Blue Yodel #27 – Make the Web Go Away

Wanted: young band needed to take part in promotional experiment. Must be willing to risk loss of career and ridicule of peers. But if it works:

You can become more famous than the Beatles!

Okay, here’s the idea. Let’s say you’re an artist. That’s easy. There’s no license or education required to be an artist. You just wake up one morning, print out a poetic license with your photo on it, and pffft—you’re an artist!

You run into other artists at trade shows. Elevators are the best place for this. You form a band, make a demo, and start taking advice from people who did not succeed as artists, but who have discovered that they can make money giving advice.

Before 1975, these people didn’t exist. Between 1975 and 2008, they were called agents or managers. Now they are called media consultants. You’d think media consultants would have come up with a hipper term for what they do—like twitsters—but apparently not. (There are still agents and managers, but since they figured out that 15% of nothing is still nothing, they don’t do much.)

So, you attend all the media consultant workshops and the gist of it is—social media is your ticket to success. Sorry, that should have read: social media is your ticket to success! Exclamation marks are very important in social media! And if you use two, even better!!

I can hear you say, “Where’s the part where I become more famous than the Beatles?” I’m getting to it, but if you’ve been on social media for a while, your attention span is so short you’ve skipped the first part of this column anyway and your eyes have wandered down to the next sentence in bold:

I’m getting to the part where you can become more famous than the Beatles!

Every band is on social media, or will be soon—by 2015, everyone. There’s no band that won’t be on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, last.fm, Pandora, SoundCloud, ReverbNation, SoarNation, SongDew, PitchMyStuff, Bandzoogle, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Pinterest, Google+, Reddit, Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Ning, Squidoo, Furl, WikiHow, Care2, MEETin.org, Tribe, Ziggs, Plaxo, Mixx, Wikipedia, 43 Things, Wetpaint, BandMetrics, and by then even MySpace again.

And, you will have to keep up your website even though no one will visit it. Under the 2014 Too Big to 404 law, which will be enacted after the near collapse of the World Wide Web in 2013 when the government will decide that the Web is too big to fail—every band will be required to own and maintain a website.

So, if everybody is doing the same thing, then nobody sticks out from the crowd. But, if you do something different, then everybody starts talking about that artist. The idea is simple:

Here’s the part where you can become more famous than the Beatles!

Disconnect from social media.

I mean really disconnect. No tweeting. No Facebook page. No website. No sharing of pictures of you sleeping in the back of the van. No more swapping dinner with the band at Sonic for up-front project money.

Spend your time playing, singing and writing songs. Eventually, you might become good enough to impress someone at a car dealership opening to try to check you out online.

But that person won’t be able to find you! She will think she has discovered a new band! And she’ll be excited! She’ll tweet like crazy! Then she’ll try to download your songs, but she won’t be able to find any of your music online!

That’s because you don’t sell your music online. You only sell vinyl at live shows. As the mystery of your band spreads, those vinyl discs will sell for $339 and up. And tickets to your shows will be traded on NASDAQ.

I know this means not sharing the most intimate details of your daily life with thousands of strangers, but that’s the price of success in this opportunity I’m offering you.

In 1969, not only did people not know what Paul McCartney was having for lunch, they weren’t even sure he was alive.

Embrace the mystery. You won’t need a bio because your fans will invent one for you. So, they get a few details wrong—you’re not the illegitimate child of George and Norah Jones. There’s nothing on the Internet that says you aren’t!

You might be saying to yourself—or out loud at your laptop—“Hey, I’ve had a band like that for years and nothing has happened!” That’s because you’re not any good. You have to be good. And there’s nothing in social media that will make you good.

So, I’m looking for a courageous young band willing to take a chance on anonymity. I’m not asking you to turn the clock back, but forward—to reclaim your humanity, to spend your days and nights struggling with and perfecting your art, rather than basing your success on how many people like you or follow you.

I’m not saying that you should become an anti-social recluse. If you do this right, the lines at your record table will probably look like the final scene from Field of Dreams. And you might have more time to spend with those who really care about you.

I wish I had the courage to take my own advice, but I don’t. I’m at the point where I’m afraid that if I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook, I would doubt my own existence. I know there are other Chris Stuarts out there, but I’m the one with www.chrisstuart.com, so I’m the real one.

And, of course, I’m writing this as a blog in an online magazine. How hypocritical can you get? But really, I’m just last night’s burrito in the belly of the social media beast.

The network is unstoppable. It devours everyone. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a child born somewhere who will one day have the courage to throw his or her smartphone into the river and become the father, or mother, of a new music.

I’d like that.

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at www.chrisstuart.com. On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.

  • Chris Jones

    I love this. Retweeting right now, and posting a picture of me retweeting it on Facebook. Best career advice I’ve heard in years. You could lead a seminar on this at IBMA, but everyone would be too busy posting stuff on their smartphones to focus on what you were saying.

    • Hey CJ, I just signed three bands to my new label, Luddite Records, but of course it violates our company policy to divulge their names on social media.

  • Alan Tompkins

    Chris (Stuart), you are right on the mark. This is my favorite paragraph:

    “You might be saying to yourself—or out loud at your laptop—“Hey, I’ve had a band like that for years and nothing has happened!” That’s because you’re not any good. You have to be good. And there’s nothing in social media that will make you good.”

    Terrific! Keep up the good work.