We understand that when you’re writing, rehearsing, recording and eventually distributing new music, social media isn’t always a top priority. However when it comes to building excitement around and promoting that new release, it should be one the first things that comes to mind! Think about it: people who follow you on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr are doing so because they like your music. Once you’ve got them there, you’re able to bring them into your world to whatever extent you choose, and informing them of the awesome new song or album you’re releasing is the very least you should be sharing.
Tyler Allen is a music consultant whose firm, W Tyler Consulting, helps artists of varying genres and career levels establish and preserve a quality digital presence. He also offers strategy and artist packages for DIY and indie artists on a budget, so he has great first-hand experience and advice when it comes to making the most of your social media marketing efforts. Tyler was nice enough to explore the subject with us in an interview below!
Social media is, in the grand scheme of things, still a relatively young concept. From the collapse of MySpace to the explosion of Instagram, what do you feel has remained constantly vital for indie artists when it comes to social?
Tyler Allen: What’s remained consistently vital has been transparency and curiosity. This goes well beyond the constructs of “social media outlets”, from the days of Tiger Beat and Teen Bop magazines in the 1960’s, to Late Night TV and TMZ-esque sites, fans have always wanted a glimpse into the lives of their artists.
Sure, they want the music, and sure they want the videos and the latest news, but above all they want to feel as if they know these artists. Social media has become the gateway into the full vision of an artist from professional to personal. Whether they got it from a MySpace photo in the 2000’s, an Instagram or Vine clip from today, or whatever lies next, fans want that eclectic glimpse of an artist’s life and career.
Sure, there’s a delicate balance of what you post (promo vs. personal) but fans are always going to seek that balance; it’s a vital part of an artist’s brand.
How often do you hear artists interested in consultation or otherwise tells you, “Yeah we use Facebook, but Twitter is a waste of time…” or some variation of that? What is your reaction?
I actually get the opposite! I have a lot of clients that come to me and they are on every single current social media outlet, and aren’t able to keep up with them all. If you’re on an outlet, you need to keep it active—plain and simple.
My young pop artists who are doing radio tours and live shows – absolutely jump on every outlet – if you can keep up with it and deliver unique content on all platforms – let’s work with it.
However, my older veteran clients, who’s main focus is on licensing, and the occasional show—you simply might not need to be on every social media outlet if it doesn’t fit your brand. What’s he going to do on Vine? Does she have enough photo content to even keep up with an Instagram? Maybe, but probably not.
Social media is becoming a way for press and other decision makers to gauge your success and if you are worth their time. If they come across a thoroughly updated Twitter page, but also a Facebook page that hasn’t been kept up with, it’s a major red flag. Only sign up for what you can keep up with.
Though, in the same breath, just because you don’t see the use of an outlet, doesn’t mean it can’t help you! Social media is important, but it’s one pixel in a larger digital branding picture. It becomes an extension of your art, and your brand—so I do recommend taking on new outlets if it makes sense for an artist’s work.
A lot of us shy away from things we don’t understand, so try to understand an outlet first before completely writing it off. I always recommend Facebook due to it’s helpful ad structure and it’s stature of somewhat being an industry standard. I also tend to recommend Twitter for it’s personable approach to media and fans. Though, every artist’s brand, story and goals are going to be different. Therefore, their outlets will be, too.
How do you think artists can best capitalize on touring when it comes to their social channels?
Touring is prime time for social media. Because you always have content, right? You have photos and video clips from shows; you have photos from the road trips. It’s a great way to connect with fans on a professional and personal level.
A lot of artists let outlets go ghost because they feel as if they don’t have anything to talk about, but being on the road, you have lots to work with. You just have to find the time to make an update video, take photos around town and be really interactive.
As far as promoting the tour, one should have graphics made in advance, and use geo-targeted ads (ie. Twitter and Facebook’s ad managers) to start promoting certain tour dates in certain locations. I’d also recommend a scheduler such as Hootesuite, or Buffer, to schedule posts to go live when you may be on the road.
Facebook has made it harder to reach fans organically with each post. What other kind of challenges do you see facing indies as social channels evolve?
Very true. Facebook’s algorithm changes often, and this basically means if your posts aren’t being engaged with (commented on, liked, shared) they might not even appear on your fan’s timelines. So you could very well have, let’s say, 5,000 fans, but if you post something that doesn’t get any love, it might only be seen by 5-10 of those fans—if that.
There are ways to get around that—ie. Make your posts interactive, be conversational, ask fans to interact with your posts, etc. Nonetheless, this change in Facebook almost makes an artist (or any brand, really) need to purchase Facebook ads so their work is properly seen. Especially for folks who still have growing outlets.
I do see more and more outlets relying on paid placement, Instagram just rolled out ads for brands, and Twitter’s ad manager is always evolving. So very well, we could see similar changes coming from other guys—who may almost force our hands to buy ads. But who knows?
Right now the biggest challenge for an indie artist is over-saturation. Everyone has a band, everyone has a mixtape about to drop, and everyone is about to go on tour. It’s becoming harder for artists to stand out, because social media has given everyone out there a platform. Artists really have to find new ways to be creative on their social media outlets to stand out from the crowd.
Have you seen success among indie artists who use social to develop or nurture relationships with bloggers?
Absolutely. We call this “influencer marketing”, and it’s something that’s been used by large companies for a while now. Let’s say you are a clothing brand, it’s very common you send free samples to fashion bloggers for review, right?
For large companies this has taken on a whole new stage of strategy, where these bloggers and YouTube personalities get paid hefty sums of money to promote products. There are even influencer agencies that help connect these bloggers and brands.
This is a tactic that’s certainly usable in the music industry, and fortunately you likely won’t have to pay a blogger to write about you. Music writers are typically a very open bunch and a proper email, tweet or press release will do the trick. Bloggers are just as powerful as large corporately owned magazines and websites.
Though, on the flip side, there are influencers out there like major DJ’s, celebs or big outlets that will cover your work for a small fee or arrangement. I’ve had success in this, we recently paired an artist with a nationally syndicated radio/TV personality to promote a release through his blog and Twitter, and I’d say it was worth the investment. But grassroots pitching always seems to feel more rewarding.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you regularly see independent or unsigned artists making on social?
As mentioned previously, not keeping your outlets updated is always a mistake. Be sure to be active on your social media—social is the key word there, right? Also, be sure to have a good mix of content. I see a lot of artists that are too heavy on the promo side, and promo after promo is just too “salesy”. On the flip-side though, I see a lot of artists posting their lunch or their #GymFlow and not enough posts of their actual music. Have a good mix.
Each outlet should also have unique content, it can be similar, sure—but try to have a reason to be on every outlet that you participate in. Your Instagram should have certain content that’s different from your Facebook, and so forth.
Don’t be on an outlet just to have an account. Be fun and personable on each outlet. Have a unique message throughout. If you do share the same video or photo on multiple outlets, at least switch the captions or text up to make it different.
Lastly, make sure it’s pretty. Your band is a brand, and a major brand would never have typos or poorly photo shopped graphics. Make sure your outlets are clean and ready for public consumption.
What newer social channels are you excited about in terms of promotional/engagement potential for up-and-coming artists?
I’m most excited about new features coming out for the outlets we already have. Both Twitter and Facebook’s new video ads and video tools have been great for artists.
Integrations are also always great. The way Twitter integrates with Vine is a great feature. Twitter allows you to play Vine clips straight from your Twitter feed, instead of just throwing out a URL. This is great because you can write a Tweet along with your Vine post, which kind of reframes the content to be unique to Twitter.
I’m also interested in Periscope and Meerkat, which are both live video streaming tools that integrate with Twitter. There was some conflict between the two as Twitter owns Periscope and the two apps essentially are the same. Regardless, whichever app reigns supreme, the concept is great for artists. This would mean fans could live stream your concerts, shows, meet-and-greets and more.
For an indie artist who doesn’t tour and isn’t making waves on blogs (yet), what practical advice do you offer for simply building a larger social community?
Be active! Your social media outlets are still a “media outlet”, so that is still your platform for greater exposure. Work on engaging content such as video posts, show clips and graphics, and give your fans something to talk about. I also recommend saving up for small ad spends, which can be used to promote your various channels and releases. A lot of people shy away from ads, but some artists don’t realize that even $5 a day for 5 days can get your work in front of thousands of fans.
Lastly, make media lists, and start submitting your work to blogs and press outlets! Sure you may not be ready for an album review in Rolling Stone, but sending your press kit to local media in the spots where you are performing can go a long way.
As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more about Tyler Allen’s music consulting and background on his website here.