I’m thinking about what Darren Hemmings had to say in a recent Motive Unknown newsletter. It’s not a secret that I’m no fan of social media (esp. Zuckbook). You might not know that I’m presently doing a lot of research into how a label or artist can effectively promote music without social media. I’m convinced it’s possible, but not without a fair amount of legwork and reconsidering music marketing traditions. So it was with great interest to see Darren, who runs a marketing consultancy representing the likes of Run The Jewels and Moby, state the following:
… there may be quite a fundamental shift starting here – albeit in very, very early form. It strikes me that some artists are increasingly tiring of existing on other people’s platforms where their relationship to fans is always compromised. Instead, platforms like Bandcamp and community hubs like Discord allow them to sell directly and build a home for those fans that is not subject to algorithmic control over who see their message. They are tiring of social media and tiring of other platforms controlling who they can reach. […] Where I think this could get interesting is when we see the first artists really break through with little support or presence across both DSPs and social media in general. I think many would see that as an impossible notion right now, but to my mind that is something that may happen sooner than we all realise.
I agree. And I would love for some of these breakout ‘first artists’ to be emerging rather than established (I mean, if Bruce Springsteen decided to do a Bandcamp-only release, it would obviously do well).
I also think the anti-platform sentiment that’s loudly brewing isn’t only about lack of direct fan access. There are also political concerns, especially among a younger crop of tuned-in artists. In Spotify’s case, there are problems with the platform’s unsupportive moves against musicians. And issues with Facebook (which, remember, owns Instagram) are so plentiful that the platform’s contributions to things like, uh, genocide are now old news.
It isn’t easy to find optimism right now, but I’m optimistic about this. Artists and labels are starting to take control. They’re learning that the tools exist, for the first time in history, to reach new levels of independence (and interdependence). You know that thing I like to say: It’s the punk rock dream come true … if you want it.