A lot has been written about the role that social media has to play in the future of the music industry. Needless to say, it is pivotal, and joins the list of other innovations (singles, music videos, home recording software, the internet) that have the potential to shape the music industry for the better. But despite the benefits of this relatively new medium, many labels, both major and indie, have yet to grasp the importance of it. I'm going to have a brief stab at explaining it - a very basic overview, and a few of my own points thrown into the mixer.
What does it mean for labels?
To put it simply, you cannot simply sign an artist, assign a budget, shove out a few e-flyers and set up a Myspace page (ran by somebody at the record label for five minutes a week - trust me, I've seen this in action). You need to work with the artist, highlight their strengths and weaknesses in communicating their message (writing songs aside - leave that to A&R), and enable them to work with you to achieve a social networking presence that is both credible and welcoming.
Set up a site - or rather a hub for your artist. Make this the epicentre of your online operation, not the final solution. Single-platform web portals are no longer enough - to achieve a 360 degree mix you have to be on the ball constantly, and have the core four social media outlets nailed (Myspace/Facebook/Twitter/Blog), with a strong presence on all. But this needn't be a hard slog on your part - in the post-industrial landscape we find ourselves in, artists want, and need to have more of a say, and more of a web presence to gain the respect and appreciation of their audience. So essentially what I am saying is that if you sign a band, make sure they are open to promoting themselves bar the odd interview, gigging and video shoots. It goes so far beyond that these days.
What does it mean for artists?
As an artist, you can no longer hide behind a major label marketing machine. If you do not have much to say, then you will get lost in the din. You, your songs and your thoughts are the biggest assets that you have, so use them wisely, and don't be scared of ruffling a few feathers. Respond to criticism constructively, offer your fans throughts, insights and free downloads they may enjoy.
Socialising and engaging with your fans is a 24/7 job, but it needn't be a chore - these people love what you do, so talk to them, share with them!
So in short, I've only just scratched the surface of this massive subject. I think it's because I'm very tired, and have been reading about social media for so long I start to suffer from tiredness-enduced TMI syndrome.
In the meantime, check out this video from one of my favourite bands at the moment, College.
College - She Never Came Back