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Friday, December 13, 2013

Here's how I use Twitter as a musician

By Ted Slowik

Out here on the “long tail” of the music world, I’m a nobody among millions of other nobodies. I’m OK with that, because I get satisfaction from making music for family, friends and local fans.

But I do find it fun to connect with musicians, recording artists, songwriters, booking agents, producers, publicists and others all over the world who share a passion for music. Twitter’s a great way for musicians to connect with people, and here’s how and why.

I have three main goals with Twitter: to engage with like-minded artists, to support others and to build my following.

Engagement is most important. A few months ago I was playing a solo gig at a bar miles from home. I didn’t know a soul. No other musicians or friends were there. In between sets I Tweeted that it was the loneliest gig I’d ever played. A stranger Tweeted back words of encouragement, and that was all I needed to get through the gig.

I have about 1,200 followers on Twitter at the moment, but only 20 or so that I really care about. People I actually talk to, and who reply. Actual human beings! Not those automated replies, like, “Thanks for following! Please 'Like' my page on Facebook too!” Gag.

If someone follows me, I follow back, unless they’re obviously a spam robot. That’s how I show support for other artists—by following them. I don’t care that my following-to-followers ratio is about even. I know I’m not a celebrity who follows a handful of people and has tons of followers. I’m a commoner. I respond to personal requests, not automated replies. I'll post links to YouTube videos and SoundCloud tracks for others I can actually vouch for. Who knows how many of my followers will ever click on the links I share? But you know what? The artists I Tweet about appreciate it. If you show a kindness, karma will repay that.

I’m careful about who I follow on Twitter. I build my Twitter following by following hand-picked others, not just anyone. I avoid like the plague those bots whose sole purpose is just to follow back or bombard you with spam posts. I’m only interested in actual artists.

And not just any artists. If their Twitter feed is populated only with automated posts from their Facebook feed, I’m not following them. I link Facebook and Twitter too, but I supplement those with a majority of posts directly to the Twitter audience. And not every post has a link to a song or video. Sorry, but it’s often a drag waiting for links to another channel to load. I would love to “Like” you on Facebook next time I’m at a desktop, but on my mobile device the whole point is speed and convenience.

I follow artists who talk about their work. Of course that means reading posts about gigs they’re playing, because they want to get the word out about them. But I especially like posts that offer insight and perspective into how they work. I'm interested in the process. New gear is interesting, as is work in the studio, new songs, collaborations with other musicians, reviews and mentions.

And I only follow artists who are on Twitter regularly. If you haven’t posted in three days, or maybe only post once a week on average, sorry but I’m not interested. Here’s another turnoff, and it’s going to sound selfish, but if you’ve hit that 2000 following threshold and you only have a few hundred followers, I’m not following you. You’ve got to do the work and prune your list of people you’re following. I’m following you partly because I hope you’ll follow me back. If you haven’t followed me back after a few days, sorry, but I’m going to unfollow you.

I find other musicians to follow by perusing the followers of people following me. I’m looking for others who not only share my interest in music but who exhibit similar behavior in how they use Twitter. I'm selective.

Here’s the thing, though: If I know you’re an actual human being, and you seem cool and interesting based on your bio description and profile pic and how you respond to my following you, I might go the extra mile. I might visit your YouTube channel, click on some videos to get you some views, or check out your Bandcamp, SoundCloud and ReverbNation pages and tell others about your songs.

Maybe I’ll “Like” your fan page on Facebook. Maybe, if you seem really interesting, I’ll Google you. And if you turn out to be legit and someone worth knowing, I might ask to be friends with the actual you on Facebook or try to connect with you on LinkedIn. I would just like to establish that connection because hey, you never know. I might need a booking agent in Alberta, Canada sometime and I could direct message you.

Know this: I’m not just trying to help myself by slowly building my own following and establishing connections that might one day prove beneficial. I’m genuinely trying to support other like-minded artists in my own small way.