Andrew Dubber

At work in Groningen
Ard at work: Ard Boer (left), New Music Labs, Groningen

Last week, I spoke here about attempts towards a formula for measuring social media engagement about a music artist on Twitter. That was one of the conversations I had with New Music Labs founder Ard Boer, whose Tribemonitor service tracks social media and online metrics for artists and labels.

I’ve been working on a small, IDEA-funded Knowledge Transfer project with New Music Labs to help think through new ideas and approaches for Tribemonitor.

Ard and I spoke at length about the idea of innovative strategies for independent artists in the social media space. At present, a default approach appears to be to do whatever it takes to get followed and increase your audience size.

Artists will encourage their fans to ‘Add me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter, Sign up to my email list, Friend me on MySpace, Subscribe to my RSS feed, Go to my blog…’ and so on. The idea behind this strategy is that the artist can then continue to develop their fanbase as a discrete number of people, and communicate with them (broadcast to them) on a regular basis.

However, a reflective discussion with Ard about the realities and psychology at work within the social media space suggest that an alternative strategy can be identified. It’s one that has a potential to use the medium more effectively, and around which an innovative business development can be formed.

And that’s to turn the process inside out.

Following your fans
The degree of success to which an individual or organisation uses social media is not proportionate to the number of people to whom they manage to broadcast. As we touched upon in the social media algorithm experiment, it’s important to consider the degree of engagement, and the ‘interestingness’ of the artist – not simply the broadcast-era formula of ‘reach and frequency’ by which advertising success is measured.

As a result, a two-way, reflective and responsive approach is needed. Collecting people who will sign up to your mailing list, or add your Twitter feed to their ever-expanding stream of social media noise is not sufficient. It’s important to listen more than it is to talk.

As a result of these discussions, we proposed a hypothetical ‘inside out’ artist signup page. When you discover an artist and decide that you like their music, you go to a page where you add your own social media information.

My Twitter name:
My Facebook page:
My MySpace:
My Flickr account:
My YouTube:

and so on.

By volunteering this information, it’s possible for the artist to learn what is of interest, and how to connect directly with the fan.

Of course, with any significant numbers of fans, the role of the entrepreneurial innovator is to aggregate the information and provide meaningful data to the artist or label. For instance:

“A lot of your fans are also interested in motorsports. I know that you’re interested in motorsports. Perhaps this is a topic you could talk about on your own Twitter profile or engage with to strengthen the fan connection…”

“These fans took photos at Glastonbury festival last year. You’re playing at Glastonbury this year. Why not comment on their Flickr stream and ask if they’re coming to see you this time around?”

“This fan has been raving about your music on Facebook to their 500 friends. You should leave them a comment or send them a free track…”

And so on. The opportunity to do textual and content analysis to spot trends and identify shared areas of interest amongst your fans is only possible if you consider the social media environment as a conversational space, rather than as a broadcast medium.

This is not to say that building an ever-larger fanbase is not a helpful strategy for independent music promotion – but that thinking of that only in terms of a numbers game leads to the kind of strategy that automatically adds friends on MySpace whether or not they like (or have even heard) the music.

A smaller number of engaged and interested people is worth far more than a large number of people who are either disinterested in or actively annoyed by your communication.

By listening more than talking, an artist’s social media interaction has the opportunity to be far more engaged and responsive – and in order to facilitate this, there lies the potential for an online service (or what we conceived of as an additional aspect of Tribemonitor) to provide the opt-in signup facility, as well as the data analysis and interpretation that will inform conversational media strategy for the artist.


Obviously, these principles do not simply apply to music fandom, but can be applied equally to businesses and communities of all kinds. It’s possible to extrapolate broader principles and methodologies from this discussion – but my focus was on being helpful to Tribemonitor, whose focus is on music artists and record labels.

I’m grateful to Ard for the permission to discuss here in public what some might consider to be commercially sensitive information (Tribemonitor plan to build such a service, but have not as yet done so). However, Ard is keen to hear open discussion on the ideas around strategy. New Music Labs’ expertise with respect to this service is more in the area of interpretation, analysis – and the consultancy that can come out of this sort of market intelligence.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam eleifend neque vel lacus luctus ut scelerisque urna congue. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Nunc ornare venenatis varius. Sed eleifend aliquam lorem. Nunc nec ipsum massa. Duis imperdiet magna at ipsum tincidunt hendrerit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam eleifend neque vel lacus luctus ut scelerisque urna congue. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Nunc ornare venenatis varius. Sed eleifend aliquam lorem. Nunc nec ipsum massa. Duis imperdiet magna at ipsum tincidunt hendrerit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam eleifend neque vel lacus luctus ut scelerisque urna congue. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Nunc ornare venenatis varius. Sed eleifend aliquam lorem. Nunc nec ipsum massa. Duis imperdiet magna at ipsum tincidunt hendrerit.