Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Facebook has been in the news almost constantly in recent weeks (do you own stock in the social network?). And issues with their new Timeline have been well noted. But one thing hasn’t changed: every band has a Facebook fan page, while many have Twitter or Google + accounts. With this in mind and everything happening in the world of Facebook, it begs us to ask:
Have bands become too reliant on social media? That’s the question we’re debating in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Zach: I’m inclined to say yes. I think the biggest misconception about social media in general is that it’s the ultimate PR tool. Yes, it’s a great way to connect to fans, but it’s not enough to post something on your account and expect all of your “likes” to see it. And now with new restrictions on people’s news feeds, it’s become even harder to determine how many people have actually “seen” your post. In short, a band might have a crap load of “likes,” but that doesn’t necessary equal to actual sales or eye balls. And unfortunately, I feel most bands (or at least a majority of unsigned or DIY talent) haven’t grasped that completely yet.
Kodi: I think the problem isn’t that bands are too reliant on social media; in fact, I too often run into metal bands who are doing active radio and publicity campaigns but have no social media presence to draw from whatsoever. The issue is with not knowing how to use it properly. I know, it’s ridiculous to say that any one method is the correct one for handling a Twitter or Facebook account, but following users indiscriminately or spamming yourself around in that MySpace-grown “thanks for the add, here’s our page!” style doesn’t do anything but create background noise. And that approach, which should have been taken out behind the toolshed and shot years ago, still gets used by way too many new artists. What makes you think you have a good fanbase on Twitter just because you followed 3,000 users and 1,600 reciprocated? I’d bet that a very small percentage of that would actually listen to you, and an even smaller amount would buy your record. Don’t rely on social networking bots to build your band’s profile. Use it strategically, get people to follow and like you after seeing you live, and use it as an outlet for equal parts band news and things you’re personally into. You’ll make better connections, and that organically cuts down the signal-to-noise ratio that’s so problematic with the sheer number of Facebook and Twitter users active at any moment.
Going back to Zach’s point, I wouldn’t call social media the ultimate PR tool. I would call it one of a number of PR tools. Hands down, it’s an easy way for bands to directly communicate with their fans, but what happens if Facebook changes their policy, like they apparently just have? You can’t blame social media on that. And remember five years ago? Every band had a Myspace page. I’m sure they still do – with now-defunct bands hyping five year-old albums to a digital ghost town.
I think a lot of acts are just throwing stuff up on social media and assume their fans pick up on it. What if you’re a fan of a band but you’re not on Facebook or Twitter? Or what if you step away from your computer for a minute? Facebook, Twitter, et al cut out the middleman of a publicist, or an old-fashioned mailing list, but they should never be the only way a band communicates with their fans. The ones obsessively paying attention to their favorite bands’ social media? They’re fans that know what’s going on anyway, and would find out news regardless.