Overview of social media and the music industry

For a more in-depth look on how to use social media to break into the music industry, read my article on TNW, but here's an overview of social media and the music industry:

The music scene typically used to be that you’d get a band together, practice, play some local gigs to build up a fan base, and hope wildly that a record label scout would chance attending your gig and sign you up. Or, you might send off your demo tape to the record label in the hope that it got some attention and would snag you a recoding deal. That scene has changed.

Social media has opened up the world, meaning bands are no longer limited to fans from their home town or ones in the region – the world has become their stage, and MySpace was one of the first networks to provide that stage. But, it didn’t just provide a stage for artists wanting to be discovered, MySpace’s partnership with SNOCAP allowed fans to buy the music of unsigned artists at an opportune time when CD sales were falling because of digital downloads. CD singles used to be sold for £3-4, but with digital downloads costing as little as 29p, it opened up a market because fans could listen to the track online and buy if they liked it. The risk, and cost, of taking a chance on an unknown artist was removed for the fan, and the artist also won because it brought about exposure that wasn’t possible before.

MySpace has been attributed to launching the music careers of Lily Allen, Soulja Boy and Girls Like Boys, to name a few, but the social media landscape has changed. At the start of 2011, MySpace dropped 10 million unique visitors in one month, bringing their audience down to 63 million – at the start of 2010, MySpace was attracting 95 million unique users. Clearly it’s no longer the platform of choice for wannabe artists. Instead YouTube is the social media network of choice if you want to break big in the music industry, and it didn’t get much bigger than Justin Bieber.

Bieber was discovered back in 2008 on YouTube by Scooter Braun, but he wasn’t put on YouTube to be discovered. Instead, his mother uploaded his performance videos so that friends and family who couldn’t attend wouldn’t miss out. The rest, as they say, is history and Bieber Fever spread like wildfire.

But, there’s a new contender for the YouTube Bieber crown and that’s Rebecca Black, one of Bieber’s biggest fans and an example of someone who shows you don’t need talent to be a success in the music industry when social media can help you out. Black’s parents paid $2,000 for her to sing and feature in her own music video Friday which Black shared on Facebook and YouTube for her friends to see. The video was spotted by Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh, and the video jumped within hours from 4,000 views to 14,000. By the evening it had reached 100,000 views, became a trending topic on Twitter, had Simon Cowell declare it as “genius” and prompted a parody video which has had nearly 3 million views. Black’s video has now had over 63 million views and she’s releasing a second single, LOL – pretty impressive for someone isn’t as music gifted as some of the aspiring artists who put their material up online.

Not everyone will luck out to the extent Bieber and Black did through using social media, but that doesn’t mean social media can’t still be used to help launch a music career. Also, you don’t have to be established or go it alone to get your name out there. There are brands out there that recognise that there’s a lot of emerging talent out there in the social media sphere and encourage it to be shared.

Lyle & Scott launched “Curated by Lyle & Scott” to showcase new talent, giving up and coming bands the chance to win a slot to play at gigs via a fan-influenced competition run on Facebook. Jess Pugh, Lyle and Scott’s Marketing Manager says: ‘We are really proud to have worked with such talented and exciting new acts throughout the “Curated by Lyle & Scott series” and have been astonished by the level of talent to have entered the band competition.” Ice Black Birds, who were one of the bands to win a slot through Facebook, have been thrilled with their success.

"Social networks are a huge platform for artists nowadays, especially if you are unsigned and doing everything yourself. As a band we rely heavily on our Facebook page and Twitter to alert people of our goings on, releases, gigs etc. It also allows people from all over the globe to connect with us and listen to our music."

So, there are a lot of opportunities out there, and if you’re serious about making it big with a music career, you can’t afford to ignore social media. The change in the landscape has made the relationship between the artist and the fans not only more personal, but far more instantaneous. Lady Gaga has over 9 million followers on Twitter and 31 million likes on Facebook, and whereas you won’t achieve these sorts of numbers as a newly emerging artist, any connection you can establish with your fans will make a brilliant start to your musical career.

“We encourage every artist to have accounts on the likes of Facebook and Twitter,” says Naoise Ryan of Universal Music Group. “It’s really important that they are accessible, plus it allows them to be closer to their fans and interact in ways that can benefit both parties. Nothing positive can come from ignoring fans in today’s music scene.”

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