Or, “How to Game Social Media To Help Your Favorite Artists To Keep From Starving”
So, you’ve stumbled upon an indie artist and are completely stoked on everything they do. You’re an unappologetic superfan. Perfect, without you, indie artists would disappear. It’s a symbiotic relationship: they help you by keeping you from setting fire to the entire city by keeping you calm with their amazing music, and you help them by… by…
Ugh. How do you support an indie artist these days?
Back in the day, if you loved an artist then you went and bought all their albums. All their singles. T-Shirts. You went to their gigs and bought all the merch.
Well, just like everything else in this industry, it’s all changed.
Sure, if it’s available and you have the resources to buy the product then definitely buy the product. But the fact is that the simplest, most cost effective help that you can give to your favorite bands and artists (or even more importantly, your friends or family who happen to be artists) will cost you only a click or two and a split second of your life.
In order to understand why, you need to understand how social media works.
If you’re not paying for something, then you are the product.
That’s right kids. All those fiber runs and Matrix-esque server rows and the people who develop and manage them that run Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube.. all that stuff costs a lot of money. And have you, as a user ever, paid a red penny for the literally countless hours you’ve spent on these sites? Of course not.
Because you are not a consumer paying to access the product of Facebook, you are the product and advertisers are paying the medium of Facebook for access to you.
This really shouldn’t come as news to you, it’s 2017 after all. But we need to cover this in order to understand how consistently throwing a couple of clicks at your cousin’s band or new favorite underground rapper can be more useful and meaningful than buying their $0.99 single on iTunes.
Let’s make a fictional band for you to call your new favorite ever, and it’s called Johnny DickTits.. they’re an underground punk band from Vancouver and their logo is boobs shaped like penises.
Awesome right? Very avant garde. The bee’s kness I tell you what. You find them, you go to their FB and “Like” their page. Sweet. Now you’ll be informed when their new single “It stings when I pee” hits the digital shelves and you’ll definitely show them some love by heading straight over there and blowing the iTunes giftcard your uncle stuck in your Christmas card.
The song is released, and the high hoping young lands from JDT craft a beautiful ode to Punk-Rock Ethos in the form of a post, which reads “New single is out today. Fuck capitalism, go pirate it.”
Except that you never even hear that you should go check TPB for JDT because Facebook doesn’t show this post to you.
You want to see it.
They want to show it to you.
Yet Facebook pulls the epic social media cockblock and intercepts it and actually prevents it from hitting your feed.
Out of the 300 other lucky souls to have discovered the charismatic screamcroonings of JDT’s lead singer PukeBreath, only 20 of them had it show up in their feed at all.
WTF Facebook, right?
All those server farms run by neckbeards need cheddar, and if you’re not handing it out then it’s coming from advertisers.. and in this case, “advertisers” means the poor, broke ass skids from East Van who can hardly afford to launder the spit stains out of their favorite skinny jeans.
You see, there are these algorithms that run on every one of these platforms that watch for things that denote natural virality, and when they see it, they let it through the magic pay-wall. Everything else lingers with the sounds of crickets echoing on the band’s page.
Scene: Interior. Dog is sleeping, when suddenly it farts and sits upright and looks right at the camera with a look of terror on it’s face. Cue dramatic groundhog music. #DANK. Dankness is just oozing out the speaker holes. Everyone is going to smash that like button, share it, and throw a comment in there (“OMG SQUAD GOALS!” or “#nochill”).
This is a natural viral video and the reason it gets so many more likes than JDT’s new single announcement despite the comparatively low artistic merit isn’t because people are cold-hearted indie hating dogfart lovers… get this..
It’s seen by so many because it’s liked by so many, because – pay attention, this is the key – PEOPLE ARE INTERACTING WITH IT.
They’re “liking” it. That’s an interaction.
They’re sharing it, and that’s also an interaction.
One person sees the video, “literally can’t even” “totally is dying”, or “can’t breathe”, and then smashes Like and Share so hard that it sets off alarms at FB headquarters.
Well, almost. By sharing it, it’s exposed itself to a brand new subset in the social network. And then rather than just seeing it and scrolling along, they smash like and share again, and it spiders out into new regions of the social network. Enough “organic interactions” and then rather than only allowing 20% of a person who shares it’s network see the post, 50% see it. The more organic interaction a post gets (like/comment/share), the more it’s displayed.
Incidentally, these are all round, made up numbers because the networks like to play with their cards close to their chest and if you knew that 20 “organic likes” is the magic number that trips the algorithms and lets the DickTits flow then our friends PukeBreath & Pals won’t opt to eat ramen noodles for another month and smash the “Boost Post” button pictured below.
This is kind of like when you get out of college and you need to get a job but all the jobs want you to have experience but you can’t get experience if you don’t have the job.
Are you seeing where this is going?
If enough genuine supporters take the split second it takes to click “Like” on a post, it will break through the paywall and the artist will not have to pay to promote the post.
Advertising isn’t cheap – that image above isn’t unusual. Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of Facebook Advertising for really small brands, bands and businesses that are struggling to up their Page Likes from 150 to 500, and a $20 advertising budget really doesn’t go very far at all, and for a small underground band $500 spent on advertising on Facebook absolutely never will turn into $500 of revenue after it trickles down from iTunes to the distributor to the label then among the members of the band.
This, by the way, is why you very often see big YouTube channels imporing you to like/comment/share/subscribe at the end of their videos. It’s called “A Call To Action” in the industry, basically begging you to do a very, very simple thing that will actually have a huge benefit for them. In the YouTube model, you click “Thumbs Up”, you drop a comment (“omg her face @2:45 ROFLCOPTER”), you share it to your Twatter and Bookface, all those things trigger the algorithms that let it slip through into the “Related Videos” tab, that lets other people see it, which lets other people see the ads on the videos, which leads to money arriving in their accounts, which means they can buy food and equipment to make more videos rather than having to, say, slink off to their office jobs wherein then hawk photocopiers.
And when they get to make more songs and videos rather than selling photocopiers, you get to enjoy more of their songs and videos.
And it didn’t cost you a goddamn thing.
This is how the entertainment industry works now.
Even if, for example, it’s your cousin’s band and you’re not really into that kind of music but you’d love for your cousin to have some small measure of success in their pitiful life and maybe support the baby they accidentally made with the girl from that crazy gig last summer, throw them a like for the love of god. It literally doesn’t cost you anything but the kinetic energy it takes to depress the button for a split second.
So, when you’re on Instagram and you see a post from someone you like and want to help, Heart that shit. If you’re on Twitter and someone Tweets something they made, Star it and if you super love them, RT it for great justice. Thumb up their videos. Drop a comment below. Like and Share their FB posts.
OMG people it’s so simple.
It costs you nothing and your simple click actually matters even more than buying a track from iTunes.
The average indie artist on average earns somewhere around $0.25 from every $1 you spend on their iTunes catalog.
The average Cost Per Click (CPC) conversion is around $0.50.
If you can spare them having to advertise like that by clicking a button, you’re actually earning them more money than by buying their songs.
It’s fucked up, but that’s straight talk from someone who’s been an indie artist, promoter and label boss for many years, so take it from me and spread the love.
Another thing you can do on the Facebook platform is to take the extra three seconds it takes when you like a page and hit “Follow”. This does open their posts up to you, but so incredibly few people have bothered to do this that everything I’ve said above needs to be a policy for anyone who actually cares about supporting artists. Like this:
One final thing.. with all these ways to game the social media clusterfuck they’ve set up to make money off of artists trying to display their work to people who have already said they want to hear more about their work, one very simple thing you can do to actually stay connected to them and find out about shit when it happens is to hit up their website and subscribe to their mailing list. 99% of artists will not abuse this function and will only send out a message when there’s something to report, but most importantly their website is outside of the social media system that does all this nasty cockblocking.
When you go to their website and subscribe to their list, you bypass the entire system and connect with them directly.
(here’s the obligatory CALL TO ACTION):
Don’t forget to..
- Subscribe to our mailing list,
- “Like” our Facebook Page,
- Subscribe to our YouTube channel,
- Follow me on Twitter and Instagram and SoundCloud
- For more of my writing I also have a blog I periodically update with non-music related things called The Sweary Philosopher
… and if you found this read entertaining or educational,