One of the cardinal rules of breaking into the songwriting business is: network, network, network. But for struggling tunesmiths who live outside the country’s three main music biz hubs - New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles - following that rule can be daunting, as well as expensive, should they choose to make multiple visits or even move to those cities and start knocking on doors.
But an additional tool worth exploring is social networking websites. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and others have been all the rage for the past couple of years, but what they can offer to a budding composer goes well beyond simply updating your circle of friends on what you had for dinner last night.
No longer “just for college kids,” today two-thirds of all global Internet users visit social network sites more than they use e-mail, according to a March 2009 report by Nielsen. Over one-third (35 percent) of all U.S. web users over the age of 18 have a social networking profile, compared to 8 percent just four years ago. Memberships on such services are exploding, with Facebook - whose press department claims over 300 million active users worldwide - the clear frontrunner.
Although social networks have existed for about four years, they are still very much in a state of flux. Despite Facebook’s commanding lead, it’s not even the most talked-about social networking site out there; Twitter is, having grown from 500,000 users at the beginning of 2008 to a reported 70 million currently. (Twitter does not provide membership figures.) And one should bear in mind that another social networking site, MySpace, was all the rage before Facebook overtook it “way back” in late 2008.
Yes, things change quickly on the Internet.
Expecting immediate - or even not-so-immediate - inquiries from music publishers and record labels from having a Facebook page is the wrong approach. As the name implies, “social networking” goes beyond simply throwing one’s name up on a site and seeing what happens. The best business use of such a service is to engage with others, show off your talents, perhaps even brag a little.
In this three-part series, we’ll take a look at each of the major social networks, explain how they work and what they can offer in terms of building a songwriting career.
As a social networking site, the Cambridge, Mass.-based Facebook (http://www.facebook.com; free membership) has earned its popularity by helping people keep in touch with their friends, hook up with old college roommates and the like. Information about upcoming social events like weddings, reunions, and even concerts can be easily disseminated, and simple-to-use search functions can help people locate others whom they’ve never met but who share similar interests or hobbies. Creating a Facebook profile includes an “update” section, where people can discuss practically anything (basic rules of language and etiquette apply).
Facebook is all about “friending” people, which in this case means sending an invitation to become one’s friend to ? well, one’s friends and associates. Once those people have accepted your invitation, not only will you both be listed as the other’s friend, but you will also be able to access who the other person’s friends are.
And a database is born! Well, not necessarily. Flooding a friend’s friends with promotional messages and invitations can be just as annoying as sending out blind ads via email and circulars. And as Facebook can giveth, so can it taketh away; irritate someone enough, and they can “un-friend” you, thus cutting you off from that particular group (and, probably, your original friend as well).
Another attractive component of Facebook are its “groups,” which range far and wide in interests and goals. Currently there are over 500 groups listed under “Songwriting,” with brief descriptions of each; some offer potential collaborators, lyric-writing competitions and so on, while others exist simply as a place to exchange ideas and war stories. One should choose a group carefully, of course; if you’re hoping to be the next Stravinsky, then a group specializing in children’s music is probably not for you.
Joining a group is a great way of getting a list of contacts quickly, since all group members can see your updates on your Facebook profile. You can also start your own group and send out invites.
Next: Twitter and MySpace