Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Twitter Blues

Short bursts of inconsequential information.  Microblogging.  Not for me.  I'm a long-form blogger, here on Blogger.  I prefer long bursts of inconsequential information.  Nonetheless, I joined Twitter in 2008 and have tweeted a few times per year on average I guess ever since, mostly just to tell the world I have new music out there.  

A part of the appeal of social media for musical acts is to update existing fans about your music-making activities and to hopefully attract new fans.  Most social media is free, so that aspect is also appealing.

Another part of the appeal is to appear more important than you really are.  People seem to use it to make themselves out to be authorities on various subjects, and experts in various things.  They even go so far as to use it to become influencers and to get famous for fame's sake.

In case you're a new reader to my blog, I am an entertainer, but not a famous one.  I write songs and record them, and social media helps people like me "establish an online presence" which presumably helps with making people aware that I have music available to potentially enjoy.

Like a lot of musicians and artists, I prefer to focus on the creativity and don't get into self-promotion, but at the same time, wish my music was more popular.  I dread even the smallest activity like a short simple tweet to announce a new album release, but I do it anyway because it's somewhat necessary.

I've never warmed up to social media and mostly think of it as a waste of my time.  When it was new, I tried to snag the "scottcooley" user name before the other Scott Cooleys did, so I'd have that coveted URL suffix or whatever those are called.  You wouldn't think I'd have much trouble like the John Smiths out there do, but there are a surprising number of Scott Cooleys in the world.  One where I got in and snagged it early enough was twitter, so my handle on there is @scottcooley, and the link is

You won't find much on my Twitter profile, and a lot of it is just me posting a share of a link to a post from this blog, if I remember to do it.  I actually tweeted my qualifications for verification a while back, and those tweets are still there, even though I am now pretty embarrassed by them.

I can't believe I actually got upset that although I was "verified" as a legit musical artist on a bunch of different music and social media platforms, I never got verified on Twitter, despite actually applying for it.  I was authentic, somewhat notable, never that active, but never misleading or deceptive.  It's funny that Twitter fired all the people who work toward detecting impersonation, manipulation and spam, then started making people pay an outrageous amount of money to appear authentic.  

I'm not a regular social media consumer or poster.  I have profiles on several of them, however, because they are free accounts and I just thought having them would be a way to let people know I have music available for them to listen to.  

Having worked for software companies in the past, some with open source products, I am aware that they always want to have a "pro" or "premium" level of products and services for those wanting to pay more to get more.  Company owners can't help this as they exist to make more money all the time.  Google used this approach with many of their software products and services, in which they would lure people in by offering them for free, get people hooked, then make them pay.  It's arguably evil but probably does help pay for their mission to organize the world's information.

I suppose this is also the case with musicians - there's an argument to be made that if you offer free music early in your career, you can later get people to pay for it.  Indeed, many of my songs are available for free, and I'm not sure if this has helped me sell or get paid for my music at all.  

As an emerging independent recording artist with many album releases available on the major music streaming services, I thought having verified social media profiles might help to increase my popularity.  I'm not out to become a famous celebrity, but I would like it if more people discovered my music and liked it.  I have in the past thought having one of those check marks like they offer on Twitter might help that desire.  I filled out the form three times over the past several years to request the blue check mark unsuccessfully.  

I thought the appearance of legitimacy, like the appearance of popularity, would lead to more actual popularity. Ethically, I would never pay for fake streams or fake followers, but I've heard it is possible.  Like all artists though, I would be happy if anything helped my music reach a larger audience.  I've never paid for promotion, marketing, publicity, or advertising of any kind, and do not plan to.  Like most artists, I hope for "going viral" organically, and do not enjoy promoting myself in any way other than letting people know I have albums available.  

I don't have any budget whatsoever such activities to begin with.  So, aside from announcing my releases, I'm not going to pay someone to write about my music to gain notability.  I'm hoping you, my fans and followers and friends, will help to create the buzz and hype through recommendation.  

I can't fathom why anyone would want to pretend to be me, but I know wrongful impersonation happens, and without profile & content reviewers, there's only so much AI can detect, so now, if I wanted to, I could pay a bunch of money to show I'm the real Scott Cooley.  I suspect it would have zero positive impact on my music "career".  

As a humble songwriter and musician, I'm not aspiring for legitimacy, I already have it.  I am the artist Scott Cooley you will find when searching for music on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, YouTube, Pandora, etc.  So, wherever you like to find and stream your music, mine is there, and I doubt a blue check mark on my free Twitter profile would sway your decision-making about whether to listen or not.  

No one is searching for me on Twitter anyway, so why would I pay for prioritized search rankings?  Makes no sense for me. I will continue to use it for announcements of music availability.  It's one thing to release music into the world where it could possibly be discovered, but another to make people aware of the fact that it exists.  Free social media is another way to make this second important part happen.

I watched The Social Dilemma documentary, and agree that social media can be harmful to society in many ways, and honestly, I struggle to see what benefits it has other than communication and combating loneliness.  When I'm in the mood to be entertained, I seek out music, books, movies, and live performance.  I admit that some social media content like jokes, memes, video games, and pet videos can be also be entertaining, but I'm not really interested in people's posts of the minutiae of their everyday lives. 

I remember when Twitter was new, I told someone I had an account on there, but didn't really know what it was for or what I could use it for.  They replied that they use it primarily for news, and that it was the primary news source in their lives.  This made absolutely no sense whatsoever for me.  News articles are way longer than the tweet character limit, so how is this even possible, I wondered.  

I guess legitimate (blue-checked) news sources post links to their articles on twitter, so you get the snippet and the link, so maybe that's how its meant to be consumed.  I'd rather just go to their website or get the actual printed publication if they still have one.

This all goes back to the fact that in the last twenty years or so, amateur musicians not signed to record labels have been able to offer their music in the same online places where the truly professional major-label artists do.  Anyone can write and publish a book on Amazon now, anyone can blog and pass it off as news or journalism.  The World Wide Web eliminated gatekeepers in various industries, and digital mediums have replaced tangible ones.

I view this as nothing but good luck and good timing for amateur hobbyists like me.  I do have a small fanbase, even though I never play live shows anywhere in public.  People have told me they like some of my songs, and even that they look forward to when I have more new ones available for them to listen to.  For a guy who just likes to write songs and record them for fun, this is a cool thing.  I wish it was lucrative, but so far, it has not been in any way.  That said, I still like knowing my art is out there and can be discovered.  The Web has allowed people like me to say "I was here.  I created things that didn't exist before.  Here they are for your entertainment."

To get the blues about not being perceived as notable is inconsequential.  It has to be an earned thing.  I've made music that has entertained people, and I'm still planning to do more of that in the future, and also, I blog about how I feel about it.  If not signed to a real record label, I suspect self-published artists like me feel like posers.  I have, and there's a part of you that hopes and wishes for legitimacy.  Although it can be purchased, that would never satisfy the desire.

I pay for online distribution of my independent music.  Also known as a digital aggregator service, for a fee they send my music to Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and a bunch of others.  There are several of these types of services available, and they have existed for approximately twenty years.  

I was among the first wave of artists to send them my music and pay them to send it to the places where people go to get their music.  I've come close to recouping some of that expense, so it's practically paid for itself, but the real value is knowing my music is out there where people can find it and appreciate it.

I started playing guitar in 1989 and wrote my first song in about 1990 before there was a world wide web.  It's just pure fortune that this inexpensive music distribution service availability coincided with inexpensive home recording equipment and the internet and social media and my hobby - all in my lifetime just as my new hobby was starting to take hold.  Like a tweet, all this is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless something I get a big kick out of.

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