Artists and musicians NEED to change their tactics for 2020

A long time ago I made music and videos during a golden era when organic views and the power of the internet was at the artists fingertips. I was fortunate and back in those days I built a YouTube channel with half a million views. I had a MySpace page with hundreds of thousands of listens, etc. It was a good time for artists to find new fans. Through the years my life changed, my responsibilities changed, and for me although my passion was in the creative field I bowed out during the golden era and focused on raising my son. I loved watching all of my old friends work creatively and I lived a double life through their careers. I’d support their projects when I could and was quite proud of my crew! There was a lot of good energy in the early 2000’s.

Image credit: Lucy Peach

What changed? What has happened in the past five years?

In the early days it seemed all of my friends were having success, but since then I’ve watched my artist and musician friends struggle to gain traction in their careers. Full-time artists these days often earn less than cashiers in retail. Over the last few years specifically I have watched the internet change dramatically, and in a way that is making it extremely challenging for artists and musicians to earn a living. It is challenging for artists to create freely when they are under constant financial pressure. From the massive organic reaches of early YouTube & MySpace – we now see social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. eliminating organic views from existence entirely. At this point one must pay to advertise even to your actual fans through these social media platforms. The entertainment/arts fields have always had a bit of the “pay to play” factor, but early days of YouTube, Facebook, etc. were revolutionary in breaking out more and more indie artists, bands and creatives than ever before. When we look at these platforms today, they have literally squeezed all of the power to reach fans out of the artists and musicians hands. Large companies and record labels did not enjoy independent outsiders having even a 1% portion of their pie.

What have artists and musicians been trying?

I’ve watched my friends sponsor posts, go on expensive tours, post incredible content day in day out – and still gain no traction due to the algorithms that purposefully redirect their own fan bases to mass-marketed media, and I’ve watched many of them lose all hope and quit doing what they love, and ultimately this just makes our world A LOT more boring. I’ve watched them try to change with the times attempting to reignite grassroots exposure and creating email lists and groups that are more in the artists control…and when watching their tactics and reading their concerns I certainly knew it was bad, but didn’t understand how bad it was. Don’t get me wrong, touring is still the best way to spread your music physically – especially leaving merchandise scattered around to remind people  – but exactly where you send those fans and how you advertise to them is where an artist needs to take caution now! It really sucks to live in an era where all of your hard work of building a fan base that will not even see your messages through the channels you are sending them! This is why grassroots email lists and sending them to your own website is the best idea!

The last two months I have been testing conversion/engagement on multiple platforms, reading articles, putting in research hours behind the scenes, talking with my artist friends, talking with consumers of art and music, etc. to understand the issues at hand.

What have we learned?

Number One

The golden era of the internet that allowed independent artists and musicians to gain traction organically is all but gone. The only social media platform remotely worth your time when seeking organic growth at this time without a “pay to play” platform is….TikTok, as ridiculous as that seems. Without going into detail, I invested a bit of money in multiple videos and posts on a few various pages/accounts I own and saw mediocre engagement on those. In my tests I signed up to a new TikTok account (did not have one before) and posted just ONE video that was under a minute. The video was nothing special, just a simple basketball highlight with a caption – which was the SAME video I tested on multiple other platforms. Guess what? Despite having 0 followers, 0 previous posts, 0 advertising or posting links to that video anywhere else….yet it CRUSHED my PAID posts and videos on all other platforms. When I say crushed, I am talking over 4000% more engagement with likes and comments, etc.

Bottom line, TikTok will likely do the SAME thing Facebook, Instagram and YouTube did in the coming years, so if you are not on the ground floor using TikTok in 2020 as an artist – you are missing a massive opportunity for organic reach. Period.

Number Two

My artist friends who began taking the steps to develop email lists & work on grassroots methods instead of bowing to the pressure and paying to play – have all done better through the years than those who started paying to play. In 2020 if you are an artist or musician, you need to stop investing in advertising on Facebook and Instagram, etc. This needs to be a collective effort to let the world know that we will not continue investing in their platforms if they continue restricting our reach. Continue using these platforms, sure, but focus on TikTok as your main advertising platform in 2020 while you can- and then just move that content to Facebook/Insta/YouTube and don’t even concern yourself with likes or engagement on these other sites. Again, that golden era is GONE in 2020.

Number Three

Do not feel discouraged as an artist or musician in 2020. No, the cards are not as much in your favor as they were in the early 2000’s, but you NEED to evolve, and as a collective we need to stop paying these companies to restrict our organic ability to find new fans/clients, or to even our existing ones within these platforms.

Time to evolve – Find your creative lens

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To all of my artist and musician friends, it is 2020, not 2002. Time to adapt and start thinking differently – work every angle possible. Do not stop, do not stop being enthusiastic, do not lose hope! I know I have a lot of creative plans this year and I know how discouraging it looks after the last two months, but the world needs you to continue being creative, continue leaping and thinking about it after! The world is a better place because of YOU!

Follow the Secret Cloud page ☁️ if you want, I won’t actually be using it aside from posting and not caring about engagement through these channels in 2020. I have big plans and many ideas to test in coming months. I will let you all know how it goes.

Wishing you all success in 2020!



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