Facebook Is F*_:king Artists Once Again…

Congratulations: it’s now harder than ever to reach your Facebook fans.

This is a problem that’s been going on for years, and highlights the extreme pitfalls of building relationships on someone else’s platform.  The reason is that they control the shots, not you, and that can wreak havoc on years of hard work.  And, when it comes to Facebook, consider yourself lucky if you get any advance notice of changes.  The rug often gets ripped out overnight, leaving you a certain type of sandwich for breakfast.

Accordingly, Facebook has just announced yet another change to its algorithms for sharing content on News Feeds, one that puts artists and bands at a severe disadvantage to actual ‘friends’.  For better or for worse, someone not directly connected to a Facebook user is now facing an uphill battle.

Immediately downgraded are posts from Pages, which covers nearly every musician, label, or band accounts (not to mention brands, businesses, and publications like Digital Music News).  This time, Facebook was nice enough to at least warn some people that their ability to reach fans will be seriously crippled starting around now:

“…we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages.  The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.  For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.”

Facebook is also making a lot of effort to steer users towards their closest contacts, which means friends and family over bands and businesses.  That makes sense to many users who want to keep connected to their inner circle.  But even if a band plays a huge role in someone’s life, that band is not considered a close connection and will suddenly have a more difficult time piercing through the veil.

At this stage, it’s tough to say how serious the impact will be on artists.  People are just trying to sort out what these changes mean.  But it’s safe to say that artists won’t be gaining more exposure to fans or prospective fans, so prepare yourself accordingly.  Instead, band posts will be taking a back seat, though you can always pay Facebook to boost posts and possibly gain more visibility (funny how that works).

An Artist Asks Facebook: “Why Do I Have to Pay to Reach My Fans?”

Again, bad idea to invest too much time (and money) into Facebook, simply because you don’t know how this platform will change.  Back in 2014, actor George Takei took Facebook to task for making him pay to reach his fans, despite years of investment in the platform.  Artists even started confronting Facebook executives, but nothing changed.  Facebook felt that feeds were getting overloaded, and they needed to start monetizing the platform they created.

The shift offers another motivation for artists to make chances.  One quick strategy could be a greater focus on video, given Facebook’s heavy emphasis on upstanding YouTube and making a multimedia mark.  Another is to bolster platforms that offer a more controlled connection to fans, most notably email.  Surprisingly, that channel has become a far better promotional platform over the years, thanks to companies like Google (think spam-free Gmail) and Mailchimp (think easy opt-in/opt-out bulk emails).

Giving up Facebook is probably not the best idea at this stage, given the massive audiences.  Your fanbase is still there, after all, it’s just harder to connect to them.  But shifting marketing and outreach efforts towards other platforms makes more sense than ever, especially if the pound-for-pound response is greater.


33 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Great news, we don’t need more than one ‘social music-hub’. Most artists will move their primary presence to Twitter now (if they haven’t done so already).

    • Sarah

      What do you do when Twitter inevitably makes changes to meet Twitter’s objectives? It’s well established that Twitter is actively working on their growth and user engagement issues by frequently modifying how Twitter works – it’s not unlikely that one or more of those modifications might impact Twitter’s effectiveness for you.

      Do you actually have any more control on Twitter than you do on Facebook? I’m pretty certain you don’t. Twitter may work for you now – and that’s terrific, use it! – but making the assumption that Twitter will always work for you is dangerous (have you learned nothing from Facebook experiences?).

      If you’re a professional artist, you’re a business. You need to own your relationship with your audience. You need to control your communications with your audience, and you need to be able to reach them directly as appropriate.

      A platform – whether it’s YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook – may enable you to act and communicate as you like at a given time. But that’s a gift that they give you, and they can (and do/will) take it away, often without warning, the second that they want to. Saying “oh, but Twitter is good and lets me do what I want right now” is ignoring the fact that Twitter can change its mind and take that ability away from you, exactly like Facebook did.

      You must own your audience relationship and have the power to communicate with them on your terms. If you don’t, you have a problem – whether it rears its ugly head this month or next year or 3 years from now, you have a problem.

      • Randall

        This goes for beyond commerce to interpersonal relationships too. Let alone the new model of consumption by which nobody actually owns anything. Say Spotify decides that Jo Shmoe’s album is no longer something it cares to carry, poof, it disappears. To the bulk of the consumers it no longer exists. This is the control we’ve given to the new tycoons. Guess what, they’re just like the old tycoons.

      • Anonymous...

        Sarah, is it actually a “gift” if you pay back a certain percentage to the service upon monetizing your content?

        Is that not a quid pro quo?

        And if the service provider accepts that monetary percentage, whatever it may be, can it be said with any accuracy that the service is in fact “free” for the content providers in such circumstances?

        It would be otherwise if no actual financial benefit was realized by the service; some food for thought.

        • Sarah

          Unfortunately, yes, it is still a gift.

          It should NOT be a gift – it should be services rendered, for which they receive payment.

          But right now, it’s a gift. Here’s why: the monetization is a gift too.

          What could you do if YouTube decided that, sorry guys, no more ads allowed unless you’re a premier partner? (Soundcloud does this, I believe). Or what if they just said, hey, folks, we’ve decided to give you only 40% of the ad income generated on your content?

          Would you walk away from your YT audience, from YT’s traffic?

          YT retains complete control over how much they pay you, whether they pay you, how they calculate payment…. the fact that they pay you at all is, in their opinion, a gift. How do I know this? Read their terms and conditions: they make it very clear that they can give you whatever they want to and your only option is to accept it – or leave the platform.

          When you don’t have a say, when the platform is calling all the shots, and when the situation has developed to a point where leaving the platform isn’t a feasible option, everything the platform gives you is a gift. Because they can choose to take it away at any time, for any reason, and you just have to deal with it. That’s a shitty thing to do, but it’s how they work.

          As for whether we can accurately call such a service “free,” well, I think all these “free” platforms have cost (and continue to cost) content owners and creators more than anyone could have imagined back when we first started hearing all the buzz about facebook and youtube.

          Here’s how it should work:
          Platform should provide features and services that help creators and artists build an audience and (more importantly) generate significant income. In exchange for providing such features and services, they should be paid.

          Nothing is free – bandwidth costs money, even simple data storage at scale costs money. Any platform that says they’re free for businesses – or artists, in this case – is eventually going to screw you for a lot more than you would have paid if they’d just taken the money upfront.

        • Anonymous

          No, it’s actually not.

          Exactly how do you suggest that we own our audience relationship?

          Precisely how do we get the “power to communicate with them on our terms”?

          Sarah doesn’t provide any answers, suggestions or solutions.

          What you can and should do is invest 90% of your time in the platform that currently works best for you — that would be Twitter for most of us — and be ready to adjust when necessary.

          • Sarah

            What you can and should to is invest 90% of your time in the platform that works best for you – hell, yes. Of course that is what you should do. I refer you to my original comment about Twitter which, I believe, was “use it!” 😉

            You still need to own your fan relationships. Two steps:

            1. Get their emails. There are lots of ways to do this. If you need help, I’ll help you. Or you can head over to bandcamp and follow their lead. Or you can google “how do I get my fans emails” and pick one of the suggestions you find. Just get ’em. Oh, and get phone numbers and skype names and anything else that lets you directly communicate with the consumer – but mostly, just get their emails.

            2. Build a strong relationship with your fans, so that when you send them an email, they’re happy to get it. This is specific to you and your audience, but lots of artists have set great examples of how to proceed. I’m sure DMN has actually covered some of these in the past.

            3. Carry on as usual.

            You don’t need to switch to email – nor should you, that’d suck. Stay on twitter. But you NEED the email as your backup, so that if twitter decides to change in a way that doesn’t work for you, you don’t lose your audience. The email is your insurance: if twitter suddenly shuts down (not impossible based on performance) or your fans decide twitter is lame or twitter decides to delete your account for some crazy reason, you’re not wiped out and starting from scratch.

            No one is saying don’t use Twitter.

            In fact, to be clearer: Absolutely continue using Twitter if it works for you.

            Just ALSO actively prepare for the day Twitter stops working for you so you don’t get screwed. If that day never comes, all the better.

          • Troglite

            You prefer Twitter. Thanks for making that clear. 🙂

            Its not clear what aspect of my comment you actually disagree with. So, I’ll take your concerns as an invitation to clarify.

            I’m glad Sarah explicitly pointed out that the root cause is the reliance on platforms that are not aligned with the interests of the artist/musician/songwriter, which ultimately motivates these technology orientated businesses to proxy the relationship with the fans for their own exclusive benefit.

            Artists should immediately respond to the changes Facebook announced based on the current marketplace and their unique situation. But I think its important to recognize that most short-term, easy, quick to implement options will merely address the symptom. Larger, more difficult changes will be needed to address the root cause. BOTH long and short-term strategies are necessary.

            A small, but growing number of somewhat radical options do already exist. Open platforms that facilitate direct communications between artists and fans. Crowd funding platforms focused on the nerds of musicians and fans. Ecommerce platforms that allow artists to set their own prices or offer pay as you go streaming options for consumers. Licensing systems that can truly be audited or offer new synchronization opportunities. Network providers who bundle music with their internet or mobile services.

            Many of these options are still maturing, and that will take time. But, I believe its still wise to be an early adopter. As a music community, we have a lot to gain by seeing these new options succeed. They will mature more rapidly through real-world use, genuine competition, and feedback. Silicon Valley only values two of those qualities… so its especially important for musicians to use our voices to help pick the winning and losing platforms.

            If you’re asking for actionable advice:
            * Don’t believe in silver bullets. One size does not fit all. I have no reason to doubt that Twitter is the best option for your business and your fans. That doesn’t mean its the best choice for everyone.
            * Focus on the quality of the interactions/transactions, not the potential volume based on the addressable market size or unauthenticated users. Bullshit talks, money walks.
            * Farm and monetize superfans instead of hunting viral breakouts. Exposure has no value. Build your own brand through value, not hype.
            * Perform limited experiments with new options in the marketplace. Don’t be afraid to abandon the ones that don’t work for you. Again, every artist’s situatuon is unique and the marketplace will refuse tolow the pace of innovation.
            * Ensure you have an international component to your business plan. A lot of the remaining runway for digital downloads and streaming is likely to be outside western, first world countries.

            Finally, I’ll express general reservations about the whole premise of this article. As a social network, the relationship between its users is the central and highest value within Facebook’s ecosystem. Those interactions will be emphasized going forward. They always represented the greatest marketing value. Not that much has really changed… posts from Pages were already less valued/effective than posts from actual friends/family/colleagues. Their revised ranking/placement will simply more accurately reflect that existing reality.

          • Anonymous

            “You prefer Twitter. Thanks for making that clear”

            You’re welcome.

            What you prefer, however, seems a bit vague.

          • Troglite

            Anonymous wrote:
            “What you prefer, however, seems a bit vague.”

            I intentionally focused on concepts, not specific vendors/implementations. Most of that guidance aligns with how to become “ready to adjust when necessary”, as yo u described it. You seem smart… so you’re probably already applying many of the concepts i described.

            If you have a specific question, I will answer it as directly as possible.

        • Sarah

          thanks 🙂

          OMG that is so much text I just added to the page … I am extra wordy today. I think I missed chatting with you guys!

      • Anonymous

        “You must own your audience relationship and have the power to communicate with them on your terms”

        The only way you can do that is to own the platform yourself. And that’s impossible if you wish to reach out to the entire world.

        What you can do is to be as fluid as at all possible. It’s not hard, you can easily communicate to your followers that you’re migrating to another platform.

        Most will follow — that’s what they do.

        And for now, that other platform is Twitter.

        If it’s repX or somewhere else tomorrow, we’ll let them know in a heartbeat, and they’ll be there.

        • Anonymous

          “or somewhere else”

          …just want to add that Apple is in preliminary talks to buy Tidal, according to buzzfeed and Wall Street Journal!

          THAT could be huge! Unless they just want to destroy it, of course. It could bring Apple back as the pro-artist service.

          It might also introduce old-school Apple censorship to a more modern and open service, though. 🙁

        • Sarah

          Are you the real Anonymous? I’ve missed you! (If not, you’re probably pretty cool still.)

          You’re spot on about being fluid, I’m just adding “get the emails as a backup plan because audiences are hard to build and easy to lose – especially when there’s a third party that can get in between you and your audience.”

          It’d be interesting if Apple buys Tidal… it certainly would make sense from a number of perspectives, and they do have plenty of cash. Hmm. I hope it goes that way.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention *EMAIL* so aggressively since 2001 — what gives?

            repX not so much, though (and not because I didn’t bait you).

            Missed you, too. 🙂

            🙂 The real Anonymous 🙂

          • Sarah

            Email is the only reasonable form of ownership left to an artist who uses platforms like Twitter. It’s also, systemically, an incredibly important check on platforms that rely on stickiness: “you can’t leave because you built up an audience here and leaving means losing them.” Think about how well that works for YouTube and Facebook – stickiness is a terrific strategy for them, but it’s awful for you.

            Another check would be to duplicate your audience across multiple platforms: make sure that your YT subscribers also follow you on Twitter; that your Twitter followers also like you on FB (or join your group page, whatever). That way if any one platform makes a big change, you’ve still got a backup.

            And I’m aggressive about it because it is important to professional artists, who often are so good at focusing on their art that they forget to pay attention to the fact that, as of the moment they decided that they want their art to also be their primary source of income, they’re also businesses, with the same risks and issues that all businesses face.

            It’s 10x harder (read: more expensive) to get a new customer (read: fan) than it is to keep an existing customer – a slight tweak on Twitter that reduces your ability to communicate with your existing fans could, for many artists, mean the difference between starting to plan a tour or getting a job.

            It’s so easy and tempting to say, “nah, twitter works right now, why bother with anything else,” and that type of short term thinking is one of the reasons that many promising artists, who should have successful careers, so often don’t.

            ……..as for repx, we’re actually making awesome progress, though it is all behind the scenes, making deals with businesspeople type stuff now. However long you realistically think something is going to take with a new platform, double it to be conservative, and then quadruple it because you way underestimated in the first place 😉

          • Anonymous

            “Email is the only reasonable form of ownership left to an artist who uses platforms like Twitter”

            There’s a better way to make your fans follow you to the end of the world.

            Your way: Entertain them.

            As for repX: Good to hear! I know everything there is to know about doubling and quadrupling. 🙂

  2. Carl Bunch

    Don’t use their “artist” pages.

    Create a Fb group for your music(band, etc), migrate your current fans to your group, direct new fans to your group (NOT the artist page).
    Set it so that only you can create group posts.
    ALL of your fans will get EVERY notification, for free.

    Problem solved.

    • Sarah

      Problem solved …. until lots of artists start doing that, Facebook decides that it doesn’t like your attempt to get around their control of the flow of information to Facebook’s users, and Facebook changes its policy to bring everything in line.

      You address a symptom: “I can’t reach my fans when I want” therefore you create a workaround that enables you to reach your fans when you want.

      Now, addressing the symptom is all good and well, but you have to also address the problem: “I’m a business and someone else owns my relationships with my audience.”

  3. Anonymous

    Facebook for musicians is the new Myspace. Just move on.

    • Anonymous

      Yup, that’s the truth. Move on.

      And, like I said elsewhere in this thread, I think the entire industry should move the entire shop to Twitter.

      You can do everything there — link to everything, embed everything, sell everything; combine work and fun in a fast and entertaining way. And everybody’s there.


    Number one question from clients: why is my post not reaching anyone?

    Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform.

    Here’s a solid suggestion: create a tab at the top of the newsfeed where you can toggle between a “Friends” newsfeed and “Pages” newsfeed. This way, pages don’t clog up your timeline, and brand pages will still be able to reach the people.

    The thing that Facebook isn’t considering is that people have raised their hands to “like” pages. In other words, they WANT to receive information from these pages.

    Bullying pages into buying advertising in order to reach their followers is not going to be an affective strategy in the long run.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Facebook’s platform, Facebook’s rules. They call the shots. If they want to help artists, they’ll help artists. If not, you’re screwed. MySpace though artists would help their overall proposition, Facebook obviously doesn’t share that approach.

      So if you’ve spend hours a day bulking up your Facebook connections and basing your outreach on Facebook, you’ve been punished for that.

      • Anonymous

        “If they want to help artists, they’ll help artists. If not, you’re screwed.”

        Paul, you keep saying that, but you don’t say why.

        Like I said in my first comment in this thread; this is great news:

        Facebook was never meant for artists. Its censorship is beyond Pyongyang. Its free videos destroy everything.

        We’re on Facebook because we had to. And now we don’t. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is.

        Now, we can focus 100% on Twitter instead instead of wasting resources on a slow, bloated platform that’s nice for your family, but dead for artists.

        Twitter is alive; it’s fast and furious, and it’s going places. A presidential election won’t hurt it, either…

  5. Andy

    Well, not a big surprise, since Facebook’s been constantly reducing the organic reach for pages over the past few years. That’s part of the reason we started Bandtraq and I’d like to invite everyone to try it. It’s an aggregation service for music fans that tracks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, etc. creating a simple unified feed with the latest news, videos, releases and so on from the artists you choose. For bands it means that they can reach every fan following them on the service without abandoning their usual social platforms. Of course, it’s not for casual fans, but rather for those who like to follow many bands, especially, if they are non-mainstream. So, check it out here http://bandtraq.com. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

  6. Antinet

    I guess I must be too old, but relying on any social network is like relying on one publication. They’re just one outlet. My band has its own page, led to by multiple domains. We play shows, have our own mailing list etc. Facebook is a necessary evil, and Twitter really is preferable at the end of the day. Facebook is like the PTA of social networks. It is way to into itself, and makes everything oh so kosher.

    Other than that brief honeymoon period when they suckered everyone in, it’s left nothing but a bad taste. I don’t use Facebook to interact with people I’m close to. I use it to interact with people who are in the second and third tiers, and that’s only because straight email seems a bit boring in comparison. If a social network could nail that, without all the invasiveness and propriety, they might have something.
    That’s what makes twitter fun – the lack of background. Don’t even get started on the power that rotten punk has that we gave him.

    Beyond that, it was ALSO SUPPOSED to be a promotional tool, but if they don’t want it to be that, then fine. F Em. God I want them to go away.

    • Anonymous

      “relying on any social network is like relying on one publication. They’re just one outlet. My band has its own page, led to by multiple domains”

      We all have our domains, twitters, facebooks, insta’s, etc. And that’s all good.

      But 90% presence on Twitter is so much more powerful than 30% Twitter + 30% Face + 30% Insta.

      And you can not be 100% present everywhere all the time — that’s an illusion! It’s much better to truly interact with your fans on one platform and make them know and feel you’re really there, than having a bot post polite updates all over the place every hour.

      “Facebook is a necessary evil”

      Not anymore.

      You obviously still want your pages, and you still want to update them once a month (you probably still do that with your Myspace, right? If you can log in at all 🙂 ).

      But that’s it.

      • Troglite

        Anonymous wrote:
        “It’s much better to truly interact with your fans on one platform and make them know and feel you’re really there, than having a bot post polite updates all over the place every hour.”

        Great point!

        This is the type of action i was trying to advocate for when i spoke about focusing on the quality of the interactions. This concept can also be applied ro transactions. For example: focus on a smaller number of distribution platforms that actually pay reasonable rates or offer the most reasonable terms.

  7. Jason Stallworth

    Do you think this will affect paid advertising on FB? I would think that would receive preference over just normal posts. I’ve been toying around with paid advertising for my musician profile and it seems to render likes and clicks. I hope this doesn’t shift…

  8. Lest it be overlooked...

    Perhaps those changes on facebook arose in consequence of the direct licensing discussions and deals struck between facebook and the major labels (and maybe even the publishers as well) to license the use of the signed recording artists and work-for-hire tracks (and maybe even the musical compositions and lyrics as well) on facebook; but they weren’t patented, and the doctrine of merger, among other things, come to mind. Oh snap, I think I hear a melody…

    Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you….

  9. Rick Shaw

    It has never been mandatory that artists use Facebook. If they don’t like the terms or how they are being treat, they can always stop. It’s really that simple.