Social Media Trends: Focus on Your Website, Songwriting, and Playing Live (?!)

This is a guest post by Dave Cool, originally posted by our friends over at band-website platform Bandzoogle. Dave is the Director of Member Services of the Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association, maker of the documentary film What is Indie? and is deeply engaged with the Canadian independent music community. You may recognize him as the author of an excellent guide to attending music conferences, which we’ve shared here on Roots Music Canada. And yes, that is his real name.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Social Media: New Trends for Current Users” at the recent OCFF conference in Niagara Falls. After 90 minutes of discussion, the end result of this social media panel was that artists should focus on their own website, their mailing list, songwriting and live performance. Say what?! Allow me to explain.

The goal of the panel at OCFF was to examine the latest trends in social media, how to manage all of your profiles, and to discuss new tips/tactics, etc. On the panel were Selena Burgess (social media maven for Borealis Records), Tom Power (host of CBC Radio 2’s Deep Roots) and singer-songwriter Ember Swift, who manages her social media accounts in both English and Mandarin since she’s now living in China.

So I threw out questions about how to manage several social media accounts (Hootsuite was the popular choice amongst panelists), what everyone thought about some of Facebook’s new features (not very popular so far), Twitter trends, and the latest, greatest social media network, Google+ (not too many people using it apparently).

But in the end, no matter what I did to steer the conversation towards a social media geek-out session, the panelists and artists in attendance always brought the discussion back to the basics:

1. You still need your own website

Any work you do through your social media networks needs to bring people back to your own website. Bandzoogle founder Chris Vinson just wrote a blog post about why this is so important:

3 Reasons to Drive Fans to Your Band Website (and not to Social Media)

But essentially, it’s because you own it, you control it, and you can give your fans a focused experience of your band through your own site. By bringing fans back to your own website you can deepen your relationship with them, encourage them to sign-up to your mailing list, and shop at your own online store.

2. You still need to collect email addresses

Email addresses are gold for an artist’s career. It is still the most reliable way to stay in touch with your fans. Regardless of what happens to the social media sites that are popular at the moment (remember all the fans you had on MySpace?), you can stay in touch with your fans through email.

Just recently, Facebook changed the way pages worked, removing the “Update Your Fans” feature, which sent a message to all of your fans. Ember Swift brought this up during the panel discussion, as she had been using that feature’s geo-location option to target fans by region while on her current North American tour. Well, halfway through her tour, because Facebook decided to make the change, she could no longer send those updates, let alone target fans geographically. Luckily Ember had always kept her mailing list going, organized by region, so she could still send out newsletters and email fans individually before she came to their city. But had she relied solely on Facebook Pages, that could have potentially been disastrous for her promotional efforts on tour.

Statistics from TopSpin, one of the top direct-to-fan marketing platforms, show that email is still the best way to convert fans to paying customers. With all of the fancy Facebook stores, and sales links being sent out through social media, sending a newsletter with a call-to-action to purchase through your own website (preferably) or through services that people recognize (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) still seems to work best.

3. Your music and live show must be GREAT

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING will be better for the promotion of your music than having other people talking about it. New fans are often created because they hear about a band through a trusted source. So if your music or live show is so good that it gets people talking about it, it’s going to spread naturally.

Tom Power’s last words during the panel talked about how social media marketing can’t make up for bad music. It reminded me of a great quote by Bob Lefsetz:

“No amount of Tweeting and Facebooking and online dunning will make up for lame music.”

Should you be active on social media? Yes. It is an important tool in your career and a great way to connect with your fans. But it should never come at the expense of your art. I actually wrote a blog post recently asking if social media was hurting creativity, and in the responses, Bandzoogle member D. Anson Brody mentioned another great quote from comedian/actor/musician Steve Martin:

“Be so good, they can’t ignore you”

And that is what will make you stand out more than any amount of tweeting or Facebook updates. Being so good, people have no choice but to pay attention to you and talk about you to their friends.

A Failed Panel Discussion About Social Media?

In my opinion, not at all. While these aren’t exactly new trends in social media, I was heartened by the fact that people are realizing that they can’t let go of these basic principles. Without solid music, a great live show, and a home base for your fans, your best efforts on social media are likely to fall flat.

What do you think? Should artists spend more time on these fundamentals than on social media? Do you find yourself spending more time on social media than working on your music?

If you are enjoying this content, please take a second to support Roots Music Canada on Patreon!


  1. avatar
    graydon james 28 October, 2011 at 22:43

    i’m sorry i missed that panel discussion, *except* i can now read this excellent article about it. huzzah!

    and i can only concur that social media is simply an add-on to the already popular “killer app”: a real relationship between two actual humans. nothing beats it.

  2. avatar
    Dave Pike 29 October, 2011 at 19:13

    I think the most telling downside to relying on social media is very well described here: “(Remember all the fans you had on MySpace?)”. Social media sites will come and go, but your website and your self-maintained mailing list will never go away. I totally agree Dave Cool!

  3. avatar
    Scott Merrifield 31 October, 2011 at 08:46

    Thanks for Dave Cool and Roots Music Canada for posting this great summary of the OCFF panel discussion.

  4. avatar
    Terry McLeish 1 November, 2011 at 11:28

    I was happy to see you confirm that social media cannot make up for bad music. For us older lads, these days it seems that the music can and does take second place in the big picture. Meaningful songs, good performance and connecting with the audience is what counts above all else. Good for you!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *