This text is borrowed from an article written last year by Terry Matthew after an issue with copyrights on the social-medium page ‘Soundcloud’. You can find the original here: http://5chicago.com/technology/soundcloud-social-media-fanbase/ .
The article is briefly related to a remark I made more than 10 years ago, on tour, in the early days when all this started. A musician told (and explained) me how his ‘MySpace’ page works, and that he had already ‘400’ friends. What I (cynical) commented ‘I rather have 4 real friends than 400 cyber’. Over a decade further social pages became common part of our lives including all complications users have to deal with. Especially in music industry it seems indispensable.
To make the remarks in Matthews article more universal (lesser specific about Soundcloud), I edited it a bit. Reading the original gave me the impression he talks general about the phenomenon ‘social media’ anyway.
The article goes a bit deeper than my blunt remark years ago, still, in basics, it comes down to the same…
It’s your fanbase – that number that appears everywhere and makes artists either frustrated or gives them an unwarranted sense of self-importance. It should be rather easy to contact them all and tell them you’re moving on and you’ll all meet up on hearthis.at or mixcloud, right?…….Right! And that’s why most artists aren’t going anywhere, as long as their account is still active. Their fanbase ain’t going with them.
It’s been said that we live in an era of “access” – a kind of golden age of artist communications and marketing. Rather than rely upon the faulty medium of the journalist or the tabloid, artists can now talk “directly” to their fans without any intermediary. Well, except for SoundCloud, or Twitter, or Facebook, or…
The reality is that you don’t own your fanbase. You just “access” them. You rent them in exchange for your data. And when the moment comes you want to end your lease and move to another block, it becomes incredibly clear what the distinction is.
When a site implodes or homepages are taken down without much recourse, the artist is confronted once again with having to build an audience from zero. If you have a million followers it’s a bit easier, of course, but most artists don’t have a million followers. They may have a few thousand followers, accumulated over the course of years. A “follower” is a person who (with some exceptions, obviously) has indicated that they like you and want to receive updates from you. And now you’re a dead link or a gap on that follower’s dashboard, and that’s all.
The important thing to realize is that these barriers between fan and artist are entirely artificial. There’s really no reason why they need to exist, other than to obstruct you from leaving the page.
It would be incredibly simple to ask people on sign-up if they want to share their email address, and allow any customer at any time to export the data for whatever reason. Most of us sign up to receive email updates by artists (in fact, we should be doing it more, considering it’s the only means to have any kind of “ownership” over your fanbase now). The days are long gone when an email address was some kind of a secret gateway to our identities.
It’s not a shocking revelation to state this. Holy shit you mean the corporations that dominate 21st century communication want control?! But it is depressing how rarely this is addressed, or how little artists or their advisors and managers think about this sort of thing.
Most will not leave social media pages because nobody else is leaving. Pages will not go down because there is too large of a user base and too much venture capital already burned. Many artists who hate it will continue using it because they loathe having to build their fanbase all over again. Some will go elsewhere, but have to realize that they just renting fans there, too.
Matthew tells us that; if joined, we all are used by the social media companies, artists/fans/admin/followers… He advices to ask every follower/fan for an email address. Your fanbase is than direct accessible, free from s(h)ite-producers decisions.