Facebook, We Have a Problem

HME - RAW DEAL
Facebook drives a hard bargain and a Raw Deal for rockabilly band  Hillbilly Moon Explosion

Engaging fans has always been at the heart of a musician’s success and social media platforms are proving to be both a virtue and a burden.  The ability to promote shows, music and merch through social media has proven to be a long hard slog for some independent musicians.  For a while, Myspace was the preferred choice as it allowed musicians to “control” their own image and conversations, not to mention it was easier than maintaining a website. But now, in the never-ending struggle to follow fans, musicians have invested their time and resources into Facebook.

The multi-billion dollar company, who has seen its share of criticisms regarding privacy and format changes, has attracted thousands of bands to their platform.  With Facebook’s policy, “always free and always will be,”  one would think that the social media platform  would be the saving grace of independent musicians everywhere. But certain independent bands like Hillbilly Moon Explosion are experiencing frustrating issues with Facebook as they begin to grow.

So much for the “it’s free and always will be” claim.        –Oliver Baroni, Hillbilly Moon Explosion

As the band’s Facebook page neared 14,000 likes, their admin began to receive messages from Facebook saying  that they weren’t reaching all their fans.  In response, HME  posted the following on their Facebook page:

Here’s the problem: Facebook tells us admins how many of our 14’000 fans we’ve reached with each post – often no more than 20%! You want to reach more people? Maybe even ALL of the fans who clicked ‘like’ in the hope of being updated about a band they really dig? Well, PAY! So much for the “it’s free and always will be” claim…

HME’s post was accompanied by a screen shot of a Facebook “Promote” window, which reads “Get more people who like your page to see this post.”  Just below the message there’s a dropdown box where an admin can select the amount they want to pay in order to get a further reach.  Like a lot of people, I had always been under the assumption that when you post on Facebook everyone who likes your band sees your post.  Apparently, that’s not always the case.

Hillbilly Moon Explosion’s Oliver Baroni wrote to me from his sick bed (the band is in on hiatus while Oliver recuperates) about how Facebook has made HME a victim of their own success.  Oliver wrote:

Well people who apparently are in the know claim, the stats haven’t changed much. It always was that only roughly 20% of your fans see your posts, due to the algorithm “worker-outer” that decides for you which topics you want to see in your feed and which not. The difference being that now an admin can actually see how many fans are reached per post. We usually hit something around the 25% mark. Rare items, such as this gallery reached over 40%. But this is probably due to the fact, that we continually added photos to the gallery and reposted over a period of a couple of days.

But Oliver’s issues with Facebook doesn’t stop there.  He also wrote about the glitches and bugs that have started plaguing HME’s account:

You used to add a couple of photos to a gallery and those shots would appear in your newsfeed. Not anymore. So we now re-post individual pictures or re-post the whole gallery to give it visibility. Nuisance. And then sometimes posts magically disappear from your feed. This one, for instance –  It’s still around, but not on our timeline.

And as if the band didn’t have enough obstacles with Oliver’s illness and Facebook sticking up the works, HME is also trying to promote their new and aptly named album Raw Deal.”

As Facebook continues to “modify” its offering to users by offering up the most “eyeballs” to the highest bidder, it will be interesting to see if they can hold onto the independent musician. From my perspective, social media platforms should be an even playing field, where megastars can mingle with independent musicians. Instead, new media looks as if its becoming another capitalist-based proving ground where the artist with the most money wins.

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Can Myspace Survive?

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, but can he do the same with Myspace?

I’m an American, which means I love a good comeback story (especially when the resurrected second-time hero has the potential to lend a hand to independent musicians and bands.)  Whenever there’s a down-and-out soul  on the verge of slipping into oblivion, my American-born empathy for a second chance rises to the surface.

There was a time when Myspace appeared to be gasping for its last breath, drowning in the sea of social networks.  But it seems the once sinking social platform has been thrown a lifeline from Justin Timberlake .  Purchased in June by  Specific Media ( Timberlake’s media investment group) from Ruppert Murdoch scandal-ridden NewsCorp, the once down and out social network is receiving a facelift, but what, exactly, will Myspace look like when the bandages come off? Colin Petrie-Norris, the international director of Specific Media hopes to take Myspace back to its music roots by using Timerlake’s star power to attract other big name musical acts.  The full revamp will attempt to bring commercial entertainment more online real estate, while still having to cater to other lesser known artists.  It appears that Fox still has a hand in the direction of the social network as Fox Digital Studio has just announced they will distribute a 7 episode comedy show  exclusively on Myspace.  But where does this leave the struggling indy bands trying to get a foothold?  It appears that the focus of “music” has left the little guy behind.

In the early and mid 2000’s, having a Myspace page was an obligatory marketing tool for independent musicians, but artists have followed their fans over to Facebook and shifted their marketing efforts to more music-oriented websites like Bandcamp.com and Reverbnation.  As the Myspace team re-purposes the ailing social network by injecting a heavy dose of corporate commercial entertainment into the mix, it feels like the indy musician is once again getting pushed aside.  But does it matter?  The digital landscape has more fertile soil for the independent musician than Myspace.  Perhaps only time will tell if the new-and-improved Myspace will be a contender again in the social network arena.  The fierce fight for social media users may be aimed more at the consumer than at the indy musician.  I love a good comeback, but I certainly don’t know if there is one on the horizon.