It’s 12:38 a.m. Saturday morning. The last of the cords, speakers, and microphones are packed tightly like a jigsaw puzzle in the back of the hatchback. It’s July in Hollywood. The warm summer breeze delivers relief from the late night heat, with smells of deep fried everything and grilled hamburgers for the late night crowds just beginning to get their second wind.
Joseph’s last set left him buzzed, not from the single iced brew he gulped after his encore, but from the fans who filled in like sardines three hours earlier. Just an hour earlier, bartenders raced to make martinis and cosmos, smiling and collecting tips. Tonight everyone, especially his fans, are winners.
After the show, Joseph stays to sign autographed cd’s and gladly takes pictures with everyone. Minutes later Facebook, Instagram and Twitter see his smiling face with several dozens of adoring fans – some familiar, some new.
“I live in Glendale, but whenever I see Joseph’s posts on Twitter, I try to make sure I can come see him play,” revealed Donna G, 45, who works in movie production. Joseph’s facebook post two weeks earlier, promising the first ever live performance of a new song from his upcoming album, got over 326 likes and 71 comments. The Vine video he sent out of a 15-second preview whetted their appetites.
To Joseph his fans matter. It’s these passionate followers who buy his cd’s and merchandise after his shows which add up to real money for this indie artist. “Depending on the crowd, I will sell anywhere from 40-50 cd’s per show,” Joseph said. “Sometimes people will get a cd and come back a couple months later and get another one for their friends birthday. That happens a lot.”
Joseph is an indie artist who spent several years honing his craft in acting, before picking up a guitar to write lyrics and music. He found his voice in American Folk after moving to Los Angeles.
“I started playing gig’s around town and began to get a following. This was before social media was such a driving force in everything we do today. Today, everything I do is centered on which platform will bring me the best visibility for a particular concert, event or appearance. My fans want to know where I’m performing and it’s my responsibility to make sure I keep them updated.”
For many artists, the freedom social media offers is an open door to communicate and share their stories with the world. While major record labels exist for the cherished few, indie musicians are becoming their own labels. Many artists like Joseph are using this opportunity to build a loyal following and manifest their own destiny.
“People are looking for engagement,” said Chip Schutzman, CEO of Miles High Productions, a Hollywood based social media promotions company geared towards musicians. “That’s what social media is all about – getting a response. Niche platforms are on the rise. You’ll see more of these in the next five years, ‘Come join our group, we like cigars and listen to punk rock.’ ‘We drink wine on Wham! Wednesday’s and sing along to George Michael songs.’”
Artists are looking for fan engagement in social media. Categories branching into subcategories will continue to grow, giving artists the opportunity to market themselves to the audiences they most want to reach.
Market research just got easier, and less expensive.
Lyricists working on a new song may release a couple of lines on Twitter to gauge fan response. “In today’s fast paced market with tastes changing hourly, artists want to test the waters with new material to see if their fans are on board. Fans want great material and are eager to share their thoughts. Getting direct feedback from fans is instant, free and honest.” continued Schutzman.
“Pinterest, for example, is over 76% female. If you’re looking to market to females, this is a great place for you to be,” Shutzman said.
“When advising my clients, we look at their demographics. What social media outlets area good fit for the individual artist? Are they under/over 30? That’s usually a line in the sand. If they’re under 30, we make sure they have a presence on Snapchat, Vine and are using, for example, Spotify to promote their recordings on Facebook.”
Another example indie artists use to engage with fans include exclusive Facebook Fan Groups. Here uber-fans are invited to be involvd in various forums and contests – including helping to decide which pictures or art should be used on the next single or album cover.
Fans are also taking to social media to dictate which songs they want to hear at concerts. Setlists are being shaped and modified based on feedback. Ann Wilson from the band Heart regularly takes to a Twitter Chat to get the pulse of their fans.
Raising awareness and selling music can be challenging. But social media is making it easier. Artists can use their posts and pictures to tell stories and generate buzz often associated with major artists. Such campaigns may come with added perks; “The 10 day pre-sale rush is on, order today and get an autographed cd a week before it’s available online” “We’re celebrating our 5,000 fans on Facebook with an online listening party on the next Friday Night Dance Party.”
Schutzman concluded, “Social media is much like programming for a tv or radio station. There is limitless content to put out there, whether it’s done hourly, daily or weekly. Artists now have opportunities to use social media to bring indie music to the masses in a fun, engaging manner.”
At the end of the day, fans are evolving with the artists into their new self-titled role of promoter. The days of a big marketing machine at a big record label for big stars may continue for the special few, but now social media allows the indie artist to have a powerful presence to be successful on their own terms.