The music industry has never been the same since Napster, the phenomenon that revolutionized how people acquired songs…for free! Yes, it was a blow to artists and record labels – album sales plummeted and law suits against the music sharing site were on the rise.

However, it became increasingly apparent that resisting these changes was an ever-failing battle against culture and technology….

What also became clear was that in-order to keep an artist relevant, fresh and profitable, he or she had to become something more…something like a brand perhaps?

Ah the infamous celeb brand – from the Sean John’s to the LAMB’s to the Jessica Simpson’s, hardly an artist but albeit a success story in the retail world – where she failed as an artist she capitalized as a fashion brand, with her net worth approaching $1 billion this year.

In the last few years another major cultural and technological shift has emerged that again, if not embraced, will leave these “artists” alone in the dark – celebrity, meet social media…your new PR gateway!

Think about it, before social media entered the picture…could you ever imagine being able to have direct dialogue with your favourite artist? (Well unless you were a stalker of some sort.)

A few of my personal favourite artists doing social media right:

Lady Gaga – With almost 21 million fans on Facebook and close to 7 million followers on Twitter, Lady Gaga has definitely embraced the social media storm. I receive daily updates through her Facebook fanpage, with endearing messages/updates and pics of Gaga working in the studio or hanging out with her celeb friends. She also recently ran an exclusive contest, entitled: “Who is Aljenandro?” based on her recent hit, fans could upload their interpretations on her blog to win special prizes.

Drake – Canada’s favourite rapper doesn’t fall short when connecting with his fans. His Facebook count is approaching the 8 million mark and his Twitter at 1.4 million. Drizzy had his fans and the media buzzing, recently tweeting that he married lady rapper Nicki Minaj which set the net on fire! It was later announced that they were both just having a little social media fun, but it definitely got people talking.

Humanizing a brand or a celebrity (who are often revered as royalty in society) is the main reason why a fan would choose to follow a celeb – to feel connected, informed and engaged, naturally leading to higher brand equity and loyalty.

In all likelihood, the majority of these artists have hired someone, such as their publicist to masquerade on Twitter and/or Facebook for them – fair enough, as long as their hired help keeps it real, interesting and intimate.

Having a Facebook fan page is a must as a celebrity, if you don’t have one, you’re already forfeiting an enormous marketing tool – after all where celebrities go, fans follow.

Similarly, Twitter has given artists the opportunity to create dialogue with his/her followers. In a mere 140 characters, a brand can create a powerful presence, but unfortunately not all capitalize on this medium the way its meant to be used.

The problem I find with celeb Twitter accounts is the often one-way dialogue. Think of social media as a party – you’re the host and you have to make sure everyone is having a good time, this can only be done if you actually engage with your guests – which doesn’t mean just talking to them, but also LISTENING to what they are saying to you…it can prove to be quite powerful.

In TwitterLand this means:

1. Following others – follow people who you trust, you think are interesting, or that you learn from
2. Be genuine
3. Reply to tweets when possible
4. Retweeting fans tweets when possible
5. Reading blogs by users on Twitter/Sharing your own blog with followers
6. Creating exclusive promos, videos, etc. just for your Twitter base

What are other artist success stories and disappointments, which ones would you nominate as the best or worst, and why?

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