The Musicians Rat Race With Social Media

“Just start uploading your stuff online”

This something I often hear social media icons and celebrities advising young artists, and while the spirit of it is true, it grossly misrepresents the reality of content creation in the modern sphere.

See we live in a time where there’s an abundance of music. There’s so much music in fact, that it would be humanly impossible to listen to it all. The advent of Spotify and social media has given everyone a voice and a platform for publishing their music – and as a result, they’re all singing as loudly as possible.

Not a day goes by where someone isn’t ‘dropping their new single’ or saying ‘watch this space, big things coming’. Everyone’s hyping and promoting and releasing, and there’s just too much for us to consume.

As a result, consumers start to develop quickfire ways of deciding whether or not your music is worth listening to, and musicians start chasing more and more means of ensuring that their stuff makes the cut.

This forms the crux of what I call – The Musicians Rat Race.

As the amount of music increases, the time given to each song decreases

The principle of this is very simple – the more music the average listen is bombarded with day to day, the less time they will give your song to make an impression on them before moving on.

Currently, I believe you have anywhere between 3-6 seconds to capture a new listener before they move on. I say ‘new’ because a fan of yours is more likely to really give you a crack before calling it a dud.

It is also important to note that the medium upon which they discover your music will play a large role. If they discover your music on Spotify, they may indeed listen for 20 seconds before moving on, whereas if they discover it on TikTok or Instagram, they’ll likely swipe on within a couple of seconds.

As the time given to each song decreases, the more your song has to stand out from the others

So now you have to stand out from every other schlepper in 3 seconds. How do you do that?

Well all we have to do is look at the history of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok and every other half baked platform to see the very clear trends (Of course, this doesn’t only apply to music, but really any type of content creation).

The first thing that musicians do is start pumping up the production quality. They start professionally recording all their tracks, and then miming along to them for the video.

In fact, this is so common place now that most non-musicians think that by just sticking an iPhone in front of you and recording, it will sound like a record! The reality of course is that if you stick your iPhone on a ledge and play/sing into the camera with an acoustic guitar, the microphone is pointing straight down into whatever surface you placed it on. The end result is you’ll sound weak and far away, and your guitar will sound non-existant.

But the real reason this is an issue is because the non-musician listener will immediately associate this ‘poor quality recording’ with a ‘poor quality song/performance’ and skip over you. Amongst a sea of professionally recorded tracks, and a plethora of listening opportunities, if they can’t hear your instrument and voice crystal clear (and preferably with a bit of reverb and compression for good measure) – your stuck into the ‘not worth my time’ pile.

What does this result in? Well, if we look at the history books we see very clearly – baseline audio production skyrockets. Almost every track uploaded to YouTube and Instagram these days is recorded in a proper home or professional studio and then mimed over.

When audio production peaks, visual cues begin to rise

Now that audio has an established baseline, the visual cues begin to matter.

If we look at the recent progression of TikTok – what started off as people organically recording themselves with their phones dancing or speaking in their rooms, even still as late as October 2019 – by January 2020, it was standard to be recording videos with DSL cameras and lighting gear, editing in Adobe Premiere, and even adding effects with After Effects before uploading.

When the masses hit, differentiation and ‘wow factor’ become key – and the user base moves quickly.

NOTE: If you’re a beautiful girl or a devilishly handsome guy – congratulations! Right off the bat, you’re going to be able to hold a lot more attention than the rest of us because humans are attracted to beauty (this actually forms the basis of something I plan to write a later post on – called ‘Unfair Advantages’, however suffice to say, an unfair advantage is anything that you have access to that would be difficult or impossible for your competition to replicate).

And if we look at YouTube – how quickly did we go from recording yourself with a webcam, to moving drone shots & film quality lighting rigs?

When production quality peaks, shock factor emerges

Once production quality can’t be competed against, we see the death throws of the desperate content creators – shock factor.

Artists begin creating intentionally inflammatory content in a last ditch attempt to get someone, anyone, to notice their content and pay attention to them.

I don’t want to dive too deep into this because I’m sure you’ve seen where it leads, but the end result is not good.

Some people may gain some traction, though unless it’s an authentic part of themselves the results are rarely desired.

How to win the rat race

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering – well crap, what do i do then to get my music heard?

Hey, I’m glad you asked!

These are my recommendations:

  1. Practice your craft.
    • No matter how good you are, you can always learn more.
    • Make your art so good, people are sharing it with their friends
  2. Consistency
    • Stop working on your Magnus Opum and just start releasing.
    • Perfection doesn’t exist, create the song and release it, then release the next one.
    • Aim for 1 professional quality track per month
  3. On Social Media, it’s quantity over quality
    • Produce more content. And then produce some more.
    • Doesn’t need to be studio quality, but make sure the lighting is good, the sound quality is good, and you start with a bang (no 10 minute long intros).
    • Make is something emotive for people to watch.
    • Get people involved
  4. Don’t font
    • Be honest about where you are in your journey, and be authentic. People can relate to that
    • in other words, don’t be over hyping yourself. BE REAL
  5. Don’t Get Discourage
    • Even though it’s hard, understand that it’s a long journey. Don’t worry about the number of followers you have, or the number of plays. Just know that if you keep working on the above, they will get there when the time is right

Keep Creating,