Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram, Friendster, etc.; all used to be wonderful tools for independent artists to get word out there about their art. MySpace was the pioneer at leading this revolution when they came out with their MySpace Music feature, where an artist could create an artist’s page that could prominently display their music and videos and you could connect to the artist via messages as well. It increased awareness for local and independent music. However, as things progressed and MySpace became flooded with millions of artists looking to become the next Jeffree Star or Tila Tequila who became famous just from joining MySpace Music, the site had to deal with irate users who were bombarded by friend requests from bands and artists all over the world. At this time, MySpace created an option to block requests from artist pages. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Maybe its keeping people away who wouldn’t be interested in discovering your music since its not on Top 40 radio, or it could keep away someone who may like your music and never know it. This feature was the beginning of the end.
Several years have passed since MySpace fell off the social media totem pole and Facebook lead the new social media revolution. Facebook took a different approach to the idea of artist pages, instead of a page where you can send requests to people, who now have access to all the information about your band, you have to recommend to people to go “like” your band’s page. Being that I am someone who has gone through this difficult task of self promoting, its hard to get your friends to click that little “like” button on your page. I have 1700 Facebook friends and just over 300 “likes” on my music page after 4 years.
The slow death of independent promotions really only begins there. Then you have event invites. If you have a minimum of five independent musicians among your Facebook friends then you probably get at the bare minimum 2-3 event invitations a day, not including invitations to other events from friends that are not related to independent music, that increases the amount of invites that you get to probably about 5 a day. The more friends that you have on Facebook, the more event invites that you get. Its gotten to the point where people see an event invitation and they simply ignore it, without even clicking on the page, or they RSVP without even reading what it is and then either forget to attend or just have no intention of attending from the very beginning.
Then this brings us to Tumblr and WordPress. Both sites are fantastic outlets for bringing art to a mass audience, and you can even register your Tumblr or WordPress site as a .com, making it easier to remember the address for accessing the site. This has without a doubt made artists lazier when working on promoting themselves, but its also a lot more cost effective because you no longer have to pay a large sum to a web designer and domain names are now a lot more affordable as well. But is this really the best route for artists to take? Artists such as Jay-Z and Katy Perry use WordPress to house their official websites and Davey Suicide uses Tumblr for his official website. If its good enough for them, then why isn’t it good enough for me?
An independent artist needs to learn the grass roots approach at promoting themselves, they need to start at the bottom and work their way up. When I was a young musician coming up, earning my keep, trying to gain a following, and gain some respect; I would go to shopping malls and keep flyers in my pocket and nonchalantly hand them out to people until the mall would kick me out then go and do it all again the next day. Sometimes we would even go to local venues all over the area and hang out outside, handing flyers to people as they exited, or putting flyers on cars. This is the proper way to pay your dues, if you have never done this at least once in your life as a musician, then you haven’t done it right.
A few months ago, I put together a small music festival, and in our first year of what we plan to be an annual event, we experimented with just simply using social media to advertise, until the last week when we ran a radio commercial spot, that we only ran three times before the event. Artists used word social media and nothing else to promote the festival. The turnout wasn’t bad, but it also was not all that it could have been. It made me realize that as an independent artist and/or promoter, you need to get out there and you need to make things happen, because sitting in a computer chair and simply using the internet in hopes that it will do all of the work for you, isn’t going to make you famous, and it won’t make you a success. Sure, a lot of people in Youngstown, Ohio know the name MacabreFest, but they don’t know the experience that it was.