One of the things that people regularly forget about in this industry is that despite the alleged democracy of the internet a lot of stuff is like it was back in the day when you needed to pay for magazine ads you also need to pay for Facebook advertising. I know that just a few years ago no one had to pay for ads and that was awesome, and I know that if you’re a DIY band it’s kind of lame to do that. So yes, there needs to be a discussion about the morality, but I think that a lot of your favorite DIY bands form back in the day were willing to get advertisements in the right places – and Facebook guarantees that much at least. Furthermore, guess what? People [probably aren’t going to listen if you don’t put yourself out there and put money into it. As much as PR helps, paid advertising needs to be a part of your campaign strategy, whether you like it or not.
A crucial thing to realize is that while organic reach is good and valuable, people in power are inevitably going to judge your Facebook page by how many likes you have. That’s a pretty standard thing to do in my experience, for no other reason than that pretty much everyone interested in music has a Facebook, for obvious reasons, and Facebook likes are a readily available, easily quantifiable metric which we can use to judge the popularity and marketability of a band. That doesn’t mean it’s fair, or even remotely correct – but it does mean that you need to invest in it in order to get people paying attention.
It’s a weird thing to think about – that you essentially need to buy likes in order to attract organic ones, but that’s the weird cycle that we’ve found ourselves locked into. The marketing people at Facebook are geniuses. What you need to realize is that the new music industry funnels most of the money to only a handful of people – largely because these days there’s only a handful of people worth working with. It doesn’t make sense to pay for advertising on most independent news outlets when you know you can get a hyper specific ad on Facebook for the same price. If you ARE going to go to an independent news outlet to advertise you probably are going to link to your Facebook page as the click through anyway, so you are still essentially buying likes.
Of course – you might argue, if these people aren’t organic fans won’t they just blow up numbers without it meaning anything? But like I said in the beginning – that’s the fucked up thing – it does mean something. Buying likes allows people to see that you re serious and are willing to dump money into advertising your band, much like how thirty years ago a label might take interest after seeing a band was willing to drop a few grand to be featured in magazines. While yes – you can grow your likes organically (And I’m sure we will discuss that in a future article) it’s important to establish a base of likes, because even if five of the hundred likes you buy leads to a genuine fan who listens to you on bandcamp then you are doing well. Sure, it might not pay off initially but in the long run the increased brand awareness can’t help but bring you along.
Now – I do want to touch on the moral question more in depth. I know that a lot of you who are against print ads back in the day might be against Facebook ads now. That’s fine. I totally get it. No one is forcing you to buy them .You can’t complain though that Facebook is choking out your band, because at least they are giving you some platform when for so long there was none. The internet is a magical thing and has led to an incredible culture of entitlement – even among bands who I once thought were as punk as it got. I understand why it’s happened – the internet is so far beyond our puny human minds that it’s hard to wrap your head around it. This service has irreversibly changed all of our lives and now we need to prove that we deserve it. If the people who control how you use it want to set up limitations that’s fine – it’s their site after all. If you don’t like it- figure something else out and on your own terms.
You might say this is impossible – and that’s because it probably is. Yet, that’s a whole separate issue. Making people care is really, really hard and if Facebook are helping you to do that at all, even if it is for their own money grubbing reasons then they are kind of in the right. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but there is a reason that every real band these days has a Facebook account. There is a reason that we are all registered to the service. It gives us perhaps the most access to the most amount of content – and as long as they continue to do that we will continue to be hooked.
So yes, Facebook is all but inescapable these days. It’s frustrating and can be a bit scary. I spend pretty much all of my waking hours on it so I understand this just as well as anyone. What we need to do though is realize that this is the platform we have to share our content. A lot of these rules apply to Twitter and the like as well – but as I’ve discussed previously, Facebook seems to be the most important for the discernible future. We need to embrace Facebook ads – sure it sucks, and sure there are ways around them (Full of Hell for example offer a deal where if people share certain posts they can win free merch) but it’s something that we have to deal with. So now you have three choices, the obvious – use Facebook and continue the fight, the almost impossible – start your own service, and the incredibly easy – turn around and go home. What do you pick?