SXSW 2012: Is social media a music-industry savior?

AUSTIN, TEXAS --- Can social media save the music industry?

I've got a three-word rhetorical question in response: Are you crazy?

A panel of tech-savvy executives tried to frame a more nuanced answer Tuesday on the closing day of the South by Southwest Film and Interactive conference. With 2,000 bands and artists descending on Austin in the next couple of days to play the South by Southwest Music Conference, the issue couldn't have been more timely.

Most of the panel consisted of execs from relatively new ventures. Only Seth Hubbard, label manager of Polyvinyl Records, was part of a company that existed in the 20th Century, and could conjure up a time when "digital" meant compact discs and not much else. Now, he says, labels and bands live in a world where "bite-size info on Facebook and Twitter" is essential to an artist's livelihood, because "most people don't have the attention span" to absorb anything more.

Despite his skepticism, Hubbard says that his artists' Facebook accounts are key to directing their audience to buy music and merchandise and attend shows. "The bands with the most success are having a conversation with their fans." What's lost sometimes, he said, is that the music must come first. "Good music will prevail ... all this other stuff is secondary."

It was a point amplified by Jason Herskowitz of Echoing a theme sounded by producer T Bone Burnett at the 2010 Future of Music Conference, Herskowitz asserted that today's social media darling is tomorrow's has-been.

"In 10 years we'll be talking about Facebook the way we talk about AOL today," he said. "It is quickly becoming less and less cool ... it's where my 70-year-old parents hang out. It's like shopping for records at Wal Mart."

Herskowitz made a few waves with those comments, but his point was well-taken. Artists would be foolish to ignore social media, but nor can they depend on it to build their future.  Social media "opens up communicating directly with fans" in an unprecedented way and it can "create transaction opportunites," said Gartner analyst Mike McGuire, "but it's not a silver bullet" that can save the music industry.










Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.