It is rare to hear someone say they don’t care for music. Music is a universally appreciated art that helps people make sense of the world around them. Artists are storytellers who dedicate their careers to sharing personal anecdotes and sparking conversations about current events and issues that affect people. Twenty years ago, a musician’s impact was heard through radio and records, but today, social media gives musicians a platform to increase their reach and extend conversations beyond songs on the radio.
Justin Bieber famously gained a following through YouTube and is now a globally known artist, traveling throughout multiple continents for his world tour. YouTube allows hundreds of musicians to gain a following and be accessible to listeners outside of their local community, and even continent. Artists can communicate with fans through social media and develop a more personal brand for themselves that better connects them to people and enables relationships with listeners. Through these relationships on social media, musicians give listeners a voice by reading and seeing what people want and and gaining feedback for their creative works.
Taylor Swift sets a superb example for building relationships with fans on her social media accounts. She uses social media to show what her everyday life looks like and she personalizes her posts. Her fans are excited to see cute photos of Meredith and Olivia, her cats, as they are to see any other photo on their news feed.
Her strategic and authentic posts lead fans feeling more invested in her music because they have genuine insight into the meanings of her lyrics. Social media creates a sense of transparency for artists interacting among their fans. Additionally, Swift directly responds to fans on social media. On Tumblr, Swift gave a fan, Kasey, advice on a break up and made her a post-break-up playlist. When listeners hear Taylor Swift’s songs, they empathize and resonate with her, because of those relationships built on social media.
In addition to relationship building, social media allows artists to explore the depths of messages in lyrics. Beyoncé, who has 87.2 million followers on Instagram, used her new album to voice her passion for the #BlackLivesMatter revolution and be a voice for black women in America today.
She promoted Lemonade, a unique visual album, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share the music that makes bold political statements about the racism that exists in the United States. But the promotion of her album and empowering messages did not stop with the music. During her Super Bowl performance, Beyoncé’s back up dancers sported Black Panther inspired costumes.
Beyoncé posted many photos on her Instagram account from the performance to showcase her statement through the costumes. The costumes caused controversy on social media. The hashtag #boycottbeyonce started Twitter debates. The boycotts were not just against her, but the message she sent. In typical Queen B fashion, Beyoncé took the backlash on social media and maximized on the hate. She began selling Boycott Beyoncé t-shirts at her concerts to address protestors and create more awareness of her message. The hashtag transitioned from people who opposed her Super Bowl performance to a satirical hashtag used by those to convey how ridiculous the boycott was. Beyoncé proves artists are able to strategically use social media attention, good or bad, to reinforce their lyrics and engage in dialogue.
Social media does much good for the music industry, but there are drawbacks to the digital interactions musicians have with their audience. Musicians are some of the most followed people in the social media world, and every post has the potential to be seen by millions of followers who are ready to criticize and twist words into controversy. Musicians must be self-aware of how their social media image can impact their career and mission behind making music. This type of caution needs to be practiced by everyone in the social media sphere.
Music is an art found in every culture. It dates back to the age of the Neanderthals. Music will be a part of society and constantly evolve as people’s values and preferences change. Social media will continue to influence the industry in a big way. Relationships and impact through music grow every day, and as these things grow, musicians take on a powerful responsibility to use social media’s reach to share positive and progressive messages that have the ability to change society.