"some music was meant to stay underground..."

OpEd

When Social Media Overshadows the Music: A Message from a Serial Social Network Offender

Underground metal bands in these modern Net-centric times of ours are utterly awash in the offal of social networking-cum-marketing options. With Facebook increasingly rising to the forefront as the anchor site of choice for both established and up and coming acts, there is also Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, ReverbNation, StereoKiller, BandCamp, SoundCloud, PureVolume, Last.FM and the smoldering wreckage of the once dominant empire that is Myspace, just to name a few of the major players. Put all of them together, and that’s eleven separate websites, some of which can by synced together, mind you, that a single band potentially needs to constantly maintain and update—an even dozen if they actually have their own domain.

For bands that are unsigned, or that happen to be signed to small boutique labels run by a single proprietor or, at best, a small but dedicated team of metal enthusiasts, the responsibility of keeping all of these sites up to date falls on the band members alone, and it’s usually a single band member who takes it upon him or herself to get the job done right. This can be a mentally exhausting process, remembering which sites have already been updated, and which are in need of a tune up. Is it necessary to sign up for all of them? Probably not, and a concerted argument could likely be made for selecting the few most dominant and focusing solely on them. But conventional marketing wisdom dictates that getting one’s brand into as many facets as possible translates to increased recognition and, hopefully, rising sales. So begins the gargantuan undertaking.

One evening after a typical, draining shift at the day job de jour might partially consist of updating the Myspace blog. But wait, the show schedule on ReverbNation doesn’t include that upcoming date in San Luis Obispo. The photos from last week’s gig in Des Moines haven’t been posted on Facebook yet. And the last time you uploaded some videos to YouTube was January of 2010—better get on that, lest the kiddies forget you exist. It can fishtail out of control pretty quickly without a steady set of hands constantly at ten and two.

All this bleary eyed monitor time is enough to make one long for the days when it wasn’t all about Net presence; when it wasn’t about the Internet, tweets, blurbs, status updates, or memes at all, because these things didn’t exist. Back then, marketing was ‘zines, print ads, perhaps underground or college radio airplay, word of mouth, tape trading, and oh yes, the records themselves.

Of course, this made it infinitely more difficult for the great undiscovered masses to get their music out there. But, on the flip side of that rusted piece of currency is the fact that the music that did make into that ethereal concept of “out there” meant a whole lot more, because fans weren’t constantly being beat over the head with the latest slam bands from Peru, retro thrashaholics from Belarus, and one-man black metal misanthropes from deepest, darkest Malta. Heads had to search for it, and search didn’t mean typing a few key words into a search engine. People had to dig, communicate, and in turn they appreciated. It wasn’t perfect, but it seemed to work.

So where is this long amble headed, you ask? Well, it all seems to point to the obvious, oft-stated notion that the more voices are screaming out at the top of their lungs from multiple mountain tops at once, the fewer we’ll actually hear, and that goes for social networking as well. Today we are presented with an embarrassing array of musical options splayed out across an ever ascending, near infinite amount of social media platters. It’s brain rotting, mind numbing overload that dilutes the power of the medium down to a dull roar.

Check out the documentaries which feature interviews with now aging metal veterans who were there during the early days of the tape trading scene. See that murderous glint in their eye when they speak of receiving their first copy of a copy of a copy of Venom’s “Welcome to Hell” or the self-titled Angel Witch LP? They had to wait for that, had to reach out for it, had to want it, badly. Now the waiting, the reaching, the wanting, have been reduced to seconds, the click of a button, and near total apathy, and the glint has been turned to a waxy, thousand-mile stare. The passion isn’t gone, but the beeps on the old life support system are becoming more and more spaced out.

What’s the solution? Get off Facebook? Firebomb the Myspace offices? Boycott ReverbNation? No, but there is a noticeable retro fad that seems to be brewing in defiance of all that is modern, convenient, and disposable. Bands are putting out tapes again. Vinyl has never really gone away, at least as a niche market, but the die-hard distros and fans seem to be increasing the zeal with which they disseminate and scoop it up in defiance of the digital options. Physical music dead? Not by a long shot. But it goes without saying that social networking is contributing to its slow demise and has a direct correlation to decreasing melodic, or discordant, as the case may be, attention spans.

So, in a related act of backlash and rebellion, bands could similarly take the retro route to promotion. Let the Myspace page, with its infuriatingly dumbed down layouts, go by the wayside. Stop posting to Twitter and Facebook pictures, recordings, and videos of the latest band rehearsal/bong session, and, for the first time in a long time, gather a bit of healthy mystery behind the act. The more we know, the less we want to know, or should know, favorite Corn Flakes toppings of the bassist notwithstanding. And I should know. I’m a serial social network offender, even more so of late, seeing as how I just signed my band up for Twitter and StereoKiller accounts. If I follow my own ramble, I’m part of the very problem I describe, but then again I never claimed to have the iron will I hope to see in others, I just write about it. It’s a lot easier that way, you understand.

It would be interesting to see what would happen to the music industry if bands simply started saying no to the technologically driven model that has been thrust upon us by Tim Berners-Lee, Tom Anderson, and Mark Zuckerberg. More bands would fail to crack the zeitgeist, undoubtedly, but some bands, the good ones at least, would mean more to more people, rather than more bands meaning a little to more people, if that makes any sense at all.

Maybe it doesn’t. These are confusing, bewildering, overwhelming, underwhelming, schizophrenic times of information super-overload for us all. Social networking could well be more of a boon than a burden to the metal scene. This is more of an abstract stream of consciousness type of thing than an effort to quantify or solidify this nebulous online monster we’ve played an active role in birthing.

But it’s easy to forget that, in the end, the power that is held over an artist’s music is ultimately in the hands of the artists themselves, at least in the very beginning. It is they who sign off on how and when it is distributed if they are well and truly independent, and it is they who could, in theory but likely not in practice, decide to leave the digital age behind en masse, and go back to the days when music was distributed by more traditional means—when it was still a vaunted physical entity, worthy of the wait that was required, with the inherit sense of giddy anticipation and birth of the glint therein. That being said, any venture beyond the current convention contains the double edged blade of unknown rewards and high risk, so who among us has the intestinal fortitude to test it? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some YouTube videos to edit, and that Facebook status won’t update itself.

Joe Reviled's avatar

Joe Henley is a freelance music journalist and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to pulling vocal duty in a death metal band, he maintains a website on the Taiwanese metal scene and writes regular features on the touring bands that come through Taipei for a local monthly music magazine.

What's Next?

Please share this article if you found it interesting.


12 Comments on "When Social Media Overshadows the Music"

Post your comments and discuss the article below! (no login required)

Anonymous Reader
1. Bruce writes:

I've always been against social networking, and the only time I actually visit these sites is to hear a song that a band just posted up. But, as sad as it is, I think it would be quite hard for a band to make it without at least having a Myspace. Although if a band did make it without using these sites, I would respect them a lot more.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 9:30 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
sonictherapy's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. sonictherapy writes:

Things have become less special. No more hustling for one's music like the old days. Digital downloads and iTunes have such a less personal feel than a CD. The one great thing that has happened is that some band from Uruguay or Nigeria can instantly expose their music, but also you don't have the labels there for quality control. You are now more likely to hear a band that is abysmally bad, too.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 9:53 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

3. R10 writes:

Agreed Sonic,back in the day a release date for an album was a looked forward to event. You could tell who the metal heads in your town were by those who showed up at the small record store to get the new Maiden,Metallica,Slayer,etc. You knew your store would only have 4 to 6 copys,so you got there early on release day. Nowadays with album streams a week before the release date,people gobble it up,move on to the next thing. Im definately from the old school,tape trading,word of mouth, those old metal mags like Metal Mania,RIP,Metal Maniacs would be devoured,become tattered,to discover new bands. With social sites,and blog sites,theres just so much crap to wade through.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 10:08 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrunoHockalugie's avatar

Member

4. BrunoHockalugie writes:

This is one of the best articles that I have ever read on Metal Underground.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 2:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

5. Cynic writes:

Fantastic article - this especially: "It’s brain rotting, mind numbing overload that dilutes the power of the medium down to a dull roar."

Perhaps though that's the new natural selection. Because of this exact trash state of music on the web I don't listen to spam, trawl myspace for new bands or subscribe to facebook junk - Instead it's forced us to go back to the tape trading like ethics of trusting a select few personal sources.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 5:24 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
PorcupineTreeFan's avatar

Member

6. PorcupineTreeFan writes:

Interesting read to say the least. I think the internet (in general) has been the best and worst thing for music. I can list a ton of bands that I enjoy whom I would never have known if it wasn't for the internet. There are plenty of talented bands that can be heard globally that may have never had the chance and that's a good thing. However, for every great underground band that is discovered there are 25 terrible bands that share the same swimming pool so-to-speak. That is where the overload comes in. Finding a new band has become harder and harder for me over the years because the volume of bands I have to shift through around the internet is growing at an alarming rate.

I don't think people are talking enough about the importance of letting people's voices be heard in comment sections, for example. To be honest, the main reason I keep coming back to this website (aside from getting band news) is the comments and discussions I have will fellow metal heads. Comment section, forums, blogs, etc. have allowed people with similar and different tastes and music to educate, debate, enlighten, and broaden the minds of others. That is what makes this biggest difference IMO.

Another thing I want to touch on is the whole "release date" phenomena. I understand where people are coming from...I remember spending hours in music stores looking for that next great album...when a release date for your favorite band's next album was an important day, etc. However, I don't see anything wrong with bands streaming their album early or downloading music onto their itunes, bypassing the album cover and all those little things that use to matter so much. Personally, I let the music speak for itself. Plain and simple. If the album is great then it doesn't matter what date I first heard it or how I heard it..it's still great. The true magic for me comes from seeing the bands I like live. Live music always leaves a special and last impression.

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 6:08 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. TheLambIsGood writes:

#4 is onto it. Great article

# Sep 21, 2011 @ 11:59 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
DixieSkumLord666's avatar

Member

8. DixieSkumLord666 writes:

i gotta say that the greatest metal albums were created in the pre-internet days, but it is kind of awesome how the interwebs links the global metal family on 7 continents....definitely gotta take physical music over downloads...you can't be buried with a digital download, but ace of spades, reign in blood and master of puppets wil be priceless antiques a hundred years from now....this site is great because of the intelligent discussion and not being completely overrrun by trolls and lameness

# Sep 22, 2011 @ 3:17 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
spiral_architect's avatar

Member

9. spiral_architect writes:

IN THE EARLY 80'S, WHEN I BECAME OBSESSED WITH HEAVY METAL, MY ONLY SOURCES OF BAND NEWS WERE MAGAZINES. EACH MONTH WHEN I DISCOVERED THE LATEST ISSUE OF HIT PARADER FINALLY CAME OUT ON THE SHELF AT THE LOCAL SUPERMARKET, I WAS IN METAL VALHALLA. THIS WAS WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT FOR ME. THIS WAS MY METAL EDUCATION, WHICH I VALUED MORE THAN THE EDUCATION I WAS GETTING IN SCHOOL. YES, I TENDED TO FOCUS ON THE BANDS FEATURED ON THE FRONT COVER, BUT THERE WAS ALSO A WEALTH OF IMPORTANT KNOWLEDGE INSIDE OF THE COVER. CIRCUS MAGAZINE AND RIP WERE ALSO GUIDING LIGHTS, BUT HIT PARADER WAS HOLY WRIT.............IN TODAY'S WORLD, POST-HIT PARADER, METAL UNDERGROUND IS NOW MY PRINCIPLE SOURCE OF METAL KNOWLEDGE. OH YES, THERE ARE STILL MAGAINZES SUCH AS GUITAR WORLD AND REVOLVER THAT I LOOK FORWARD TO, BUT METAL UNDERGROUND IS WHAT I CONSULT DAILY............IT IS TRUE THERE ARE SO MANY MORE BANDS TO CHOOSE FROM NOWADAYS. EVERYBODY AND THEIR BROTHER IS STARTING A NEW BAND! THERE IS LESS MYSTIQUE........I STILL FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT CULTS WILL FORM AROUND THE BETTER BANDS, AND THAT SOCIAL MEDIA WILL "SNOWBALL" AROUND THOSE BANDS, MAKING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE AWARE OF THE BETTER BANDS.

# Sep 23, 2011 @ 2:34 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

10. R10 writes:

I hear ya Spiral,mom bought plenty of those Hit Paraders for me in the early 80's. Turned me on to plenty of bands! My bible,so to speak. You all are right,sights like this take up the slack;at least in the word of mouth department. Have heard about plenty of bands from either members or articles that i wouldnt have found out by myself. So thats a good thing,i guess. Dixiescum,so true,all those pre internet classics,will most likely revered a century from now. Im sticking to my physical media,for better or worse! NP:Overkill- Rotten to the Core

# Sep 23, 2011 @ 3:56 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
11. Come on guys! writes:

All of you guys are on the internet right now. Social media makes music a hell of alot more accessable. If it wasnt for social media i probably wouldnt be into metal just because i wouldnt be exposed to it in a small town. I remember the first metal song i ever heard was in flames - only for the weak. I stumbled accross it somehow and i ended up getting one of the many boners i get when bearing a tits song.

# Sep 23, 2011 @ 9:52 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. Plumpey writes:

I am not on the internet, and I sure as hell am not participating in any damn social networking.

# Sep 23, 2011 @ 10:59 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

To minimize comment spam/abuse, you cannot post comments on articles over a month old. Please check the sidebar to the right or the related band pages for recent related news articles.