Using Social Media can be time consuming and questions exist as to whether it's worth all the effort; however, in an arts related field what excuses do we use to not at least try?
I just read an article my friend Jason Nassi posted on his blog: Too Lazy or Too Busy?. It talks about the perception that we're busier today than we were 100 years ago, yet points out with all the modern conveniences we're actually getting a lot more done. Since there are still only 24 hours in a day, he makes a good point: " Because the level of accomplishment has gone up exponentially, we have a perception that we’re busier. However, getting more done does not equate to being busier."
This got me thinking about the use of social media and classical musicians. I recently posted an article about "Why don't more musicians speak out?" (and it's getting some traction --the highest read article in the last week. Oddly enough I didn't get any professional musicians responding to the article. San Francisco Symphony liked (and retweeted) the article, but even with all the readers coming by, no one has commented. It seems people don't want to enter a conversation on this topic - why do you think that is?
Professional musicians spend a fair amount of time maintaining or improving their skills. I wouldn't put any professional musician in the category of being too lazy --practicing an instrument is work. So, that leaves the other two categories, too busy or can't be bothered.
The big organizations like San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, LA Phil, NY Phil, Chicago Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Detroit Symphony, San Diego Symphony, MET Opera, SF Opera... (you get the idea) all have websites, facebook pages and twitter accounts, but they have a staff devoted to these tasks. Major artists are doing the same thing, Marin Alsop, Yuja Wang, Gabriel Kahane, Joyce DiDonato... (again, the list goes on). While Gabriel has a twitter account, his father Jeffrey doesn't. Jeffrey Kahane, once the conductor for the Colorado Symphony doesn't have his own website, does have a FB account, but it just points to the wikipedia article about him.
I don't want to pick on Jeffery Kahane. He has a very successful career going; maybe he doesn't want to get any bigger. So, he probably falls into the "Can't be bothered" category of people not using social media. This is a fair response for someone who is happy where they are. Yet, looking back at the article "Why don't more musicians speak out," the vast number of symphony musicians don't have facebook accounts and even fewer are using twitter. Again, perhaps their careers are where they want to be. Is their organization where they want it to be, however?
Since it's a fact that symphony orchestras are struggling for audiences as well as balancing their budgets, it make sense that the musicians of the orchestra would want to take an active roll in the survival, even the success of their parent symphony. Let's ignore speaking out with an opinion that might not be popular. What about just telling our friends, our neighbors and families what we're doing?
Several recent studies suggest the average person knows over 100 people casually --people we may not speak to on a daily basis, but do occasionally connect with, be it on the phone, over email or in person. If every musician had a facebook page with 100 casual acquaintances, even if half of those play in the same orchestra, that still leaves 50 people per orchestra member who could be contacted about performances. Lets multiply that by the 80 people in the orchestra and we have a potential crowd of 4000 people. Facebook studies show nearly 10% of the people on FB will comment, like, share or otherwise spread the word for every post made. So, 400 people post it to their pages (in some fashion) which takes the numbers of people reached well over 100,000. That's nearly as many readers as the average readership of many major newspapers (according to naa.org) - and rather than the generic ad placed by the symphony, this is a personal invitation by the musicians actually playing the music.
Imagine if every week each musician posted just ONE facebook update as to how they felt about the upcoming performance. Over 100k people would be talking about the symphony EVERY week. If just half of the musicians would post twice a week, the reach would exceed that of paying for an ad in the newspaper - and posting on FB is free. How long does it take to post something to Facebook? 10mins? 5min? 30seconds? Creating an ad for the newspaper takes a layout artist to create the copy and/or image, as well as money to place it. I'd wager the personal touch of Facebook would yield more results than an advertisement.
Every kid who ever wanted to start a rock band and vault to super-stardom knows that self-promotion is essential to gaining fans. They promote out of a determination to succeed as well as out of a sense of pride. Imagine if orchestral and classical musicians of all stripes were to display that sense of pride in their 'band'. I believe symphonies would enjoy a renewed sense of success, audiences would begin to engage in new and exciting ways, and no one could accuse the musicians of being too busy, too lazy or not bothered.