December 01, 2009

Twitter Takes Off

Micro-blogging is starting to matter in the music industry


twitter

Blogging has been known to influence trends and spread the good (or bad) word quicker than traditionalmedia outlets, but itmight quickly be eclipsed by what is being termed asmicro-blogging. Yes, I did in fact say "micro-blogging."

Twitter is fueled by users answering one simple question in 140 characters or less: "What are you doing?" In just the last year, the company's user base has increased six-fold, according to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Users can sign up to follow updates from their friends or other users, including established brands on other platforms like NPR, CNN and The New York Times.

And like any other social networking tool, Twitter has captured the fancy of the music industry. Bands and professionals alike use it to promote both professional projects and personal thoughts like one on-going conversation.

Social scientists call the Twitter phenomenon "ambient awareness,” according to a recent New York Times story. It is a way for people to sense the general life rhythms of everyone they follow. While every so-called "tweet" by itself can seem fairly insignificant, the collective tweets together form a pattern that can be studied by others to predict and report trends. Many in the music industry have joined and are using Twitter to help discover, and in some cases, start future trends in the music scene.

Annie Lin, a music supervisor and licensing director at The Rights Workshop based in San Francisco, often uses Twitter to find out about artists for licensing opportunities through her extended network of music industry colleagues. "I found out about Twitter early on from a friend," said Lin. "Since getting on Twitter, I've gotten a lot of my friends to jump onto the bandwagon."

"I decided to try Twitter late in the game anyway after reading more about the business applications rather than what to me seemed the asinine personal side of things," said Wesley Verhoeve, General Manager of Engine Room Recordings and President of Family Records in New York. "I've had successful brainstorms with folks based on a posted idea or thought and a request for feedback."

Though some may be more reserved in promoting their own work on Twitter, others are enthusiastic about it. "My only issue with most blog entries is that they're too long," said Sarah Lewitinn, aka Ultragrrrl. "Twitter, with it's micro-blogging, is the blogging I like to read. But really, Twitter is revolutionary in the marketing world."

Lewitinn has several ventures she is promoting – a music blog, a marketing company she co-founded called ForTheWin! Media, DJ gigs, the label she co-founded called Stolen Transmission Records and her new segment on "Fuse on Tour" called "The Ultragrrrl Report." She not only uses it to promote her own projects, but she uses it as a social tool on-the-go. "I can find out about cool parties while I'm out and about because a big part of my Twitter network consists of other DJs and promoters who love telling people where to go."

Others tweet just to find out about trends in culture in general. "It's easy to throw questions out to my crew and I sort of enjoy everyone's little musings on things like music, food, clothes, politics, obscure 90s hardcore," said Elliot Aronow, Creative Director and VP of A&R at RCRDLBL.com.

"I like that if you're active and follow smart people, it can be like hanging out with a group of really together, in-tune friends... or the Algonquin Roundtable," said Bill Pearis, blogger for Sound Bites and Brooklyn Vegan contributing writer.

Some of the biggest complaints are about the personal tweets the fly faster than a drunken text on a Saturday night. "Personal stuff is fine with me on Twitter," said music blogger for TheMusicSlut.com, Matt Gross. "I use Twitter more for friends than anything else. I still use Facebook & MySpace to pimp out event and posts."

Because Twitter is so easy to update and succinct in nature, many have become self-proclaimed Twitter-holics. "A techy friend of mine was at SXSW two years ago and sent me an invite from Austin," said Theda Sandiford, a digital marketing consultant who worked for Def Jam and blogger for MissTheda.com. "It took me a little while to ramp up but soon I became addicted to leaving messages. Once I was able to add the Twitter plug-in to update my Facebook status updates I was hooked."

"I don't follow a lot of bands on Twitter because their updates are sporadic," said Sandiford. "I do follow QuestLove and Case because they use Twitter regularly and their posts are funny."

"With listeners, it's one more way they feel connected to what we do here at WOXY," said Matt Shiverdecker, music director at WOXY.com, which has three different Twitter feeds. "We& #039;re a small operation. We do not have the resources of some of the bigger stations out there, but we remain reachable and interactive with our audience. It is part of what they've come to expect from us."

"I was hanging out with Whitney Mathison, who writes Pop Candy for USA Today, last year at CMJ, and she was twittering everything we did," said Rachel Hurley, who works at the Memphis-based Ardent Music in A&R.

"I get more replies from friends and acquaintances through one-line tweets than I do comments on long blog posts," said Marisa Bangash, co-founder of video interview site UncensoredInterview.com. "I can either send tweets about what's happening at our band shoots or talk about my breakfast. It's all acceptable."