INSIGHT FROM INDUSTRY INSIDERS: THOMMY KANE

April 2017

Why Social Media is Dead for Musicians and Performing Artists

Thommy Kane is a Portland-based rapper/hip-hop artist formerly known as POVERTY.  He is also an actor, record producer, poet and entrepreneur…and a friend of mine.

“As a hip hop artist, I have been mulling over which social media platform is the best to get music out there. After several months of research I have come to the conclusion that none of them are, anymore.

In the early days of Myspace, Social media was a new thing. The excitement brought people to it in droves and it was a hot bed for entertainers. Dane Cook even made a comedy career off of his Myspace following that made him the highest paid stand-up comic in the world at the time. YouTube and Facebook coming in around mid-2000’s, also made tons of people famous. Singers like Justin Beiber became the world’s next Michael Jackson, solely off of Youtube popularity alone. However, with constant evolving technology making high quality music, and videos, cheap and easy to make, the music market became flooded. It has gotten to the point where just about anybody can make some form of music now at a decent quality for a very inexpensive cost. A lot of fans became artists, and buyers became sellers. The over-saturation of music and videos resulted in a massive pouring of people self-promoting down the feeds of everybody’s twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Then, in a response to match the demand of self-promoting artists, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram began charging artists to get exposure, the same way they charge Subway to market a $5 foot-long.

So, people who don’t do music, who artists are targeting as fans, are not only being pelted with youtube and soundcloud links all day long from every artist under the sun, but now they also have to sit and see forced content in their newsfeed that reads “sponsored” over it. Where the fan of music once clicked on an occasional link to check out some struggling artist’s music, they are now so overwhelmed and annoyed with all the spam, they simply don’t bother anymore. Just like most people won’t even bother to read this article. Not to mention, that every DJ, artist, band, singer, beat producer, painter, photographer, website designer, travel blogger, food blogger, dancer, graphic designer, video director, youtuber, comedian, actor, model and tattoo artist is trying to promote themselves. In other words, everyone has adopted the same logic that they could build a business for themselves on social media by marketing themselves. What this has resulted in is everybody plugging and promoting themselves without taking any time to look at what others are promoting.

What also occurred, is websites like Facebook, have drifted far away from being a social media site, now acting more as a news aggregate and self-promotion engine. The entire landscape of social media has changed. The online world has become so weighed down by a myriad of people selling something, that the small few people who aren’t selling anything have become simply exhausted. Where it used to only be big corporations jockeying for your attention, now it’s all of them and half of the people you know online.

Facebook had artists spending years building a Facebook fan page for themselves, and now they charge the artist money to reach their own fan base. Twitter is basically a place where people follow people who are already famous. So for the struggling artist, good luck with that. Also, Twitter won’t allow you to upload songs or videos without limiting its duration. Instagram is exactly the same as twitter in both cases. Snapchat won’t let you do anything accept snap a pic or shoot a 10 second video and share it. Hardly the platform for promoting music. Soundcloud is predominantly swarmed with other struggling artists promoting to other struggling artists. The only way to gain the attention of regular people on their site is to chart, which you need thousands and thousands of fans already to achieve. Unless of course you plug your Soundcloud on other Social Media sites, which I have already explained is useless. Youtube on the other hand is another nightmare all together. The average person looks at a YouTube video with a few hundred to a couple thousand views and immediately dismisses it. Nobody wants to support something they don’t already see others supporting, and this remains a factor with Soundcloud plays as well.

Which is why now, there are dozens of websites that will help you pay for fake plays and views. However, what good is a fake play or view, if it doesn’t directly convert into a real fan? Lastly, don’t even get me started on email marketing. Nobody wants spam in their emails.

So I began doing some research as to just where people do go for new music. I know there are still die-hard fans of music who are interested in discovering new music right? They’re must be some place they go, right? Wrong.

There is no one place, app or website anyone goes for new music anymore. In fact, what my research has revealed, is that the vast majority of music listeners discover music nowadays in video games, commercials and believe it or not, radio. Radio, something we all thought would die 10 years ago, is still very much alive. Occasionally, some people stumble upon you because of a viral video, hear something they liked on a Pandora playlist, or simply discover artists who are trending. However, the question then becomes, just how does an artist do any of these things?

Well, first of all, you can’t “make” a viral video. It either happens or it don’t. With regards to Pandora, it is next to impossible to get included in their playlist without being a signed artist. There are ways, but it’s a major pain in the ass. As far as getting on the radio, you simply cannot do that without major money and a major radio promoter who can get that accomplished for you. You may be able to get on local radio, or some local college stations, but that’s about it. And, you will never be in rotation on the station, without some rep from Interscope Records making it happen with Clear Channel. As far as placements in video games, movies, and commercials, the only way to achieve that as an artist is to have a publishing deal with someone like EMI or BMI. However, publishing companies will almost never do a deal with an unsigned artist, unless of course you write or produce songs for somebody else who is signed.

Some even argue that if you just go outside to promote your music and do shows, it could have a much better effective reach than online. What people fail to realize though, is that nobody goes to shows to go see artists they never heard of. If you are willing to perform for free in front a few strangers you could develop a fan or two, but even for super talented artists, this doesn’t result in significant growth.

What has happened is that only artists with serious amounts of wealth behind them are making any noise. Most record deals happening these days are simply insiders helping out other insiders. Very rarely will you hear a story like “Russ” (who is fucking dope af btw) come up, just from building their own organic online following.

Just recently I did a test with online social media advertisement. I spent $30 on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram just to see the results. Keep in mind I targeted people who specifically like hip hop and similar interests. Facebook, after claiming I could reach a minimum of 18,000 people, was the least effective. My $30 got me 5 likes on my fan page, 800 views on my video and 2 comments. My $30 ad on twitter resulted in 4 reposts, 8 likes and only 1 new follower. My $30 on Youtube got me 4,000 views (which was pretty good), but only 16 likes, and zero new subscribers or comments. In fact, I think a vast majority of the views were counted solely from the ad playing for 5 seconds before another video. Instagram did the best though. My $30 on Instagram got me 3,000 views on a video, 118 hearts, 8 comments and 17 new followers. The results of this test run got me thinking.

If any artist out there is backed by major money, like record label money, you could easily make someone a star for about roughly $50,000. However, what I hear from people every day, is how tired they are of mainstream music. I hear people say things like “the Industry shoves stuff down our throats, etc,) Well, unfortunately the game is completely designed for that to be the case again. In the 90’s, the music business had all the power. If an artist was going to make it he needed big label money. We just went through a fifteen year span where that was no longer the case. Just about anyone could get online and blow up. I even remember when the rapper “Benefit” was downloaded over one million times off Napster. Unfortunately, the fifteen year grace period of independent artists has come to almost a screeching halt.

As a fan of music, the bad side to all of this is you will, once again, only know about music that big money put in front of you. The good side though, is that you will longer need to swim through a barrage of struggling artists promoting their links, considering that only big money will be able to afford to put it in front of you. As an artist on the other hand, we are stuck in a major state of limbo. You need views, plays, streams and likes to get record deals, but you need record deal money now to get views, plays, streams and likes. So, if you’re a fan of someone’s music, it’s incredibly important to follow and subscribe on all platforms. Its extremely important to share, view, like or engage with their content. Its also important for the artist to engage back and show respect for that level of support. The intimate relationship between artist and fan is one of the only remaining combative measures we can take anymore to fight against big money.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m just going to keep climbing up that wall of adversity. I’m going to continue showing love to my pre-existing fan base and welcome any new fans who trickle in with open arms. It’s a process though and not likely to result in a huge rapid growth. Though I truly believe that if music is truly good, nothing can stop it from spreading. Therefore, I obviously have more work to do. They say that 100 fans on the internet can turn into a million overnight if so much as one stroke of luck occurs. Well, considering I am not backed by a millionaire, I guess that’s all I can hope for. Keep on keeping on, playa.”

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–Thommy Kane

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