Seriously, did he really just answer me?
I write about social media quite a bit. I’m continually astounded by its existence and the changes it has made for the entertainment industry as a whole. I remember the first time I realized that not only could I passively follow bands like Duran Duran, but I could interact with them. I would post responses to things they’d tweet whenever I felt like it, and figured that was as far as it would go, but it felt good to be able to say my piece. I remember being so puzzled when John Taylor actually responded to me for the first time, as I sat thinking to myself, seriously, did he really ANSWER me?? I mean let’s face it, I vibrated like a tuning fork at the idea that a member of Duran Duran actually noted my existence on this planet, my excitement was off the charts. Then it became a sort of challenge. I upped the ante for myself. He answered me once, will he ever answer again?? Never MIND how I felt when other band members, or “not quite” band members answered, or still answer me. I don’t think it’s gotten old with me yet – even if they don’t necessarily talk TO you, just seeing them tweet and communicate remains exciting. The possibility for interaction, the possibility that they might see or read tweets and/or Facebook posts makes it interesting.
Yes, I really AM <insert band member name here>.
Things have changed since the first days of social media. Does anyone remember My Space? I remember the platform well, as I handled the My Space account for a delightful little start-up band named Clear Static. That’s right, not only did I answer their mail, I interacted with fans. I answered fans as someone from Clear Static might answer them, because well, somebody had to do it. Let’s just say that the band was ready to be famous far before their music gave them the right to call themselves stars. They toured with Duran Duran, they gained attention and notoriety from Duran fans, and thought they had made the big time. They soon found out that being rock stars meant communicating with fans far more often than they wanted or felt was needed, so they hired me. I kept the enthusiasm going, put out the PR fires as necessary, and lied to fans on a regular basis, telling them that “Yes, I really am <insert band member name here>.” Remembering back to those days on My Space sheds a little light on the darker side of social media.
The band/artist is as big of a product as their music.
My Space was the very beginning of a time we still live in where the band/artist is easily as big of a product as their music. Their image, online presence and personality matter as much as the music they create. For a band like Duran Duran, that’s quite a change from the days of video – where we fans could SEE them, but they never had to actually interact, and certainly not with so many of us at one time. Image has always mattered to Duran Duran, but perhaps not the personal interaction. We fans were kept at arm’s length for the most part, and to be fair – can we really blame them? I still picture the scenes from Sing Blue Silver where they are in the limo and the fans are banging on the windows outside the limo. Yes, it is likely a good thing that social media didn’t exist in the 1980s.
The connectivity piece has become an expected facet – and you know this because I write of it often. Fans want to know who it is behind the music, and let’s face it – the band was pretty interactive during the release of All You Need is Now. We still want more. Maybe we expect too much, but I assure you – it isn’t just Duran Duran fans. Have you seen Taylor Swift’s Twitter or Instagram lately? Those millions of fans aren’t following her because she never shares, I can guarantee you that. Interaction is expected. A daunting reality for a band that spent their earliest years running from the lot of us, wouldn’t you say? This is a time when so many other things matter besides the music, and yet if I asked any of you why you’re Duran Duran fans – I don’t think it’s likely that any of you would answer that it is social media. But yet, for new bands out there – I read over and over again every single day that social media is easily as important as the music. Maybe even more so. According to Wolfgang Gartner, a DJ, artist, producer and label founder, “an artist with a vibrant, thriving social media profile and personality and ‘so-so’ music may have a better shot at getting signed or achieving success than the artist with no social media presence and amazing music. It means that I don’t actually know if that person in my Twitter timeline composed that tweet, or if it was written by an intern at a social media management company.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how I “know” it’s really John, Simon, Roger, or even Dom that answers us. In reality? I have no idea. Wouldn’t we all like to believe we know their voices well enough to know the difference?? Even so, I have to trust it really is them talking to us on their individual accounts even though the strong possibility exists that they’ve hired social media people to do it all for them. Let us all hope we never find out otherwise.
Each piece is a pawn in the social media game.
The sales engine continues to run, according to Wolfgang Gartner. In an article written for the website Medium, Gartner expands, “Artists are often contractually obligated to say specific things on their social networks as part of agreements or contracts; artists are often encouraged by their publicists or managers to be active on social media even if they don’t want to, because it helps sell records and tickets to shows; artists who are constantly on social media interacting with fans thrive, and are effectively helping sell their product.”
Each piece: the music, the image, the connectivity, the branding, the artist – is used as a pawn in the game of sales. A social game of sorts. Artists essentially must become the role they play online, and many don’t want to play the game at all. They’d prefer to be in the studio writing music; up on stage playing music, and leave the rest behind the velvet curtain, safe from view. Not all artists are social, not all artists are even that likable or personable, but in this day and age – one cannot afford to be antisocial.
Gartner goes even further to describe just how far some will go to use the social ladder to further their own game, “Some artists formed bonds with their musical idols, many contacts and collaborations were made, artists were able to give each other praise for their work, and everybody got to watch it happen in real-time. However, a darker side of this trend emerged: artists strategically interacting with other artists in attempts to boost their own careers. Of course musicians and entertainers have been doing this long before the internet, but social media took it to a new level.”
We’ve all seen this happening. Some of it is organic and beautiful, like when Nile Rodgers comments to a band member and they answer. I love that because I can see it happening right on my screen. For some reason, it makes me feel as though we’re all connected, and that it is all real. Conversely, there are the times when Duran Duran picks Pages of the Week that are purely just celebrities on Facebook, or favorites tweets from celebrities mentioning Duran Duran on Twitter. You know (and I know) it’s not “the band” actually doing that, and we ALL should recognize it is grossly fake. In some respects it is an attempt to put the band on equal level with those they respect and admire, and in others it feels just slightly smarmy. Part of the business? Probably. Does it really work? That’s a good question. Overall, it remains part of the social media game.
For Duran Duran, quality music is the end game.
In many ways, I must give proper admiration and respect to Duran Duran, because even with all of the extraneous details, the music continues to be central priority for the band. Yes, they care about their image, they delight in the visual, but the music matters. There is certainly a danger in getting caught up in the current of social media to the point where one forgets what really matters. Many an artist has allowed his/her social media fame to override the music – thus becoming more of an entertainer than musician. While I wouldn’t argue that social media is completely immaterial, I appreciate that the band knows that quality music is the end game. So I suppose I can forgive them for being largely absent for the past few years on social media, and delight in the few moments where they let me know I’m remembered in one way or another.