Are You Guilty? – 4 Ways Indie Musicians Are Killing Social Media

2017-11-28T14:01:19+00:00Sound Advice|

4 ways indie musicians are killing social media

This is a guest post from our friend Joshua Smotherman, who is a straight shooter when it comes to what he sees in the world of social media for musicians….

In an ideal world, I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of hot coffee. I would enjoy it as I check my e-mail and skim social networks to check up on friends and my favorite bands.

I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters, and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing”.

I see enough billboards on the interstate.

In this world:

  • Bands would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes
  • They would listen to their fans
  • They would understand that growing organically will always win overview counts

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of one-liners and YouTube links I only see as distractions. Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. From where I’m sitting, the average indie band sucks at using social media and it’s ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Me, Me, Me Marketing

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials, but using social media as a one-way street is killing your promo game.

It seems too many people are missing the social half of the phrase, social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album.

Sadly, most bands qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers.

Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross-promotion of content.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is: engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Focusing on the Wrong Metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.


More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?

Stop putting all your energy into increasing numbers on social sites and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans.

Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, song download, or merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes or 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets and crowdfunding campaigns?

Show me the money!

Repeating Yourself on Every Social Network

Sending your Twitter feed to Facebook then copying and pasting it to Google+ so the same message appears on every site is a horrible idea.

So is autoplay on audio embeds but that’s for a different time.

You are not expected to know marketing, you make music! Allow me to guide you on this train of thinking.

People who use Twitter are different than people who use Facebook and the people who use Google+ are not like the others.

It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and act accordingly.

Make sure you actually use social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music using these tools. Follow bands who are in a position you would like to be in and see how they use each network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then perfect your plan of action.

Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting on Facebook every 15 minutes.

When you over saturate a person’s FB News Feed, they hide you from their feed. Or worse…unlike your page or mark your posts as spam.

A general guideline is to try to retweet, reply, comment, and share relevant content that others create more than you broadcast and peddle your own wares.

Sell Without Selling

If you focus on building a community around your band instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience.

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you.

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans a band worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans begin promoting your music for you by wearing t-shirts, playing CDs at parties, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent.

While fans are busy promoting your music, you need to seek out gig opportunities, blog reviews or interviews, and other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience.

Bloggers, journalists, booking agents, and other industry personnel will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. If you have 5,000 page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you.

So can the people who can expose you to bigger audiences of music fans.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe
  • Nurture your community
  • Stop acting like a corporate sales machine

You might also be interested in this panel discussion concerning Marketing, PR, and Promotion on a Budget hosted by Indie Connect NYC which discusses mores things indie musicians are doing wrong online.

How Have You Avoided Killing Social Media?

If you would like to start with a fundamental – identifying WHO to TALK to click here: 

Buy Social Media Tune Up

This guest post was written by Joshua Smotherman (@midtnmusic), co-founder of the Middle Tennessee Music blog who frequently features fabulous indie artists.


  1. This is one of the best posts I’ve seen on social media marketing for musicians. Thank you!

  2. Jus Josef Sheepmusic at - Reply

    That was dope…I got a lot of info…I think there are too many wannabes who trying to “get in” for the wrong reasons…money, fame, sex…and too few that really wanna share theyre gift. I once heard money and fame are like a shadow…if u chase it, it will run from u…@jusjosef follow me on Twitter…lol

  3. Dave DeMarco at - Reply

    Proof that it’s more about “social” and less about “media” – try posting something personal about yourself. It could be a revelation about any facet of life; a non-musical accomplishment; something that makes you sad/happy; or something where you’re reaching out and asking for an opinion. Then sit back and watch the likes and comments roll in. Now try posting about your next gig. Unless you’re Chris Cornell, you probably won’t get as much reaction from that post. This just proves the real reason the other 95% of social media users are there: they want to touch and be touched. Give your followers a reason to like you (beyond your music) and you’ll build a fan for life.

  4. C Bret Campbell at - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, but you already know that… thanks for including the interview with Diana and the gang… wow did they really lay it out!

  5. Will Black at - Reply

    Rock on, Jon – couldn’t agree more. Like any new, small business, a new band or artist needs to create real relationships with their consumers / fans. Because of the emotional nature of our main product as muscians being “the song” or “the performance” those relationships have to be real and personal. No way around it 🙂

  6. Anonymous at - Reply

    I agree and disagree based on the motive of the artist. Mailing list sign-ups matter if you’re trying to go Direct to Fan. Some artists aren’t though. I have friends that want to build through blogs, get sponsore .; jjjg0oe1stggzxifi cicehcbsx;soxbcxzqqd by companies, get in festivals. For those things Youtube views, Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers matter. I had a friend pay for Youtube views, then Tweet about how he got all these views for his song and how blogs weren’t up on it – making it seem like they were behind. Everyone fell for it. We had mutual friends that would brag about how many views his video got in such a short time. The blogs fell for it too and posted the video. One said “i don’t know how I missed this joint” and sited the view count falling into his strategy. Now he’s performing with other artists popular on blogs, getting sponsored to shoot videos for clothing brands, getting accepted into things like the Converse program that gives free studio time and promo. He created the illusion that he was bigger than what he was. Maintaining an email list and having real fan engagement brings you real fans but it’s been proven that those numbers matter. When people stop falling for the scams, the scams will stop. Right now, it works when done right.

  7. Adriana at - Reply

    Thanks for the advice! Very helpful!

  8. Kally Turner at - Reply

    I totally fell into this trap on accident. As a non-pro Google Plus user I was getting daily emails from a regular blogger to the tune of 10+ a day. I wrote him a really nice email after a year and a half or so of getting his emails and asked him if he might be willing to give my work a listen and perhaps share it with his people. The next email I got from him was a scathing “who are you to ask me to help you?” reply. He then proceeded to use my request and make me an example to boost his followers and his argument on his blog. It was a mess and still is. What a friggin nightmare. Here’s my issue, I don’t think the paid advertisements are super effective for getting followers and so far neither are the companies that are supposedly set up to help you get reviews which makes it more difficult to stand out amongst the white noise of sooo many artists clamoring for attention. Kally O’Mally

  9. FindIndieMusic.Com at - Reply

    Great read. Working to help promote Indie artists I come across all of this every day. Am definitely tweeting this!

  10. Music Business Resource at - Reply

    Really interesting post. Definitely helpful to break down social media for the indie musician. So many are doing it wrong, doing it too much or avoiding it all together. All of which could really set an up and coming musician back.

  11. Camille Miller at - Reply

    Wow, great article…I have been guilty of many of these things! Time for a new approach.Thanks, Camille

  12. Patoirlove at - Reply

    this was very helpful.. thank you.

  13. Damien Cripps at - Reply

    Great Post Joshua,
    Its not just indie musicians doing it, a lot of the major labels are guilty of doing it as well. However they have the advantage of having a myriad of artists to post about, which acts to serve as if they are posting about other artists (which you discussed in your article).
    In my expieriance it is good practice for artists ( infact everyone using social media) to identify what it is that they followers / fans love about them and their work. Once you have identified that it is easier to utilise your social media to best build your brand/ product.
    For example if I follwed the Australia Weather Channel on twitter and they posted tennis scores from the US open chances are I would un follow shortly thereafter, as I follwed them for weather updates, and weather related info.
    Post things that people who follwed you will want to know about, this will strengthen your position in your community, therfor strengthening your brand.
    ha ha I really should follow these tips myself – have a great day

  14. “what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above” I created a new method of music distribution (see 2013 Oct. Iss. of Guitar World, page 115) that uses a twist on how dropcards are distributed. Once in play and bands begin using them then it eliminates the SUITS and returns power to the fans and music will once again be like it was with mixtapes as people buy, sell, trade, and give away their music in an easy format that rewards people and enhances a real musical scene. I mean, seriously, when was the last time itunes gave you the song… AND put money in your pocket? That’s what I’m talking about, when power is in the hands of the fan instead of the SUIT. Google my name, come see what I’m talking about, get involved in the project.

  15. Anonymous at - Reply

    Great post and comments ,Thanks everyone

  16. Elisa Korenne at - Reply

    My contribution to avoiding the killing of social media was avoiding social media, which served me poorly! Now, I shall try to take your advice and engage in social media without killing it. Onward ho!

  17. Very clear Joshua. Makes me think back to how I’ve been treating social media. Am I engaging or pushing?

  18. Jason Fryer at - Reply

    That was a great article Jon! I think it’s sad that it even has to be said because it all seems very common sense to me. After all, Music IS supposed to be about connecting with others. The easiest way to not fall into the trap of becoming just another spammer is to just follow the age-old adage of “Just be yourself” All the social networks are is an online collective consciousness. A meeting of the minds. Participate & be real. If you care about others, others will care for you. I teach at the Canada Music Academy & one thing I tell all my students about performing live is something that I’ve come to live my life by. I think if everyone adopted this ideology to some degree, the world would be a much better place. It goes a little something like this:

    If you are focussing on yourself before getting up on stage to perform, you will start to get nervous. You might even start thinking things like: “What if I make a mistake, or if people don’t like me or my music etc…” If you go down that road, by the time you get up on stage, you’ll have exhausted yourself & all the positive energy you could have brought out onto the stage with you. If however, you think about bringing the best that you can out for the people & make it about them, then you’ve turned what you do into an act of service. In doing so, you eliminate the ego from the equation & set yourself completely free to go out there give the best of yourself to the crowd so that they can enjoy the show. They have a great time, you have a great time & it’s all good! We do what we do because we feel an innate need to connect with people. Sometimes that need can manifest itself in a manner that is unhealthy. (i.e.: People wanting to make music for wealth, fame, sex etc…) In the end it’s all a need to connect & to be accepted by your peers. Or to boil it all right down to the basics – to be Loved. So the answer is unbelievably simple. All you need is Love. Love is all you need.

  19. Guest at - Reply

    I avoid this problem because I do not use it. I used to, but ended up deleting my accounts or deactivating them . I just use a combination of a .com, email blasts, and I also use flyers to promote what I’m doing in the area I’m doing it. If it’s far away, I mail flyers to the venue owner and ask them to distribute. If it’s a local show, I distribute flyers myself. Social media definitely has it’s uses and can be a great marketing tool. However, In my opinion, nothing trumps the old school method of marketing with word of mouth, newspapers, radio, and flyers. The problem with social media for musicians is that EVERYONE is doing it. Which means that people are getting buried in invites and event notifications. If you have 1000 followers or likes or whatever, how many of them do you really think are reading your posts or even seeing them in the mass rubble of posts they get daily from all of the other things/people they “like” or “follow”.

    Real world works best for me.

  20. Very refreshing.

  21. Dave Smith at - Reply

    Yes, yes, yes and yes. Right on here in every way. I realize your post is a year old but nearly every band that is trying to be heard is doing this, and even the big name acts are too. Truly connecting with people will always win over a number of supposed “fans” or followers. Thanks for posting this. Hopefully more bands will do as you suggest and be leaders of their tribe instead of barking dogs on a hill.

  22. Clive Stewart at - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Putting this into practice right away. Cheers.

  23. ronniejamesvadala at - Reply
  24. Certainly, but there’s something to be said for organic marketing and building relationships. It’s more ethical and more effective on social media (and traditional media) no matter what business you’re in.

  25. Ryno530 at - Reply

    Wow!! Thanks for that helpful information…I was raised on Atari, drinking water outta the hose, payphones, uhf, vhf Bob Marley and Iron Maiden…Im a horrible re tweeter…and an even worse EMAILING fans backer to let em know I do appreciate em…To me its all overwhelming but you’ve outlined it in a simple 3 chord progression!! Much thanks…!!

  26. Great points Joshua. Make it about THEM, not YOU. I just published my own piece for musicians on how (not) to use social media. Didn’t want to spam this article with the link, but if you’d like to see it, just let me know.

  27. Thanks for gathering valuable details . Really great, When we have the desire to share our message or brand on the world wide web, it is essential to identify and select the right media. The aim is indeed to reach as many people as we can, for a reduced and controlled effort.

  28. […] In our digital world, one would think today’s artists would have it much easier to try and promote themselves, however, that might be a misstatement. How bands use social media is almost as important as whether or not they use it at all. A mistake some performers (and others) make is spamming followers with content without ever really connecting with them. Successful posts, photos, and videos will ask what fans think, start conversations, connect with other bands, and get fans pumped – all in efforts to build a devoted community for the band. […]

  29. aye, i ended up just not caring… i also happen to be a recluse… probably what contributes to my having released so many albums. (officially, working on 59) but anywho, if my musick fills thine ears, awesome… if not, o well.

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