Thursday, January 9, 2014

Social media – A necessary evil? -- An Essay



The Good: today, October 29 2013 is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall on the East coast US, wrecking havoc on parts of New York city where I live.  That afternoon, Pagan Altar posted a status update about how their thoughts were with us.  Somehow I ended up giving them a damage report from the POV of “one of the indigenous people of New York”, and that started my friendship with PA singer Terry Jones, which continues to this day.

The Bad: Paul Di'anno, former singer for Iron maiden, is forced to cancel his US tour for reasons that are still vague.  He goes on his Facebook page and rants about how his promoter screwed him over.  Not really taking the professional high road in my opinion.  Doubtful he will return to the US.

The Ugly: Early last week I  logged onto Facebook and was scrolling through my news feed when  there it was – the bane of my facebook existence – a photo of a plate of food.  I rolled my eyes and wondered who was torturing me like this – it was Mick Box guitarist for Uriah Heep.  He had taken a photo of the  meal  of bass player Dave Rimmer who ordered Chicken Kiev whilst the band were in Kiev.  I felt this weird sense of indignation.  I honestly don’t give a crap what you guys are eating!!  Tell me how the tour is going, when you're working on new material – don't snap a photo of a plate of half eaten food!!

That got me thinking, how much information is too much? Is it never enough?  Do we need to know what our musical heroes are doing every second of every day??  I wondered what my friends thought. Some are musicians themselves, others industry people who have radio shows, or are journalists, etc, and I asked some “regular guys”  - the fan, the music consumer.  This is their thoughts.

Artists

Phil Denton
(guitar Midnight Messiah coldtown.com,
Organizer British Steel Festival https://www.facebook.com/pages/British-Steel-Festival/67824954180)
I feel that social media is good up to an extent. I think it is a good thing for bands to have more frequent contact with their fans, and because of the resources available now, yes I do feel fans are more entitled to information and up-to-the-minute news.
I do think that musicians and celebrities should draw the line at their personal lives and leave some level of mystery though. I don’t agree with celebrities twittering their every move, eg. What they had for breakfast, what they are having for lunch, etc. I feel that is going too far.
In this social media world that we live in today, I feel it is important for celebrities and musicians to retain a degree of mystique, to keep their image interesting to the public.

Jeremy Nagle
(guitar  Megaton www.megatonmusic.com, )
I think that sites like Facebook are a great thing for musicians...free advertising and the fans can get a bit closer to the musicians. so its mostly a win win situation. Its much easier now for a musician to get his music out there to the public and makes bands independent of record companies.


Danny Hynes
(Vocals Weapon UK, Paddy Goes to Holyhead weapon-uk.com)
I think (social media) is definitely a good thing.  I don't think [fans] feel they are more "entitled" but that it brings them a little closer to their idols/hero's, whatever you want to call them.. . I think there should be 'some' boundaries regarding private lives but being mysterious should be left to the likes of Michael Jackson and the like... I do like immediate feedback but, again, with boundaries. Some fans feel they should tell you their live stories... Another problem is when you reply to direct messages on Facebook, it can be a little tedious as the 'chat' can go on forever and on a daily basis..


Michael Sabatini
(Drums Attacker attacker.tv )
In regards to social media as a whole, overall it has brought people much closer together and given fans levels of access to everything about bands that they would never have been able to see or find out about, unless it was in a magazine. I do think it's a good thing, since you can promote shows, releases and post blurbs among other things. There are a lot less print magazines these days so social media gives people instant access to what's going on in the music world of their favorite bands. I think to some extent fans do feel more "entitled" to info when they want it and are probably disappointed if websites or social media sites are not keeping up the minute details flowing. We live in a society where instant gratification is pretty much demanded on many levels and peoples' attention spans don't last for long if they are not satisfied. I absolutely think we(musicians) do need to save some things to keep a level of excitement in fans minds about what could possibly be coming from said bands. It's like knowing exactly what's coming for Christmas, it takes all the fun out. Bands do have to be careful to balance that mystery with wetting fans appetites and not go too far either way. I guess getting immediate feedback can be good or bad depending on what the feedback is. If it's all negative, that might be a problem for our delicate egos!!! On the other hand, positive feedback gives us the confidence to know that what we are doing is what our fans want to hear, so this can go either way depending on who you talk to..

  
 Chris Woody MacDermott
(Guitar / Vocals Mighty High facebook.com/mightyhighbrooklyn)
 I think it's cool when bands post photos and updates when they're on tour. I always liked reading "tour diaries" in fanzines and it's kind of the same thing on social media. I'm less enthused about tons of updates when a band is in the studio. I know that it will be months and months before I get to hear any of the music. It's a good way to burn out before a new tape even gets leaked prematurely on the fuckin internets!

For the most part, I still like to get my information from trusted sources like Classic Rock magazine. But nothing is better than discovering a new tape and cranking it in the car with some friends on the way to a show.

As a musician I have been guilty of over-sharing. Unless we're playing a show or have new merch I keep it pretty quiet these days.

Hope that helps. Stay clean!

Industry People:

Andy Rotherham
 (Organizer, The Web UK theweb-uk.com,
guitars The Synthetix thesynthetix.com/)
The bands I follow don't do (live updating) that fortunately. I don't do Twitter either. I do like the occasional update from the studio or a band posting about what a great gig that was etc.  That said if it is the back story to the music it is nice to know the story behind it. I do tend to read a lot of musician autobiographies.

It is fair to say I know quite a few pro musicians on a personal level anyway. They tend to keep the two halves of their lives separate.  One example was that a drummer of a band I have followed since they were playing the back rooms of pubs suddenly started growing in popularity. He had to delete all but his personal friends from one facebook account and start another as a professional page for people to 'like'. He still updates both.


I think it has been necessary to let fans peak behind the curtain. They need to feel a kindred with the band and the band needs to foster that closeness in order to survive in this rapidly changing industry,  There still has to be boundaries though [and] not all fans are capable of understanding where these boundaries lie

Depending on the size of the band some musicians have had to keep a little distance between themselves and their fans, sometimes for their own safety. I would hate to be 'mobbed'.  Most musicians I've met though seem to be very grateful to the fans and make a real effort to be available when appropriate.  A true fan knows when it is not appropriate to approach them though.

I have been stood next to or near Jimmy Page three times, yet never spoken to him. Even though I love Led Zep. I saw him in the early 80's when he was out shopping in the local town. I then saw him at High Voltage. He was just stood next to us watching the band. I saw him straight away and did nothing, unfortunately a few people started to notice him and he quickly had to beat a retreat to backstage with his minder. Same happened again when he was watching Rival Sons, stood next to me in London last year. I think that was such a shame that he couldn't watch a gig.

It is all about respect really.

Darren Nolan (music industry insider)
With the advent of social outlets such as Facebook,Twitter and to a lesser extent,MySpace,we now have instant access to every piece of music gossip, leaked albums, personal reviews (both positive and negative) and all the rest in between.

You asked if I thought the mystery of music had gone and the sad truth is that it has ! David Bowie recently pulled off a rare event by releasing an album that was near unheard of in social circles.

The pros of social media are : You can reach a wider fan base,you can interact with a fan on their own level, rather then being seen as a diva or prima donna,who doesn’t have time for those who in fact made them famous and rich. It’s a great marketing tool and one long free commercial,which can have the desired effect of creating new fans and selling more records.

Cons :
It does encourage a level of personal interaction that some or many people cant handle ! even if you write the worlds greatest song there will always be a select few who hate it regardless and will make their feelings known on whatever  outlet they can. Even though those opinions are often only created to be different and to gain attention for “being edgy” they can affect other people. So rather than waiting for the NME. Melody Maker,Rolling Stones review to give a fair opinion of an album or a band you love, our opinion can become jaded by what we see written on Twitter.

As a ghost songwriter I am constantly selling my soul to the devil, which means its easier for me to ignore negative opinions about a song I have written,because once I have signed the rights over I no longer see it as my work, plus it is edited and changed to the point where only 40% of what is left was actually created by me.

Even though social media is all around us,it is still possible to avoid it, so if you are a band,artist,writer,film maker simply don’t create a twitter account or make a facebook page that is exclusive to friends and family, rather than diehard stalker fans or trolls!

As people with individual minds we have the right and power to switch off an album we don’t like,to change the channel on a show we hate and we can switch off from the news and gossip around us….which I know isn’t as easy as it sounds but its best not to fuel the fire by going on a  rant on twitter about how badly you are being treated by your own fans. The music world is fickle, the online world is harsh but it comes with territory of being in the public eye.

Social media now means that music is no longer  a secret, everything gets leaked and shared in a heartbeat, most artists find out they are writing a new album only after being told so on Twitter ! (little joke there) and your album can be panned, even if some random troll is reviewing the unmixed, rough cut. As individual as I just said we are,we are often open to new opinions and they can change the way we look and think about things.

Music changes but has it reliable phases, social media is unpredictable as everyone and anyone has a say…..a say which can make or break career.


Len Delessio
(Legendary rock n' roll photographer
delessio.com, rockshowmagazine.com/bios/lendelessio.html,  rockpaperphoto.com/photographer_len_delessio)
From my view peeking at the scene from the side of the stage, as opposed to on the stage, yes social media websites did provide more access to celebrities. Starting with MySpace then to Facebook, people were able to find and connect with Rock Stars and other famous people. I'll answer your questions with regard to the music scene as I know it.
The positive side of this is that people can get up to the minute updates to concert dates, record releases and other events without the need for the musicians to buy advertising space somewhere. Musicians can see photos and videos of their performances along with fan appreciation messages posted on their pages. I think that when it works, it works well. When it doesn't work is when people set up social media pages or accounts impersonating their favorite stars. Sometimes a star is unable or too busy to set up and work their own Facebook page, Twitter or blog. That's a common thing and a positive thing. There are instances that I know of where people setup a Facebook page, for example, using the name of a very famous Rock Star and then use that page as a vehicle to trash them and the people around them. I've seen that happen first hand where at one point I was trashed on the fake page of a famous friend of mine. Facebook is populated with loving fans and also sick stalkers.
I don't think that fans feel any more entitled than they always were. Social Media as well as the normal media outlets like TV, Magazines and Newspapers are full of gossip reports. American TV is jam packed with talk shows where stars go on to reveal little bits of their private lives. Fans have always felt "entitled" to information about the celebrities. Tours of the Stars Homes have been a tourist draw in Hollywood for ages.
Part of being famous is also being a target and being "ON" 24/7. The disgusting creatures know as "Paparazzi" stalk celebrities in their most private moments just so fans can see into the lives of famous people. For Social Media I can't think of what can be limited other than the celebrity self-limiting what they post. For limits in general I think that people deserve some privacy and there should be parts of their lives that are no ones business. There is a new law in California prohibiting the photographing of anyone's minor children without the parent's permission. I agree with that totally.
 From what I can tell the stars like it [direct feedback from the fans]. They appreciate the immediate response to a performance or the release of a song track.

Jason Block
(Contributor/writer/podcaster  clw83.com and gameshownewsnet.com )
To me it's a dual edge sword. I like the ideas that with Facebook, Twiiter, Instagram et al that celebrities can get away from the contrived PR Bullshit and give out the information they want to.
HOWEVER....
Way too may celebrities of all types don't know when the fuck not to press that send button. They get into WAY too much trouble when they do.  Either a stupid opinion in politics, drugs, et al. And then they need the PR to back it up.  See Anthony Weiner, Kanye etc. So it works both way.
Would I like the mystery...yes. But now...it's too late. The genie is out. And with technology improving, Mystery is dead.

Roger Fauske
(Promoter gigblasters.co.uk,
contributor metaltalk.net)
Social interaction is the modern equivalent of hanging around outside the backstage door.  How fans meet the bands and apart from the huge bands, it is essential. Social networking is part of the bands output - they are selling the package these days not just album / tour.
All linked to the reality programming so prevalent today where the fan likes to feel part of it...

GH Waters
(Orchard Street Studios)
I absolutely do not feel more entitled to anything due to any of these new resources that are available. I have never downloaded anything or even bought anything on line as far as that goes. If I can't get it on vinyl, CD, or tape - I don't want it... [same with videos - give me a VHS tape of DVD, no on line nonsense for me]

I completely long for the old days - when everything was either heard about via the radio, a music shop, or something read in a magazine or paper...

Word of mouth was great too... hearing about something from say a friend. Made it real exciting to hear about a tour, and wonder if NYC was on the list.

In some ways though, I confess to liking some of the on line stuff out there: Robert Fripp of example, with DGM Live..... truly fascinating reading !! but it was in a way, even better when one was forced to wait for a publication to come out to read his latest musings....

Eno shuns the web too, interestingly enough.

My own experiences as far as being a musician/artist: I liked MySpace Music when it first came out, but then the powers that be ruined it, and it was never the same.

I think the problem (as a fan) I have today more than anything else is this nonsense where one is forced to keep up on technology. Before, all you needed was a good hi-fi system, and you were literally set for life.

But then came the CDs, and everything else that followed..... I will say this though - in the last ten years, it's been possible for anyone to put out an album completely in-house, and get it out to the masses on their own - no label - no nothing - and there's something to be said for that. I myself did some slamming recording sessions here, which could have never been done thirty, even twenty years ago....

In summary, I wish it was 1979 all over again.......

Salvatore F Cincotta
(The Unofficial Blog of the official Dictators website dffdblog.com/)

Social media has made musicians and other celebrities more accessible to fans. Is this a good thing?   I think it's a great thing!  The artist can control the level of interaction, he can share as much or as little info as he's comfortable with, the fans  can get the info without filters or searches,  and the artist can share product with his fan base w/o dealing with the middle man.    It's all good. 

Fans are entitled to nothing, just as the artist has no entitlement to expect the fans to blindly purchase his product.   We're allowed to ignore the artist, the artist is allowed to ignore us. 

There will always be a sense of mystery concerning art.    We, the non-creative fans, can only imagine the amount of, and the balance between, inspiration and perspiration that is behind any artistic endeavor.   We only see the end product, rarely do we see the process, which is where the mystery lies. 

If I were an artist, I'd love to be able to get direct feed-back, but I'd also be wary of  Yelp-like reviews - the only one who ever have anything to say are  the blind followers, and the chronic complainers.  

Hils Mortz
 (kooltattoo.co.uk)
     I often wonder how I would have reacted to social media when I was an over excited adolescent. Very badly I suspect! 

Trouble with social media is you get this cosy intimacy with everyone even famous musicians. I've seen Scotty Griffin from LA Guns remarking on Facebook along the lines of "don't comment in my posts because you don't really know me" but he keeps on doing it. You can't have it both ways (I really like him by the way, he was really friendly when we met him in LA)      And it's always a thrill if you get a re tweet or reply from someone you admire on Twitter

But social media is sort of leveling us all out. It is interesting though. In my opinion it's much better now that artists have lost their mystique and are more accessible.   It's a bit like the difference between musicians on stage persona and when you meet them backstage. Eg Steel Panther - I am shit scared of them when they are on stage but can be normal when we meet up afterwards.     Smoke and Mirrors!
  
Slash is very open on Twitter. He comes across very well [however], David Coverdale is a bit weird on twitter. My friend Toby (Jepson from Little Angels, Fastway, Gun...etc...)  knows him from the 90s and he reckons he has 'lord of the manor' syndrome even though he came from working class town in north of England. But that doesn't put me off him. I would wet my 'knickers' if I met him because of his mystique back in the day - he wasn't accessible then. So that's a case study !
   
It's all relative.


Fans
Azrael Crowley
(Out Of Print Moncton outofprintmoncton.bandcamp.com)
 I would have to say i miss the old days when there was mystery around a band what they would come out with next. And basically its really too bad that much music television went to crap . Cause at one point it was about the music and interviewing the band etc. now it isn’t so much about that. they show movies and hardly any music is being played and definitely don’t play anything cool anymore remember when i used to wait for power hour to come on with the VCR cued up ready to record. i guess now with YouTube though i can look up all those old metal vids they used to show on there.

Abe Siebel
(mild mannered Accountant by day, Uber-Rush fan on nights and weekends)   
I may be biased by not having anything to do with Twitter and not on Facebook very much, so this shapes the following commentary. 

I am in the crowd of not really caring about everyday details of others' lives, specifically my musical heroes.  I just enjoy their craft.  If I find out there is a common interest we share, I read about it, enjoy it, and then move on.

I feel that those who do embrace the openness of musicians and entertainers should not be frowned upon; it is just their cup of tea.  However, if these advancements in technology  do negatively effect the output of what is produced, I would be pretty upset.

A good musician is one who sticks to his/her guns, who can think for themselves and not be overly-influenced by the masses.  Musical artists who turn to social media for advice as to what's to do next should probably not quit their day job, and it this is their day job, G-d help them.


Thomas Doyle
It's pretty much impossible for a band to create and maintain a mystique in the post MTV / internet / digital age. You'll never see a band like Led Zeppelin or KISS (the way they were back in the 70s). When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s I had to rely on magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and Kerrang! for information that was already weeks old by the time it hit the news stand. There was no MTV so it was a treat if you could catch one of your favorite band on The Midnight Special or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. I even resorted to watching American Bandstand on Saturday mornings because they would occasionally have rock bands on the show. There were also programs like Nightflight that would broadcast concerts. The internet is really helpful for researching the music of the past though. I've learned more in the last 10 or 15 years about obscure bands I never knew existed growing up. I do still read actual books though. Martin Popoff's record guides are essential. I never did Napster or Limewire but I have done my share of illegal downloading but it was mostly albums by bands who's records are so rare (I've been collecting vinyl for over 30 years) that I either couldn't find or afford them. Finally, most of these titles are seeing the light of day of CD through reissue labels. I don't do that anymore because you can listen most of these albums for free on You Tube or Spotify so why bother? I do miss aspects of the past but I don't mind how things are in the present.

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