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15 Reasons Twitter Rocks for Musicians

I’m probably biased by my own personal recent adoption of the medium (I got an Android phone), but it seems to me that the micro-blogging tool has come of age in the past six months. Twitter has gone mainstream – no longer seen as the preserve of a tech nerd elite with millions of followers (a la @StephenFry) or the crazed world of teenage fandom (a la @JustinBieber), it has been embraced by your grannny and your granddaughter and your local politician. Most notable is that traditional media are now hooked, with everyone from major TV stations, talk show hosts and politicians tweeting their way through the day.

And speaking of the media, in an article in the UK Guardian, that newspapers editor Alan Rusbridger outlines some reasons why adopting Twitter is important for the ‘fourth estate’. In this post I apply Rusbridger’s arguments to the music business to highlight why musicians should be using the medium (original content from the article is in italics).

1) It’s an amazing form of distribution

It’s a highly effective way of spreading ideas, information and content. Don’t be distracted by the 140-character limit. A lot of the best tweets are links. It’s instantaneous. Its reach can be immensely far and wide.

One of the things musicians are finding harder to do is get their music into the hands of the people that matter. Ultimately that means fans, but also the gatekeepers of the music industry such as bloggers, DJs and journalists. These are exactly the type of people who are heavy users of Twitter and a retweet of a link to one of your songs from a blogger with 1,000 + followers may just open doors for you.

2) It’s where things happen first

Not all things. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter.

This point may not be so relevant to musicians in terms of publishing content via the medium, but keeping abreast of what is happening in the music world on Twitter and taking an active part in those discussions is one of the ways in which you will gain followers and by extension increase your fanbase. If you only use Twitter once a day or once a week to send updates, instead of using it as a means to engage and communicate with others, you will not be getting the best from the service.

3) As a search engine, it rivals Google

Many people still don’t quite understand that Twitter is, in some respects, better than Google in finding stuff out.

It’s amazing how much information you can learn and things you can get accomplished by tweeting out a question. Say you need to rent equipment for a gig or need a tutorial on how to use SoundCloud, you’ll be surprised at how much valuable information will come back at you. And better still, it will come in the form of succinct 140 character messages.

4) It’s a formidable aggregation tool

If you are following the most interesting people they will in all likelihood bring you the most interesting information. In other words, it’s not simply you searching. You can sit back and let other people you admire or respect go out searching and gathering for you.

In many ways, Twitter is your very own curated news source. You can easily follow (and unfollow) the people you like and respect and therefore keep abreast of information you know will be of interest to them and you. Conversely, the people who follow you are interested in your music and what you have to say – in the main they are not passive recipients of this information but are genuinely engaged with it. And if they aren’t engaged then it’s likely they will hit that Unfollow button.

5) It’s a great reporting tool

Many of the best reporters are now habitually using Twitter as an aid to find information.

Similar to point 3, but additionally, where music is concerned, Twitter can be used in innovative ways to involve your audience in the experience, such as Robyn’s #killingme interactive video of earlier this year

6) It’s a fantastic form of marketing

You’ve written your piece or blog. Now you can let them all know it’s there, so that they come to your site. You alert your community of followers.

The primary reason for a musician to use Twitter is to communicate with your fans and promote your music. As I’ve mentioned, if all you do on Twitter is spam your followers with BUY BUY BUY messages, you won’t have them for long. But if you use Twitter well, and tweet about non-commercial content for the most part then fans will respond to messages about buying your music and merchandise. And don’t forget that your followers will be excited about your next concert or music release so tweeting about these things will build up enthusiasm and anticipation.

7) It’s a series of common conversations. Or it can be

As well as reading what you’ve written and spreading the word, people can respond. They can agree or disagree or denounce it. They can blog elsewhere and link to it. There’s nothing worse than writing or broadcasting something to no reaction at all. With Twitter you get an instant reaction. It’s not transmission, it’s communication.

As per point 6, Twitter will not work if used as a one-way broadcast medium to constantly push sales. Look and learn from those artists who are successful at using Twitter to communicate with their followers and fans. One example is @KylieMinogue, an international pop superstar who nevertheless manages her own Twitter account and mixes commercial messages in nicely with follower interaction and regular items such as her #shoeoftheday tweets (and yes, I am a follower).

8 ) It’s more diverse

Traditional media allowed a few voices in. Twitter allows anyone.

In the similar fashion to Facebook, Twitter allows you to capture audiences which previously would have been considered niche. In the vast oceans of the world wide web nice groups can clump together into significant audiences (and market) for your music.

9) It changes the tone of writing

There is, obviously, more brevity on Twitter. There’s more humour. More mixing of comment with fact. It’s more personal.

Showing your personality and the things that interest you outside of music is a great way to make you and your music more interesting to your fans and followers. You don’t need to post pictures of yourself in your underwear. Know where your limits are in terms of your own privacy, but realise that informality is the order of the day on Twitter.

10) It’s a level playing field

A recognised “name” may initially attract followers in reasonable numbers. But if they have nothing interesting to say they will talk into an empty room. The energy in Twitter gathers around people who can say things crisply and entertainingly, even though they may be “unknown.”

Good news for unknown artists and bands – having a personality and a distinct ‘voice’ will win you fans. Think about developing a ‘strategy’ for tweeting. What are the things that you’d like to talk about, outside of your music? If you are a band, perhaps one person is the most humorous and would be best taking the Twitter reins?

11) It has different news values

People on Twitter quite often have an entirely different sense of what is and what isn’t news.

Pay attention to trending topics and @replies. Social media and Twitter in particular are open forums for discussion. If someone is saying something about you that you don’t like, the best way to deal with it is 1. Ignore it, or in the case of @replies 2. Calmly respond to it and then 1. Ignore it. But engaging in aggressive interactions will not go down well.

12) It has a long attention span

The opposite is usually argued – that Twitter is the perfect medium for goldfish. But set your Tweetdeck to follow a particular keyword or issue or subject and you may well find that the attention span of Twitterers puts newspapers to shame.

Twitter allows you to easily take a quick measure of popular opinion about you and your music. Search for #yourbandname and get a timeline of tweets good, bad or indifferent.

13) It creates communities

Or, rather communities form themselves around particular issues, people, events, artifacts, cultures, ideas, subjects or geographies.

Every Twitter user is, to some extent, the centre of their own community. Musicians can have even stronger communities because your followers all have at least one thing in common; your music. You can strengthen this feeling of community by being a regular tweeter and offering them exclusive content like previews of tracks in advance of release to the public, or competitions.

14) It changes notions of authority

Instead of waiting to receive the ‘expert’ opinions of others – mostly us, journalists — Twitter shifts the balance to so-called ‘peer to peer’ authority.

The rally-call of social media has often been that it takes power away from traditional centres and democratises influence. This is certainly true where Twitter is concerned. However, be aware that traditional centres of power have also shifted onto Twitter and are influential here too. Music magazines, record labels, DJs and bloggers can be reached easily so take the opportunity to engage with them.

15) It is an agent of change

As this ability of people to combine around issues and to articulate them grows, so it will have increasing effect on people in authority.

For those who chose to use it, Twitter changes the artist-fan relationship by removing the feeling of distance which existed in the traditional music media model. Some artists feel uncomfortable with this and would prefer to keep an element of mystery around their music, or feel that using Twitter takes the focus off the music. These are legitimate worries and undoubtedly not all artists benefit from using the tool.  For those who want to take advantage of the opportunities it presents devising a ‘Twitter strategy’ will help to focus you on your goals and how you can use it to achieve them.

At the end of the day Twitter is just a tool and like that rusty hammer in the bottom of your toolbox it isn’t going to do the work by itself. What you get out of Twitter depends on what you put into it, but in a time when its influence and popularity is growing its a place that musicians need to be.

3 Comments

Youbibo 5:20 pm - 19th February:

Thanks for sharing this… I just love twitter… but i must twitter has many more reasons to rock… :p

http://www.youbibo.com/2011/02/top-ten-reasons-why-people-love-twitter.html

eilish 1:00 pm - 21st February:

Thanks for reading 🙂

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