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Many people come up to me and ask me for guidance about a variety of things – including social media – thinking I know what I am doing. I don’t. The only thing I consider myself an expert in, is trying and giving things a go. Technically, I have worked in the creative industries since I was two, so, yes, I have experience, but it certainly does not make me an expert, (other than knowing the crazy) All I can do – and am happy to do – is share my experiences.
Firstly, I am not what I consider a social media type of person. What I mean by that is, I am a very private person and feel extremely uncomfortable sharing with the world. It’s not that I don’t want to share, I have just never been the type of person to do so. When Facebook says, ‘what’s on your mind’ I instantly think ‘none of your business’ and ‘well I couldn’t possibly share what’s actually on my mind’. I have many issues with social media and its power for both good and evil, but this is not the place for that conversation! As an artist and journalist – and a business woman – I have to engage in social media. This has been an extremely hard journey for me – and continues to be – but I have undeniably seen the benefits and have worked out some strategies that work for me. I have also met a huge amount of genuinely wonderful people purely through social media and I will be eternally grateful for that.
When I decided, three years ago to do ‘this social media thing’ I started by researching all the platforms and talking to people about how it all works. I don’t do anything unless I know at least something. I spoke to people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. It was actually fascinating. Finding out about the right time to post, what to post, hashtags etc. Marketing experts talked about branding and consistency – I listened, but to be honest, I was thinking ‘branding?!! I am musician not a product! This is not going to be relevant to me, I just want to make music’ – and I was determined to never do a selfie. I thought I had it sussed and arrogantly, found some software that could schedule posts for me and that I could just regularly post some things and pretty much ignore it. For reference, I use Twitter, Facebook (both an artist page and personal page) and Instagram. Yes, I gained some followers through this process. But I had two problems. One was my content and the other was engagement. People were replying to my posts and clearly wanting to talk or have some kind of response from me. In my ignorance, I wasn’t expecting this. I was just engaging in social media for marketing….. so, I started to respond to the comments and talk to people, just because, well I thought it was rude not to.
Now this, I must say, was significant and so far, I have been very fortunate with the people that are interested in my work. The majority of people who comment are good, decent people who are genuinely interested in my work. Who knew?! From a work point of view, I have made significant contacts purely through social media and have without a doubt, played some great venues purely because of my social media presence. People who have been interacting with me actually buy tickets, come along to my gigs and listen to my music.
What was fascinating for me was, while I wasn’t considering my ‘brand’ and really had no plan other than ‘I need to post stuff’, my social media presence developed into something more meaningful for me and I had subconsciously developed a sort of brand. I didn’t like – and still don’t like – continually posting photos of me and what I felt very strongly about, was I didn’t want people to think I am something I am not. I won’t pretend. So, I started posting a couple of photos of my rehearsals, just behind the scenes shots that I had taken on my phone. Now I love black and white photography and I love the whole Jazz vintage feel of some photos, so I always go with a black and white theme. Suddenly, my engagement almost doubled. More people commented and ‘liked’. People love seeing behind the scenes info – the real stuff. I also spoke to someone who had a attended a lecture on social media promotion in fashion and some things that were said, suddenly made things clearer to me. I was told that Twitter is just for comment, Facebook is for reach and Instagram is for beauty. Now beauty in the fashion world is something quite different, but for me I started thinking about this and what I consider beautiful – what makes me happy and feel good – what I love. Here’s what I came up with:
The time I spend with my musicians
People who do nice things
People helping each other
Silly conversations and banter
Making people smile
So, this is what I post. Anything to do with those things. I was getting caught up in the ‘me’ element of marketing and sort of forgot that me, as a person, is actually relevant to that. I am happy and proud to work with some amazing people and love sharing their work. I also love finding new music and musicians and spreading the word – I mean, we are all in this together right?
Somehow – and I do hope you can see that from this – I have managed to create a social media presence that is actually true to who I am, which was my main concern – and it was completely not planned. If I have to post things and promote myself, I wanted to do it honestly. Well, if I’m being honest, I don’t like promoting myself at all. But now, I even manage to do the odd selfie, but I always post one saying, ‘apparently, I am supposed to do selfies #imnotaselfieperson’ and as I don’t post them often, I get quite a few likes when I do. How do I know that I have achieved this? Well, from the comments people make. People have the impression that I am genuine and honest. Which, well, ha, I am, and it is truly wonderful that people can see that through all the promotional things I post.
At the end of the day, if no one knows anything about my music, no one will come to my gigs and listen to my music, which in turn, means I can’t do what I want to do. Many of us hate doing it, but it cannot be denied that we have to. But what I have found that helps me more than anything, is the community I am part of. When we help each other and share each other, it reminds us that we are all in this together. There is a musician whose work I love (I won’t name here) and I am always retweeting and sharing this artists work. The artist messaged me and thanked me profusely for always sharing. I said of course, I was happy to, but I felt it a little odd that this person needed to say thank you for something I considered normal. But what is interesting is this artist never shares anyone’s else work. Ever. At a recent gig I had at a well-known club (I won’t mention here) the marketing team thanked me after the event, for all the promotion I did, as they said they were not used to Jazz musicians doing that. I found that bizarre, but not entirely surprising.
This is something I have seen – and discussed with many over the past couple of years – and this is my overriding message in this article. We are all in this together. We cannot expect people to share our work and shout about it, if we don’t do the same. This is not the Jazz way. Well not to me. Supporting each other is essential. Not just for our work but our sanity in this crazy music world. Discussions about mental health are relevant here. We talk about supporting each other and being there for each other and there are many ways of doing this. It’s not about ‘likes’ and placing value on that – it’s about feeling part of an amazing community, that is extremely challenging but also wonderful. And quite frankly, none of us can live without. No one chooses a career in music for financial stability. In fact, it chooses us, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. So, let’s help each out.
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about Fiona Ross