What’s the point of Twitter?

Twitter

What’s the point of Twitter? My band already has a Facebook page to interact with our fans. Why would I want to tell the world what I’m eating for breakfast? Why would I want to read what Stephen Fry is eating for breakfast? What’s the point of it? It’s just another way of wasting time. I don’t have a smartphone. I wouldn’t know what to say. It’s only for “cool kids” and hipsters. It’s just so shallow and narcissistic. How can you say anything meaningful in 140 characters?
Motorola D-160 Back in 1997 the mobile phone revolution was still in its infancy, as the first bargain-basement pay-as-you-go Motorola bricks were being marketed by Orange and Vodafone. My wife and I couldn’t see the point of them: we already had a phone in the house, and another in the office. Our answering machine told callers “We’re not in right now – please leave a message and we’ll return your call when we get back”. The last thing we wanted was callers pursuing us in our leisure time wherever we happened to be.

Then one day my wife and small son did the London to Brighton bike ride. I arranged to collect them at the far end by car and – in a town crowded with cyclists and spectators and backed up with traffic jams – our VW broke down a mile from the rendezvous point. I had to find a payphone, call the AA and then wait by the vehicle. The rendezvous time came and went. My wife and son were wondering where the hell I was. I was wondering where the hell the AA were. It was a nightmare – yet if either my wife or I had owned a mobile phone, the other one could have called it from a phonebox to find out what was going on. London To Brighton Bike Ride We bought a basic model next day and within a month we had one each. As soon as we actually started using a mobile, we “got it” – you could use it in whatever way suited you best. There was no law saying you had to keep it on all the time, or give the number to all your friends. It was simply an incredibly useful device in all kinds of previously unimagined situations. Calling ahead to say you were running late. Summoning a taxi on deserted city streets. Avoiding the ripoff call charges from hotel bedrooms. And then of course there were text messages: for both of us, owning a mobile opened up an entirely unsuspected new world of convenient communication.

And so back to matter at hand. Your band or artist project is already on Facebook – do you really need Twitter as well? Plenty of fine musicians from among our recent Fresh Faves obviously believe the answer is no: The Nebyudelic Sound System, Mr. Slim, Chloe March, Laure, Russell Jeanes, Talmud Beach and Rafiki to name but a few.

You can sort of see their point. From the outside Twitter looks like a giant megaphone where celebrities bray about every inane thought that crosses their minds – while pop stars, media outlets and big businesses bombard the world with marketing messages.MegaphoneBut Twitter is more like a telephone than a megaphone: think of it as one huge global exchange with 200 million subscribers, who include pretty much everybody you will ever want to contact in the world of music. In some ways not being on Twitter is like not having a mobile phone. You don’t have to spend all your time yakking on it, but if you’re not even a subscriber, nobody can ever send you a text message.

Whereas if you have a @twittername, any of those 200 million people will be able to send a message for your personal attention. People like to tweet about new music they’ve heard on the radio, on blogs or at a gig. If their message reads “I’ve just heard a great band called Wretched Wafer” that’s a dead end. Whereas if they tweet “I’ve just heard a great band called @WretchedWafer” everyone who reads it can hear that great band in just two clicks.

Each Monday I tweet out a list of all the artists featured on our blog that week, and those tweets look something like this:
Tweets Nine of the above artists found out almost straight away that they were featured that week and jubilantly tweeted the news on to all their followers. Two of them didn’t. All 20,000 of our Twitter followers could click through and hear nine of those artists there and then. Two of them were just names on the screen.

It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to own a mobile phone or to have a Twitter account. But managing a music career in 2014 is just that little bit easier if you do.

With thanks to @adicarter, @alexhighton, @alexmoir, @allyson_ezell, @alphabetbands, @AndyMcH, @andywelch81, @Banananey, @bear_kp, @BenStax, @billt, @BlackFeathersUK, @BoBUnsigned, @bongbrummie, @brodiegal, @chrisilett, @citizenhelene, @craigthomas1, @danmason85, @davorg, @dfr10, @DoctorRad, @DrRubberfunk, @DrWynneof_Music, @eduardoamigo, @ElecCompMusic, @FeralFive, @formes_band, @fruitbatwalton, @GaslightTroubs, @Gert, @gothiron, @Greg1954, @hilliatfields, @JargonParty, @jede39, @JosephGalliano, @jwandtheoutlaws, @kayeinglis, @keithofchester, @ladytubedriver, @LewBearMusic, @lostagencymgmt, @LukeWride, @MaRaineyBlues, @mediaqueenuk, @mlittlebrother, @paulbellmusic, @pnh, @RKZUK, @russellc116, @RyanHalsey, @Sandskwan, @seanamcginty, @ShaoDowMusic, @silent_radio, @Sisteray1, @SkinnerRay, @SKtheWombelle, @SlapYaMamaBand, @smokytheredhawk, @soops77, @steveharris, @Theatre_Royal_, @thedarlingtons, @TheGravityDrive, @therovingjewel, @theshootingof, @Thunnnderbird, @TrippyWicked, @TSCinc, @victoriajhume, @WaspBox, @wearegoswim and @woodmanstone. for their helpful and sometimes heated discussion on Twitter this afternoon that led up to this blog post :-)

Tom Robinson

London-based broadcaster & songwriter, born 1950. His best known songs are 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay and War Baby; he has also co-written songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. Read More...

9 Comments

  1. I’ve organised a M4TOUR from London all the way back to my home town via twitter and facebook in May, I think bands have to embrace all social media and see what works for them. There is not much use wasting your time if your audience doesn’t use that medium but at the same time its a great way of finding a new audience!

    You can find fans of similar bands who actually interact and create/start conversations with them, if you are genuinely interested in what they are interested in you can create a good relationship with them and they could end up being loyal fans.

  2. Melita Dennett

    Astonishing how few bands use their social media well. It’s almost as if they’re embarrassed to say anything other than banalities.

    I always spoon-feed bands with the frequency, hashtag, Twitter handle to use etc and fewer than half actually get it. You really get the buzz on the show when a band does it well, and it encourages you to play them again, and as a presenter it makes the show feel much livelier.

    I work on the basis that if a band can’t be arsed to promote themselves, I can’t be arsed to play them again.

  3. @ladytubedriver

    I have travelled to the other side of the world to meet people I only knew from Twitter. They took me out in Sydney and Melbourne, I stayed in their homes and met their families. It’s enriched my life in more ways than I could describe.

    I saw this blog post that is on the same subject and thought you might like a look:

    http://dorkymum.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/twitter-is-like/

    R x

  4. Really great great piece Tom.

    Its funny as just this morning I had a message from an artist who’s track I had posted a comment on. It was stunning – I had images of Terry Gilliam films racing through my head while listening to it.

    I told him he should contact/ping it across to Terry Gilliam. He responded saying ‘if only I had his contact!’

    I messaged him back saying he could/should ping the Soundcloud link over in a Tweet to @terrygilliamweb and said he uses his Twitter account regularly. Hope he does it!!
    Debs x

  5. Great piece.

    From a promoting the band perspective, Twitter is not only a great promotional tool in its own right, but it also led me to discover countless other promotional tools and helpful advice(including Freshonthenet) that I didn’t previously know about. It also got us in touch withDJs and promoterswide.

    From a personal perspective, Twitter also helped me discover dozens of new bands.

    My advice to anyone who is unsure would be to try it. As Tom says, you don’t have to be on it all day, it just makes communicating a whole lot easier.

  6. Love twitter and seen the benefits musically many many times :)

  7. I have just started using it for the promotion of my new single The Record Collector / Football Rock & Roll, I spend a lot of time out of the UK on the road and it helps keep me in touch with the radio folk, even though I may not hear their show, I can see what they are up to, the presenters are always tweeting and if am persistent enough I am sure I will get their attention. watch this space – @neilbrophy

  8. Tom

    @NeilBrophy except bizarrely you’re already on a website right here where you can get our attention without any persistence at all. It’s our proud boast here at fresh on the net that anybody can send us one track any Monday to Thursday afternoon and we guarantee that the whole team including me will listen to it. Obviously that means we receive far more tracks every week then we can possibly feature on the blog, or than I can play on my radio show. But if anybody sends us a genuinely exceptional track, it will get heard and – if it’s been uploaded to BBC introducing – it will get played on my BBC Introducing Mixtape. Guaranteed.

  9. @Tom , Thanks for the feed back, you are right to boast fresh on the nets service , a great door opener, The truth will be in the song at the end of the day, hope you will like it :-)

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