Like so many quotes from the 1984 movie This is Spinal Tap, the phrase “Money Talks and Bullshit Walks” still holds up as a truism for the current state of the music business. The onset of digital music may have created a deadwood style free-for-all that lasted a brief moment, however, though the services provided by social media sites remain free, full access to their millions of users now comes with a price.
The monetizing of sites like Facebook was inevitable. The inexhaustible numbers of desperate musicians on a quest for fame, armed with a predatory mindset for friend acquisition, certainly secured the need for heavy policing of their activities. Hence, we are left with timeline algorithms limiting connectivity to fans, and leaving the fans frustrated at the selective updates they receive.
The only real way around this conundrum is to buy your way into the Facebook lives of others via the sites increasingly convoluted advertising platform. Delving into Facebook advertising sure is exciting at first. Setting the parameters of who will see your suggestively placed ad, based on the artists you feel best reflect your sound, gives you feeling that the road to impending fame could be a few Facebook bucks away.
Alas, reality soon kicks in, as the trickle down from the thousands of impressions leads to a iTunes sales report bearing a big fat zero, or a gig attendance more suited to the capacity of a confessional.
Welcome to the world of advertising, where strength in numbers is the name of the game, and those numbers are always prefixed with a dollar sign. You want to kickstart momentum for your career then yes, select results can be seen by sprinkling some magic money dust on your musical beans. But the truth is, without genuinely generated buzz outside of the lurid lucre of mommy and daddies credit card, you would get more bang for your buck standing outside Best Buy, paying people $10 to listen to your album.
The real result of this newly formed “affordable” advertising, is that we are now all taking less and less notice of the poorly shot promo pic to the right of our news feed. You know the one, declaring that if I “like the Foo Fighters” then I am surely going to like “insert derivative band name here”. It’s taking the same nose dive in credibility that myspace did, except this time it is costing bands more than just their street cred.
The time to advertise is when you start seeing non-paid results elsewhere, and as part of a carefully structured bigger picture. If all you are doing is enticing people into the façade of a buzz, then they are not going to stay long in the world you have to offer. As a result, your advertising spending will resemble the downfall of a gambling addiction, rather than the calculated escalation of a Geico campaign.
Robin Davey is the Director of "Live From Daryls House", VP of Music and Film Development at GROWvision Studios and a member if the Alternative Rock Band Well Hung Heart. Follow him on twitter @mr_robin_davey.