For the past few years I’ve been advising every band I speak to that they “must” be on social media sites to promote their music. But do emerging bands really need to be using social media? Is it possible that too much time spent on social media can actually hurt your creative output?
Is Social Media Hurting Your Band’s Creativity?
I recently went on vacation for a week. It was the first time in 2 years that I had been away from a computer for more than 24 hours, and with it, away from Facebook and Twitter. It allowed me to completely disconnect, relax and truly reflect on life.
Then a funny thing happened: I noticed that by the end of the week I had come up with more quality ideas than I had in a long time. It’s as if my brain just needed a break from the constant bombardment of Twitter updates and Facebook notifications to be creative again.
So I asked myself a simple question: was constant activity on social media hurting my creative output?
Digital Downtime and Creativity
I did some research and discovered the concept of “Digital Downtime”. When one of the world's best-known marketing/communications firms JWT released their “100 Things to Watch in 2011”, #25 on the list was “Digital Downtime”:
“These mindful breaks from digital input will be intended to relieve stress and foster creativity.”
The New York Times also published an article related to the subject of digital downtime, and in the article it mentions that scientists had discovered that:
“...when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.”
When you’re spending a lot of time on social media sites, where you’re constantly reacting to questions and comments, focusing on updating your profiles, is it possible that it can hurt your creativity in other areas?
Social Media Not for Everyone?
The topic of social media and creativity actually came up in my interview with online fandom expert Nancy Baym right here on the Bandzoogle blog:
“I encourage artists to use social media, but they don’t have to use every site and if, for them, social media are uncomfortable or deterrents to creative production, it’s totally okay not to use them.”
I think it was the first time I heard someone say that it’s okay for a band not to be using social media. Then Berklee Blogs published an incredibly revealing interview with John Mayer, who at one point had over 4 million Twitter followers, but then gave it up completely. Here’s why:
“You’re coming up with 140-character zingers, and the song is still 4 minutes long...I realized about a year ago that I couldn’t have a complete thought anymore. And I was a tweetaholic. And I stopped using twitter as an outlet and I started using twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song.”
But John Mayer is not the only artist to question Twitter and social media. Many artists are leaving Twitter, and in some cases donating their accounts. As Nancy Baym also pointed out, other artists like Sufjan Stevens simply never used social media to begin with.
So the question becomes: do all bands really need to be using social media?
Music Should Always Come First
"Focus on the music and the show, the rest is secondary." - Bob Lefsetz
At the end of the day, your music is what’s most important. In an age where there are so many other bands out there, what truly stands out is great music. So if your band is just starting out, should you be spending a lot of time on social media trying to gain new fans? Could that time be better spent writing, rehearsing, and recording? Especially when you consider that most emerging musicians work day jobs and their time is limited to begin with, where should that limited amount of time be spent? Social media might not be the answer.
Should Bands Give Up Social Media Completely?
But should bands give up social media completely? I think it comes down to personal choice and what’s right for your own career. If you find that being on social media is hurting your creative output or taking time away from rehearsals, then you might want to scale back. Moderation is key. Or, you can simply choose to hold-off using social media until you feel that your music is truly ready to promote to the public.
As John Mayer told the audience at Berklee:
“This is not a time to promote yourself. It doesn’t matter. This is the time to get your stuff together. Promotion can be like that. You can have promotion in 30 seconds if your stuff is good.”
So the next time a band tells me that they’re not going to use social media, I’m not going to react as if they just told me they killed a unicorn. If they feel that social media is not right for them at this point in their career, then I think that’s totally valid.