Facebook and Twitter: Don’t Trust the Numbers

Likes and Followers. Have 500 of each? Miserable. Have 10,000 of each? Established Indie Band. Have 500,000 of each? Global superstar. The way we define success in the music industry is highly flawed and here’s why:

1) No other industry measures success based on lead generation. This is effectively what Facebook and Twitter are. They are lead generation platforms. Clicking “Like” or “Follow” is equivalent to walking into a retail store and filling out a form to be added to a mailing list for new products. Are companies successful because they have a high volume of people on their mailing list? No! They are successful because they are able to get people who have at one point expressed interest to follow through on making a purchase. The lead itself is irrelevant. All that matters is closing the sale. In music, the sale is closed when an interested individual buys a concert ticket or a t-shirt.

2) Facebook and Twitter do not operate in real time. When an individual makes the decision to “like” or “follow” an artist, he or she is living in the moment. On my Facebook profile, I can see that at one time or another, there are about 40 bands that I have clicked “Like” for. A quick glimpse at the page is all it takes for me to tell you that of those 40, I am really into only about 15 of those artists. This is bad reporting. In the accounting world, reporting bad numbers is fraud. In music, it is commonplace. It is used to book concerts. It is used for artists to measure their success in relation to other artists. Artists are using bad data to “engage” with fans. But more importantly, what about those fans who do not use Facebook or Twitter? What about those fans who like your artists’ music, but do not necessarily care about their personal lives? Those fans are unaccounted for. They are among the missing. You must hope that these fans read music blogs and stay up to date with venue schedules.

Music is a privilege for the listener. For this reason alone, it is troubling that musicians are satisfied with merely placing their music on these “discovery” platforms. Would a chef at a restaurant cook you a four course meal for free because he wants you to “discover” his culinary ability? Would an auto mechanic fix your engine for free because he wants you to “discover” his ability to fix things? Absolutely not. Why then do musicians place so much value on “discovery?” If being discovered only generates a “like” or a “follow,” the newly discovered musician will only learn that social media platform success does not build a sustainable career. An artist like Big Sean might be able to generate “guap” from one single, but for most artists, success is built over years and starts with getting fans to buy the product.