When you work with musicians, they all want the same thing: success from their music. Getting to that point takes years of work. Unfortunately, but not at all uncommonly, it doesn’t matter how great your song is, it will still take an amazing amount of time before enough people hear it. And only then will it matter in terms of a “career.” Being talented simply isn’t enough. It’s not just putting in your “10,000 hours” of effort that’s required, it’s dealing with a rapidly changing world and industry.
The thing is, I hate saying that. I hate using “rapidly changing” anything as a type of excuse. We’re all forced to adapt whether we like it or not. If I worked with musicians and told them that social media was a waste of time, I’d be lying.
Social media, in theory, creates an equal playing field. Anyone can comment, share, or find your music. Anyone can have a Bandcamp account or a Facebook page. So many tools make it so easy to have “a totally professional website in minutes.”
Unfortunately most of that is bullshit. Too often the greatest intent gets clouded by people trying to short cut their way to the top. When Facebook works best, a band you love will post something and you’ll see it. Instead, there’s a complicated algorithm that determines what shows up in your feed. Beyond that, “professional” pages are encouraged to advertise, boost, and promote their content to ensure that it shows up where you (the fan) wanted it to be all along.
And by the way, if you like huge mega rock star and local indie talent on Facebook, guess who’s got the bigger ad budget? Guess which posts you’ll see more of? So much for that level playing field.
One more thing: clearly your music sucks unless you have thousands of Facebook fans. Unfortunately it takes years to build up a solid, devoted following on Facebook. Actually, you can get thousands of fans in a matter of days — just buy ’em. So what if they’re not real people! So what if they all live in Outer Mongolia! It doesn’t matter, ‘cuz when someone looks at your page, they’ll see you’ve got 25,000 fans!
Slight tangent: Earlier today, I made soup. I found a recipe that sounded great, and with snow on the way, homemade soup seemed like a good idea. I could’ve just as easily opened up a can, or gotten take out, but I used real ingredients, simmered the soup for a couple of hours, and it was absolutely delicious. As I was slurping away, I realized that the time it took to cook was a direct result of the authenticity of the end product. There were no shortcuts; I didn’t try to get a faster result by cheating in any way, and my patience was rewarded.
When I work with bands on social media, I explain that my goal is to create a foundation for their entire career to grow on. Success happens incrementally and it’s not a race. I look at stats, identify trends, and work with the bands to create a routine that’s manageable and repeatable down the road.
Inevitably though, sometime after the first month, I hear that “hey, we’ve only added x fans.” Suddenly everything that was discussed is forgotten. Instead of making soup from scratch, they want Cup O’Noodles: instant gratification. We need to see those numbers so a label can sign us, so we can get better gigs, so we look like a big deal. That’s when you start developing a fanbase in Outer Mongolia.
You can buy fans. You can buy YouTube views. You can artificially inflate nearly any number you want. At the end of the day though, it’s not nearly as satisfying as homemade soup.