Social Media: The Lockdown Opportunity For Musicians?

As the pause on live music continues to stretch into the foreseeable future, artists are compelled to double down on their social media presence which, although it may come naturally to some, presents a significant challenge to others.

Guest post by Paul Sampson of Lickd

Every musician knows the value of social media when it comes to self-promotion and building their fanbase, but whether musicians actually “like” social media is another question altogether. At its best, it can be a uniquely powerful tool for building a base of engaged fans, or even attracting new ones – and at its worst it can be an exercise in frustration. 

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, Patreon, Soundcloud, Bandcamp – just listing all of the available platforms is exhausting, let alone maintaining an active presence that actually drives fan engagement. Of course, there are some musicians who knock it out of the park with their social media presence, even those who don’t have the backing (and resources) of a major record label. But for every one of these success stories, there are dozens of non-starters. 

Never before has this been brought more sharply into focus than during the shutdown of live music triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear that this ‘new normal’ is set to last for the foreseeable future, and that live music – the main revenue stream of thousands of small to mid-sized artists – is not expected to return for even longer. To combat this, musicians’ have been seeking out alternative revenue streams, only for many to find that their lack of an already established social platform leaves them hugely disadvantaged. 

Staying afloat during lockdown

Encouraging fans to buy merchandise, purchasing albums from musicians directly, getting fans to attend live-streams, or even donating to the many hardship funds set up during Covid-19 are all methods that work better when you have an engaged audience with which to communicate. The same applies to alternate revenue streams, such as licensing your music. 

Despite operating in similar circles, a vacuum has formed where, up to this point, the music industry hasn’t maximised its potential for engaging with the world’s biggest influencers. It is worth remembering that – despite its YouTube Music service trailing others in paid subscriptions – Youtube itself is the biggest music streaming service. Not Spotify, not Apple Music, not SoundCloud, Pandora or Amazon. And, put simply, content creators on YouTube, who could so easily promote new music in their videos, are afraid of infringing on copyright, so choose production music instead. Precluding creators from using commercial music in their videos actually means that a lot of musicians are losing out on revenue opportunities. 

To counter this, Lickd allows creators of online content to legally license commercial music whilst also paying artists fairly for that right. This is opening up huge potential for both musicians and creators to reach new audiences and better monetise their content. 

While this revenue stream on its own is not likely to solve the problem of generating a parallel income to the live music scene in the short term, it does present a unique opportunity to get music in front of thousands, if not millions of avid YouTube watchers – it might just be the difference between musicians who whether the lockdown storm, and those who have no option but to  give up on their dream. At the end of the day, no-one wants to see a generation of performers forced out of the industry because of a crisis they can’t control.

While isolating, get digitally social

There is no easy single solution for establishing a strong social media presence without having to put in the work. However, now is the perfect time to work on it. It is a time to assess your audience, create material that can support your online presence, and actually plan your social media strategy, both for the world as it is now, and for how it will be once the music industry starts up again. 

Research how often you should be posting to maximise engagement, what times you should be posting, how to take a good photo, how to hashtag, how to cross promote with other musicians, organisations, influencers and even engage with your fans directly. There are almost as many guides on how to do this as there are currently boarded up venues.

Above all, don’t be disheartened by how things are right now. Audiences around the world are crying out for live music and musicians to survive this, and the outpouring of support many have received has been amazing to see. Use this time to make sure you’re ready when the industry starts up again. 

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