Ever since the mid-2000s when MySpace weirdly suggested you rank your ‘top’ friends, social media has become a central part of promoting yourself as an artist. If you aren’t successful enough to pay someone to do it for you, you probably need to maintain some kind of social media presence. A few carefully used social accounts have become essential tools for DJs and producers worldwide – but it’s easy to screw things up. Keep reading for a few of the biggest mistakes DJs make on social media and how to avoid following the same path.
3 Types Of DJ Social Media Use
Social media allows DJs to promote their work globally to a potentially huge audience and creates many opportunities for the public to engage with their musical heroes. However, promoting yourself as a DJ online is a tricky balance between advertising and narcissism.
- Some DJs are consummate experts in using social media: engaging their audience, always striking the right tone, gently slipping in a bit of effective self-promotion here and there.
- Others simply offer a constant spam-based diet of new releases, remixes, and gig info.
- Then there are those DJs who use social media to showcase their meltdowns and tantrums, or whose ‘friends’ lists are filled with large quantities of fans mysteriously obtained from obscure countries they’ve never played in.
Whatever the approach, how you handle yourself on social media will say a lot about you, sometimes more than intended.
The pressures of fame and touring can take their toll, and it can be tempting to use social media to let off steam. Remember when grime artist Wiley went to Glastonbury and ended up tweeting “F*ck them and their farm”? Or when Felix da Housecat was denied entry to Berghain and unleashed a series of increasingly angry tweets? Most DJs are unlikely to find ourselves at the centre of such Twitter-storms (or have friends who intervene before we hit ‘post’), it’s still worth reflecting on the kind of online habits that might hinder rather than help your DJ career.
1. “Big Things Coming Soon!”
We all know that the music industry is essentially a huge hall of smoke and mirrors. Sometimes artists need to build hype for their latest festival appearance or new release, we get it. But take our advice: retire this particular marketing technique. It may be intended to tease and tempt your fans, but unless you’re Drake or Maceo Plex announcing a secret gig, with each other, then the hype isn’t really consistent with you dropping a new mixtape.
Announcing on social media that “something big is happening but can’t talk about it yet – stay tuned!” can often have the opposite effect to what the poster intended. It tends to look like a desperate cry for attention, like those cryptic “Well I’m in A&E now” or “I’ve had enough of taking crap from people” statuses, that really mean “Pay attention to me!” Desperation is never an attractive trait.
2. Not Engaging Enough
if you treat your accounts only as rolling advertising banners for you to punt your goods and services, you’re unlikely to be successful
The key word in the term ‘social media’ is social. Obviously, social media promotion is a commercial enterprise: you want to increase gig attendance, get people to download your sample pack, listen to your latest mix, etc; and you’re using social media to facilitate this. However, if you treat your Twitter or Instagram only as rolling advertising banners for you to punt your goods and services, you’re unlikely to be successful. The key to successful social media promotion is building a community. If you build a genuine, engaged community then you’ll be able to successfully market to them.
In the continuing saga of my immigration to the UK, I have another question: WHAT THE FUCK IS SALAD CREAM?
— THE BLACK MADONNA (@blackmadonnachi) February 20, 2018
@blackmadonnachi is an example of a DJ who uses social media expertly to maintain an engaged social media audience. She tweets about political issues that are particularly important to her, but also about more prosaic issues too (like the tweet above). She also engages with other DJs and her fans online chatting about her gigs and music.
Imagine if Larry Levan had CDJs
— Midland (@midlandsound) July 21, 2018
@midlandsound is similar too, sharing a mix of DJing and music, social issues, and personal stuff. Both of these people are worth following because they provide interesting/funny/thought-provoking content, as well as links to their mixes. It’s this combination of engagement and the use of a genuine voice that bring success in social media.
It’s a fine line: people really aren’t going to be interested in the minute everyday details of your life, but sharing part of yourself is a key element of building an online community. The chief mistake people make is to begin with promotion first, then hope to build the community from the promotion – but this is backwards. Community comes first: once you’ve begun to build the community, then engage them with your mixes, gigs, or productions.
3. Engaging Too Much!
Which brings us nicely to the issue of spamming. On the one hand, you want to tell your audience about your latest remix. On the other hand, no one likes being barraged with the same advert or information online. Equally, constantly commenting and liking simply to keep your online profile visible is a transparent technique that long-term is unlikely to do your career any favours. It’s a question of balance, of quality over quantity.
Social media can be most effective when you make your account(s) worth following. If you discover a brilliant new b-side, an interesting article or a superb new DJ mix share it. Share the kind of things you’d like to find online, be the kind of person you’d like to follow online. Chat with your fans and with other DJs online. Then when you have a remix to promote, you can drop it on your audience and they don’t feel like they’re being sold to, they feel as though you’re just telling them what you’ve got going on. Also, the fact that you only ever share good content may give your own releases and DJ mixes a little more kudos-through-digital-osmosis when you share them too.
4. Track “Previews”
Shaky camera style, poor audio, the camera pans between the speakers and the computer screen showing Ableton Live: it must be a studio preview.
We’ve noticed that sometimes this kind of technique gets slate, but other times gets a huge bunch of likes and shares. The difference is simple: it depends on the content. A half-finished sample pack loop is received differently than a finished banger. Essentially the rule is, don’t post something half-finished or something ‘with potential’: post a clip of an absolute banger, something that people will genuinely be glad they clicked on. Make everything you do on social media count. To get good results you should add quality and not just add to the digital noise.
5. Tweeting In Anger / Showcasing Bad Behavior
There is enough negativity and hatred online without contributing to it any further with pointless online spats. Which is not for a moment to deny social media’s essential role in robust debate and discussion, or for that matter to try to rebrand a well-argued critique as ‘hating’. Perhaps the very best thing about social media is that is has connected people from all over the world and allowed us to exchange ideas and talk things through. And social media is still a great way for DJs to discuss music, mixes, DJs, new formats, clubs, and the whole surrounding culture. However, it has also given us space, should we choose, to be rude and abusive to strangers.
There are however very real-world consequences from engaging in abusive behaviour online. Deadmau5 was notorious for getting involved in online ‘spats’ and arguments. He’s currently on social media hiatus (again) after a video was posted of him describing another artist’s work as “AIDS music” and “seriously autistic shit”.
— Goat lord (@deadmau5) October 11, 2018
Likewise, DJ Logan Sama was due to host a new grime show on BBC Radio 1Xtra in the UK but was dropped at the last minute due to a number of what he described as “ignorant and offensive” tweets. And we all remember Lithuanian producer Ten Walls who in 2015 took to Facebook to casually abuse gay people and subsequently lost most of his DJ bookings.
It’s always worth remembering that dance music culture as we know it today has gay, black and latino roots, and any kind of prejudice really has no place in the scene. Freedom of expression is obviously a vital cornerstone of democracy, one that should always be valued and protected. But F.o.E doesn’t mean you can just say anything without consequences, and if you choose to exercise your freedom of speech on social media to demonise or abuse a particular section of society, then others in the industry may well choose not to work with you.
Set Social Goals: It’s easy to get stuck scrolling for hours through news feeds, but if you’re using social media to promote your work, you need to make sure that time spent online is useful. Set yourself measurable goals – get X gigs this year, get X amount of new Bandcamp followers – and then work out a social media strategy to achieve these goals.
Otherwise, you can find yourself endlessly commenting, sharing, and posting, which may make you feel as though you’re doing a lot of work. But if it’s not testable or measurable then how will you know if all your hard work is actually successful or not?
In Summary: Be Real + Strategic
We are living in an age of interconnectivity that was nearly unimaginable a generation ago. There is a huge virtual world to navigate, and in some ways, we’re still all working out the rules and etiquette.
However, when it comes to using social media to promote your DJing, then as we’ve detailed above, there are a few basic guidelines for success: be genuine, be professional, be kind, and if you can, try to act strategically too. Also (this may be the most difficult part) try and be the kind of interesting, amusing and engaging person that you’d want to follow online. Good luck out there!