I am all for new technologies and the rise of social media sites. I believe they can be used to expose people to new ideas, artists, other like-minded people, and creative ventures. However, I have seen a total withdrawal of person-to-person interaction recently in the music industry (and in everyday life).
Every year I attend a festival called Kingdom Bound in upstate, NY, which draws around 50,000 people over the course of 4 days. As a family, we have been attending that festival upwards of 25 years or so, and have seen some good and not-so-good changes within the festival. One of the big changes I have noticed, in recent years, is the lack of networking and camaraderie that use to be so prevalent within the festival. There would be all kinds of "rubbing elbows and shaking hands" going on at the festival - in other words, a lot of human to human networking.
While at the festival, I was telling my wife that I remember a time when bands would stay the duration of the festival. The festival is held at Darien Lake theme park, which provides a great get away for bands, managers, artists, stage crew members and family. For many years, I would see bands stay in the rental campers with their families, and fellow band-mates enjoying not only the festival, but other bands performing. It would create a synergy that was rarely seen back then, and something that is even rarer in today's music climate. I remember our camp site being filled with band members every night as we sat around the campfire reminiscing of the day's events. Of course, there were plenty of jokes, practical jokes and laughs too. It was such a different time, a time where the future of the music industry was uncertain, but knowing we would all be OK if we stayed tight as a community.
I miss that camaraderie, and networking. Back then (and back then was not too long ago - think 1999 to about 2002/03) networking was talking face to face with the person. It was interacting on human levels, and not all through machines. Real humans, real hand shakes and real poking (literally) were the staples of the day. We handed out real paper business cards and physical copies of CD's...all in packets called promo packs complete with photos. This was all before social media and the rise of the internet, as we know it. I am not saying that we have stopped this practice all together, but I have seen a steep decline in recent years.
Music has been and should be a community of artists all coming together for one purpose...art. There is a common saying "strength in numbers", and that applies to the music scene. When artists unite together and form communities, people take notice and want to become part of it. In other words, people networking together to form something new, something fresh and something very different that people want to support.
Not too long ago, I formed an entertainment group whose sole purpose was to launch new and exciting bands. We were heavily involved in the festival circuit and sponsored the fringe stages. We would set up a booth at the festivals with the purpose of finding new acts and artists. At the end of the various events, I would leave with a suitcase full of promo packs, CD's, phone numbers and business cards. But it wasn't the suitcase filled with promo packs that made the event special, it was interacting with artists, bands and festival goers. Talking, laughing and hanging out with some of the coolest people was the highlight of many a festival. Did we find great bands to launch? Absolutely - but what I thought would be scouting opportunities only, became something much more meaningful...deep networking, deep human interaction.
I believe that we need to get back to networking - and not NET-working. The internet should be a tool to connect people with each other, but only after initial human contact is made and relationships built. When I talk about this at the college, many of the students totally agree that the internet is isolating and cold. They agree that the rise of the internet and social media sites have caused people to withdraw from human interaction. This generation feels more alienated then ever, yet it is the most connected than any other. Technology isolates. As a human race, we are wired to interact with each other. When we stop interacting, and get absorbed into our technology we start to feel more like machines than humans.
A recent study showed that when a person is touched by another, the person's life can increase anywhere from 1 to 12 years! I am not saying we go up to a person, hand them a promo pack and start giving massages, but we need to start shaking more hands and giving more pats on the arm or back. If I am signing a band, I want to know that band or artist before I work with them - and not through a chat conversation or e-mail. I want to find out what they are about, what makes them "tick" and their passions. Music is still about community, human emotion and interacting with each other - and community can be interchanged with networking. After all, it is through this amazing thing called a music community that we all get to network - and that is what makes the music scene so cool. Let's start networking again....coffee anyone?
Recently I was in a talk with my wife and made the comment that I am finding something very alarming which is the lack of promotion amongst my friends and indie artists. When I talk with my friends or various musicians they all tell me how much they want to do the "music thing" for a living, how they get excited when they think about making music and how it is their passion or calling.
When I hear an artists talk like that I get excited and start dreaming with them about the present and future. After my talk, I will often start searching for my friend, the artist, band or musician online. Some I find on Soundcloud, others on Indaba or like places. I search for websites or YouTube channels...basically anything that will point me to the artists and their art. Then it all starts to hit me, many are not promoting themselves.
In the technological age there is no excuse or reason not to promote your music or craft. Soundcloud has given anyone the opportunity to share their music with the world and what I have found on there is just plain sad. Out of all the friends and artists I know (which are hundreds of people), only three had anything to share on Soundcloud. Almost all of them had an account but when I went to listen to their music ....birds tweeting and tumbleweed blowing around their site.
Of course there are other sites as well to promote your music on. Sites like YouTube, MySpace (yeah I know its so 2005 but still a place to point people to your music), Reverbnation, Indaba, Bandcamp and many more offer services so a person can promote their music. So the questions this...if you don't post your music, or promote yourself, how are venues or anyone else for that matter suppose to know who you are or what you are about? If I were running a venue and an artists didn't have anything "out there", I definitely wouldn't be having you play my venue.
So, here are a few tips for promoting your music grassroots style:
Kevin "Danger" Jackson is a New York-based producer, engineer, composer, performer, educator and Berklee College of Music alumnus. He writes, produces and engineers music for a wide range of artists in the pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, classical and electronic genres. His work can be heard daily on a multitude of albums, radio and television stations worldwide.