Ever wonder how that young, most likely un-showered, group of scruffy dudes with questionable intellect became the trendiest of-the-moment band with thousands of fans? Well, apparently the music industry is sometimes smarter than it looks. Almost every emerging artist understands that being a social media powerhouse is synonymous with the momentum of his or her success. The music industry has come up with some of the most creative ways of digital promotion, and the most impressive performance results. Artists have always longed for a way to engage in a two-way conversation with their fans. Brands should take a cue.
Allowing people to “tag” themselves in official Facebook concert photos, having fans pay a small fee to listen in on the recording process and vote for their song picks for the album, providing rewards for “checking-in” at a concert on Foursquare, and creating new social platforms are just the start of the consumer-“brand” relationship that make bands stars. Mainstream artists are tapping into the trend too, as digital and social media investments become an integral part of their overall marketing plans. Just last month, Lady Gaga manager, Troy Carter, invested $4M in the startup tech-company, Backplane. The company is responsible for launching a self-sustaining social platform for Little Monsters. While the platform is still in beta, the investment signals big plans for the future. Unlike other artist’s creative social efforts, this is a private “Monsters-only” community where fans can interact through an entity entirely separate from existing platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
What makes this endeavor most admirable is its departure from social media protocol that big business so heavily relies on. By choosing to operate on a separate platform, Backplane has allowed Gaga to carve out her own space in the digital landscape, and to own every aspect of the fan relationship. Giving this platform an even louder buzz is their South by Southwest Event: The SXSW Managers Hack - a launch event for the startup hosted by some of music’s biggest management professionals. This event invites developers from all over the globe to participate in an 8-hour challenge to construct a presentation of their concepts and ideas for the future of the digital music distribution. There will be a live web cast and play-by-play commentary.
Backplane reflects Carter’s belief that focusing on inventive, highly interactive social media concepts is extremely worthwhile. In an interview with AdAge this month, longtime music industry player Jeff Kempler agrees, “Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram are really good examples of platforms that enable artist-to-fan and fan-to-fan communication to occur in a way that's really very real and very humanizing.”
So, an old-school industry guy and Lady Gaga’s manager are keying into the idea that social media’s biggest selling point is its ability to make the target market feel like important, separate beings. How soon until big business follows suit?