook and Myspace differ is Facebook is a point of interest, whereas MySpace tries to be a one stop shop.

    It’s why I think in the end Facebook will become more of a place people build some presence to draw them back to their own home where they completely control user experience and content. And eventually MySpace will go the way of the dodo.

  4. I guess my dilemma with MySpace is that it in most cases replaces the artist web page. And as you have touched on in a terribly un-unique user experience. Most artists will rely on the MySpace page and create a web site that essentially is a splash page that redirects me to MySpace, which for me as a fan is a huge turnoff.

    I think why Facebook has it right is, that it taps into the if you like person a and see that they are a fan of thing b, that you’ve not heard of, then you’re apt to check them out based on liking that person, which give you a skipping location that takes you back to their web presence.

    Where Facebook and Myspace differ is Facebook is a point of interest, whereas MySpace tries to be a one stop shop.

    It’s why I think in the end Facebook will become more of a place people build some presence to draw them back to their own home where they completely control user experience and content. And eventually MySpace will go the way of the dodo.

  5. I haven’t been able to find anything about copyright protection for your own new music posted on the internet. With SOCAN here in Canada (and probably with IBM, etc., in the US), you can’t register a copyright unless your song has been officially published or officially released on a record label. So it seems to me that if you write and record a song and post it on, say, Myspace, it’s not protected. I’m not talking about people who accept that you wrote it, and are just copying it for their listening pleasure or for their friends to hear. I’m talking about people downloading YOUR song, recording their version of it and putting it up on THEIR site as THEIR composition, and perhaps putting it out on a label and getting it copyrighted as THEIR song, and earning royalties. How do you protect against that?

  6. I haven’t been able to find anything about copyright protection for your own new music posted on the internet. With SOCAN here in Canada (and probably with IBM, etc., in the US), you can’t register a copyright unless your song has been officially published or officially released on a record label. So it seems to me that if you write and record a song and post it on, say, Myspace, it’s not protected. I’m not talking about people who accept that you wrote it, and are just copying it for their listening pleasure or for their friends to hear. I’m talking about people downloading YOUR song, recording their version of it and putting it up on THEIR site as THEIR composition, and perhaps putting it out on a label and getting it copyrighted as THEIR song, and earning royalties. How do you protect against that?

  7. Hey Mike,
    The best person I know of in Canada regarding copyright law is Michael Geist. He’s got an amazing blog (http://www.michaelgeist.ca) and is a professor of law at the University of Ottawa. I would suggest that you email Michael to see if he might be kind enough to provide you with the answers you’re looking for.
    You might also want to look into Creative Commons. (http://www.creativecommons.ca) for ways to protect and/or license your music in an online environment.
    My only other piece of advice would be to read the agreements for sites you sign up for carefully and make you’re comfortable with the language before uploading your music.
    I’m afraid I’m not THE best person to answer your question, but hope this helps.
    Steve

  8. Hey Mike,
    The best person I know of in Canada regarding copyright law is Michael Geist. He’s got an amazing blog (http://www.michaelgeist.ca) and is a professor of law at the University of Ottawa. I would suggest that you email Michael to see if he might be kind enough to provide you with the answers you’re looking for.
    You might also want to look into Creative Commons. (http://www.creativecommons.ca) for ways to protect and/or license your music in an online environment.
    My only other piece of advice would be to read the agreements for sites you sign up for carefully and make you’re comfortable with the language before uploading your music.
    I’m afraid I’m not THE best person to answer your question, but hope this helps.
    Steve

  9. Thanks for the tip, Steve.

    I did discover the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (or Canadian Songwriter’s Association,,,I can’t remember which), and they will put a cassette/CD of your songs in a vault and time-stamp them, for a very reasonable price. I’m looking into this, but will also follow up on your advice.

    I think that a band needs a promo person to take care of maintaining an internet presence, because although DIY is fine in theory, it takes up so much time that could be used in composing, rehearsing, recording, etc., but preferably a promo person would be someone who’d do it for free because they like the band.

  10. Thanks for the tip, Steve.

    I did discover the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (or Canadian Songwriter’s Association,,,I can’t remember which), and they will put a cassette/CD of your songs in a vault and time-stamp them, for a very reasonable price. I’m looking into this, but will also follow up on your advice.

    I think that a band needs a promo person to take care of maintaining an internet presence, because although DIY is fine in theory, it takes up so much time that could be used in composing, rehearsing, recording, etc., but preferably a promo person would be someone who’d do it for free because they like the band.

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