3 Ways Social Media Has Actually Made It Harder To Become Famous
It's safe to say the days of knocking on a record company's door with a demo in one hand and a beat-up guitar case in the other are far gone.
Those were the days when “making it” in music was based heavily upon the songs, the passion and the crowd you drew as an artist, and less upon the amount of YouTube views your latest cover scored.
It was when the chance of an A&R guy sitting in the back of the dive bar sipping a beer and listening to your set wasn't slim to none, and when the audience was more concerned with hearing your lyrics as opposed to tweeting about them.
These were the days before technology and media tainted the music industry and made it harder for a musician to become famous.
Sure, you may argue that with all of the social media platforms that exist today, making it as a performer, songwriter or singer would be easier due to the mass exposure of which we are able to take advantage.
I say “we” because I am a musician currently trying to crack the code in this social media twilight zone with hopes of having my voice heard.
Yes, I'm on YouTube, have an Instagram account and, of course, Twitter, but I haven't experienced the super powers media claims to possess in the world of becoming famous.
Maybe, I'm just an old soul and think if you want people to recognize you as an accomplished, experienced and talented musician, you need to get out there and pay your dues. You need to step away from the webcam, and onto a stage.
Maybe, you think I'm crazy and I need to “get with the times.” Yet, I'm not saying it's impossible to become famous with the help of social media.
I'm saying the Internet made it harder to be recognized more for pure talent, and less for the amount of followers you have.
Here's some food for thought as to why social media has made it harder to break through as a musician in today's age.
1. The market is flooded.
I challenge you. Search #SingerSongwriter on your Instagram home page, and take a look at every video 15-second video that appears.
Thousands and thousands of musicians will appear, sitting at home, in front of their cameras, singing their hearts out with hopes that someone special will hear their songs and contact them with an offer.
Yet, because the market in the music industry is so completely flooded with people taking things into their own hands, it's harder to be discovered or even looked at as a unique individual with a talent for music.
Media and technology have given everyone a chance to do their “thang,” which is just as much a bad thing as it is good.
Take recording music as an example. With programs such as ProTools, Cubase and even Garage Band, musicians are recording their songs at home and releasing their tunes by themselves through various social media platforms.
Some may argue this is a revolutionary change in the industry, but with so many artists hawking their music, it's harder to break through and be spotlighted for your talent, unless you've released a ground-breaking hit that attracts millions.
And, that's the goal, right?
To put it simply, the Internet has given musicians, young and old, talented and not-so talented, the opportunity to have their voices heard.
This has built a road block for those who need to use media to promote their abilities because they have become merely a needle in a haystack.
2. The more followers, the better.
“Oh, you don't have 500k Twitter followers? You must be an awful musician.”
Sometimes, I think this very thought goes through the minds of various booking agents, managers and labels while scouting talent out in this Internet-based world we live in today.
I never thought there would be a time when the amount of followers on each social media platform determined your ability to write or perform, and the fact that talent is often overlooked due to minimal views on a video or fans on a page is saddening.
Music is more than a social media popularity contest. Do you think if Janis Joplin was living today, she would be constantly updating her Twitter account and uploading “selfie” videos of herself singing a song?
Hell no! She'd be out there, singing her heart out on every single stage she could find. Of course, she would have followers.
They would be standing front and center at every show they could, instead of settling with the satisfaction of watching a performance through a computer screen.
Speaking of followers and live performances, just because you have millions of followers online does not mean they are going to make it out to a show to see you perform your music live.
This can be quite deceiving in the world of gigging, and I've seen the deception with my very eyes.
I've witnessed musicians with thousands of followers on Twitter bring two people out to a show, and I've seen musicians who don't even have Twitter bring out 50 people or more.
This may seem harsh, and I'm mentally preparing myself for the wrath of defensive feedback, but followers don't mean anything unless you've got the goods.
So, stop focusing so much on how many people watch your videos or follow you back, and focus more on your talents, performing live and building a dedicated fan base who will stand by your side through thick and thin.
3. It's less about your music, and more about your “look.”
The Buggles were right: “Video killed the radio star.”
Believe it or not, before MTV, many artists who had hits on the radio were unseen to thousands of viewers, and those viewers were completely okay with that. Why? Because they loved the music.
They didn't need to know how hot or stylish the artists were if they could connect to a song or two.
Yet, times have changed, and that's a fact.
Today, as I begin thinking about various stars who have “made it” on social media platforms, I begin thinking about their beauty, not only within their music but also in their appearance.
As shallow as it sounds, becoming famous in recent years has come with a stigma that includes looking the part, as well as sounding it, and I think social media has a lot to do with that.
Sure, bands have had their “looks” and brands embellished and focused on since the day rock ‘n' roll emerged in the 1950s, and having a powerful presence on stage has been and always will be a huge part of the business.
Even so, as media continues to become a significant part of the industry, I've noticed a pattern where the way an artist looks has become more appealing than the way he or she sounds, whether promoting him or herself in a video on YouTube or a selfie on Instagram.
I'm not taking anything away from all of the beautiful artists out there. Keep it goin', pretty people; bask in your blessings.
All I am trying to say is that listening to a song without picturing in your mind who is singing it can be a very refreshing, nonjudgmental phenomenon that may open your eyes (or ears) to new, flourishing musical talent.
Take it from the gorgeous and talented Adele, a woman who doesn't think music should revolve around the way you look.
“I don't make music for eyes. I make music for ears.” — Adele
Let's take this sentiment and run with it. It's time to take music for the way it sounds, and not how it appears on your news feed.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think the artists who make it in music and have longevity are the true road warriors. They're the artists who live and breath music, and have created a following from constant gigging around the country and writing from their hearts.
Yes, social media can help, but it's not the key to musical success. The key to success is to do what The freakin' Beatles did: Write until the sun rises, and play out every single chance you get. When you're on that stage, emotion better bleed through your voice.
If you have what it takes, they'll notice you. You won't need to be hiding behind a computer screen for the exposure you've been seeking.
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