PRODUCER TIP: Social Networking For Musicians

What’s All The Fuss About?
When the concept of online social networking exploded (way back in 2005 or so) with MySpace being the major frontrunner, DJs, Producers, and musicians alike rushed out to get their URL and started collecting what they thought were a loyal online fan-base, otherwise known as “friends”. Now over the years, DJs and musicians/producers etc have rushed out to get more profiles set up on the latest and greatest social networking site, believing in the non-proven-hype that the more people you can connect with, the more people will buy your product. Or at least this is the thought behind it, and if we were to believe what we read, then social networking is perhaps one of the most important tools to any budding musician.

However, as we’ve all moved around from MySpace and Bebo (lol) to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, (not forgetting SoundCloud), I keep coming back to the same old question… Does social networking actually do anything for musicians? And if so, what exactly does it do in the way of real sales figures and gig ticket sales etc?

Preface (Of Sorts)
Now, before I start my rant, I’d just like to say that regardless of my feelings on social networking as a musician, I actually love the social aspect of it all, regardless of whether it works within a business framework or not, and that’s the reason I do it. I’m not just a DJ, Producer, Engineer, etc, but a complete nerd who loves to be asked a question that stumps me (which is often the case). I love a good debate (ehemm, argument) and of course a good rant about stuff nobody else cares about.

Networking And Sales
The reason this question came about most recently, is that when I stopped signing new music to my record label last year, I was confronted by one of the artists about his royalties (which were basically nothing). He had told me that he refused to believe that the royalties could be so low because all of his “friends” on his social network site of choice had told him how great the track was and had even shared the link to the online store page with their “friends”. I then explained that this clearly hadn’t led to any sales, and gave him a full breakdown of each sale and territory given to me by the distributor. Of course I thought the track was great myself (otherwise I wouldn’t have signed it to the label) but I was also aware that since the rapid exponential growth in the number of record labels out there, sales had been dwindling across the board.

This situation then came back with another bite a few weeks ago, when the same artist came to me stating that the very same track had got over 50,000 plays on SoundCloud now, as it had been a front page featured track, and he asked me to recheck the sales figures. I did, and there was no change. Nothing. However, this was clearly shocking information to the artist, as he had in all fairness placed links in the soundcloud file leading to the online store to purchase the track. This type of situation is absolutely typical of so many acts out there at the moment. They’re working hard to get their music across as featured on social networking sites, and pushing their new music on to their “friends” and “followers”, but with little-to-no impact on sales.

Buying fans & followers (real or not)
There are hundreds of websites out there where you can buy “fans” and “followers” for particular social networking sites. Generally, the way this works is by a company setting up hundreds or thousands of fake profiles, and then you purchase a number of “fans”, they’ll link their fake profiles to yours. There are on the other hand, some companies that offer “real” fans/followers by acting as a hub of shared interests, allowing people to fan/follow and reciprocate if they wish. Clearly if numbers alone had any meaning, then this would be a useful tool for the wealthy wannabes out there, but as I’ve already pointed out that the numbers bear absolutely no relevance to sales, then this whole situation should be considered a scam.

Buying music play counts (real or not)
Following the same rules as above, although generally using a server to “ping” a number count, the exact same outcomes are achieved here. You could buy ten million play counts on a track (even source ten million people to hear it) but that doesn’t mean any one of them will like it enough to buy it… And for those who perhaps do like it a lot, well they may as well just bookmark the link you got them to listen to in the first place.

So What Does Social Network Actually Offer?
Social networking has a place, and works well for one main reason: post-sales relationships. If you’re a musician with music for sale, then chances are, someone who didn’t already know you as a human but follows you on Twitter or is a fan of your FaceBook page, does so because they have already bought your first record, and enjoyed it so much that they went to find you on a social network. It’s those fans that are most likely to purchase your next release when you inform them of it via a status update. But those “fans” you struck a deal with (either with money, or an “I follow you if you follow me” deal) are the one’s who are particularly unlikely to ever click a link from you that leads to an online store… You may as well be selling them viagra.

In my humble view, genuine fan-growth is an organic thing. You can throw as much money at it as you want, but unless people genuinely admire your work, and genuinely feel that they’re finding you on a social network by their own accord, then the numbers involved are worth nothing.

I’ve seen chart-topping musicians with very few social networking “fans”, and I’ve also seen people with ridiculously high numbers of social networking “fans” whom I’m yet to see ever touch a chart of any kind… Social networking won’t make you famous. But if you’re already famous, then it might just lead to some more sales.

Just In Case You Do Actually Enjoy Social Networking….
I’m not famous, I’m not rich, but I do enjoy being social, so if you want to come and join me, then here are my links:

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