So you think social media platforms don’t matter? That you could make it in the music business without engaging with your fans online? Or that you can do it without being on ALL relevant social media sites today? Without connecting directly with your fans via twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.? You think you just need funding from the big guys? A big manager to “believe” in you? A major label to get behind you? Think again! No matter if you are on a major label or not, utilizing social media is an essential tool in building AND maintaining a career as an artist in the music business. I have dealt with emerging and unsigned artists for much of my approximately 20 year career in the music business. Many of them, who continuously struggle, always say that if they had a major label behind them then they would be successful. I could maybe see how this would the case around 15 years ago, without tools like social media, digital distribution, and home recording. But today, this is not the case! I continuously have the same conversation with artists that becoming successful in today’s music market can be done without the assistance of a major label or access to a big budget. Case in point, look at today’s top artists in the hip-hop/rap market, ‘Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.’ Feel free to read my post from last week about how an indie hip-hop duo has achieved mainstream success without the help or funding of a major record label. Artists today need to be able to be entrepreneurs. They need to learn how to build a fanbase and a career in the new paradigm of the music business. The key is being able to engage with you fans through social media. There are numerous platforms that are essential for any musician in the music industry. Not only essential, but can be the keys to success and the foundation to maintaining it. Major label artist Bjork is a great example of how ALL artists need to utilize social media. I recently came across an article that explains how Bjork’s recent Kickstarter campaign failed. I felt it was a compelling case for anyone in the music industry to understand how important engaging with your fanbase through social media can be the key to your success or the catalyst to your failure in the music industry…no matter who you are. Major label or not!
Icelandic Singer-songwriter Bjork, 47, known for her extravagant stage outfits, and her eclectic music that borders dance, classical, electronic, and folk music started her professional singing career in the mid-1970s. She hit mainstream success in the early 90’s with the major label release of her 2nd album titled ‘Debut’, and hit songs “Human Behavior”, and “Violently Happy.” She followed the success with her 3rd album, ‘Post’, which featured a more dance oriented theme. The album had a breakout single, “It’s Oh So Quiet”, and received major play on MTV.
Check out her song “Human Behavior”
Check out “It’s oh so Quiet”
Bjork continued to create very Avant-garde music, and maintain a strong fanbase over the next 20 years. She made headlines in 1996 for her much publicized fight with a female paparazzi reporter. During this period she complained of being hounded by paparazzi. During 1996, Björk arrived at Bangkok International Airport in Thailand with her son. Reporter Julie Kaufman greeted Björk with “Welcome to Bangkok,” which was then followed by Björk attacking her and knocking her to the ground with a fury. Björk has said that the reason for the attack was that reporters in the airport started talking to her son and saying, “It must be hard to be the son of a pop star.” Check out the video here:
Check out this infamous video of Bjork punching out a reporter:
Bjork has recently made headlines for the failure of her Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is an American private, for-profit company that was founded in 2009. It provides tools for musicians, indie films, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, and food-related projects to raise money via crowd funding through its website. The caveat is you cannot invest in a Kickstarter campaigns to make money. You can only do it to support various projects in “exchange for a tangible reward or one-of-a-kind experience, like a personal note of thanks, custom T-shirts, dinner with an author, or initial production run of a new product.”
Bjork has been the most famous and high profile artist to run a Kickstarter campaign, which is usually a fund raising platform for indie or emerging artists. To this point it is the biggest failed project launched through Kickstarter. It was cancelled today (Thursday February 14, 2013) after 10 days up, having just raised 4% of her total funding, which is approximately $500,000. Although Kickstarter is an amazing platform for upstart companies and indie artists, failure is not totally uncommon. 55.8% of the service’s music campaigns launched last year reached their funding goals. But Bjork’s Kickstarter campaign is unique in a few ways. One being she is a major-label artist. Nearly all artists raising funds on Kickstarter are independent or on independent labels. Another noted campaign on a separate crowd funding platform was rap music legends ‘Public Enemy’s’ “SellaBand” campaign. They ran two campaigns on ‘SellaBand.’ The first fell short of its $250,000 funding goal. They achieved their goal on their second run of the campaign which was for $75,000. According to Billboad.biz, “the jury is out on whether or not fans will wholeheartedly support artists on crowd funding platforms who are perceived to have the support of record labels. There’s a certain do-it-yourself aspect inherent to crowd funding that’s antithetical to corporate backing.” Another unique aspect to Bjork’s Kickstarter campaign is her project was for Android and Windows Phone versions of the Biophilia app (The Biophilia App is according to Bjork an “app box” – a 10-song album, with each song having a representation as a distinct music-making app. It also had an educational aspect to it. Bjork wanted to develop Biophilia for Android and Windows in order to get it onto the personal devices of more students, particularly those in the developing world, and low income communities and households.). This app has been out for about a year already on iPhones. Unfortunately for Bjork, her campaign lacked the kind of exclusivity that usually gets fans excited about forthcoming apps on smartphones. Instead, many Android and Windows Phone users probably felt left out from Biophilia’s initial launch a year ago for the iPhone.
Another one of the reasons, aside from its lofty financial goals, that Bjork’s campaign failed is that she does not have a “close” relationship with her fans online. Unlike an artist such as Amanda Palmer who was able to have her fans pledge over $1.2 million dollars for her album “Theatre Is Evil” via a Kickstarter campaign, Bjork rarely utilizes social media to engage and connect directly with her fanbase (Palmer’s album got a traditional release in September and debuted at #10 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart). Interestingly Amanda Palmer was just trying to raise $100,000, but she engaged with her fan base so successfully that she was able to far exceed her goal. A good example of Bjork’s lack of connection with her fans is her twitter usage. Despite the fact that she is a major label artist with an extraordinary successful career behind her, Bjork’s career is seeing the effects of avoiding incorporating a compelling social media campaign into her music career. Since the start of 2013, Bjork has tweeted only 3 times. None of those tweets mentioned her Kickstarter campaign. Her tweets were basically one way messages, where she would just announce presale of her tickets or a pre-order of her forthcoming album. This shows a lack of conversation with her fans. It’s really hard to imagine an artist in today’s music market, major label or not, becoming successful and building a close relationship with her fans without being active on social media platforms like Twitter.
Fans are the most important part of a music career. They are who support you and facilitate the longevity of your music career. Today you don’t need a major label, or a big management company to build a fanbase. You need to learn the music business, understand how to utilize social media platforms, and engage with your fans. The cool part is, you can just be yourself. If you talk directly to your fans, and speak from your heart, fans will respond and support you. You don’t need a major label or big investor to do that. After all, fans are connecting with you, NOT the money behind you.