Artists and Creatives Are Natural Marketers

In this JB Media Digital Drop-in webinar, we explore social media strategies for creatives, artists, and musicians. Over the years we’ve had a number of artists in our Institute program including musicians, painters, jewelers, and writers. This conversation focuses specifically on the ways artists and creatives can use social media to their advantage, and includes some simple tips and best practices everyone can benefit from. The real treat, though, is the two amazing artists that joined me for a Q and A about social media marketing and how to achieve DIY success. I think you will enjoy our discussion and learn something from their experiences.

Meet Our Guest Artists

Musician and songwriter Andrew Scotchie of Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats

Evolving Forward from Busking to Touring to Studio Albums

Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats have been around since 2011. They got their start as a busking duo on the streets of Asheville and quickly became an electric project. In 2012 they began touring and releasing music, and between 2013 and 2015 they started traveling extensively. In 2016 the band released a live album, and in the fall of 2017 began work on their third studio album, Family Dynamo. In 2018 the band started work with a local publicist so Andrew no longer had to manage all aspects of booking, social media, and promotions. Today, Andrew is able to put his focus where it needs to be: on writing, performing, and connecting with fans.

Poet, author, and mistress of ceremonies Barbie Angell

How to Do It All Under One Name

Barbie is a poet, writer, and event emcee. She is a published author and works alongside many other artists including musicians, painters, actors, etc. Incredibly, Barbie even sings, draws, acts, and makes her own clothes in her spare time. Barbie came to Asheville in 1999 and built her reputation as a writer, performing at open mics and readings. Over time she began to explore social media and started to build an online following by being funny, outspoken, and a huge supporter of the arts in Western North Carolina. Barbie has won Best Poet in Mountain Xpress’s “Best of WNC” multiple years in a row. She is well known for bringing her unique voice and talents to a variety of festival and concert stages, as well as many non-profit events that she supports.

Artist Insights – Q and A Time

(NOTE: this is an edited transcription of the webinar above)

Sarah: Why do you think people love creative work and respond so well to it online?

Andrew: People love art, music, and events because it’s an escape. We have to remember that whenever we’re sharing events or inviting people to do something with us we’re offering them an outlet. Poetry and writing resonates with Barbie, like being onstage, connecting with people, and just beating the hell out of the guitar resonates with me – it’s a release. Now, more than ever, people need a release. It’s really important to keep in mind. You’re trying to engage them. You’re trying to invite them. You’re not trying to talk at them. Some bands are super famous and all they have to do is post a ticket link and—boom—the tickets start selling. But if you’re still working to build recognition as a musician, you have to engage your fans. You have to tell them why a certain show or event is special and why you want them to join you…not just be there, but be part of what you’re doing.

Sarah: What social media platforms are you currently using?

Andrew: I personally get the most results through Facebook, for the band and for the festival Asheville Barnaroo, which I founded in 2009. I think it’s because these two pages, Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats and Asheville Barnaroo, have been telling the story the longest as opposed to our Instagram page, which has only been active for about two or three years. The Facebook pages have been around since 2010 and 2011 so we’ve got a wide variety of people. Some of them have just joined after a recent show, and some people have been there since we were playing in basements. The people that are liking and sharing our content on Facebook are people that have been along for the entire journey with us, and have watched the band become more successful over time. I’m personally trying to build our Instagram page more in 2018, especially for festival season. With festival images on Instagram I think it’s really important to keep it concise. I sometimes wish you could post ticket links so people can click it and go right to the purchase page; that would be nice. But at the same time, it’s also kind of cool how the image is really highlighted.

I’m also trying to push Instagram a little bit more because it is fun if you’re traveling. For example, if you’re on the road for two nights or two months I think it’s really important to keep people updated. We also try to balance fun stuff with really goofy stuff. You’ll see some professional photographs that we’re sharing. You’ll see some sound checks and some videos from the crowd. I think it’s important to share content when you’re on the way to a show and when you’re setting up. It’s fun to document these kinds of things. Especially if you’re working on an album, it’s great to share the process. It’s informative for the people who follow us. They want to see how the album unfolds. It’s like filming a musician’s perspective. One thing that’s really attractive to fans and potential fans is showing them what goes into a show, what goes into making an album, and what goes into artwork for that album. That story is something that they do not encounter on a daily basis. So you’re essentially giving them a behind the scenes look and engaging them. You’re not just posting ticket links and images.

With our new album, our logo has changed completely and Instagram has been really helpful in capturing that. Another example of the process is sharing videos of the CDs being made in the factory. This way when fans get tickets or come to a show they know the story and they’re excited about getting their copy and spending their hard-earned money to come out and see you.

I also actually like to go back to view Facebook memories and see how bad my social media was in 2011. I look at the posts and think “Oh my gosh! Nothing was tagged. There are so many spelling issues.” I learn from it though. Polls, awards, and recognitions on social media are also valuable. They are kind of resume builders for musicians. These kinds of things actually help you get booked, and some promoters like to see this kind of activity. For the Best of WNC in Mountain Xpress we encouraged our fans to vote for us, and instead of simply posting a picture or a link, we made a little video that featured a clip of audio from the album that wasn’t even released yet. Giving people something exclusive is very helpful, I think.

Barbie: On Facebook I’ve pretty much focused on my personal profile as a way of connecting with the community and networking. I’ve also been on Twitter for a long, long time and that’s how Sarah and I met—years ago, when there were still Tweet Ups. I am a latecomer to Instagram. I’ve only been on Instagram for two or three years, but I got on Facebook and Twitter in 2009 and I laid claim to the Barbie Angell name on everything. I started out sharing a little of my personal life and then pretty quickly, being a girl on the Internet, I pulled that back because it can attract a lot of inappropriate stuff. So then I reevaluated and decided to develop my persona on both pages, on both my Facebook Business Page and on my personal page, and it went well for a while, but then Facebook started limiting the visibility of the Business Page content and I wasn’t getting as much out of it.

So I made a switch and started automating my Twitter to my Facebook Business Page, because no matter how much time I was putting in, it wasn’t getting anywhere near the results of my personal page. So I just really focused on my personal page, which is public, and I am cautious how much I say about my actual personal intimate life, for obvious reasons. I like Facebook and Instagram because of the demographic of people that are on it. A lot of folks that are older are more comfortable with Facebook. People that don’t feel like they’re very tech savvy are often more comfortable with Facebook. I appreciate that it dips into my fan base quite heavily. Instagram is a harder push for me to get more followers, but I’ve never been really focused on the size of my following.

I’m not on Twitter or on Facebook for the numbers. It’s about engaging with people in community. I have found it a little bit harder to expand my community on Instagram than on Twitter or Facebook, but it’s possible. Twitter is still my favorite because you are making direct contact with people. You have the chance to engage with somebody directly. One of my favorite stories is of my friend Joseph. He and I tweeted a lot before we met. We had a very long conversation about the documentary Grey Gardens in 140 characters or less. We just went back and forth talking about this, and Joseph eventually became one of my best friends and we’ve worked together on many projects. He’s just somebody that I found on Twitter, but who happened to live here in Asheville, and he had many connections in the theatre and burlesque world.

The way that you can expand your community on Twitter is so much more beneficial than it is on Instagram or Facebook. The people that are on Twitter these days are hardcore Twitter people and they’re devoted to it. I’ve also talked to a lot of my heroes on Twitter, a lot of people that I would not normally get to talk to. And, like Andrew was saying about being able to connect more directly with your fan base or community, I think it’s incredibly important to be able to show people that you’re just human. I always say that social media is the great equalizer because even when Steve Martin started on social media he made mistakes. You know, we all kind of start in the same place on social media.

Regardless of the voice that you create, it is incredibly important to be able to say to yourself, okay, my character is witty and sweet and a little inappropriate. But there’s a line she doesn’t cross. She swears, types everything in lowercase so it is easier to denote respect or raise her voice. She talks politics a little bit, but won’t debate with someone. There are all these rules that I’ve given myself. I think that’s important in social media to have a voice that reflects your brand, whatever it is. And I don’t think that your voice can be too far away from who you are as a person, because it comes through. You can’t fake it.

Andrew: For the musicians out there I think it’s important to focus on good photos and videos. Illustrate some of the key moments where you feel like you’re riding pretty high, but also do not be afraid to be human and to express times when you feel worn out, confused, or frustrated. People will relate to that. In the end, people are really good at picking out what’s fake. A really good example is how soul music, rock and roll, and blues music is just as prevalent today as it was back in the sixties and seventies. Even as casual listeners, people know that a lot of stuff on pop radio stations is kind of a fabricated. It’s not directly from the soul. There are a bunch of producers involved and a lot of the music is starting to sound the same.

I think it’s important to have this real and raw element to your content, while at the same time maintaining a professional image and having standards and boundaries, like Barbie was explaining. There were so many times (especially when I was younger, like 18 or 19 years old, when I was getting into the touring circuit and moving Barnaroo to its current location) that people undermined me or assumed a lot of things because of my age. I wanted to vent on social media and call out those people, but I didn’t, because too many people were already doing that. It just turns social media into noise and it becomes negative energy. It’s better to rise above and focus on what you have coming up or what you are currently working on instead of focusing on negative aspects ike people doubting you. As a musician I think the best advice I can offer for social media is consistency and strong branding—really staying up to date with your content. Don’t let one show slip through the cracks or give one show more attention than others. Keep your platforms up to date with everything that’s going on. Promote and document things as they happen.

One other thing I noticed that some artists are doing, and something I have done in the past, is mass tagging. This is where a musician tags up to 100 people for an event in a single post. I have learned that kind of tactic is spammy and I would say for musicians it’s better to avoid that and only tag the people directly involved in your project. Tag your bandmates, producer, the guy that did the album artwork, the promoter, or the venue. I would stick to the people directly involved, and your tag will show up on their timeline and potentially get their friends to follow or like your page. I think it’s best to tag 10 or 12 people maximum, in posts.

Barbie: As someone who is an influencer, I get those tags all the time. And with some people it’s okay because, like Andrew, I’ve told them feel free to tag me in anything, because I know it does help.

Andrew: That makes sense though, because Barbie and I are both involved in the music scene here. It’s not like you have a show coming up in a city, and you casually know another musician, so you tag them without even making some kind of contact first. Like personally connecting to say, “Hey, can you come out tonight?” or “What are you up to on this date?”

Barbie: It comes off to me as is I’m just being used, because a lot of those folks that mass tag don’t understand the community aspect of social media. If they just asked me, I might say yes or I might say no. A lot of times folks are tagging me for events I would never go to. That’s why I have to approve anything that goes on my timeline. I also remove tags a lot of the time because I feel like that’s somebody saying I endorsed something, without asking me first. It’s inappropriate. I don’t tag without asking people first myself, because to me that’s like walking over and putting your bumper sticker on someone else’s car.

Sarah: I think one of the biggest things people have to focus on is relevancy. When you’re tagging people, is it truly relevant to that person? If you don’t know or you questioned whether or not it’s relevant to them, then don’t bother them with it. Tagging actually becomes spam when it’s somebody who doesn’t know you or who’s not really interested in what you’re doing.

Barbie: I liken it to what Rosanne Cash said. She said social media is like cafe society. You’re wandering around, listening to other people’s conversations, and jumping in when you want. Our friend Wendy Lou calls it at a cocktail party you can pause. When I teach social media to bands, I explain it like this:

You go to a party and you’re walking around meeting people. Maybe you’re handing them your business card and they’re handing you theirs. It’s interactive. You don’t want to be the person that’s walking around shouting out that you have a sale and giving everyone your business card and then walking away. It’s those people that tag everybody but don’t acknowledge anything else going on in the world. They only put up their ticket links or book links, or whatever, and they don’t engage with their community.

Sarah: I always remind people that essentially there are seven and a half billion people on the planet. There are a lot of people that are talented and do amazing things. So when I get onto social media as a user, I have the option to engage with thousands of different things. In the United States most people get an average of 8,000 marketing messages a day, so if you don’t start telling the story and making it personal then why would they choose you over anybody else? There are a lot of great musicians, great writers, and great performers out there. People choose to pay attention because they feel some sort of connection. They relate or agree with your values. They see what you’re trying to do and think it’s important.

Andrew: For bands, once you get started, you figure out which day is best to post a big festival announcement or what time is best to launch a ticket link and talk about your album. Once you start to work on that it becomes natural. It goes back to the real aspects of what you’re doing—not faking it. After you get into all of this work, eventually it becomes a part of who you are, and people see that and respect that.

Sarah: Artists, musicians, and all types of creatives often have the unique opportunity to have their name brand become something they build and that lives alongside the brand of your band or your book series, etc. It allows you, as an artist, to establish your name brand or personal brand and go different places with it, and build a really strong brand foundation. It’s really in line with what Barbie shared. It’s not about making up something that’s not real, it’s about figuring out which personal parts of yourself you are willing to share with the world. And there is no actual rule of thumb about what the boundaries are. Everybody’s boundaries are different.

Barbie: And you have to own it. A friend’s band was saying he really wanted to start talking about legalizing cannabis and he didn’t know if that would hurt their band. I was honest and said, yes, it could cause you to lose some people. If you’re going to do something like that you just need to be educated about it and stick to your guns. I also think it’s really important for artists with social media managers to talk to that person about what you want them to do. Have a dialogue with the people who are running your social media accounts.

The Wrap Up

Sarah: I’ve put together some tips about avoiding time drain. These are very basic things that a lot of you know, but use this as a checklist, and if you’re not doing some of them, think about it.

  • Choose the channels you feel comfortable with. It’s okay if it’s only one channel or two channels. You don’t have to be doing seven different platforms to make social media work.
  • When you’re a musician, capture things in the moment and have someone else do it when you’re performing.
  • Test your phone, your video, your microphone, etc. Know how far away the device should be and have a little tripod. Essentially, put together a little kit so that when you’re documenting things it becomes a natural part of what you’re doing, instead of a burden.
  • Tell a story and be conversational. Share the behind-the-scenes process or experience and give people a reason to connect with you on a personal level. At the end of the day, that’s why they’ll choose to engage with you over someone else.

Also, I want to discuss posting frequency on social media. On Facebook post once a day, and try not to flood things. Twitter and Instagram will bear multiple posts in a day better than Facebook, typically, but make sure you spread the posts out. Posting five or more times a day doesn’t necessarily help you, and posting them all in a row sometimes actually hurts you, so be thoughtful. If you’re going to post multiple times a day schedule your posts in advance. If you post five times at once on any platform your content basically gets wasted. Use a scheduler.

It’s better on Facebook to have one really strong piece of content then a bunch of extraneous pieces of content with less value. When it comes to frequency on social media that there are a few things that really matter. Frequency on any of your social accounts is dictated by what your audiences want. Pay attention to them. If they’re engaging a lot and you’re posting three times a day, keep doing that. If you’re on tour and you’re posting a little bit more and you see people are engaging, keep doing it. There’s no kind of frequency that applies to everyone’s audience. It’s really about knowing what they want and need, based on who they are.

Finally, remember you have to do more than just post. Set aside time in your social media schedule so you can comment, have conversations, and engage in what is going on in your community. Pay attention to the city you’re going to and what’s happening there, and participate alongside people instead of talking at them. I think that’s a big mistake that a lot of people make. There are people who just post and post and post, and there is no real, true investment on their part. It takes time, energy, courage, and planning to effectively put yourself out there. Make real connections, and inspire people to comment, react, and share.