Published on March 1, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.
by Allison Morris.
As the internet has evolved over time, businesses have adapted in order to keep up with online demand, staying connected to consumers and trends, and increasing brand awareness in ways that were not possible just 20 years ago. Similarly, the music industry has made adjustments and expanded itself to the online world. A dynamic that once relied upon a more linear model of communication from record labels sending their musicians to perform and releasing records has changed so that musicians have access to selling their music and communicating to and with fans in a singular digital space.
Generally speaking, the existence of smartphones and in turn media apps have changed the way in which music is consumed, showing a huge shift from traditional times. One global statistic shows that digital revenue increased over 10 percent in 2015, while streaming music on services like Spotify and Apple Music increased by 45 percent the same year. This factor alone indicates where the bulk of music consumption is taking place.
If consumers are turning their money to online purchases and streaming, then artists and music groups must take the opportunity to establish themselves in an online space, doing so in a manner that goes beyond simply throwing an album onto iTunes. As with any business, building a relationship with consumers is key. Many artists today acknowledge the role that social media has played in increasing their visibility and popularity, connecting people not only to the music but to each other.
From an entertainment standpoint, social media and a strong online presence are just as important in knowing an audience and its interests. Today, students in the entertainment business are being taught to utilize social media in promoting shows and venues. Entertainment companies are using their social media sites in similar ways that artists and musical groups use theirs: to take advantage of connecting with music consumers in a personal, quantifiable way.
Jessica Fiscus, entertainment business student and events promoter in Florence, Alabama, notes the difference social media makes in connecting people to music events and creating a way to spread a message to audiences.
“Promoting events has become more of an online activity as we can make personal connections there. The classic idea of sticking posters here and there still happens, but it is quicker and easier to communicate with people if we promote on Instagram and Facebook event pages,” said Fiscus.
Though arguably the music industry has been made better by the internet and social media, it is important to understand that music is not solely reliant upon those elements. Rather, the internet and social media have made artists and their music more accessible. Music existed and artists made a living before the internet, and the same cycle will continue if the internet ceases to exist.
However, online demand itself has created a space in which artists can present their work to fans and further build their brands. The artist or group and subsequent music are not defined by how the internet receives them. Instead, the internet serves as a guiding lens through which artists and music promotion companies alike can better understand their consumers. Ryan Winnen, drummer of COIN and an abstract painter, knows what it’s like firsthand to not only be a millennial in this crazy tech age, but to also be an artist in it. In a society that demands immediacy and accessibility, a band utilizing the internet and its many platforms to reach consumers is imperative, but as Winnen emphasized, the music itself is more than how it functions online.
“The reaction to the work on the internet does not make it more or less valuable. It can help to show you what styles people are drawn to more but should never independently navigate you or dictate the kind of work you want to make,” said Winnen.
The internet is more than a means to an end for the music industry. It is a tool that if used carefully can build an artist or group and propel them into desired success. As highlighted in an article on Social Media Week, musicians are not marketers by profession and so knowing how to use one’s social media properly can be a huge, inexpensive asset.
“I think it can be difficult sometimes for artists to know how to connect on social media, or maybe they don’t want to do it personally,” said Fiscus. “But from a business standpoint, it’s exposure you don’t necessarily have to pay for. In the past it wouldn’t have been so important, but anyone entering music or entertainment at any level needs to understand the internet pretty well.”
In order to avoid the negative aspects of social media, artists must be cognizant of their impact on their platforms. As social media at its basis was created for communicative purposes, artists should seek to do more than use online platforms to sell something. As Winnen suggested, being successful in the music industry is about building and preserving a career in a positive manner, carefully using the internet as a resource in doing so. What happens on social media is, for artists, more about the messages communicated and less about numbers.
“Do not measure yourself by ‘followers’ and ‘likes.’ Your work is valuable if you are communicating something to someone, whether it be one person or 1 million,” said Winnen.
Keeping up with online demand might not be the simplest task, but it is a way in which bands like COIN have disseminated messages and ultimately increased fanship. However, the existence of the internet and social media has not defined and should not define music. Sure, the internet is a powerful tool that joins the hands of musicians and their consumers, but the music and its purpose remain the same.
“I think that as long artists are making work to communicate a message, convey the wide range of emotions, or to make an artistic and thoughtful footprint during the span of our lifetime and not just sell the work or play into gimmicks or trends, we’ll be OK,” said Winnen.