Share and Share Alike.

A wise man once said, ‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’ Advice that works incredibly well online.

In my wanderings round the web, I’m seeing two very distinct groups of musicians.

  • Those who are part of a sharing/discovery/recommendation culture, and
  • Those who are (often incessantly) requesting help from that culture, but not demonstrating any willingness to be a part of it.

Not surprisingly, they don’t tend to get much spill-over outside of the people who are already their fans.

As I’ve said before, the single most powerful currency online is gratitude. It flies in the face of every bit of old school marketing advice you’ve ever received about how to accrue ‘value in your assets’ and all that BS, but we’re not dealing with an old school market. We’re dealing with a situation where in the eyes of music listeners/buyers/downloaders, there are two types of music people:

  • Them, who are part of the old establishment, who don’t ‘deserve’ help because they are part of the problem, and
  • Us, the new world order, those who have grabbed the transformative potential of the web, who see the democratised potential for discovery as an overwhelmingly positive thing. We are part of the solution.

I just wrote a piece for Music Think Tank about this – it’s entitled ‘Transformative Vs Incremental Change‘.

What’s clear is that to expect transformative community support within the context of an old-school broadcast-only output makes you look like a tool. Sure, your fans are still going to find you and probably buy your music. They care, they already know you. But the potential for discovery is severely curtailed by you expecting a whole lot from people but giving nothing.

Toby Moores, AKA @Sleepydog, calls this ‘Reciprocal Altruism’ – you share with the group, knowing it’s good for everyone including yourself. This isn’t hippy bullshit, it’s just acknowledging that the future is too complex to go it alone. (Toby is, without doubt, one of the sharpest transformative thinkers I’ve ever met. Genuinely brilliant.)

So, this week’s challenge for those of you currently taking but not giving is this:

For the next 48 hours, don’t mention your own music online.

Seriously. Just talk about other people’s stuff. Tell your audience about the great artists you’ve gigged with over the years:

  • Blog about them (if needs be, start a new blog for it.)
  • Tweet about them
  • Post Facebook updates about them
  • Comment on their Myspace pages about how awesome they are without trying to add the embed codes for your own album in there too.

Seriously, you need to go cold-turkey on the narcissism. Remember, You Get What You Give.

And if you’ve got any cool stories of music discovery through mutual sharing/recommendation, please add them to the comments!

15 Replies to “Share and Share Alike.”

  1. Hi Steve,

    This is a very good post and interesting timing for me. You published it minutes after I published a promo video on all my profiles for my CD!

    I am a believer in the power of giving out kudos to others although I still tend to forget that sometimes and slip back into “Hey, listen to me, I’m great” instead “Go and listen to her, she’s great”

    So thanks for the timely wake up call.

    As a result I am going to resist the urge to post on my blog about about my promo video until next week and I decided to leave my website URL off my name for this comment.

    Now I’m off to recommend Ben Walker to a few folks, who I think is really good and deserves a mention. Twitter @ihatemornings


  2. I agree completely that supporting other musicians is part of getting your own fanbase to grow, by helping each other out – on Facebook I recently did this by inviting all my friends to be a ‘fan’ of a friend’s band who I think deserve a bit more recognition – and they all did the same in return!

    The supportive nature of musicians I find to be astounding, if you find the right people. I’ve encountered so many people in the local music scene in Newcastle who have rubbed me up the wrong way because they believe they’re on a higher plane of existence or something!

    Excellent blog entry, really lays it out how we should act online as musicians.

  3. It can be difficult to find a balance when it comes to interacting and promoting yourself online. What I’ve discovered is that it just feels better to talk about other people more than yourself. It shows that you are a real person.

    I recently read Chris Brogan’s “Trust Agents” (a great book, which you should all check out) and he mentioned that for every time that you promote yourself you should promote your peers 12 times. I don’t know where that number comes from but I’ve been following that advice. I feel much less spammy/creepy now when I do promote myself.

    As for some great music online, you can’t go wrong with Jonathan Coulton, Brad Sucks, or Trifonic.

  4. Superb post – have put the link up on Facebook. Everyone needs to read this: you’ve nailed the truly transformative thing about the new musical economy – “the future is too complex to go it alone.”

  5. Hi Steve,
    You’re a friend of Kennan, so I take that as ‘ You are a good guy”. I’m just curious…. what do you think of Michael Manring, and also Doug Johns, as solo bassists ?…in general.

  6. one person said:

    The universal common good doesn’t exist. But The natural-born good into Acts/Gestures. It exists! That is the difference. Sweet Web.

  7. I really dig this — especially the fact it’s short, sweet and a call to action. This is an action more people should take. (Especially since some of them might wind up talking about me, you know?)

    Self-promotion is such a dead and boring scene…but a huge one.

  8. Great post, Steve 🙂

    I think you might have a good explanation as to why MySpace Music kinda sucks: it’s full of bands just posting flyers for their own gigs on other band’s pages!

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