Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Let's Get Social

When I look at my laptop in the morning, the first things I open are Facebook and Twitter. I’ve got my Soundcloud on the bookmark bar, my Tumblr account is patiently waiting for me to do something, as is my Flickr account. The least said about my Myspace page the better (don’t go looking for it, it’s not worth the effort). I’ve got my Reverbnation account, which I occasionally use, but I only really got because I thought it was necessary, and of course there’s the creeping tide of Google and Google Plus.

Recording Studio Control Room
I must stop wasting time on Pro Tools and do some Twitter

So that’s just me, a whole bunch of social media accounts that I’ve jumped on, to both ensure I have my preferred names, and also just in case it turns out that they are next year’s Facebook and Twitter.

One website suggests that Google receives two million requests for data a minute. In that same time, 42000 statuses are updated on Facebook, 36000 tweets are sent, and a staggering 72 HOURS of content is uploaded to YouTube.

That’s a lot of information.

Then there’s us doing our thing and posting music, or talking about making music. I don’t know how much of the Facebook sharing or tweets are about music, writing a song or being in the studio. In my case, several have been about struggling with software and hardware (thanks Avid).

So who is actually listening? How do we stand out in this utter chaos of (let’s face it) mostly drivel being shared?

I think it’s quite funny that social media has made the world smaller, but for us musicians it’s really emphasised the point that we need to get out and play to our audiences. I feel that we owe it to ourselves to back up the social media, use it by all means, but we can never take our eye off the ball and remember that we actually need to engage with the punter.

If we use our social media properly, then yes we are engaging with our fans and followers. But I just have a feeling that we’re going to go back to doing loads of really small gigs and hopefully they’ll be well attended because of our exemplary social media skills. We used to run a night called Space Lounge, where we’d invite an artiste or two to come into the studio and do an acoustic unplugged set in front of a small invited audience. As an added bonus, we miked them up and recorded them.

A Live Recording Setup
Studio 1 set up for a Space Lounge

These were really nice evenings, we always had a full audience (even though it was only ever going to be a small audience due to the size of the room) and it was a way for the artistes to really engage with music lovers. There’s a not-so-new trend of people playing in other peoples living rooms, and you can’t get much more up front than that. Check out the YouTube vids of people busking on the NYC subway! There’s some great music and some appreciative audiences, especially on the L train stops.

Speaking of YouTube and gigs, I found it interesting following the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' recent request for people not to film the gig on their smartphones. A piece on the BBC website showed that a company called 45sound had developed a brilliant application that could recognise gig video uploaded by fans. Using some amazing mystical dark art technology, it replaces the sketchy audio with professionally recorded audio from the gig. Where multiple footage sources are available, viewers are able to change the camera angle. I think this is yet another encouraging movement, and it appears that the record labels are behind this. It is of course another way for musicians and fans to interact. I wonder though what happens with the footage copyright, and also what happens with editorial control? What happens if someone has their phone right up the vocalists left nostril? Does the band / artiste risk alienating their fans’ goodwill by imposing editorial constraint on uploads, or should they just grin and bear it and bask in having a lot of hard work done for them?

Only time will tell I suppose. But what I think we can safely say is that doing these kind of gigs alongside the usual range of club and bar gigs, and also alongside a social media campaign is a good way forward. You get several bites of the cherry to directly engage with your audience. I guess I would definitely advocate a return to singing songs around a campfire – but someone from Health and Safety would probably tell me it was dangerous or something.

You can see some of the Space Lounge videos here:

One or two famous faces might pop up.

Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. He is personally responsible for a good hard drive's worth of drivel on the net.

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