Social media has been getting a lot of bad rap lately, but it’s also no secret that there is a lot it can do for business. Musicians can actually use these social media platforms to engage and interact with their audiences. This is what Allison Emm does at Wisconsin Music Ventures. Using the power of social media, she helps local independent artists thrive in doing what they love. This mission resonates with Allison because she’s had an interesting journey in music herself. Tune in and learn more!
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How Musicians Can Use Social Media To Their Advantage With Allison Emm
I am here with Allison Emm from Wisconsin Music Ventures. We are going to talk about social media. Allison runs a membership for musicians. She experiences a lot of musicians and how they are on social media. They have a lot of questions about it, and I have the same thing in my world. We thought it would be a great conversation to have about what to do and what not to do as an artist on social media. Before we get into that, I would love Allison for you to let them know your background in music, how you got to where you are now, and how you started Wisconsin Music Ventures.
I have been a musician in my whole life, as a lot of us have been. I’m more classically trained in French horn and piano. I studied that as a college student and did more conducting at the Master’s level. After a little while, I had trouble finding and settling into one real clear full-time job. At a certain point, I couldn’t even see myself doing that.
I had been trying so many different arts administration works, private teaching, a little bit of music retail, house management of a performing arts center, different fundraising for arts administration roles, and even being the executive director of an orchestra in the area at one point in time. A lot of things that often were part-time salaried all looked to one career in music. There was a performance on top of that, too, as a gigging musician freelance on horn or piano. It has been a very interesting ride.
A few years ago, I tried to pursue my horn playing at a higher level. I decided it was time to focus on that. Almost immediately after I started investing in that personally, professionally, financially, I got struck down with a lot of medical issues that affected my abdominal area and thought about the logistics of how wind instruments work and get played. Those performers need their strong abdominal muscles to function properly without pain in order to play at a high level, much less at all.
I was in and out of the hospital for surgeries. Many of them were unexpected for several years. At a certain point in time, I couldn’t pursue what I wanted to. Even some of the other part-time work that I was doing got affected during this time. Long story short, I realized that I had to do something different with my work and the stuff that I enjoyed doing at that time. While I liked it, I was still having to work for other people, and it was part-time. I didn’t have the health benefits that I needed to get through some of this time.
If I was going to do anything in music, I needed to do it my own way. That’s why ultimately, Wisconsin Music Venture came to be. It started as a popup-style concert series that was patron-supported, putting great Wisconsin musicians in great Wisconsin places. After having listened to all these great podcasts, I’m sure I came across yours along the way. Andrew Hitz is a common friend. His was a big one that I listened to at that point in time. As a brass player, that’s how I was introduced to him.
I was very aware of what other possibilities there could be. You could make a living if you did something different yourself. That’s how I started doing this. I started Wisconsin Music Ventures in 2019. Right after that time period is when COVID-19 came around. Everything that I had tried and thought I was going to do got changed.
For me, it was early in the process that we rode the wave and saw what was going to happen. We saw that a lot of musicians could use a lot of assistance during that time of COVID-19. We became more of an event-based series that also supported musicians along the way too. In a nutshell, it was Wisconsin Music Ventures.
You could be nimble and flexible because it would be hard if you were only based on events at that point.
We were so early in the game. It was the perfect timing because we were locally based events and musicians. Even the event part helped us out because what people could only do during this time was use local musicians and artists for events. Places have not been able to use touring because touring went away for so long, and it’s still having a tough time coming back. They want to do something.
We’ve been able to get our foot in the door, being a trusted local organization. We have seen a good response because we can put on events well, and staffing at other places has been hard to find. It has gotten to the point where we get hired now by other organizations to put on events because we have staff and musicians. It’s a whole package deal. COVID-19 shaped what we are now, and if it hadn’t happened, I don’t know what we would be doing that.
If you’re going to do anything in music, do it your own way. Click To Tweet
You built this event machine, and they’re like, “Why should we try to figure all this out?” You said they couldn’t get staff and all that. We’ll bring them in and do the whole thing.
Along the way, we did build this musician membership. That allowed us to prioritize who we used for the event, which was hard to do at first because we were like, “We can use any local musician. That’s great.” Once they find out you work with local artists and use any genre of music, they’re like, “Sign me up.” Everyone comes out of the woodwork, which is a good problem to have. This allows us to work with the people who are part of our organization. It has been a win-win.
I love how you guys have supported musicians during the pandemic. Since we’re going to talk about social media, do you use social media at all for what you do, or are you more of a local base when promoting things on social media or finding new members and things like that?
We have our own social media platforms for sure, which is WisconsinMusicVentures.com. We use that right away, early on. I’m a big social media person. That’s a big thing that I’m a big proponent of as well. We try and be consistent with it. We try and post every event that has come along. We post and promote the musicians who are members with us.
We put up pictures of events that have happened already to show people where you don’t preview the event. You want to show what it looked like afterward to have that FOMO appeal for future events and entice people who might not know what we have happening. We are using hashtags for different cities. We have a pretty good system, but there is always room to grow. There are more things that we’re always working on.
I listened to a podcast episode you had about artists and social media. What things do you see artists are doing on social media that are not necessarily doing anything good for their career. What mistakes are they making in relation to social media?
I love the power that social media can have. It changed everything for promotion and musicians. It allowed us to be independent in so many ways. One of the mistakes that I see out there that can make or break, and I have seen it hurt some people, is to be careful with opinions out there. You can have your opinions, write about them, and use them in your art, but if you want a broad fan base and encourage people to come to your shows, buy your merchandise, all of that stuff. It’s easy to alienate people and turn people off by saying the wrong thing. All they have to do is click unfollow. It’s also easy for those people to tell other people, “I don’t trust them. I don’t think it’s worth going to that show.”
If you keep the opinions to your art, that is something we expect. When it’s broadcast more focused on the comments or the posts, that’s something that we’re less inclined to like sometimes. That also fuels other people on the internet to get out of control sometimes with their comments. Even if you didn’t write anything quite as bad as some of these comments, you’re the one who started this conversation, and people will associate one with the other.
This happens all the time with individual accounts, but it does easily happen with artist accounts too. Be a little bit careful with how you’re talking about what topics. As much as possible, stick with things that are going to be safe. If you see things getting chaotic, pull it down right away and delete it because it’s much better to delete it than leave things up and be found later. You never know who is going to go digging deep to try and find something that works against you down the line. That’s a big one. A lot of artists spend way more time posting selfies and images of themselves over and over, like things of videos of themselves.
There are a lot of reasons that bugs me. Sometimes it’s like an ego feeder thing. As artists, we have a right to do that. Part of our job is to be presentable to the public, but we should do that sporadically. We put so much time into the selfies. Some musicians are using their stylists for selfies on Instagram. Take all the time you’re putting into the selfie photos and the videos you’re doing. Even some of the music videos, in some cases, are only made for social media.
The time you’re putting into that, which does not have to be nearly as often as it is, take that and put it towards something like your online store, booking more live gigs, getting more recordings out there in people’s hands, your Spotify presences, or things that are going to bring in numbers for yourself. It’s fun and a big ego boost when we get all those likes on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and everywhere.
It’s such a time and money waster at the same time. One leads to the other. Honestly, I hate to say it and put it this way, but the people doing that stuff start building an unnecessary ego. That makes it less desirable even to want to work with. It’s a whole mess of things that I stay away from in my mind. At least manage or control it a little bit more.
What is the next one?
The amount of time in your day you spend on social media is unlike anything else. There are ways that you can use it for good. I recommend that if you are on social media for that amount of time, you’re using it to make genuine connections with people, to one to one message people and invite them to get your newsletter, come to your show, and one-to-one by name.
Say their name or something you noticed that you liked about their account, that you have in common, or things you like to get to know more about them in a real genuine way. Try and get them to follow you and get their friends to follow you. That ultimately will tangibly show up as ways to bring in more income stream for yourself and build relationships using that social media. Those are great uses for the accounts. I have a little bit of a vendetta with the selfie all the time.
I love using the voice message in DMs to connect with people in a very personalized way.
That’s a great suggestion too. The voice messages are awesome, simple, and time-effective.
I like them because you don’t have to do makeup, hair and all that to respond. I wanted to go back to what you were saying about the opinions because, as artists, we should stand for something and have certain beliefs or causes that we are passionate about. Where is that line between being your authentic self and talking about the things that you care about versus getting into that opinion or sword fight with someone.
I should have rephrased what I said, but it’s fine to be opinionated to a degree, especially if you have something you’re passionate about. I’m a vegetarian. I have the animal rights thing that I’m passionate about myself. Sometimes that comes out in my social media. If it gets to the point where you are getting a little bit vindictive about it or telling people what to do. As soon as you get to the point where you’re directing people in a way where you feel that negative energy around it, that’s when things are going the wrong direction, fuels other instigators on these accounts, and things could go the wrong way.
Be prepared if you take a stance on one thing or the other. If you relay that on your social media, you may very well alienate some parts of your audience, some people that might feel strongly the other way. The Black Lives Matter Movement was a big one, and still, some people feel very strongly about that issue. If you have not posted about that all, all of a sudden, you do, and you lose some followers, that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m putting my own opinion in here, but you know where I’m going with that. Be prepared for what may happen.
Take things down if you see things getting out of hand because the last thing you want to do is be associated with an out-of-control topic or post. What happens is people will screenshot things before you have a chance to pull things down. Honestly, everyone’s best interest is not to take a real hard and fast, like political or other controversial stance on a particular thing. Even if you don’t mean negativity by it and you don’t intend for that, it can often easily get turned that way, and your account will be the one associated.
You become this lightning rod, and you didn’t even intend for this to happen, but a bunch of other people starts yelling at each other in your comments and being rude to each other. You don’t want to be the person that started that.
There comes a point in your life where you realize you have to do something different with your work where you could actually enjoy your time. Click To Tweet
Who even knows anymore when Facebook shuts down your account for that if it gets out of hand? It can get crazy sometimes. That’s taking it a little bit to the extreme. There is a radio station in our area here that has gone through a lot. There was a big controversy about something similar. It is possible to happen. I am a big proponent of giving a nice, healthy pause before posting anything. If at all possible, think about that. Type it up, send it to a friend and say, “Is this something I should be talking about?” Send it to yourself, check it the next day, and see if you want to post that.
That’s a good one. Sleep on it and check it in the morning. Let’s talk about social media for promotion because, as artists, the point of social media is not to get likes, followers, and all of that stuff. Ultimately, we want them to come to our show and buy our merch. How do you think the best ways to use social media are for that? Where do you think artists are going wrong in that area?
I would love to see more authentic posts on social media and more people using social media for that. The hashtags are super valuable, and Instagram is great for that. Every platform has that available. Seeing people respond authentically to comments and engagement with your audience or people who want to connect with you can go such a long way.
If you can do that more than posting something and seeing what happens, having a conversation with people on your account, considering it a community, can help build your following. If you are working towards getting ticket sales for an event, that can get people to tension with regard to that event. I love seeing engaged musicians on their accounts, and I love getting that engagement, too, if I’m commenting on their accounts. It’s like, “Someone heard and saw me.” Everyone notices those. Those are the musicians I remember too because they took the time to acknowledge me and say something constructive in return. That’s a great way to use social media that is often missed.
Some people are good about direct messages. Some are automated about this. Be careful with how you come off on social media when you are direct messaging because it is easy to tell who is doing automated responses or copying and pasting. I always appreciate every new person who follows me, and I want to get to know them. I love to learn more about who your favorite artists are. Would you consider following me here or hang? Would you consider signing up for my e-news list and dropping your link to the e-news page?
You may not always get a next-step conversation or response. You may not always get that click to sign up for e-news, but at least you’ve tried. I ideally used their name in the messages. It comes off as not another copy and pastes move. You are singing as you do care, and hopefully, you do. That’s what people will respond to.
Your followers will grow tenfold if you can do things like this because the first person will notice. If they’re the type of person who notices and likes your music, they probably have friends that do. One way or the other, they attract their friends, whether it’s through Instagram or any social media. Either that way or from recommending their friends.
That’s the first step to getting people to respond to our eventual harder promotions of things. They got to feel we care about them, that we see them, that it matters to us that they exist on our account. When we do the promotion, they’re more likely to see it and pay attention because, as you said, they feel, are seen, heard, and they matter. When we get to the actual promotion part, do you have any recommendations on the best ways to promote upcoming events?
Based on what I’ve seen from some artists, make sure you’re using different images for each event. I’ve seen some artists who use the same bio photo for everything. I understand that there’s something about capturing a brand and keeping your brand consistent, but if it’s the same image every single time, it doesn’t look interesting. It doesn’t look like it’s a new event. People are going to get used to seeing that and get bored with it. Make sure that you’re changing the event images. Instagram especially makes it fun to play around with photos. Change around the artwork and get great artwork if at all possible.
Whatever platform you prefer to drive people for events, I would post regularly, go back and repost. This is something that I get asked about a lot. I see a lot of musicians will set up the Facebook invite, and they’ll say, “Not a lot of people are liking this or showing interest.” I’ll say, “Have you specifically invited people to the event? Can you send the URL specifically to people?”
I’ve had a couple of people ask me, “Even if I can’t make the event, can I like it to get the Facebook juice flowing?” That’s a good way to go. If you’re seeing that it’s not getting a lot of momentum, likes, or attendees right away, ask people, even if they’re not going to go to share, like, or do something. Find 10 to 20 people who are willing to do that to get people talking about it. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with that at all.
I’m glad to do that for people, especially if you tell them, “I understand you may not be able to attend, but if you can help you with this.” No problem with that. Be careful about promoting events that you know are going to be good sellers for you. Back off on some of those. There are some things you need to pull out all the stats for and some things you know you don’t. Be careful about over inviting and things like that when you don’t need to.
They will get Facebook or Instagram blindness.
It’s the same thing with posting in general on social media. Back to my selfie issue, there are so many selfies you want to see, and people stop wanting to pay attention to that account because it’s the same thing over and over again.
In my opinion, that has nothing to do with your music. Why would I want to see it if I’m following you for your music?
We want to hear what’s the inspiration behind your new track. We don’t want to see more of your dog. I’m sorry. Maybe we do sometimes.
You can sprinkle it in, but it’s all about balance. You’ll get a lot of likes because you don’t post that very often. You mentioned e-news. In my world, I would call that your subscriber newsletter or email subscribers. Do you recommend offering something to get people on the list, something exclusive that makes them want to join? How can we get people from social media besides directly DMing them? How can we get them over there to join our newsletter?
I had a couple of musicians involved with us who have tried putting out on their social media with their birthday, “It’s my birthday. Can you sign up to join my e-news list?” They’ve got a great response on that. People are willing to do something nice for you on your birthday. I didn’t think of that, but I like it. As far as getting people to sign up for e-news, I’ve seen it work best for us at events on-site, especially if you see people who are engaged with what you’re doing. They want to know and learn more.
In between your songs, go out there and capture that. That’s valuable. Have it available on your website. One of the important parts is to offer something different in your e-newsletter than what you already have available on social media, whether it’s a preview of an upcoming release or a discount on merch if you have a coupon that you can get out there. It could be a special video that you put together for them and that no one else is going to be able to see unless they’re on your e-news list.
You can even talk about it on your social media and say, “Coming out tomorrow is a special video just for my e-news following. Make sure you’re on the list so that you are in the know.” That can be a way to get more signups too. There are a lot of different ways. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
I like your idea of teasing it on social media and giving them that FOMO like, “If I don’t join them, I’m not going to get to see this.”
You can do that with many different things, whether a video or merch. People don’t like to miss out.
You have to create authentic posts on social media. Authentic engagement with your audience goes such a long way. Click To Tweet
For me, the best way to get people on your email list is to do it at shows because they are immersed in the experience. They’re so excited and enjoying themselves. Some of them are not able to buy merch, but they still want to give back by joining your email list. Some of them can do all the above because they love it so much. Be your own ambassador, or get an ambassador for you to go around and encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter when you’re at a gig.
You can have someone do that for you. I’ve seen some of the artists we work with, and there’s this one, Carmen Nickerson. I love her. She’s adorable. She’s a singer with Willy Porter. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that musician. He’s a big deal in Wisconsin. She does her solo singer and songwriter stuff. She comes off as shy when she does it but will go around asking people herself if they could sign up for her e-newsletter.
People love her because she’s the most adorable personality. She gets everyone that she asks to do it. It’s partially because they can’t like her, but also people want to talk to the artist. They feel special when you go out of your way to say hi to them, and they will want to be in the know. You went up to them to talk with them for that brief moment in time, and they will very likely want to come to your next show.
It’s all true that they will want to join because they love the show and the artists talk to them, but if someone is in your face saying, “Would you join my e-newsletter?” How many people are going to say no? That’s fine. They can unsubscribe later if they don’t want to join.
It’s okay if we get unsubscriptions. It’s fine, and it happens. You can present it in the first place, the less likely that will be.
The last thing I wanted to talk about is how to curb the time you spend on social media. We do want to be interacting with other people on other accounts. We have to keep up with our own accounts. We have to come up with what to post. Do you have any regimen or way that you organize what you’re doing on social media to make sure that you’re not spending all day there?
I was one who was spending all day and every day on it for a while. There’s an app where you can send your social media settings to turn off after a certain number of minutes. You can set and do that with any app on your phone. I’ve taken social media off of my phone completely, but that’s a little extreme. You can bypass it. It says, “Do you want to close out the Instagram?” You can say, “No,” and then check back in fifteen minutes. I was still breaking my own rules there. I went so far as to take it off on my phone. I can still take pictures and post them later from my computer. That has been working well for me.
I have these little timers. You flip it over and set it for twenty minutes. That’s how much time I’m going to allow myself on my computer for social media. It’s amazing how much more effective you can be when you have a time limit for yourself. The reason we get lost in social media is because we don’t have boundaries around it. If we put something there telling us, “This is our time limit,” odds are we’re going to accomplish what we need to and move away if we want to after that.
Parkinson’s Law is where you fit what you need to do into the time you’re allowed. You might take an hour to do your social media, but if you only have 20 minutes, you’ll get it done in 20 minutes.
You don’t have to post everything as it happens either. That’s one other piece of advice I would give. We lose a lot with the people we love because we’re obsessed with social media. We need to post everything immediately. We have to take a video of the craziest things as it’s happening and then post it right away. What is going to happen if you don’t post it immediately? Nothing is going to happen. For your own relationships and peace of mind, in general, save time for social media and use that time only for posting. Take pictures and videos as things happen, but don’t post them right away until it’s social media time.
You’ll have this bank of stuff. You’re not, “What am I going to post now?” You got a nice backlog of things. This has been a great conversation. Can you let our readers know how they can find you on social media and your website?
Everything is in Wisconsin Music Ventures. It flows into WisconsinMusicVentures.com. It’s all filled out. It’s pretty simple to spell. Our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are at the bottom of that. It is WIMusicVentures for the screen name and Allison Emm on LinkedIn and Facebook. That is how you can find me there. We have our own podcast, too, that is associated with Wisconsin Music Venture called The Musician’s Venture.
You guys check that out and connect with her on social media. Do you have to be in Wisconsin to get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
No, we’re starting to play around with non-Wisconsinites. We do a lot of community stuff, and all of our community events are online. You don’t have to physically you there for workshops, online networking stuff that we do, and industry talk stuff. If you are cool with mostly doing that part, in-person stuff is the events that we do. We had a musician from New York join. She came out here in summer 2021 and tried it out. We got our couple of gigs here in Wisconsin. We are trying new things all the time with not just people from Wisconsin.
Any of you can go to WisconsinMusicVentures.com and check out what they’re doing over there if you want to tour Wisconsin. It’s a great connection for you. Thank you so much, Allison. This has been a great conversation.
Thank you, Bree.
- Wisconsin Music Ventures
- Carmen Nickerson
- Facebook – Wisconsin Music Ventures
- Instagram – Wisconsin Music Ventures
- Twitter – Wisconsin Music Ventures
- LinkedIn – Allison Emm
- Facebook – Allison Emm
- The Musician’s Venture
About Allison Emm
Allison Emm is the founder, owner and experience generator of Wisconsin Music Ventures, based in the Milwaukee area. She’s a horn and piano player who has also done a lot in conducting as well. She is passionate about assisting musicians in their craft.