It’s a fairly safe assumption that social networking and its trappings dominate our lives, whether we want them to or not. The proliferation of activity on platforms like Facebook and Twitter has helped millions of people gain access to more information than ever before, and similarly, has enabled musicians reach a much larger audience than ever thought possible, certainly moreso than the days when DIY print zines dominated the music landscape and one had to book tours over a phone system that was in no way smart. Now, all the world’s information—including that of bands, labels and other entities within our scene—is literally at everyone’s fingertips.
With this explosion of available resources, bands are closer to their fanbases than ever before, and with some craftiness are only a couple of steps away from gaining new fans. The term “fan” has a much different meaning than it once did, however: these days, for many fandom is defined by a Facebook “like” or a twitter follow and little else. Conceivably, one can be a “fan” of a band or label without actually being a patron of the arts, in a traditional sense.
Even with those caveats, bands use the power of social networking to update fans on recording, tour dates and much less revelatory minutiae such as their taste in food, clothes and television. Most see it as a valuable tool to help them reach their goals. “The value in being able to tweet a message and have it instantly received by thousands is so huge,” says Eisley frontwoman Sherri DuPree-Bemis. “Whether you're a band on a big label or small label or no label at all, you need to have a way to talk to the people who love and support you. Without having an honest, actual voice, I think it's just 'them' and 'you.' Bands and fans were meant to interact and share news, stories and personal bits.” DuPree-Bemis’ husband, Say Anything frontman Max Bemis, agrees. “It spreads awareness and lets kids know people in bands are always active and creating whether they're playing shows or not,” he says, but also concedes that “it's a challenge to have something relevant to say to thousands of kids at any given time.”
The notion that not all content shared by bands on these platforms is relevant or interesting concerns some. “There's no denying that more [Facebook] “likes” or more Twitter followers will undoubtedly spread the word of your band, but when it comes down to it, the whole thing annoys the hell out of me, and it's actually really disturbing how much bands put out there for everyone to see,” laments Heartsounds guitarist/vocalist Ben Murray. “I don't feel like our fans need to know the intimacies of our personal lives or every single thought [we have], so we don't put that out there. It’s about the music and what that means to people, not about what we ate for lunch today. When bands try to be witty or test out their burgeoning stand-up skills, I get douche-chills like you wouldn't believe.”
Run With The Hunted vocalist Drew Wilkinson sees downsides as well. “Social networking and the internet is a double edged sword; while it's made things easier for us as a band, it's done the same thing for a million other bands too,” he says. “People used to have to seek out bands they wanted to listen to—read liner notes and thank yous on record sleeves and get compilation CDs. Now people are absolutely bombarded with new bands, new songs, new this and new that every time they get online. It’s musical overload for most people and most bands just sort of get lost in the shuffle. It's definitely shortened people's attention span too; personally I sometimes find it difficult to sit through an entire song of a band, which I hate.”
“It's killed show promotion too,” he continues. “Promoters have gotten super lazy and just assume if they make a Facebook event for a show a week before it happens, people will show up. I think overall, ironically, this massive thing that was supposed to connect everybody and integrate things more closely has done largely the opposite. We're more isolated, more introverted and less outgoing because we rely on social networking instead of real communication.”
Another important question in all of this is whether or not Facebook “likes” or twitter followers can measure a band’s reach as accurately as we think. Dawes, a much-ballyhooed Los Angeles rock band with plenty of critical praise behind them, have just over 19,000 Facebook likes at press time, for example. Meanwhile, a critically panned act such as Brokencyde boast over half a million Facebook likes. While there’s no accounting for taste, it’s telling that perhaps the numbers can be skewed based on who’s doing the “liking,” as it were—do Brokencyde have more “fans” and a larger reach than Dawes? Almost definitely, but are those fans as die-hard and, perhaps more importantly, do they have more disposable income to spend on records, t-shirts and concert tickets? It’s hard to say. (Continued on Page 2…)