Last issue featured the first of our six-part social media series as we looked into what makes Twitter important (or not important) for musicians today. This issue, we are covering Facebook as a social media platform for artists.
This section must be prefaced with the observation and fact that Facebook has really grown in terms of its curation of music. Congratulations, Facebook. The platform’s “likes” can determine whether a band gets booked at a particular venue, or whether they’re worthy of an article in a magazine. Additionally, it is now common for bands and labels to buy Facebook ads (JEFF the Brotherhood just ran a smart ad campaign for their new album) to promote releases and concerts. Because more people use Facebook than Twitter, it seems to be more important for bands to communicate through Facebook (unless you’re Kanye West, who chooses to opt out). Just like we mentioned in regards to Twitter in the last article, when bands drive traffic to their Facebook pages through humorous, entertaining, or informational posts, they are also driving traffic to their main websites and album sales, with a correlation that is proven over time.
Bands have been able to connect with their fans through Facebook since the platform’s creation of “Pages,” which, with the help of outside tools like BandPage, has enabled musicians to stream their music and post tour dates. Other applications like Bandsintown have also served as outside sources of help when navigating Facebook through the musical lens. On February 29, 2012, Facebook announced that Pages would soon be switching to the “Timeline” layout–a shift that implemented personal messaging to any Page, as well as a jarring change in web aesthetics.
“I think that right now Facebook is the most effective way to reach fans, friends, and more, but I think that the Timeline format is going to need a few tweaks to make it more user friendly for both the artist and the fan,” says Roger Lussier from the Boston bands Yale, MA and Pretty & Nice.
The Timeline page also allows musicians and labels to post milestones to their pages, publicly deeming a particular event significant. Sub Pop Records uses this feature to describe the creation of the label; The National uses “milestones” to link music video and album releases.
However, despite its ever-changing presentation, Facebook’s “Pages,” at its core, has remained a basic method of communication for bands, whether it be for music talk or everyday banter. In May of this year, the Brooklyn band Suckers posted an unusually personal note for all of their fans to read. Apparently some guy Facebook-messaged lead singer Quinn Walker’s fiancee in attempt to hit on her and win her over, even mentioning he knew that she and Walker were together. Walker took the message to the next level and decided to tell all of the Suckers fans about the encounter. He shared a screenshot of the romantic solicitation and he made a public post: “So this piece of shit Gary Tedder sent in an application to be my FIANCEE’s next boyfriend as soon as I left for tour. I’ve been inspired to repost this outside of my personal account due to the influx of terrible stories regarding this scumbag and women.” The post received handfuls of feedback and predictably set up a circle of embarrassment around the young Don Juan.
Back in music world, bands do connect with fans through Facebook about things other than sleazy threats. Caribou frontman Daniel Snaith consistently posts personal updates about his music on Facebook. The Bear In Heaven guys make jokes and relay touring anecdotes. Billy Bragg loves sharing information about his music and shows, in addition to his personal opinions on current events.
“Michael J. Epstein from Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Michael J Epstein Memorial Library, and Neutral Uke Hotel is super active on Facebook–not just posting things about him or his projects, but listening, talking, and debating. Al Polk from Polk Records and Streight Angular is another. There’s people I see active all the time, not just liking or re-tweeting things that will help them, but being part of a community,” says Steve Theo, co-founder of Pirate Promotion and Management.
The trick, is for musicians to make the most of Facebook in their own style. The most memorable bands who post on Facebook are the ones who think of their own unique ways to post–differentiating themselves from their social media “competitors.” Sometimes however, the smartest posting methods originate from marketing experts and label heads, rather than the musicians themselves. The following are our top-three favorite musicians who post on Facebook (in no specific order):
Jens Lekman- Mr. Lekman does not control or monitor his own Facebook page. In fact, until recently his music homepage linked to an innocently hilarious “face/book” photo of him when fans clicked on the literal “Facebook” link. Not sure what spurred the current omission of the photo, but we are trying to make a point here by mentioning Lekman and his apparent social media attitude. Jens Lekman is one of the few musicians who gets more accomplished without a Facebook than with one. Why? Because the absence of generic public pleasing is what Lekman is all about. He will reach out to his fans and even share an email address and respond to individual emails from strangers, YET, he does not participate in everyday “Hey, look at what I’m eating for breakfast” posts. Most recently Lekman announced he signed up for Instagram, just so he could post a photo of himself with a kitten. Yep.
In July of this year, Lekman’s crew finally caved in and started an “official” Jens Lekman Facebook page. Most likely, they’re just trying to remain active in today’s digital world. We still respect the fact though, that Lekman went completely without a page for several years and that the posts on his current page still aren’t coming from him.
The National- We mentioned this “nationalistic” band earlier in this article, but we’re bringing them to the forefront here because it’s been too long since High Violet and the band’s fans are concluding that recent Facebook status updates imply…new album song titles?! Maybe not. Probably not. But we can hope? The month of July brought random posts from the band that almost seemed–too random? There was “Western Sky,” “Made of Stone,” and “Solar”–all updates paired with respective cell phone photos. Fans started speculating and commenting: “Why am I getting the feeling that these are track names off your new album…?”
The funny thing about The National is that nearly all of the band’s Facebook posts are actually Twitter posts automatically added to their Facebook page. Ha ha. A lot of bands do this, but it can get confusing if the posts aren’t consistent and uniform (sometimes linking the two sites leads to accidental repeat posts, too). The National makes it clear that they aren’t crazy about social media, but that they’re willing to participate and interact, and THAT, is key.
Dominique Young Unique- Not a very “serious” pick, right? Well, social media etiquette can get exhausting! It still feels hard to believe that a person’s job can solely by based on contributing to a social media platform. Yikes. People can earn a salary for submitting witty banter?! That is why, at the end of the day, it is nice to just read some “real” updates on Facebook newsfeeds. Dominique Young Unique is unedited, unscripted…she posts about everything on her mind, including family matters, music updates, and random thoughts throughout the day. Of course she will ask you to pray for her sick grandmother and wish a public “Happy Birthday” to her brother-in-law. If you’re subscribing to her content, you have to be ready for anything she throws at you–including an excess of blog posts/Tumblr links…and that’s okay. In a world where it feels like people think about Facebook phrasing a bit too much, she is the breath of fresh air.
At the end of the day, each musician develops his or her own style of Facebook posting, and that’s what counts. The more “original” styles will inevitably prevail as the most original–not surprising. Kind of sounds like common sense, right? That seems to be the point. If there’s honesty behind an artist’s posting, then that person will most likely see the best results.