The following is a (semi-) lighthearted look at what it’s like to delve into the world of social media as a composer. Being that this is the territory of millenials, it has been brought to you in easily digestible Buzzfeed format.
1. You are told by some visiting presenter that you need to up your online presence, which means using social media. This could be awesome!
2. You work your ass off sprucing up your website. You join Twitter, Facebook, Vine, LinkedIn, Instagram…
3. …you also join Google+.
4. You endorse the crap out of everyone you know on LinkedIn. You spend hours crafting the perfect tweets. You RT everything ever. You are totally winning the internet!
5. Finally, the ______ Ensemble starts following you! You think you’ve got an “in.” You send them a carefully crafter PM about how much you like their work.
6. They send you a message! …They’re looking to raise money for their next concert series, and their Kickstarter needs your help.
7. You pony up some cash to help them out. You don’t hear from them again until their next Kickstarter is up and running.
8. That doesn’t matter, because the _________ Symphony Orchestra is following you!!! This is it, your big break!
9. …until you realize that the person you’re talking to is nobody but their social media intern, some kid who’s getting paid to do what you’re doing for free this very moment.
10. A New Music specialist joins Twitter. You and hundreds of other composers rush at this person like neckbeards on OkCupid to a girl with Star Wars in her profile!
11. After a while, you are ready to give up social media altogether, because it hasn’t done anything to help you at all!
Classical music still hasn’t quite figured out how to properly engage its audiences through social media. Some see the Internet as a vastly untapped ocean of capital, to be prodded for cash every now and again. Others see social media as a necessary evil, and hand off the job to whatever young kid happens to be working in the office. Social media has the power to rally dying audiences to the cause of classical music, to personalize the experience, and to create a supportive (emotionally and financially) community for the ensemble.
As a composer, I thought the Internet was how I was going to get commissions, now that we live in a social media society. It hasn’t gotten me one yet. My advice to any emerging composer is that social media is pretty awesome, but don’t count on it as anything more than an echo chamber of people just like you, scouring the web for make believe ensembles that say, “You know what? Let’s spin the wheel on whatever random composer we find on Twitter today. Screw those meaningful relationships we’ve made with composers we’ve actually met!” What’s more (as my friend Tina points out!), “Music at large, and increasingly, social media, is about being part of a community, not just ‘What can being on Twitter get me today?'” Well said, Tina.
The challenge for the future is how to make the Internet really part of how we interact with our audiences, not just as a virtual corkboard to hang up ads for our music and projects.