I recently had a phone conversation with a famous musician who is currently on tour. I asked him about his social media plan and he said he has one golden rule: “No tweeting on the tour bus.”
His reason is simple: “Gods belong in the heavens.” In other words, a good rock star has to maintain his or her godlike mystique. That may sound arrogant, but that’s rock ’n’ roll. How would you feel if that badass, fire-starter of a musician you admire tweeted, “I am eating a bagel, taking my kids to school and going to read the Wall Street Journal”?
Of course, not all musicians have the luxury of remaining aloof. For most recording artists, social media presents an opportunity to connect with their audience in an age where their audience has more options for acquiring music than ever before.
Today’s music listeners need a really good reason to support their favourite bands. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter – and yes, good old MySpace – are opportunities for artists to forge personal connections with their fans that go beyond the music. Remember all those fan letters you sent as a kid only to get nothing back in return? Imagine getting a personalized response from your favourite singer in minutes.
So while some rock stars are swearing off the social web (Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland recently ranted to a Houston audience that he “doesn’t believe in the Internet”), people like Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Neil Diamond are embracing new media at a feverish pace
Beck and Radiohead, two acts that came of age in the 1990s, have re-energized their fan bases, encouraging them to create their own content by remixing videos and album covers. Other acts are paying it forward through pay-what-you-can schemes and location-based discounts for shows through platforms such as Socialight.
The Internet is also helping up-and-coming artists – who, in the past, may never have had exposure without a record deal – to get their name and music in front of millions of people with only a few clicks. Ever heard of Justin Bieber? He built a strong online community, was spotted on YouTube and now we can’t get rid of him.
Indie artists are using the networking power of Twitter to find record executives and sponsors, book events, and even score some free food and hotels. They can get instant feedback on their shows and identify their most diehard fans with a quick Twitter search.
Here’s the rub: The more famous an artist gets, the more dangerous one careless, drunken tweet can be.
Artists have to decide what kind of brand they want to be – the kind that reveals their inner workings to the whole world, or the kind that plays it cool. My feeling is that you only have one life to live, so rock it up. As my father always says, “If I knew what getting older was like, I would have raised more hell when I was younger.”
Just remember that whether you’re playing a festival or updating your Facebook page, you have a crowd watching. Don’t fall off the stage.
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