There’s a reason why some artists quit Twitter – or, never start an account at all.
“I realized about a year ago that I couldn’t have a complete thought anymore,” John Mayer told a group of students at Berklee College of Music. “And I was a tweetaholic.”
Sounds funny at first, except when Mayer reflected on the impact on his songwriting. “I had four million Twitter followers, and I was always writing on it. And I stopped using Twitter as an outlet and I started using Twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song.”
The comments were part of a larger discussion related to social media, particularly the destructive impact that constant self-publishing can have on some artists. In effect, Mayer found himself stressing over the picayune details of social media interaction, and crowding the mental energy required to make good art. Or, promoting a product that was ultimately half-baked. “You got the distraction of being able to publish yourself immediately, and it is a distraction if you’re not done producing what the product is… Manage the temptation of publishing yourself.”
Mayer isn’t alone, and the downside risk on Twitter has now moved from ‘useless’ to ‘destructive’. Indeed, the broader artistic community is now struggling with how to approach tools like Twitter, and the right answer seems to depend on the artist. For groups like Mumford & Sons, the decision has been to sit it out. “You can have promotion in 30 seconds if your stuff is good,” Mayer said. “Good music is its own promotion.”