Op-ed: Neon Fawkes’s Social Media and Streaming Services Tips for Synthwave Artists

Neon Fawkes tips for new synthwave artists on using social media and streaming services....

July 23, 2019

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    As a rabid fan of synthwave and all its related genres, I love finding new artists and music. Sometimes it saddens me when I discover great talent that just doesn’t have the exposure they deserve. Now, I don’t consider myself a master of social media and promotion. Far from it. I’m approaching 50 years of age (thus social media is still alien to me sometimes) and I have no music background (thus I’m really not an authority on music production and promotion).

Social media and streaming services can be daunting or downright confusing

    I have noticed trends and the change of luck for some artists though, and I’m writing this to try and share what I’ve found (as a fan), in hopes that an artist reading this can benefit and keep this awesome music flowing into our ears.

    First, let’s talk about social media. We all prefer certain mediums, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, or Twitter, and each has their strengths and weaknesses. As an artist, it’s always better to use ALL of the tools at your disposal. There are fan bases that stick to one or the other. Only truly rabid fans (cough cough) follow artists on all platforms. Thus, if you only use one or two to share your music and engage with others, you are missing out on a large number of followers and supporters that exist in other platforms. One key thing to take away from anything I say: ENGAGE. Let me break down the reasons why you should use each:

Facebook: Easily the most digestible for people of all walks of life, Facebook offers a balanced presentation and reach when it comes to artwork, links, and followers. It’s also great for artist pages, which includes the “events” section should you be performing live. People can re-share your posts and comment on them easily. Facebook also has a robust mobile/desktop platform allowing people to use all of its features no matter what device they are using. Don’t forget to ask to join the various synth-related Facebook groups. It’s a great way to meet and follow/be followed by other fans and artists. One thing to be careful of: Don’t go friending everybody and their sister with your personal account, only to solicit them to follow your artist page. While some (like me) don’t mind it and are always on the hunt for new artists and music, many consider this rude and bad form. If you want to share your artist page, send a personal message to the person. It shows you took the time to engage them instead of blasting solicitations for "likes".

Instagram: First and foremost, it’s media first (images and videos), with text secondary. Many artists and fans prefer this, as it cuts down on the rotten side of social media (inflammatory posts, etc). Instagram is also conducive to easy “likes” and reach. Take note though...it’s hard for someone to re-share your post (unless they add to their “story” or use another app to circumvent Instagram's rules on “copying” content). This can affect reach. Also, the desktop browser version is lacking in features versus the mobile version (no instant messaging, no ability to post something). It’s completely bananas why these features are lacking and only exist on the mobile apps.

Reddit: If you have a thick skin, Reddit can be a boon. It has subreddits that represent common interests. Posting your music or playlist in the right place can get you additional attention, playlist additions, and followers. The downside is that moderators and members can be draconian or downright brutal in their commentary. It’s still worth using though. Reach is everything in this world. Check out /r/outrun, /r/newretrowave, /r/listentothis, /r/music, /r/cyberpunk_music, /r/futuresynth as examples of music subreddits you should post to. Pay attention to their submission rules, or you may get nailed by strict mods or overzealous users. I would know, I'm a mod and I hate having to "slap" artists down. Unfortunately I have subscribers who expect a certain quality and consistency in posts.

Twitter: It’s no secret I’m a Twitter fan. When it comes to synthwave, the community on Twitter (#synthfam) is one of the best in terms of sharing and caring. I’ve dragged many an artist to the Twitter darkside, and subsequently seen their reach, support, engagement, and plays grow fast. Twitter allows people to post text and imagery in equal amounts, thus allowing easy engagement (whether it be goofy GIFs or true commentary). It’s easy for people to retweet your posts or simply “like” them ("liking" seems to be a polite form of acknowledgement letting posters know they've been heard). Twitter’s desktop and mobile versions are full featured too. Try and keep your “follows” to relevant artists, fans, radio stations and blogs, otherwise your feed may get out of control. Also, while it may make you stand out, I recommend taking it easy on using too many crazy characters in your name. It can be obnoxious and sometimes illegible when people see a username like "$y~thVV@V3R". Your audience is not a bunch of hacker 'l33ts". Use good judgement in "spicing" up your username. Finally: Twitter famously (or infamously) does not allow editing of posts. You'd need to completely delete a post and recreate it if you make a mistake. #covfefe

I love Twitter. Can you tell?

    Use all of the tools above. There is no downside except perhaps social media exhaustion, which can be managed by knowing how to filter and use the various app settings. Don’t want to know about strangers you may not follow liking your posts? Turn that off. Can’t stand somebody’s retweets? Turn it off. Getting too many emails or mobile notifications? Turn certain ones off. Don't expect follows just because you follow, and don't get offended when someone unfollows you after you follow them. This is not about the follows/unfollows, it's about getting the audience that really matters: The ones who engage and pay attention. Use #tags wherever you can. I can't believe how many followers I've obtained by using #synthwave or #darksynth or #retrowave or #synthpop tags. Finally, don't hesitate to take a break from social media. Your friends and fans will support your hiatus. Mental health is the most important thing for all of us.

    You may be asking: “OK, I’m on all of them...now what?”.  Obviously using social media requires a little bit of tact. You can’t just flood and tag constantly. It affects people’s feeds and they can choose to unfollow or mute you. You should first and foremost follow a good base of like-minded artists and fans. Why? By following someone, they will most likely peek at your profile and investigate what you have to offer. You will also see when they post something relevant to you, allowing you to reply or re-share. This gets you noticed, and most likely will garner you more followers. Is somebody asking for music to add to their synthwave related playlist? Reply with your music! You’ve been solicited and here’s your chance to share your talent. Is another artist asking for tips? Go ahead and reply! You build karma and yet more followers! See an artist posting their song or album or concert? Re-share! They will most likely return the favour. Engage with other artists and fans. It keeps you relevant, builds friendships, and ensures you are never forgotten. Here’s another tip: Don’t forget to add the music link when sharing new music, whether it be Bandcamp or other streaming service. It saves us all time when adding to playlists or purchasing. Oh, and for heaven's sake, add all your links to all your profiles. I hate having to try and find an artist's Twitter account using the search when I can simply click on a link in their Soundcloud or Bandcamp page. The same in reverse holds true.

    All of the platforms allow you to change your @ handle (with the exception of Reddit). Make all your @’s the same on every platform. Why? Some apps allow cross posting/sharing to other platforms. When a fan or artist tags you and wants to share it across all platforms, your hyperlink tag will work on all of them, allowing you to know when you’ve been tagged no matter what service you use. I’m @julesneonfawkes on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Changing your @ won’t lose you followers or posts. In a very short time, their auto fill suggestions will show your change. Edit: Having problems claiming your @ name on a platform or two? Add "official" or "music" to the end of your name on all of them. Example: "@robocopofficial" or "@robocopmusic".

    Let’s discuss the music platforms. Obviously, there is a heated debate about the merits of Spotify and other streaming services and how little they pay the artists. Let me try and offer my opinion without being inflammatory. You are a needle in a massive haystack of galactic proportions. Yes, you put all of your blood, sweat, and tears into your musical creations. So did many other artists. With the streaming services inundated with artists and music, you won’t get rich off them (unless you happen to make a collaboration with Taylor Swift). Instead, think of them as yet another social media platform. By having your music on these platforms, you allow fans to add your creations to playlists. The streaming services’ algorithms will take care of the rest, suggesting your music to like minded fans. Eventually, you may get a cheque in the mail allowing you to buy a coffee. Bandcamp may be better at getting money to the artist, but even they take a hefty cut. Unfortunately, music, unlike traditional art, relies on volume sales. No synthwave artist will sell an album for $400,000 at auction. You need reach. Use the services, and know that while you deserve more for your creation, there are other ways to increase your revenue. How? Merchandise (t-shirts, hoodies, hats, pins, stickers, mugs), physical media (tapes, CDs, vinyl), and live performances. Try to use those to acquire the compensation you richly deserve. Just remember, synthwave and its related scene is not the biggest, and thus volume sales are hard to come by, especially with established artists getting defacto exposure when they release new music (good luck getting sales if you release the same day as Carpenter Brut, The Midnight, or Gunship). One thing I never understand is why some artists choose to release their music on Spotify weeks or months after it is released on Bandcamp. Unless there is a contractual reason (label, etc), it makes no sense. You aren’t going to “drive” people to purchase it by holding off on streaming services. The folks who buy your music will buy it whether it is on Spotify or not. Making it available on all platforms on launch day ensures maximum penetration and exposure. With that, I’ll break down the various music services as best I can:

Spotify: Easily the biggest music streaming platform of them all, available on almost any operating system (big and small), and allows users to sling their music from device to device. This is all about exposure. Get on the playlists (you’ll find the curators on the various social media sites. When they solicit for music or post a submission form, use it).
Edit: Artist Mirrorvoid has a good tip whereby you should track what you've submitted and where. Don't embarrass yourself by submitting the same songs to the same playlists twice.
As stated above, don’t expect to buy yourself a coffee from the earnings. Instead, like social media, track your followers, listeners, and revel in the “where listening” stats. It HAS to feel good when you see there is a listener in Timbuktu playing your music. Unfortunately, Spotify does not allow the fans to purchase the music. Is Spotify not available in your country due to licensing issues? It doesn't matter. Use one of the many distribution services to get your music on it. You or your fellow countrymen may not be able to use it, but many other fans do. The exposure and limited money will still come your way.

Apple Music: Like Spotify, one of the largest streaming platforms. It also allows users to “buy” the music, thus acquiring a digital copy of the songs. The problem is that it is primarily used by the Apple community (being a Windows and Android user, I don’t pollute my devices with this platform...insert humorous emoji here). Apple used to provide iTunes, but they’ve decided to move everyone to this platform instead. This will forever be one of life’s great mysteries.

Soundcloud: Long a staple in the music community, it is a great resource for streaming music and also purchasing it. It has its problems though. Over time, they have made tweaks and changes that seem to piss off the artists. Playlist creation, sharing, and curating never works properly either.

Bandcamp: Preferred by fans and DJs like myself when it comes to throwing money at the artists and obtaining legitimate copies of music in whatever quality/format we choose (compression, physical media). Sure, they take their fees, but they also offer “merchandise” point of sale for artists too. I’ve ordered many a shirt from here. Also, Bandcamp codes! By giving out Bandcamp codes on social media, your album will appear in more collections. Fans follow each other, and see these additions. The hype train starts rolling. One thing to note: Bandcamp does not offer “messaging” on the web platform, so messages sent to people will only appear in their mobile app. I’ve missed many a thank you or notice because I primarily use the web version.

Amazon Music: One of the fastest growing platforms, it allows users to purchase and download music, as well as stream it. Platform independent, and it, like Google Play music below, allows users to include local tracks from their devices in playlists, etc.

Google Play Music: Growing fast, it has many advocates, but like Apple, it most likely does not penetrate other competing operating systems or platforms. Even though I’m a Google drone, I don’t use it. I’ve already invested my monthly membership in Spotify and don’t want to lose all my playlists, etc. Also, many artists or songs may be missing from Google Play Music, though that is changing over time as the distribution services include it now.

Youtube: Well, what can I say. It’s Youtube. It has a massive audience, it’s easy to share videos on any platform, and it is viewable/streamable on almost any operating system and device. Ensure you have a Youtube channel that features your music, your production videos, etc. You may be limited to label restrictions, but this is a great way to hit a massive audience.

Edit: It must be noted, Google has plans to merge Play Music into Youtube at some point. It makes sense to me. Youtube has the reach already.

    Are you a fresh new artist wondering how the heck to get your music on streaming platforms? Check out services like DistroKid, CD Baby, Tunecore, etc. Most, for a small monthly or annual fee, will blast your music to all the services above (including others I didn't mention such as Deezer). Ask other artists what they use, and learn the benefits and cons of each distribution service. Also, as you delve into the scene, you will discover various internet radio stations that play this music. Engage with them on social media and submit your music to them. They are great “megaphones” for tagging and sharing artists and their work. Pay attention to synthwave bloggers and reviewers too. They are great ways to get your music noticed, although they may not offer their services for free, they can be brutally honest, and usually are backlogged with content. Be cognizant of your music and the genres people are listening to. It can turn people off when you submit a post punk song to an outrun community. If you have a song you feel fits a certain topic, feel free to submit it. Don't be shy.

    In closing, I hope some of what I’ve stated above helps. Most of it is common sense, but I see a small number of artists excluding a particular platform out of sheer laziness or distaste. You can choose to do that with your personal identity, but your artist account should really have massive reach and engagement. Just ensure you belong to, and maintain, a healthy community of fans, stations, artists and bloggers. Not everything is roses on the internet, but if you follow me at all, you’ll know that it can be rewarding, funny, supportive, and can grow your audience.

    Now, I could be talking out of my ass. After all, I'm not an artist, and some have more experience and knowledge than me in these regards. Nevertheless, sometimes seeing things from a fan's point of view can help artists understand their impact and reach. Heck, at the very least, share goofy GIFs with your music and make everyone's day better.

Enjoy what you do, and try to enjoy sharing it.

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Julian Green

Published July 23, 2019

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