Today, more people than ever are using the internet as a tool to create. Since the rise of the Web 2.0 internet users have used the internet to consume content, share their thoughts, images, videos and opinions with the world. As technologies advance and access to equipment used to create content becomes more affordable, internet users are now not only just able to consume content. Internet users are now able to communicate ideas with one another through creating more valuable personalised content that speaks directly to large audiences resulting in online interactions, sharing and virality.
In the traditional music industry the idea of being successful was the notion that an artist would have to rely on the funds of a record label to record their albums, promote their music and distribute their products to the masses in order to make any money. Today this is simply not the case, although there is an argument that peer-to-peer sharing services have all but crumbled the music industries profits (Sinnreich, 2011). The Web 2.0 has breathed life into a new era of independent musicians who are creating their own user created content (UCC) and expanding their audiences through the uses of different social media mediums.
Technologies are advancing to the point that musicians are now able to create music from the comfort of their bedrooms. The Web 2.0 has created a place that musicians are now able to create alternate content to music that allows them to promote their music, engage with online communities and audiences and allow them access to different avenues to create revenue than that which the traditional music industry traditionally offered. Todays artists work hard at creating a ‘brand’ or ‘self image’ on their online profiles that represents their chosen identities and speaks to their particular audience. In this way artists are now able to continually communicate with their audiences regularly by posting content on social media platforms which helps them promote their artwork, stay relevant and engage with their fans across vast geographical distances.
This type of artist who utilises social media to communicate with their fans can be described as a digital era enthusiast. Digital era enthusiasts are a group of musicians that attribute the success of their careers to the use of social media (Kaya et al., 2010). They describe the ability to create several different types of content and spread it online as an outlet that gives them more creative abilities and creates an open relationship in which they can communicate with their fans.
An example of this is the band OK Go, who have come to fame not from their music but from their ability to make viral videos on youtube. In 2005 the band released a low budget video of their song A Million Ways which saw the band dancing to a choreographed dance routing for more than three minutes in a single uncut take. The video gained millions of views on youtube and catapulted them to success with their audience posting videos of their own versions of the dance online and creating a large conversation surrounding the content as to who they were and how good they were (Hewitt, 2010). Since then the band has played headline shows all around the world and has continued to break boundaries with their online video content. This trend of utilising UCC to create a brand around an artists music is now almost more important than the music itself, with artists such as Justin Bieber being scouted as a result of his online pull from his posted video uploads.
The ability for an artist’s UCC to become viral is central to the idea of networks. That is, the more nodes in a social network that are connected to you, the more influence your social media page has (Dijk, 2012). Studies suggest that fun, happy and humorous content are more likely to go viral than others (Jenkins, 2011). This is important for artists to take note of because the more virally relevant their content is to their fan base, the more likely their fan base is to interact with their content and the more influence their ‘brand’ will have. One way a bands influence can be measured is through the amount of fans their social media pages have and the amount of interactivity resulting from the content they post. Although this might not seem important, in a digital landscape and a changing music industry, it is very important. In order to create a successful career out of music, these numbers are what make one band worth more than another band and this converts to money, especially when playing live shows.
Understanding an audience is therefore also of upmost importance. Analysing the analytics produced by a band’s content on every social media platform will give them more insights into what kind of content is successful and what kind of content is less successful. Using these analytics and directing UCC towards a target audience will allow content to be tailored to their particular audience, encouraging further fan participations, interactivity and promotion of user generated content (UGC) to be shared to potential new audiences.
While traditional media and music industry generated content that was only consumed, the rise of Web 2.0 has allowed for users to create content and respond to it online via social media mechanisms like the comments section. Independent artists today are continually bypassing the traditional forms of music distribution by finding more interesting, innovative and artistic ways to express their art through their online content. Through the advancements in technology which now make it much more accessible to create music, websites like Soundcloud and Youtube are providing avenues for artists in which they are able to showcase their work to the world. This new means on music distribution has meant that social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are becoming more important and more intertwined with artists personal ‘brands’ as they allow them to create alternative content to music and allow for fans to interact with them and contribute their thoughts and affections towards their favourite artists. It is through the use of effective UGC and analytic tools that modern artists are able to gain data and important information about their audiences in order to promote themselves effectively, target their audiences and create quality UGC that has better potential to go viral and reach new networks and audiences within the social media platforms. They would not have been able to do so otherwise.
Dijk, Jan Van (2012) The network society. 3rd Edition, London; Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, pp 22 – 48
Hewitt, C. (2010, November 16). Designing Media: Jorge Just [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTKGCXM_iBs#t=35
Kaya, M. Steffens, P. Hearn, G. Graham, P. (2010). How can entrepreneurial musicians use electronic social networks to diffuse their music. In: Proceedings of the 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange. University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD
Sinnreich, A. (2011). The Piracy Crusade: How the Music Industry’s War on Sharing Destroys Markets and Erodes Civil Liberties. University of Massachusetts Press: Amherst and Boston.