By Malcolm Doak and Jaime Zahl
You’ve heard it time and time again: “The internet changed everything.” That statement especially rings true in the music industry. Apps like SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, and Pandora transformed how and where we listen to music. Gone are the days of big label budgets, multi-platinum albums, radio payola, etc. Online publications, Facebook groups, and Reddit threads have sounded the death knell for mega-music print magazines, where emerging talent once hoped for a moment in the spotlight on their way up.
However, one of the most direct ways to establish your presence online and connect with fans is through social media. Social media allows the modern musician to keep their followers instantly informed of their latest doings, grow their fan base, and post their latest content. The challenge is creating quality content efficiently, without an exhaustive outlay of time or money. Still, with the right strategy and tools this is achievable.
Samson was able to speak with two artists from different zones of the industry – singer/songwriter and violinist Cassandra Sotos and singer/songwriter Madame Mayhem – to see how they have met some of the challenges of self-promotion through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the Internet, etc.
Here and Now
Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – is most likely already a part of your everyday life. Unlike relying on a webmaster to update your website, social media is immediate. All you need is a smartphone, an app or two and you’re on your way. Additionally, social media allows you to instantly connect you to followers. Your latest news will show up directly in their feed. You can Tweet a reminder for an upcoming show, publicize your next gig as a Facebook Event, or use Instagram to share photos from your latest studio session. Best of all, social media opens a two-way channel of communication between the artist and their followers, often providing valuable feedback while offering the opportunity to engage with individual fans on a personal level.
Once you create your accounts and join these platforms you too can connect and communicate with your followers while simultaneously creating content for them to engage with. Spread the news about upcoming gigs and releases on your Facebook or Twitter. Begin sharing candid rehearsal, studio, and backstage photos or videos on your Instagram. It can seem challenging at first, but once you have these vehicles in place, it becomes easier and easier to add quality content. Always keep in mind that if the content – whatever it is – has some entertainment value on its own, it is more likely to be shared, and will thus begin to grow your fanbase through engagement.
Having an established social media platform also provides a launch pad for new ideas and new adventures. Artist Madame Mayhem explained she and her team decided to release a brand new single – “Breaking Down” — early for fans to enjoy during the time of the current worldwide pandemic, available on all streaming platforms.
“You can if you want to download it on Apple Music or whatever it is, but for people who just have streaming services they can just stream it and have something new to look forward to,” she said.
She said that although she maintains a sense of regularity in her posts – in the sense of posting the same content over different platforms – they also switch it up to create diverse content for her audience.
“It’s cool to change it up a little bit just because if you’re asking your fans to follow you on each different platform and then you’re just posting the same thing, why do they need to?” she said. “It’s more exciting for people to get different content when they follow you on different platforms.”
Quality Over Quantity
The internet is a remarkable selling tool. And whether you’re selling tickets or announcing an album release, content is what drives attention. Opportunities cannot arise without quality content. Promoting oneself as an artist or musician is more challenging – and more personal – than advertising the latest gadget. Finding the balance between delivering engaging content on a regular basis and becoming a source of spam is part of the task. Over saturation can shrink your follower count quickly. However, quality content does not always mean slick, professional production. Quality content is the type of material that fans, and followers find valuable and engage with, that they like, and that they will seek more of. Post things, see how people respond, and give them more without overdoing it.
Setlists and candid photos – with captions – can be excellent tools for engaging the audience and making them feel as if they are part of the action. Posting videos of soundchecks and rehearsals also offers followers a taste of exclusive or insider content. Live streaming from a gig also delivers a feeling of engagement. Most platforms allow you to channel your creativity and passion while finding a balance between promotion and fan interaction.
Many artists feel personally invested in creating, maintaining, and perpetuating their online presence to match their own creative goals, and they tend to create much of their own content. “I create 90% of my social media content myself,” artist Cassandra Sotos explains, “occasionally I post a video created by a videographer for special releases or a photo shot by a professional photographer. That being said, I’ve had silly short videos of me jamming over a random tune live that I thought was ‘cool’ but nothing mind-blowing, and those get insane feedback and engagement.”
“I’ve been coming up with a lot more video content and a lot more videos talking to fans – more than just posting a picture or writing a comment – just to be more in touch,” said Madame Mayhem, speaking to us in the midst of the current world health crisis. “It also helps me, to keep me sane, because there isn’t much going on with no touring. It has been interesting because everyone is looking for content, but at the same time you want it to be something people actually want from you.”
Challenges & Solutions
Smartphones, iPhones, iPads, and Tablets of all stripes form the gateway, the portal to social media. Most of us rely on our smartphones to navigate the social media universe of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The ubiquitous Facebook selfie may be the ultimate example of easy-to-create user content. But we can now instantly share not only candid and stage photos but live, concert, and rehearsal videos; we can create, schedule, and promote events; and we can even sell our T-shirts, buttons, and other swag via social media. Meanwhile, the displays on our devices get better and better, and 1080p viewing quality places breathtaking HD video directly in our hands. And despite the seemingly simple uploading and sharing of photos and videos, there are still challenges. Videos can be uploaded instantly, but some users will prefer to use video editing software to get rid of dead space before and after the song, to remove any inappropriate banter, or to create a custom titled still that can be selected as the video’s thumbnail image.
But for the world of musicians, and mobile content creators in general, the weakest link in the world of smartphone content creation has always been audio quality. A number of audio enhancement add-ons and devices have come and gone to answer this need, but Samson seems to have hit upon a unique solution with the Go Mic Mobile. Samson is, after all, a company made up of musicians and audio fanatics. Samson created the Go Mic Mobile – a two-channel wireless microphone system – as a companion product to the ubiquitous smartphone. The compact unit mounts directly to the smartphone body, and connects instantly, delivering two channels of crystal clear, uncompressed and professional-grade digital audio that can be recorded by nearly any device – or even live streamed at the source. Slap on a lavalier mic as you narrate a backstage tour. Mic up the guitar amp with the second channel and offer a guided tour of your custom pedalboard. Livestream the sound check to entice fans to the show. Create the type of content you would share with any single fan, and then share it with them all. With the Go Mic Mobile, it’s simple.
As we pressed our interviewees, we found that every one of them was laboring with the technical challenges they had encountered. Without exception, the collective cry was for ease-of-use tools for content creation.
Cassandra Sotos adopted the Go Mic Mobile system almost immediately. “Yes! Go Mic Mobile is a prime example of an easy-to-use product that delivers professional sounding content, without driving me absolutely insane,” Ms. Sotos stated, “I’m not a videographer, an editor, a director, a graphic designer, or any of these things. I don’t want to have to mess with a bunch of difficult steps and equipment. I want to do my thing. If it gets too messy and complex, the magic is lost for me.”
Nurturing a Two-Way Connection
While developing new social media goals – and content – may seem daunting at times, keep in mind that feedback from fans and followers can often guide your way.
Madame Mayhem said she’s always loved connecting with her fans on various platforms – especially in these unprecedented times.
“I love talking to fellow music lovers and fans of music. I think it’s really important and it makes me happy, so I’ve tried to up it even more now that this is going on. Everyone is going through tough times whether you’re affected financially or health-wise, especially, or emotionally,” said Mayhem.
Ultimately, when you establish your social media persona, keep your content fresh, and connect with your fans, you will have a tremendous amount of new tools are your disposal. With social media constantly evolving, the opportunities are seemingly endless.
About the Artists
Madame Mayhem is a singer/songwriter and burgeoning rock icon-in-the-making. Her songs rival the best of Modern Rock, early ‘90s emotive-grunge, and nü-metal angst. She recently celebrated the release of her new single, “Breaking Down” an a cover of Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge” – available on every streaming service.
Cassandra “Cat” Sotos is an artist, songwriter and international-touring violinist, known primarily for her live and studio work in country, rock, pop, and Bollywood. Her debut single as a singer songwriter, “Annie Oakley” was released in 2020.