The growth of social media and increased access to the internet just about changed everything with regards to music release and promotion. The long process of going through record label marketing or lobbying for air time on the radio was quickly deposed by a simple upload and download system. With this new era, the artiste simply makes the music available on the internet, fans are alerted and the music is downloaded by a mass audience. This process has cut out the countless middlemen that artistes needed to pass through for the music to get to their fans.
Over the years however, artistes and management alike have amplified their social media for music marketing to the point of abuse. The ease of music uploads has reduced the need for music to go through label scrutiny or content editing since heavy funding is not required to bankroll music release. The result is a ‘hit or miss’ music release style, one in which any song with a decent production is eased onto social media every other week.
What should ideally be an organised music roll-out system has been replaced with artistes flooding social media platforms with music download links and direction-less promotional campaigns.
The biggest flaw in the use of social media is the rise of a new age of internet-based middlemen. Comprising mostly of social media overlords and bloggers who have no other input in the creative process other than large social media accounts and $10 domains which they use to overcharge artists and corporate bodies alike. These promotions are mostly done in poor taste, their effectiveness, questionable, especially when the hashtags fail to get the artiste more attention beyond a couple hundred downloads despite achieving a top trending topic status.
Yet neither exorbitant rates nor low turnover ratios have deterred artistes and labels from making this the first contact for marketing new music. The unfortunate chain reaction is an increased demand for these services, which consequently inflates the cost of music production to the frustration of the artistes who have to factor in the cost of an ineffective music promotion system in their budgets. Note that the music is still offered for free download.
At the level of the individual, social media has become nothing more than a tool for artistes to further boost their own megalomania. Artistes no longer feel the need to interact with fans except when they are dishing out clapbacks and insults. This is a far cry from the times when fans were a major focus. Upcoming acts especially placed emphasis on making first contact with an active fan base which they acquired by performing at small events and local gigs.
The result back then, was a more organic process of building a fanbase from scratch. One where the music was spread via word of mouth and loyal fans felt like a part of the artiste’s creative process. The fans were therefore in a better position to give constructive criticism where it matters, without getting reminded about the state of their own finance. Today artists come on social media to remind themselves of their own importance, with updates and retweets that make them come off as despotic rulers, presiding over subjects who are not fit to criticise them, but are expected to pay for their music somehow.
Solving the myriad of these problems will take time, however, artistes and their management must learn to do social media right. Emphasis should be placed on building a fan physical base, then connecting with them before leaving things to social media. Artistes should also promote their songs further, even after release.
Most of these problems can only be tackled by record labels themselves, who need to find more creative ways to push their artistes without constituting a nuisance on the internet.
While these solutions may slightly improve the industry, the bigger picture is more gloomy. A host of these problems created by today’s bigwigs may not affect artists who already have surviving brands. Upcoming artists, however, are going to have to pay and work through their noses, to get themselves heard.
Having talent alone will no longer suffice.