"The days when the artist is a lone island are over," says soulful singer/pianist Avery*Sunshine. And she would know. Emerging from the Atlanta area over the past two years, following the 2010 release of her self-titled debut album, she has made it a point to be accessible by using her social media presences toengage and interact with as many fans as possible. And she's found her own way to do it.
The reasons behind this push are obvious: These days, without a significant marketing budget, independent artists need all the help they can get to put their message across. "Social networking has been the single most valuable marketing tool for us up to now," says Dana Johnson, Avery's manager and music partner. "It's the field-leveling tool for the independent artist."
Avery, for her part, is using some proactive methods to push her social networkingpresence. Since she began touring in support of her album, she has started requesting that audience members take a moment during her show to go to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube and post images, video or statuses relating to her performance -- usually while she sings her name, to allow the crowd to locate her on those platforms. "We wanted to make what we call a 'deep impression' on the audience," says Johnson. "We wanted to make sure they not only remembered her, but that they also connected with her as well."
It seems to be working. Soon after implementing this new strategy, Avery's personal Facebook page hit the maximum of 5,000 allowable friends, leading Facebook to shut down her account and forcing her to create a fan page - which, as of this publication, has accrued 11,633 likes. Similarly, her Twitter followers have ballooned to 7,263 as she spreads her message to an increasingly large "Internet family."
But it hasn't been all random tweeting or self-promotion; rather, Avery and co. have developed a strategy of making sure Avery's outsized onstage personality comes through in her social networking campaign. "The mistake that's being made on Facebook and Twitter by a lot of artists us that everything is 'Buy my album, come to my show, come to my web site'," says Johnson. "If that's the only thing you tweet about, it doesn't allow people to connect."
"Being an artist, you're not just selling your music. You're not even selling an image -- you're selling yourself," says Avery. "People aren't just coming to see the music, they're coming for the experience. They're coming to talk to me, to hang out with me."
Johnson explains that they try to limit self-promotion to about 10 to 20 percent of all of her status updates and tweets, so as to promote a more interactive presence, in addition to delivering engaging and interesting content to fans on a regular basis. "We're in the business of selling and promoting music," says Johnson. "We're just doing it in between the interesting content, the personality, the social networking."
In addition to the ever-burgeoning fan response, with new videos and pictures showing up on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after every performance, Avery's social network presences have led to other career boosts as well. After hearing her name, a program director from a major radio station in Chicago came across Avery's YouTube page and began sifting through the hundreds of performance videos, official song videos, and behind-the-scenes updates that populate the site. "He called me and introduced himself and said 'I'm so impressed with your stuff that I want to figure out how to put it on the radio,'" recalls Johnson. "He put our song in heavy rotation. Now Chicago is probably our strongest market -- due directly, in this case, to our presence on social networks."
In the days when social media routinely beats the established order to breaking news, and people increasingly get their daily fix from the Internet, socialnetworking has become an invaluable marketing weapon for independent artists. "It doesn't work by itself," explains Johnson. "We've been very specific and deliberate about how we've used it… but in terms of a marketing tool, it's been hands down the most effective thing for Avery."
"You've got to have major interaction with the people who are buying your material, who are buying into you," says Avery. "Social networks are the independent artist's best friend."