Anti-social Media: I know you can sing, but how well can you tweet?

Helienne Lindvall has another brilliant column in The Guardian, “The Winners and Losers of Social Networking Promotion” in which she has a frank discussion of the problems that artists, and particularly songwriters, have with the demands of marketers and promotion folk to get creators to blog, tweet, and generally engage in the much vaunted “conversation” directly with their fans.

This is not for everyone–either artist or fan. When we first started planning for an artist-driven future (see my article from 2000, “Why Free Agency Matters: The Coming Changes in Record Company-Artist Relations“) there are some artists who embrace the direct to fan experience and some who do not. One wag said that “There’s a reason they call these people artists and not distributors. They’d rather sit at home in their living room with a guitar than with a palette of CDs or a computer.”

As we have said in these pages many times, it is concerning that finding out what’s “popular” or “trending” is a substitute for A&R, sending artists to corporations for sponsorships is a substitute for label or publisher investment, or valuing music based on a share of advertising revenues is a substitute for licensing at the intrinsic value of the music as determined by the creator. This is the ultimate corporatizing of music.

(Now before the peanut gallery pipes up that record companies funding the production and marketing of music and one-off corporate sponsors are the same thing, realize that one invests (or should invest) in the artist as they come, and the other invests in an artist if they do something the corporate sponsor finds acceptable. With some notable exceptions that prove the rule, corporate sponsors usually don’t invest in the long-term careers of artists, and online advertisers definitely do not.)

Helienne’s piece should be required reading for every artist and marketer. It’s too easy to say that a record failed because the artist didn’t blog. It’s nice to have the artist participate in “the conversation” (we think, although I’ve yet to see any data that gives anything more than a hunch about the consistent long-term positive effect on record, ticket or merch sales solely from free social media activities), but if the artist just isn’t cut out for blogging, then it is the marketer’s job to find another way to introduce the artist to a new audience.

I know this will come as a shock, but it has been done before. If the label wanted to sign a blogger, they should have done that.

On the other hand, artists have to understand that they may–may–be limiting themselves by not participating in social media.

But then again, I have yet to hear a fan say that they love a band because they tweet so well.