The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at MAP@Local802afm.org or (212) 397-4802.
In last month’s column, I discussed how texting can impact a relationship. As social media continues to develop at a rapid pace, we must be mindful of how we use these sites in our personal and professional lives. As a clinical social worker, I’ve heard about how Facebook and Twitter clouds people’s perceptions of themselves and others, but I’ve also heard how social media can be used to help people expand their networks in all areas of their lives.
This month, we’ll discuss the potential benefits and limitations of using social networking to enhance our work. I’ll be featuring a conversation I had with Local 802 member Ken Robinson, a woodwind musician and teacher.
After taking a course on music business for his master’s program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Ken moved to NYC and used his marketing knowledge to successfully get gigs and develop his professional network.
Before we get to Ken’s advice, let’s review a basic premise: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media have changed the way we learn about people’s lives. Instead of spending years getting to know our friends in depth, we get exposed to the details of their lives almost immediately, in real time. We learn about their latest vacations, their dating lives (or lack thereof), their children, their funny stories, and especially their mundane, day-to-day activities.
It’s all meant to be in the spirit of fun and accessibility, but as we spend more time blogging, reading posts, and interacting with other people’s networks, we start building our own online personas whether we realize it or not.
“You have to treat Facebook like you’re shouting with a megaphone into a room,” says Ken. “It’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but not everyone wants to hear a daily account of, say, your political views.”
Many employers also search social networking profiles of potential employees, so what you post online is becoming increasingly important.
In spite of all those warnings, there is something positive here: the way musicians get gigs is to network, and social media is a great networking tool. You never know who is going to read your posts, and in the music business, this can be priceless. Through the Actors Work Program, Ken ran a seminar for people in the entertainment industry who wanted to create a Facebook fan page. He also instructed everyone to open a Twitter account. During the seminar, one of the musicians actually got a gig through posting about his music! “I often get gigs through Twitter or Facebook, when people share my profile with others,” says Ken.
So musicians should absolutely use social media. But what’s the best approach, especially if you’re starting from scratch?
1. Just start. If you don’t have one yet, open a Facebook account. Ken explained how he began: “I started friending people with whom I shared some of the same interests, and soon had a small online community. Later, I created a fan page, which I linked to my personal page. This gets my friends interested in what I’m doing, and could turn my friends into fans.” Facebook can be used to give that personal touch to your fans. Ken puts it well by saying, “I take my music seriously. You can’t take life so seriously, though. I like to show my fans that I have a sense of humor.”
2. With time, as you begin to develop an online presence, start experimenting with other sites. Once you have a basic fan page (either a Facebook page, a Web site, or something else), you can supplement it with other sites. For example www.ArtistData.com lets you send posts (including info about your upcoming gigs) to your Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages simultaneously. Another great tool is at www.ReverbNation.com, which lets you upload your tracks and provides an in-line MP3 player. Finally, don’t forget that old standby, YouTube. One thing about all of this: even though musicians are supposed to get paid when their music is legally streamed online, Ken says that at this point, most musicians don’t make that much money from their online music. Instead, it’s all about creating a fan base for your live shows and your merchandise. It’s also about knowing your audience.
3. Use social media as one tool – but not as your only tool – to market your business. Moderation is key. Don’t use online activity as a substitute for interaction with people or to fill up your time. Ken advises musicians to go to jam sessions, hear friends play, take lessons, and meet people the old-fashioned way: in person. And then when it feels right, ask them to friend you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. Instead of spending hours online in front of your computer, make sure you get out in the world to make an in-person impression. And don’t forget that performing is obviously the best way to show people what you’re about. Nothing will ever replace live performances. People will always want to be in the presence of live music – and live people!
4. Use discretion. Remember that Facebook is only free because the site is constantly gathering data about you, and selling advertisers space that reaches your particular demographic. Make sure you know how to use Facebook’s privacy settings. Be discrete about your profile pictures. Be very careful if you decide to link your personal and professional pages. And remember, to some extent whatever you put on Facebook is public. Never tell Facebook anything that you wouldn’t want the entire world to know. (That goes for photos also!) On a similar note, both older and younger users of Facebook need to realize that many employers these days are examining the social media profiles of job candidates, and taking those into account when hiring a person for a job. So remember, whatever you post could be seen by the entire world, and especially your future employers. You might not get a job because of something you posted. Even if you delete your account in the future, information on the Internet has a habit of sticking around.
If you are a Local 802 member and interested in how to develop your social media presence, you can send me an e-mail at MAP@Local802afm.org. Also, Ken Robinson has offered to run another seminar on how to market your music business online. We’ll keep you posted if and when it happens.