Social Media: The Setting Tool for Independent Artists’ Success

Macklemore: American rapper and songwriter from Seattle, Washington

Independent artists: Macklemore. Retrieved from https://bandwagmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/macklemore-1.jpg

Social media teaches us about brands ruling the world. Popular platforms like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter began revolutionizing brand loyalty, identity and vision from the get-go. Independent artists are learning social media as a tool for promoting, selling music and successSocial media’s popularity is as basic as our need to connect with other (Ramasubbu, 2017). Sharing images, videos and posts is a simple part of the connection process for an artist. But recommending products and services, sharing coupons and shopping habits are part of the complex behemoth process of connecting customers to brands.

The music industry relies on that behemoth process to promote music. Artists use social media as a channel for sharing details about their lifestyle, music and professional experiences. Popular artists aren’t unique when keeping fans engaged to their social media profiles. Their brand identity shines on a leveled ground where signed and unsigned artists work hard for fan engagement. And they use the same tools and strategies to do so.

Social Media Strategies

While thousands of independent artists fight for success, very few understand the power of social media strategies. This power isn’t recreation or personal. Social media, as a tool, relies on marketing and advertising strategies. They help artists place their music and professional brand in front of an audience (Horsburgh, 2012). A social media post is not effective unless the intended audience finds it and engage it. Promoting and selling music is music business. Independent artists using social media effectively show us how they use this tool for success.


Social Media is part of a New Music Business Model

Seo Taiji and Boys. Korean Pop Sensation.

Seo Taiji and Boys. Korean Pop Sensation. Retrieved from https://www.the-arcade.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Seo-Tajj.jpg

Korean Pop, better known as K-Pop, turned into a worldwide phenomenon during the early 2010’s. Artist like Psy brought this pop-music and K-pop culture to the West, establishing it as a recognized musical sensation. According to JoongHo Ahn, Hyunjung Kim and Sehwan Oh (2013), researchers from the University of Seoul, the first wave of K-Pop developed through TV dramas and movies, expanding its influence throughout Asia.

Their research points out that a second wave of K-Pop reached the West thanks to social media strategist targeting the Asian’s diasporas living in Europe and the Americas. The second wave crossed-over the language and cultural barrier and found a privilege place in the cultural mainstream (2013).

“The first K-wave goes back to the late 1990s when
Korean dramas became popular in China and Japan…
the second Korean Wave… has spread globally, expanding
its fandom outside of Asia”
(2013, Ahn, J. et al.)

Social media became the spreading channel from which the “K-pop entertainment industry [used] various channels to promote music videos and to communicate with global audience” (2013). Social media crosses cultural and language barriers through defining a target audience that engages, shares and helps propagate a message.

As a result, K-Pop artists like Psy reached 3.7 Billion people worldwide, forcing YouTube to create the K-Pop category as high number of views generated revenue for this platform, the artists and the Korean music industry (2013).


Social Media: An Essential Tool for the New Music Business

The old music industry relied on physical record sales to generate revenue. However, digital formats along with music streaming, leveled the ground between signed and unsigned artists (Cala, 2019). Revenue is the purpose of a business. And music is part of the business of entertaining.

David Bruenger explains that “money is by no means the only or most important form of value created by music [but if] you want music to be a business, then … someone has to make money and someone has to pay” (2019).

Social media opens multiple revenue channel for artists. Music, live performance tickets and merchandise is promoted and sold through social media platforms. Fame is built with the help of the media and fame also sells music. Hand-picked artists understood the potential of social media platforms early on. They began promoting music and records through MySpace.com, one of the first social media platforms before Facebook took over the lead (Suhr, 2012).

Tila Tequila Band was an early social media adopter. They built an effective brand through basic media strategies,  helping set the first social media’s must-have strategies for the New Music and Entertainment Business (2012).

Tila Tequila from Tila Tequila Band

Tila Tequila from Tila Tequila Band. Retrieved from https://media.altpress.com/uploads/2018/06/tila_tequila_2015.jpg

Social media enables artists and users to share music. According to Rachel Zucker, “music is becoming more accessible than ever…” (2016). Zucker also mentions that, although music sales have sunk, streaming revenue, merchandise sales, licensing deals and product placement in music videos are replacing traditional revenue channels (2016).

Social media’s greatest value is promotion. Fans who engage with artists are more likely to attend concerts, buy merchandise, support and share the artist’s social media content with friends and family (2016) that share a similar demographics and lifestyle characteristics.


The Case Study that Says it All: Macklemore

Macklemore was an early adopter of social media. He developed social media strategies that placed him as one of the most relevant independent artists in the New Music Business model. Amber Horsburgh, an independent marketing strategist dedicated to helping independent artists, built a case study revealing Macklemore’s strategy for defining a fan base, using social media platforms for promoting and generating revenue. The case study defines Macklemore’s Fan Funnel, a process where potential fans travel through stages to build fanhood (2012).

Amber Horsburgh. Build an Audience: A Macklemore Case Study in Music Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/amberhorsburgh/macklemore-case-study-wk-1


Taylor Swift’s Content Marketing

Marcella Smeele (2016) build a case study about Taylor Swift’s strategy to engage social media’s fan. Swift connects to fans in a personal level, interacting with their comments and offering cover songs for their birthday at their request (2016). Engagement builds a strong relationship between artists and fans. This also builds brand loyalty for the artist’s career.

Taylor Swift. Instagram social media post.

Taylor Swift. Instagram social media post. Retrieved from http://dottedmusic.com/2016/marketing/content-marketing-for-artists-taylor-swift-case-study/


Bottom Line

Social media is the gift that keeps on giving. Reactions to social media posts have a long-lasting effect. Independent artists who understand social media as a tool gets the benefits of fan engagement and effective promotion. The case studies shown, in addition to the phenomenal spread of K-Pop, gives artists an idea of independence through a new business model.

However, many artists cannot relate art to business. But the bottom line is that making money with a music career means music business. Artists don’t need a record label to succeed. Record labels are not looking to develop and nurture artists. They want an established independent artist so they can give them a final push to make them superstars and, hopefully, a cash cow.

Artists like Madonna, Metallica and Johnny Cash generate revenue with little investment from their label. They brand is strong and their fans anticipate goodness coming from any future albums they release. Fans trust them and that trust become unconditional loyalty to the artist.

Artist can become superstars without a label, but they need a work team that knows about label services, publishing and marketing. An artists starts with a record on hand. Once artists learn social media as a tool, they can captivate fans with their music and their brand. Social media is the key.


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Written by Mario Campani
An entrepreneur and visionary, Campani merges the Old and New Music Business models through synergy. This principle nurtures a dominant trend for independent artists to succeed.