My high school students are addicted to their cell phones. Our school policy to have them “off and away.” For many students, this policy is equal to having their arms cut off or their tongues removed. It is torture. Why are they so addicted? Simple. Social media. They are constantly on Facebook or Snapchat, following their friends’ every move. Of course, I recognize that I, too, am pretty addicted to my phone and to social media. I think it is a pretty common problem to have in our modern times. After all, social media provides many of us with a means to communicate with friends and to connect with others. It can also be a news source and a means to engage in fan activities. Social media provides an easy way to discuss one’s interests and discover new ones. It is certainly a big way that bands get information out to fans and to try and recruit new ones. This certainly is different than how the music industry and its fans operated when I was a kid and I wonder if it is an improvement.
When I was a kid (and I absolutely HATE phrasing any sentence that way!), I discovered new music through one of three ways. I heard the song/artist on the radio, I saw the video on MTV or Friday Night Videos or I heard a song/artist/album through friends. It seemed relatively simple then. For me, I listened to a lot of Chicago Top 40 radio. In 1984, for example, B96 was constantly on, as was MTV when I was the one to choose what was being watched in our TV room. These sources, of course, introduced me to Duran Duran and I have never looked back since! That said, during those years, I couldn’t JUST listen or watch Duran Duran. I had to put up with a lot of music on the radio that wasn’t from my favorite band. Many videos aired before the 24 hour video channel would air the latest Duran video again. I had no choice but to be exposed to lots of other artists. For me, then, in a way, it was good that I had to wait for songs/videos I wanted to hear/see. I definitely found some songs and artists that way that I wouldn’t have with today’s structure. No, in the day and age we live in now, I can go to YouTube or Spotify or Pandora or whatever to see and/or hear a song from someone instantly. I’m the DJ and the VJ now. I decide what gets played, when. Heck, TV is such that I don’t have to wait out performances or interviews to get to ones I’m interested in as I can always record shows and watch them at my leisure later. It seems like a great situation for consumers, right? It is, for many reasons. I don’t have to put up with anything I don’t like. On the same token, I might be missing out on great songs and bands this way. Then, I also wonder what it is like on the other side of the coin. How is it for the bands and artists?
I suspect it is similar to consumers in that there are both positives and negatives. On one hand, bands/artists don’t need to rely on radio or TV to get their music out there. This has to be a positive for up and coming artists. Plus, all bands/artists can connect with their fans, which really does help keep fans interested. That said, there are SO many social networking sites to monitor, to post on, to respond on that I have to wonder if there are just too many choices for fans and artists. Look at every email Duran Duran sends out in terms of their social networking information. It always says this:
Don’t forget to Bookmark:
This is a LOT of places. Someone has to update those. Someone could take a lot of time to respond to fans on all those. After all, we all know that each social networking site is different and has different types of audiences. Look, for example, at the reaction to Duran Duran’s participation at the Al Gore Climate Change event. The reaction was relative quiet on Twitter but Facebook had LOTS of passionate responses. How do bands/artists really know what the fan base really thinks? How do bands/artists really connect to fans on ALL of those sites? It could be a full time job. Social networking takes a lot time. I know that Rhonda and I spend a lot of time on social networking. After all, we post our blogs here on our website and link to it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, our message board, and more. Some days, we spend a lot of time reading and responding to comments we get on all of those places and that is just what we get publicly! Of course, all of the feedback that bands/artists get on social networking isn’t always positive. Some of it can be pretty negative. Again, when I think of my childhood, the criticism that bands like Duran got seemed to be centered around the press. That wasn’t fun, I bet, but might be easier than dealing with criticism from the press AND the general public. All this got me thinking about how overwhelming social networking is and can be makes me appreciate any and all times that DDHQ (the social networking people working for the band) does respond to people or does like some statement or retweet something.
Social networking, I guess, like everything else has its positives and negatives for bands/artists and fans. It isn’t going to be going anywhere soon. It is here to stay. In fact, I suspect that there will be more and more social networking sites in the future. While bands/artists might be able to their music out to more people, at times, it seems overwhelming. At those times, I long for the easier day and age when I just had to watch MTV and listen to Top 40 radio.