The Gold Rush

April 6, 2012

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To blog or not to blog. To twitter or how to twitter. I was forwarded an article this week through a label’s publicity department, found here:

http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/the-viral-power-of-fan-communication-a-case-study-on-fleet-f.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mediaredef+%28jason+hirschhorn%27s+Media+ReDEFined%29

It chronicles and applauds the commendable Internet behaviour of the Fleet Foxes front man and attempts to break down and dish the how to’s of such mastery of the twitter-Facebook-blog connection for less successful social media darling hopefuls. Singer Robin Pecknold has indeed created this holy grail of fan outreach-turned-mania, and the rest of us–see publicists, labels, jealous artists and the like–are left drooling and then proudly planning our copycat killings. The musician in this piece has struck true Internet gold by reaching out to his fans in clever, original and engaging ways. In one example, he critiques a fan’s cover of one of his songs. In another, he promptly replies to a tweet regarding his microphone choices for live performances and recording. The music think tank dissertation on these events, however, by lauding his efforts as footsteps to follow, bites off more than it can chew. IMHO.

A similar conversation was sparked a few months ago at my kitchen table, of all places. During the making of an album, I had as my guests, a songwriter on a major label, an indie artist, a studio musician, a member of a band on a rival major label, a producer and myself. When one of my guests began receiving incessant calls and emails (during a midnight supper, no less), I became irritated and inquired what was the great emergency? “Oh, my label is on me about tweeting more often, it’s essential for marketing myself.” I knew for a fact that this person was already tweeting daily, sometimes about things most banal. Another dinner guest chimed in that he had paid an “expert” thousands of dollars to write him a schedule of how often he should tweet, with content guidelines, no less. I had my own tales to share on preaching I’ve received from various music industry participants on the “right ways” of creating a successful social media platform for my band (usually supported by examples of success stories from other brave new twitterworld pack leaders). The conversation became heated, fuelled not only by the wine but also by some very reactionary opinions that flew back and forth across the table. Here is mine, in a nutshell:

The people (mostly young) who made social media work, who became its fans and advocates and propelled its globalized voyeurism into a phenomenon, are people who did it because they LIKED IT. The whole reason social media became an incredible marketing tool is because it wasn’t a marketing tool for the Facebookers who really took to the exhibitionism (which often became one and the same as promoting their product); they just legitimately wanted to do it, they really did and do want to share something with you. Twitter is cool because when you have an opinion, you can express it and people can reply, connect and spread it around. It can give you access to pretty much whatever you want, if you want it. But tread carefully, culture vultures. If you think you can cash in on someone else’s originality, you’ve completely missed the point.

If you’re diabolically planning to use social media to aggrandize your band, please, do me favour–don’t. The same principles that applied to traditional marketing still do in this instance. A great product goes a long way. Fans are asking Fleet Foxes’ online persona about mics because, hey, he probably knows a lot about the subject, and he’s replying because he’s interested. Fleet Foxes did not reach the iPods of millions because of their twitter account. They made awesome music unlike any other, have a great support team and played a lot of badass shows. If you’re looking for the winning formula, there it is. And it’s much harder than it looks. You have to do your own homework, and you have to be authentic and do things for the right (ish) reasons. Keep formulating your master social media plan based on what has worked for others and you’re dead in the water. And so will twitter, drowning their followers in an ocean of boring fakers and their boring sinking ship of fake insights. Do I even need to bring up MySpace?

Innovate, don’t imitate. If you think twitter is fun, use it. If you like interacting with your fans and geeking out with them about gear, then please do it! But, as one of my dinner guests exclaimed: “I don’t have the Internet and I like it!” Do what is true to you, mastermind your own ideas based on real desires and thoughts that excite you. And hang up the phone when your label calls and asks you to tweet more like that guy from Fleet Foxes. Then blog it.