fanwich: a sociological breakdown of how to promote yourself

I spend a lot of my time, probably too much time, thinking about ways to get my music out to new ears without actually getting out of my house.  Playing shows is obviously the best way to get your music known, the reasons behind it being deeply rooted in history, of gatherings of people to hear a troubadour or a classical piece, or a lute player sitting at a muddy street corner, playing folk songs for pennies.  This part of musicianship will never die, even as forms of music change (and in fact, some new musical genres — DJing, for example, thrive more at the live show than they do on an album).

The internet, however, is another beast altogether.  Busking is non-exististant.  There are no “live shows” unless they are online streams of an actual live show.  Thus, the sociology of what it means to play music, the gathering aspect of it, the culture of going to see a show, dissolves, and we are thrust back to square one without even realizing it.  So I thought I would attempt a discussion of the sociology of the internet, as it pertains to online music and fan gathering.  I would appreciate feedback on this, since this is mostly off the top of my head, and I could be dead wrong.

I have broken this down into three parts: Primary Sites, i.e., social networking sites; Secondary Sites, i.e., websites/music sites; and Tertiary Sites, i.e., weblogs/internet word of mouth.

Primary Sites

Let’s face it — these days, if you are a musician, you must have a Myspace.  This is the conundrum now in the Myspace/Facebook “war”: Myspace’s personal profiles are lacking the depth (read: stalk ability) that Facebook has in droves, but!, Facebook lacks the mass appeal of Myspace music sites.  Facebook “fan” pages are quite literally an afterthought — they appeared long after Facebook’s default style and logistics were solidified.  I personally don’t know any independent musician who has a lot of Facebook fans, but I know a lot of indie musicians who have tons of Myspace friends.

So, with regard to Primary Sites, I have only three, but they are the Big Three — Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter.  Let’s break these down even further in terms of sociability and outreach potential.


Myspace is to Friendster what Microsoft was to Xerox — they stole ideas and made them massive.  Myspace remains the largest social networking site on the internet, though I suspect that it’s appeal is waning, now that there is a better, faster, sleeker option: Facebook.  The dilemma now as a musician is not “Should I get a Myspace?” but “Will people be my friends on Myspace?”  As Facebook gains in popularity, especially in the 18-30 demographic, it may be harder to gain friends on Myspace.  People are checking their profiles less often.  Less comments are being made.  Mass-migrations from Myspace to Facebook are happening.  I know several of my own friends who have left Myspace for Facebook.

How much does this affect you, the musician?  Well, it depends.  I am a big “profile” worrier; that is, I spend time thinking about how people view my profile as much as I do the music itself.  Right now I have about 200 friends on my music profile, and all I can think is, Is that enough?  If someone views my profile, will they say, ‘He doesn’t have a lot of friends, he must not be very good’?  It’s kind of childish, but think of it in a real-life context: you’re playing a show in a bar and there are only five people in the audience.  Now a young couple comes in, sees you playing your songs, sees the five people.  Do they stay?  Depends.  But my guess is they probably won’t, unless they’re immediately won over by your music.

I suspect, though cannot prove, the same true of Myspace.  How many profile views do you have?  How many plays on your music player?  Do potential fans look at this to gauge your popularity?  Of course they do, if they don’t know your music already.  I know it sounds shallow and “judging a book by its cover,” but it’s the truth of society: people like to be a part of something that a lot of other people are a part of too.  It’s security.  People are more secure with your music if they see that other people like it too.  They’re more willing to give you money for it, too.  This is why building a fan base is so important, because it “breaks in” new fans easier than going in cold.

My point is, get a Myspace, tell your friends about it, and start getting friends on your site, so that others will look at your profile, say, “They’ve got a nice following,” and start listening to your music.

Oh, and don’t, don’t, DON’T auto-start your songs.  That’s just bad ettiquete.


As I mentioned above, the main problem with Facebook fan pages is that they are not promoted whatsoever.  Well, okay, looking back, I didn’t say that but it’s another problem with fan pages.  Right now, fan pages work best for hugely popular musicians, because when you add them, it shows up on your friends’ News Feed, and they all say, “Oh!  I like Captain Muffins too!”  (I wish Captain Muffins were a band, I really do).  They are not as likely to do this if the musician is lesser known.  But, in the interest of increasing your visibility, you should have a fan page.  You can pimp it through your status update, get your friends to join, and offer songs on that page that you wouldn’t hear on your Myspace page, which is nice.  The other nice thing about fan pages is that you can show your entire Discography, and all of the other info you enter is nicely presented (much better than Myspace, even).

The two biggest issues, besides promotion, are the lack of integration between your personal profile and your fan page.  Since Facebook is primarily a social networking site, and not as focused on promoting music, most people just have regular profiles there.  But if you decide to create a fan page, you have to send a whole new URL to people, instead of just having an extra box or something on your own Facebook page.  I think if you are the creator of a fan page, that fan page should show up on your profile.  Like my profile would have a box or area where it just says, “Check out Josh Belville’s fan page!” with a little picture of me or whatever.  I think this would bridge the gap between fan pages and personal profiles.

Facebook is a tricky beast though, in general.  It’s so wide open that it makes it hard to pin down anything, plus it’s strange privacy preferences make it difficult to pinpoint the type of people you’d want to be your fan.  Still, make a fan page there.  You never know what they might do to fix it.


Twitter is the reason I am writing this post.  I joined Twitter in a moment in time when it seemed like micro-blogging was dead.  People had Twitters, and then they stopped using them.  I joined with extreme prejudice and wasn’t sure what I was getting into.

Now, a few months later, I have met so many amazing people who have given me more opportunities than I would’ve had otherwise.  I’m not even sure how.  But the truth is out there — Twitter helped me dearly.

As a musician, I would suggest joining Twitter as a person, not as a band/musician.  The great thing about microblogging is that it almost negates boringness.  140 characters is just enough to update everyone about your life without people going, “Too long, didn’t read.”  So use it like that.  Let people know how you’re doing, what you’re doing.  Talk about going to the recording studio, talk about the show you played last night.  And occasionally, self-promote your stuff.  But Twitter is unique in that it cannot be used solely as a promotional tool (or it shouldn’t be, at least).  Nothing is more annoying than checking my updates only to see tons of promotions and no updates of substance.  It’s bad form, ultimately.

So, get a Twitter account.  Use it, link it up to your phone, text updates right before your show.  Send a link every once and a while.  It’s a great way to keep up with fans without bogging them down (like with this blog post, haha).

Secondary Sites

This is just an all-encompassing generalization of all the music promotion websites out there, like and reverbnation and tunecore, etc etc.

There are two types of sites like these: sites that showcase your music, and sites that help you promote yourself.  The Next Big Sound is an example of the former, and ReverbNation is an example of the latter.

The truth is, it’s incredibly difficult to determine where your fan base will come from.  You might have 200 fans on Myspace and one fan on ReverbNation, and no fans on the other sites.  And there will be painfully few people (and I mean really painful) who will traverse different music sites just to be your friend — in other words, if you have a Myspace friend, there’s a very good chance that friend won’t be your fan on ReverbNation, simply because why should they?  They’ve already got you on Myspace.

I think that joining every single music site out there is a bad idea, since then you’re just spreading yourself too thin.  You’ve got to pick a couple and stick with them, and promote from them.  Right now my big sites are ReverbNation and, with The Next Big Sound coming in for novelty effect. is an excellent site (as I have already mentioned), and ReverbNation is going out of their way to help promote artists.  I have a lot of listeners on, but hardly any fans on ReverbNation.  Such is the way of life.  But rather than spend all your time making space on every single site out there, I suggest you find the one that works best for you and promote from there.  You will (or should) always have a core base in Myspace.  Think of it that way.  No matter where else you go, people will still find you on Myspace, just because it’s popular.

I’m also lumping in personal websites here because most people still get more hits through Myspace than they do through their own website.  It’s important to have your own website but just acknowledge where the fans come from first.  🙂

Tertiary Sites

This is word-of-mouth, or sites that you can’t control, like music blogs, personal blogs, podcasts, and basically bloggy stuff.  These are important only in that they are other people talking about your music, rather than you talking about your music.  As much as we don’t like it, we all read music reviews to some extent, and the fact that other people like your music enough to display it on their blog is a big sign for potential new fans.  You can send demos to blog sites and hope for the best, but really, word-of-mouth should be just that: out of your hands (unless you’re very sneaky about it).  Once the ball gets rolling, don’t interfere, cause you could be the one that stops it.

Like I said, these are just ramblings from my own head.  If any of you out there in the faithful blogosphere have any additions, I’d love to hear them.  Especially from non-musicians — the fans, the music listeners.  How do you get your music?  How do you feel about social networking sites and how they affect music listening?

By Josh

I'm the guy who owns this site, ya dummy.

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