Top Twitter Tips for Musicians.

Twitter Win Fail at I’ve been getting WAY too many ‘follows’ on Twitter of late from musicians who really don’t get it. So here’s my Top Tips For Musicians On Twitter. You may want to start with my Best Practices In Social Media post, or just jump straight in here.

OK, let’s start by comparing twitter with Myspace, as that’s where most musicians get their start in social media:

Like most musicians, my start on Myspace involved using the search function to find other musicians and ‘fans’ and adding them without any interaction. I accumulated thousands of ‘friends’ in no time, and for about a month was getting hundreds-sometimes-thousands of plays a day. But very little of it turned into any real interaction with them, either at gigs, buying/downloading music or just messages to say ‘hi’.

So I backed off, and stopped actively adding anyone to myspace, and recently deleted 8000 myspace friends in an attempt to make it useful.

So how does that relate to Twitter? Well, Twitter has no media player. It’s just text. It’s also asynchronous. This is crucial to understanding it. So point #1 with Twitter is:

  • ‘Following’ someone on Twitter means next to nothing. The interaction is everything.

So if you’re tempted to come onto twitter, search for ‘music’ or ‘jazz’ or ‘bass’ or whatever and hope to gain an audience. Think again. It’s not going to work. All that happens is, your timeline becomes unusable. You miss the good things other people are tweeting and you look like a spammer. Because (point #2):

  • Twitter is all about other people.

That’s right, it’s not primarily about you. It’s a very difficult interface to game anyway. You can’t turn up, post links to your own page and hope people will find you. Because everyone else is way more interesting than you are. So, tip #1 (as opposed to point #1, that was above) – Tip #1 is:

  • Be interesting.

And it stands to reason that tip #2 is:

  • hey check out my site” isn’t remotely interesting.

No, it’s not, it’s self-obsessed, dull and ultimately does you more harm than good. If you’re trying to get me to listen to you, you were in a better position when I’d never heard of you than when I saw your twitter page with 4 tweets that said ‘hey, check out my myspace‘. Now I just think you’re a tool.

No, if I go to your page, and you’re interacting (twitter interactions happen by way of ‘@’ replies – if you put an @ in front of someone’s username in your ‘tweet’, it shows up in their replies, and for other people, it links to their page. It’s creates a contextual network for what you’re saying, it means people can find out what your tweet was in response to, and more about the person you’re talking to.) then I’m more interested in talking to you, asking you questions, answering your questions and generally getting a conversation going with you. Which is good for you, because if I reply to you, the 900-or-so people that follow me are going to see it, an if they find what I’ve said to you interesting, may click through to you…

So, tip #3 relates to how to get started:

  • Start by adding people you know already and talk to them.

If you’re having normal fun interaction, you look like a human being, not a spam-generating bot, or worse, an up-their-own-arse musical narcissist. Just talk about what you’re up to. What you’re doing is placing your music within the narrative of your life. You’re letting people know what you’re about, so they may then be interested in what kind of music such an interesting person would make. And if you’re a musician, the day-to-day life of practicing, getting gigs, designing flyers, getting paid, making records etc. is fascinating. It really is. So talk about it.

Tip #4 relates to this:

  • Twitter users are largely curious people, you don’t need to post links all day to get them to find you.

There’s already a link back to your site on your twitter page. And if you’re clever, you can post a nice pretty twitter background (here’s mine) that will give them a little more info. When you are interesting, people will be interested. That’s just how it works. So be interesting.

Tip #5 follows on from this

  • Twitter users are curious, but also deeply suspicious of spammers.

Like I said at the top, if you get it wrong, it’s worse than not being there. if you look like a spammer, people will not only ignore you, they’ll block you. That’s not good. So If you

  1. interact
  2. keep close-to-parity in your followers/following ratio
  3. tweet a lot about what you’re up to without links to your site,

people may follow you back.

So, last tip – #6 – for now (I’ll do a part 2 later) is about Conversation:

  • People are far more likely to follow you because your conversation is interesting than because your music is great.

No-one knows if your music is great. Lots of links to your site won’t make them want to check it out any more than one link. However, lots of conversation makes you more interesting than no conversation.

No-one likes the guy/girl in a bar who talks about themselves all night to the exclusion of all else. Don’t be that guy on Twitter.

For reference, here are some musicians being interesting on twitter:

Lobelia, Jeff Schmidt, Imogen Heap, Warriorgrrl, Botched, Steven Guerrero, Alun Vaughan, Simon Little, Ben Walker, Graham English. They range from the hugely famous (Imogen) to the ‘tweets all the time (Graham and I), to the ‘small but important interactions’ (Botched and Steven G) – there’s a range there. Watch them, see what they do, what makes you want to listen to them, and do that.

Have fun, make friends, and post any questions you may have in the comments below! And if you want to recommend a musical twitterer (that isn’t YOU) then please do that too, but give reasons why…

40 Replies to “Top Twitter Tips for Musicians.”

  1. I keep trying to explain to musician and composer peers that you get out of Twitter what you put into it. You’re not going to get followers or business contacts by only promoting your site, or by even just posting tweets and never @ replying other users.

    I got on Twitter to promote myself, but the interaction with other musicians, bloggers, marketers, and directors is more rewarding for me. Thanks for the post, and thank Sean808080 for tweeting it:)

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. I only joined Twitter recently but have found it to be very helpful with my music career and my site. Strangers I’ve met through twitter have helped me with my site, featured my music on their pages, and given me the overall boost that I’ve needed for a while.

    The lack of engaged musicians was at first disheartening but now it’s kind of cool, because the people I’m connecting with through Twitter are interesting, funny, and again incredibly helpful. I haven’t gotten too many of the empty Twitter feeds with just “check out my myspace”, but for the ones I have, I haven’t spent more than a second or so even looking at their name.

    I’ll echo the best advice in this essay: “Don’t be that guy!”

    Thanks for the great ideas!


  3. My biggest problem with twitter is i don’t know anyone on twitter at all with the except of you steve (and that’s a very stretched know) tis difficult to get into twitter unless you’ve already a network established there i feel.

  4. Thanks for the namecheck Steve!

    I wholeheartedly agree with the points you’ve made, especially the one about Tweeters being very suspicious of spam – I am too.

    I think Twitter’s about building relationships, you have to work at them and work to maintain them. @paddy, it’s perseverance at first and taking the time to reach out and start building up a network of followers. Steve’s point about being interesting is key, that’s how people will find you and follow you (and hopefully keep following you).

    I’m off to try and keep being interesting 😉


  5. PS I got in to Twitter knowing one person and have made numerous online and offline friends and got paid work through it since then, so don’t despair!

  6. Yes, and it’s the facility to dip in and out of conversations with random strangers (aka potential new friends) that makes it a thousand times more interesting than FB.

  7. Thanks so much for all the comments so far (must upgrade to WordPress 2.7 so I can use the threaded comments function and reply to these more specifically!)


    Rob – you get out what you put in – exactly.

    Matt – the amount of altruistic generosity flowing around the Twittosphere on a daily basis is amazing. I’ve seen so many people get help from total strangers. It’s wonderful.

    Paddy – nice to see you finding your way on there, keep tweetin’. Laura, thanks for leading the way – you rule!

    FWIW, my favourite twitterer, by quite some high margin, is actually my mum. She’s on there, she’s hilarious. Not a musician, just someone tweeting about village life. Makes me v. proud.

  8. Agree about Steve’s mum. Not only is she a interesting Tweeter, she’s a great Twitter conversationalist as well. (Joan, if you suddenly get a lot more followers in the next few days, it’s not necessarily spam!)

    I recently started following a number of my favourite food bloggers who are on Twitter. So far they are all fairly interesting, but if I get bored with them I will just stop following them. (There’s your mini cautionary tale!)

  9. First let me say that I was introduced to your music today by Bruce Warilla and I find it amazing. Just a huge talent Steve…certainly a called musician. Secondly you are a live example of artist and fan driven private concerts and believe it to be the model that will explode the future for artists (for what its worth:) as I am not qualified as a futurist but have had house concerts and know the power of connection. I wish you all the best and stand ready to help if in any way

  10. Much truth.
    Why some people assume that just because I’m a muso, I give a crap about their twaddle is beyond me
    I’m a self obsessed up my arse narcissist dammit!

  11. Nice job!
    You said you would do this post only the other day, and here it is!
    I love twitter, and the interactions it brings with people from all walks of life.
    In response to Paddy I would say that I didn’t know anyone on twitter when I started but have built up a great network of friends.
    This was brought home to me recently when I took a few weeks break and had messages from various parts of the world checking I was OK!
    So keep tweeting.

  12. Fascinating.
    The problem I’m having with Twitter (as with other areas of my life) is Time Mangement – how do I make the most efficient use of Twitter? It seemed like things were going in a positive direction, but I’m still trying to untangle “where does it go next?”. This was a good reality check for me, helping me to stay focused while getting the most out of this environment. I imagine it will be on ongoing process – thanks for the signposts.
    Best of luck in Nashville –

  13. Well said, Steve, thx. I get questions all the time from folk and acoustic musicians who want to try out Twitter and have been thinking I need to write up a social media primmer – think I’ll just send them here instead. Many are jumping in with the book me, check out my music kind of tweets without engaging.

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