They preach "engagement" while they hijack your fans ...

The SF Music Tech Summit in San Francisco this past week presented lots of great discussion on ways to engage fans on various social networks, including newly added “engagement" functions for existing streaming platforms. Fan “engagement,” particularly through social media, is still a hot topic. “Engagement” ideas ranged from posting a photo of yourself making a sandwich (?) on Instagram to calling your hardcore fans on the phone.

So, what's the big deal about social media? 

According to a recent BusinessWeek article [1], the average American now spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook – by comparison, this is more time than they spend with their pets! Which may actually mean that ALL the time some people spend with their pets is spent taking pictures to post on the line. But I digress.

Wait. So, apparently Facebook is still a thing because 40 minutes? Let’s do some math.

According to an IDC Research report from April 2013, Americans spend up to 22 hours a day with their phones.[2]

Again, Facebook boasts people are logged onto their site for 40 minutes - that’s from ALL devices. Big deal? Hardly.

The simple math says Facebook is completely impotent for 21 hours and 20 minutes of every day, before you even begin your campaign.

You can debate the effectiveness of the ever-changing Facebook algorithms and what percentage of your fans actually see your posts all you want, but keep that in perspective. You’re still only debating 3-4% of the available time you have in the day.

In order to “engage” your hardcore fans the other 21 hours, 20 minutes a day you’re going to need something Facebook refuses to bless you with; the invaluable access to your fans contact information. It’s as if the business model of some platforms is to have you bring your fans to their web sites, effectively hijack your fans' email addresses and phone numbers, then charge you ransom to use that info … but only on their platform! Don’t laugh. People fall for this more often than you’d think.

The other myth that they try to sell you is that it’s a good idea to be in a venue with a gazillion other bands competing for attention, with web pages that look just like yours. So, instead of enjoying a flourishing community through your own independent domain, they’d rather have you rotting away in a generic strip mall renting your customer information back from the landlord. This is a sh!t show, not engagement.

The whole Facebook thing has gotten so ridiculous, and you know it. You can stop rationalizing. The jig is up. But, what to do?

First, conduct business with companies that provide unrestricted access to your fans’ email addresses and/or phone numbers. Then, gather all your contact information and start using YOUR OWN web site as your primary digital hub. I said “primary,” not “only." Social media definitely plays a key role in bringing new fans to YOUR web site, but you should never have your primary web presence on a platform that keeps your fan data from you.

If the platform you use as your primary web presence doesn’t provide unrestricted access to your fans’ email addresses and phone numbers it collects on your behalf - it is evil. Musicians complain about fans stealing their music, but rarely stop to think about corporations stealing their fans. Wake up! Your fans are more important than your music! You can make new music, but your audience is limited. You need to do a better job of protecting the tribe you already have.

The reason Metallica has so many Facebook fan page likes is because Metallica has a huge MetClub fan club at - not the other way around. They started 10 years before Facebook existed [3]. Start with your own domain and use social media to amplify everything. If you don’t have your own domain, you’re amplifying nothing. You're passively socializing instead of actively organizing.

Your fans should be signed-up to, and you should be communicating from an email Period. The lack of your own domain communicates laziness, apathy or the fact that you just don’t get it. If you’re still running around with a myspace or reverbnation domain name and an email address, you are announcing to the world that you don’t care much about professionalism or details.

Converting Facebook likes and Twitter followers into opt-in fan club subscribers on your own site is the first step in reclaiming your neglected digital domain. This is what divides truly supportive fans from useless likers. If your ‘face-tweeters’ aren’t willing to give you their email addresses and phone numbers directly, they aren’t the kind of fans you need to engage. You deserve better. Keep going until you find real fans willing to show their support by entrusting you with their contact information.

This is where true “engagement” begins - a genuine conversation between you and your real fans - with no intermediaries, no ads and no competing artists distracting them. This is how you move from the old-world mindset of music as a commodity to music as a community. This is how you #organize