Social Media’s Impact on Artists and the Music Industry

Disclaimer: This assignment was prepared for the Broadcasting and Film Program at Centennial College. It is not intended to represent the views of the College, B and F Program or faculty.

Social Media is like a vaccine that hasn’t been entirely tested and we can only wait and see the repercussions as time goes on.

It’s funny I say that, considering I am one of those self-made Artists that uses all forms of Social Media. I talk to fans, promote music and videos and use Social Media sites hugely in my communication with others for business. It is free advertising, as long as I stay within a specific ‘socially acceptable’ bubble.

At times, I wonder, is this helping me?

Sure, but I’m just an independent Artist with no relative fame, at all.

Well, not yet, anyway…


Her mother paid ARK Music Factory $4000 to write her daughter a song and accompanying video, to be put out as a vanity release. As if over night, the video went viral with over 167 million views. And this is Rebecca Black’s claim to fame, being involved in what is dubbed, ‘the worst song ever’.

This next song talks about “the perfect girlfriend who knows when to be refined and when to get wild.” The video includes its own dance, a horse trot, involving pretending to ride a horse, holding fake reins, spinning an imaginary lasso, and moving into a legs-shuffling side gallop. Gangnam Style is a single by South Korean rapper, Psy, released on Oct 15, 2012. Again, within 8 days, it became the world’s most watched video. Even Britney Spears tweeted that she wanted choreography lessons for the cheesy dance.

From basement to stardom, the stories are coming out of the woodwork on how artists are finding fame through social media.

But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Is popularity winning over talent?

Is money speaking louder than soul?

In such a dispensable age, are our tastes so easily dummied down so as to click a simple button to say we ‘Like’ something?

Is the new gospel 140 characters?

Remember MySpace?

Back in the day, about 5 years ago, MySpace ruled the Internet for music and networking. It was the hippest place for musicians of all shapes and sizes, everyone fit in.

Someone who did very well with his career due to MySpace was Owl City’s Adam Young. He was discovered in 2008 with a little help from indie music retailer, CDBaby, as well as iTunes. A year later, Owl City struck it big with their single, ‘Fireflies’, and the world ate up the cheery slice of optimism around the world. Now the globe knows who Owl City is but most of us have forgotten about MySpace, even though Justin Timberlake, who coincidentally derived a lot of success from MySpace, back in its infancy, now owns it. Canadian Artist, Lights, is also another example of self-made stardom because of MySpace, as she posted her electro pop tracks from the basement and updates about World of Warcraft.

Facebook and Twitter

Within the land of online traffic, Twitter and Facebook have shot forward in most commonly used sites. Both have evolved beyond mere social networks and are now platforms for heavy advertising, as well as the distribution of specific content and app development, all these creating a new market that the music industry hadn’t even thought of a few years ago and has just recently begun taking advantage of. Both Facebook boasts of over 600 million users and Twitter attests to about 125 million. Meanwhile MySpace, the former king of social networking, has faded to a mere nearly-has-been.

Concert and festival organizers and operators realize that if they want to stay ahead of their competition, they have to step up their game. Fans now have so much choice and they are being picky about which gigs they attend. The general population seems to be shunning traditional outlets in media for those of social media, as they research their night out and buy tickets.

Music is dominating most conversations on Twitter, amongst its users, who send approximately 200 million Tweets a day, a 100% increase over the previous 30 months. This screams that Twitter is an increasingly essential part of an Artist’s marketing plan. The two top trending topics on Twitter at the beginning of 2011 were singer Rebecca Black, as mentioned previously, and the then-recent album from Britney Spears, Femme Fatale. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have more followers than President Obama. But is this a GOOD THING? How is it that these Artists have so much impact on global opinion?

“Social media is really important because one of the best forms of marketing is word of mouth,” said Gareth Currie, director of social media for United Agency, after recently working on campaigns for Kaiser Chiefs and Deadmau5. “Instead of it being top down, it is breaking down the barriers between fans and artists.”

Social Media is opening the lines of communication, between artists and fans, 140 characters at a time.

Mac Miller

Mac Miller. Have you heard of him? He’s got 180 million views and the numbers are still going up, that’s just on YouTube alone. He’s got a million and a half Facebook fans and is over a million followers on Twitter. With no radio play, this guy is selling out all ages clubs all over North America and Europe. He has a massive following of girls who follow him around to hear him rap, they cry, they shriek, they love him. He’s sold almost a million singles.

Yes, Rostrum Records, Mac Miller.

Who the heck is this kid?

 Malcolm McCormick, born in Pittsburg, in 1992. Miller and his brother were raised in a Jewish home by their photographer mother. He attended Catholic grade school and played lacrosse. Now he is a rich and famous rapper with virtually no airplay. Social media is a huge force for Miller. His millions of Twitter followers and Facebook fans read his personal updates. His social media activity landed him a spot on Billboard’s Uncharted chart, which is based solely on online activity, before he debuted at No. 36 on the Rap Digital Songs charts for his track “Knock Knock,” where he remained steadily for 18 weeks. This past year, Miller plays consistently in sold-out venues of increasing size. MTV leven had a live stream of his performance at the Chicago House of Blues on Oct. 12. According to MTV, it was one of the network’s top webcasts.

 This is just another shining example of how proper social media management is catapulting people’s careers into stardom. Obviously, in such a recycled world, any stardom now is relative and often short lived, but what if that’s just the way the Music Industry is going? Social Media has become a staple in nearly everyone’s lives. We go to it for what is hot and what is not, we spy on those we don’t talk to and we voice our opinions about what we like and don’t like.

It’s only the beginning…

“If you have an affinity toward a musician and their music, you sort of have an affinity for their entire lifestyle and everything about them,” says Jonathan Crowley, director of business development for media and entertainment, at Foursquare. There are countless of new sites springing up, built around the ever-growing social graph that redefines the Internet. Some are built solely with music promotion and distribution as the objective. Humans love to watch what other humans will do and this trend will not be going away, any time soon. If anything, our lives will become more public and less private, even if we aren’t Artists in the online spotlight.

I don’t live in a pipe dream that with one magical Facebook update or a barrage of clever tweets will bring me center stage in front of thousands of people but if I really think about it, that is what Social Media is. Every day I have an opportunity to put on my own concert of thoughts and actions. My opinions are heard if I share them, my music gets played if I post it. I’ve stopped exhausting myself trying to reach huge record labels and have started trusting more transparent sources of information and help. Some of my favorite Artists have tweeted me personally and I’ve made valuable connections that would have never happened without Social Media.

The music industry has been changed in a way that will not be reversed. Maybe we’ll be sacrificing money for exposure or vice versa but we have to believe that in the end, the true talent will stand out and not be swayed by passing fads. We must use the tools given to use, to our own advantage. Regardless how we chose to approach Social Media, it is as certain in our world as oxygen and sin.

I, for one, choose to embrace it.

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