Thursday, March 31, 2011

Share and Like

Are the buttons not obvious enough? "Share" and "Like?" These two features are now *basic* staples of social media sites, from Facebook (who's gone so far as to allow web designers the option of "Like" buttons ANYWHERE on the web...) to YouTube.

So why don't people use them? Isn't a mouseclick the most effortless thing someone can do? I mean, if I can't get you to take five seconds to hover your mouse and clicky the little button, how am I going to get you to come out of your house on a Wednesday night to see my live show?

Part of me wants to draw a line: if you can't bring yourself to click the "Share" or "Like" button, you're not a fan. A lurker, maybe, a hanger-on, for sure. But not a fan.

For musicians (and almost nobody else), fans are the only (external) legitimacy we get. (No, this is not the same as personal validation, which is a different problem. I'm talking about market legitimacy, not one's personal view of oneself. Don't even try it.) The fans have to tell people about us, because we can't be trusted to get the story right on our own.

I know why people aren't clicking the "Like" buttons: Because the music's not good enough yet.

But don't think anybody's going to say that. What was .50 Cent's famous quip - people telling you something loud and clear, you're just not hearing it?

But what if you do have a genuine hit and don't know it? How would it break through, and how long should it take? It's so easy to confuse a hit with a train wreck - which is what most people are on YouTube for anyway; the quick fix. YouTube is all about "the moment"- here's the fall, the crash, the explosion, etc. YouTube is not for context or deeper meaning: the comments alone bear this out.

"Nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could."
- Simply Red

It's so hard to disentagle ourselves from the old world. We've got so much invested in it. How many of us were driven by visions of 80's rock videos and 60-70's concert footage? Be honest... How many of us still judge our material by FM radio standards? Be honest... How many of us felt we deserved the attention granted to a 14 year-old Texan girl? Be honest...

I know artists that are still trying to get FM airplay. In 2011? Really?!? Do you think radio has the power to anoint hits and create stars? That's old-world thinking. American Idol tryouts? You'd have to be insane. Or mediocre and desperate.

It used to be a mediocrity could game the system with the right contacts. Public discourse was limited to the biggest players. Not anymore. Now everyone with a blog wants to tell everyone else. Artists need to decide which conversation that's going to be: the evangelizing of your music or the celebration of your unveiling and demise.

Right now, YouTube is our modern online equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Every viewer's a Caesar. People want a spectacle. To be astonished.

That doesn't have to mean we have to pander to the most vile and basic impulses. We may live in a post- "2 Girls, One Cup" (Google it on your own) ecosystem, but nobody's really clamoring to follow that act. Further, I believe we are culturally ripe for a Renaissance in music, if someone would just display the bravery to take us there.

Those who do will be rewarded.

And like all great movements, it begins with the true fans who "LIKE" and "SHARE".

Get clicking, people.