Like probably a lot of people, I recently saw a social media post by Chelsea Cutler (maybe slightly ironically?) go viral. In it she talks about her observations in the music industry and how society is drowning in a constant stream of content that can be hard to develop a meaningful connection with. This in turn creates pressure for bands and artists to be rapidly creating and releasing not only music, but also the huge amount of social media content that goes with it. And that even with a label marketing team behind her, the struggle to keep up with the demand can be too much.
I ran my own straw poll on Instagram asking the question if there is too much emphasis or pressure to create social media content over creating music which was met with a resounding 93% yes.
So what is it about social media that everyone seems to dislike it so much? The most common complaint I got is that it’s so time consuming and requires so much effort to create everything alongside the main job of creating actual music. Being in a band is a time consuming thing - I’ve been there! And if you’re a solo artist you have even more responsibility. Between our jobs, social life, relationships, families, keeping active, writing music, recording, gigging…. life is busier than ever. And I’ve not even mentioned sleeping, eating or just relaxing! Social media takes up a lot of our time, especially as we’re constantly glued to our phones. So if we take away social media as a tool for promotion, what else can you do to promote your music? I asked this as follow up question on my Instagram and the responses that came back were things like flyering, networking, going to shows etc. A lot of things that used to be the only way of promotion in the pre-myspace days. However these things still take up just as much, if not more time that creating social media content.
Another thought I had is where is the pressure actually coming from? Is it society or our peers? Are you being told that you aren’t posting enough on Instagram? Are fans telling you that need to create a new tiktok video or start that next facebook livestream or they won't listen to your music anymore? Or is it that we're actually putting most of this pressure on ourselves due to the worry that if we aren’t constantly doing something, constantly in the spotlight, we'll become forgotten or irrelevant and others will overtake us?
Personally, I feel like it's more of the latter because the reality is you don't actually have to do any of it. You don't have to have any kind of presence on social media if you don't want to. If the sole purpose of your music is to just be created because you enjoy it, then there is no obligation for you to do anything with it. I think for most of us though, when we create music we have an innate desire to share it with others. We all have that dream that one day the music we’ve written could possibly be the next big thing. What social media has done is remove a barrier to entry for artists of all levels, and enables you to reach a worldwide audience that previously was unachievable without the backing or investment of a record label. It's that tantalising possibility that now seems even more achievable that ever before. And while that may be true, the endless possibilities of social media, combined with the pressure we put on ourselves can become overwhelming and turn what in reality is a fantastic tool, into a very negative experience.
But here's the thing...
Social media is now an integral part of the music industry. Trying to grow yourself as an artist without using social media is going to be extremely hard and social media is an extremely powerful tool when it's used effectively. If you don't have a record label to help you out, you're going to have to do this stuff yourself so it's important to create the right mindset and environment to help you strike a balance between your music and social media..
So what can we do to have a better relationship with social media and create the right balance between music creation, online presence and not feeling completely overwhelmed by it all? Are there things that can be done that will reduce the amount of time required and ease the burden of overwhelm? I‘m not going to pretend I have all of the answers but here are a few things that I do myself, or that I’ve learned from other people, that might help you with you social media and take some of the pressure off.
What Shall I Post?!
This depends on who you are as an artist and what message you want to get across. Sit down and brainstorm a big list of ideas and pick the ones you feel will be easiest to keep up with. Here are some examples I thought of in less that about 30 seconds...
Get a photographer or friend with a good camera to take photos at your shows.
Document your writing and recording process.
Band practice photos / video.
Shoot music videos and also bring someone along who can capture behind the scenes footage.
Photos or videos about the lyrics and meaning behind songs.
Tour diaries (video and photo).
Cover songs (can be sort versions for tiktok/reels).
Alternate versions of your songs.
It seems really obvious when you think about it but something a lot of people don't think about is you can create multiple content pieces from one source. If you're shooting a music video you can also get someone along to capture some behind the scenes footage. They're a lot of fun to shoot so why not capture some of that reality for people to see? You can also use frame grabs from the music video as photographs for social media.
While you're at practice, get some photos or videos of what you're up to, the same with playing shows. You can stitch these short clips into longer format video but short format tiktok videos or instagram reels are really popular and you they're so easy to make. You can be sat on the toilet while you're doing it. Not everything has to be high budget, think about your audience, your message and keep it authentic and you won't struggle for ideas.
This will make your life easier as you get more into it. As you're creating this stuff, store all of your photos and videos in a well labelled online drive so that you can easily access it later and use it over time. Create a note file on your phone with a list of your frequently used hashtags. Brainstorm different post ideas and keep a list to refer back to at a later date if you're struggling ideas. The fact that you then won't have to come up with this stuff on the spot will help when you might be out of ideas.
Planning Your Posts
Allocating some time each week to plan your posts will help eliminate some pressure of rushing things because you haven't posted in a while. Try sitting down for an hour each week and plan what you're going to post for the next week or 2. You can pre-write captions, hashtags and even schedule the posts so you don't have to think about it!
Share the Responsibility
This is obviously much easier to do if you're in a band of multiple people! But don't let all the responsibility fall onto one person. Take turns in running different accounts, scheduling posts or creating content.
Don’t Compare Yourselves With Others
This can be easier said that done but just remember that everyone is running their own race and are at different stages. Remember to have fun with what you're doing!
Those are just a few ideas that might help you, this really just started out as a bit of an observation where I just wanted to share some thoughts but decided it would be more useful if I could try and help some people. And as one last thought, the main metric for you to measure with all of this stuff isn't necessarily the number of likes you get on a post, or the number of streams you get on your music. For the majority of people, if you manage to create something that you're proud of and that it gives you a level of happiness and enjoyment while your'e doing it, that in itself is success. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.