Social Media and Music

March 24, 2010

I remember downloading my first song on Napster in 1999. As I downloaded an Eminem song, I thought to myself, “This is too good to be true.” Not long after I developed quite the electronic library of music, Metallica and Dr. Dre were filing lawsuits against Napster for violations of the DMCA.

Napster paved the way for the use of the Internet for music promotion and distribution. And while many say it started the downfall of quality music and the giant music labels, Napster also provided a new venue for unknown artists and indie bands to be heard. Through the peer-to-peer file sharing network thousands, if not millions, of people had free access to download music they might never have heard otherwise.

A couple great examples are Radiohead and Dispatch. Both bands were small and had limited promotional power, yet both experienced tremendous success. One could argue that the popularity of both bands can be attributed to Napster.

Not long after the demise of Napster, MySpace was launched. MySpace became the go-to site for anyone seeking information about a band, including tour dates, samples of their music and other bands or music labels with which they are affiliated. A free informational and promotional service for any musician was a brilliant concept, and they really put the cherry on the top when they began broadcasting live concerts.

MySpace’s social media nemesis, Facebook, is another fantastic tool for bands and could arguably be more valuable. By allowing bands to maintain an ongoing conversation with fans, alongside content that includes photo galleries, videos, tour dates and opportunities to listen to songs, Facebook helps musicians create a loyal fan base.

There are also other sites created specifically for bands or music lovers, like Reverb Nation and Our Stage. Reverb Nation provides the tools bands need to be successful, like links to management, labels and venues, and also gives fans an opportunity to browse a few hundred thousand bands. Our Stage is a site that is “dedicated to discovering the best new music.”

And of course I can’t forget about Twitter. Twitter goes far beyond an email list of fans. It allows bands to provide their fans, peers and influencers with updates on new information relevant to the band or the music industry.

Social media offers bands the chance to self-promote by engaging with fans, influencers, concert and club promoters, booking agents and even music labels. Most importantly, they give a band a voice before they sign with a label or even play a show. I remember when I would go to a show to see a headlining act, and become a fan of the opening act after hearing them for the first time. Now, I see who is opening and do reconnaissance by visiting a social media site or two, give the band a listen and get a feel for their style before seeing them. It is almost expected to know about all the bands you are going to see before you see them live.

The age of what is too-often referred to as Web 2.0 has taken a huge, much needed toll on the music industry. It has given us the opportunity to have new music at our fingertips, become friends with our favorite bands and stay on top of when they will be in our area, what they are doing and when the much anticipated next album will be out.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Peepshow readers: What do you think the Internet did to the music industry? Did it change how you listen? What would you like more of as a fan?