Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Interview: My Take On Twitter & Music

From September 28. 2009, with Rebekah H.

Q. As an avid music fan, critic and commentator, what do you think of bands using Twitter in building and staying in touch with their fan-base?

A. As Twitter's format allows updates via short bursts of information, bands and artists are able to build relationships with their fan base beyond your typical album release promotion, tour dates announcements, and major media mentions. Although, of course, those are common as well. But you're also likely to read from Twitter-prolific bands about their favourite restaurant in a particular city or a band they're currently into, for example.
You also get to see the relationships between bands; the camaraderie between various Vancouver-based bands and their mutual admiration and promotion is something really encouraging to see.
And of course, you have the opportunity to communicate with your favourite artists in a way that email and other social media simply don't allow.

Q. As one of those followers, has it been effective? How?

A. I definitely feel more connected and knowledgeable about the artists I follow, and feel more of a stake in helping them get the word out about something important by retweeting to my network of followers. So that in itself shows the effectiveness of Twitter as an informational/promotional medium. Via Twitter, I've also found out secret/last minute show dates, have the ability to be put on the guest list to shows, and whether or not to actually be on time for a concert. Once again, important information that just isn't quite ... "significant" enough to make it to an email broadcast or Facebook group message.
Also, as I review and take photographs of artists, Twitter provides an easy way to let them know that I've mentioned them. In turn, they often spread information about my coverage of them to the rest of their network, increasing traffic to my websites. It's mutually beneficial.

Q. How did you get onto Twitter? What were your original reasons for joining? Networking or following?

A. I was introduced to Twitter by a friend, and also after hearing about its usefulness at SxSW (South by South West). My original reason for joining was to get instantaneous information from artists and media publications such as CBC Radio 3. I actually have relatively few friends in real life on Twitter, partially because many don't have it, and partially because I have other media (Facebook, phone, face-to-face) to connect with them.

Q. What got you starting following bands on the network? Did you know of the band first or did you discover them via Twitter?

A. I originally started by searching band/artist names to see if any of them had Twitter. I wasn't really interested in many of the artists on the recommended follow list... And by following people, it's a snowball effect once you realize who they're following via their Twitter conversations (less creepy and stalkerish than you'd think), or things such as Follow Friday when you recommend who's worth following. I've definitely checked out bands because of positive hype from Twitter.

Q. As a music blogger/critic? How do you use Twitter?

A. Whenever I write a new entry or upload a set of photos, I would note that on Twitter and link to the page. A large chunk of my traffic is directed from Twitter. I also tweet via text messages from my phone when I'm at a concert, and after I chat with an artist. (It's almost like you're there!)
I also often retweet tour/album information from artists, articles and reviews I find interesting, as well as general announcements. For example, just today, a band that played a show in Vancouver announced that they were looking for gear that was stolen and I would pass on information like that as well.

Q. What do you think the future for Twitter will be?

A. I think Twitter has and will continue to democratize music journalism, much like the advent of personal blogs. There's an almost infinite amount of information sources. It allows individuals to decide whether or not content is worth following, as opposed to being dictated by your local paper's arts and culture section. Twitter is word of mouth, sped up and made more efficient.

Q. Why Twitter as opposed to other social networks like Facebook, MySpace, etc?

A. It's not a case where Twitter is superior than Facebook, Myspace, etc., and upon adopting it you can ditch the others. It depends upon what you use social networking for. Twitter is simpler (all text-based), less restrictive (information is limited to friends on Facebook), and thus a lot more public, allowing for more people to be exposed to your content. You don't even need to sign up to Twitter to read someone's tweets. Thus, if you're on Twitter, you're either a provider of information or an observer of those providers. It's not a place for discussions, mutual groupings, music displaying, etc. that Facebook and Myspace specialize in.
Following someone on Twitter is also a lot less "committing" than befriending someone on Facebook, which implies relationship, whereas following on Twitter implies you're interested in their information. That is the fundamental difference between Twitter and Facebook; Twitter is, for me, a public promotional forum, whereas Facebook is meant to be more in-depth and self-disclosing due to its more private structure. You could be the biggest social butterfly, but you still generally wouldn't befriend a complete stranger.
Also, Twitter tends to be a "means" kind of vehicle for information. Myspace is more of an "ends" vehicle. Twitter alerts you to information that you should check out, whereas Myspace, blogs, websites, or even Facebook events/groups contain the information that Twitter links to. Once again, different functions.

Q. Any further insights/comments?

A. A friend asked me yesterday, "how do I be successful on Twitter?" And I told him to find something he's passionate about, and tweet the heck out of it. You probably wouldn't do that on Facebook either... it'd be a lot more annoying.
Also, with the protests in Iran over the highly contested elections, it's easy to see how Twitter is an effective way to communicating to a large audience via snowballing word-of-mouth/tweet under extreme time pressure. Twitter's simplicity (text-based) made it nearly impossible to block or shut down by the authorities, and its seamless connection to cell phones and smart phones allows it to be updated anywhere. Many Iranian tweets involved which sections of cities to avoid, whether the militia were using tear gas, etc. In this way, I can see Twitter being a very effective early warning system in times of emergencies.