MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Let's say you love a band, and you want to make sure they keep making music. You could be old-fashioned and go to the record store and buy their new record. Of course, plenty of fans these days don't pay. Fortunately for musicians, in this new world order, there are new ways to support your favorite band.
As NPR's Sami Yenigun reports, liking an artist on Facebook or re-tweeting a song can generate real dollars for the object of your fandom.
SAMI YENIGUN: Remember the first time you heard your favorite song on the radio?
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YENIGUN: And as soon as you heard it, you went and told a friend. Well, what if you could tell 100 or 1,000 or seven million friends all at once?
Well, if you're an active user of social media, you can. And studies show that the artist who performed that song should thank you for sharing.
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Ms. JULIE RAMAPRASAD (Professor, McGill University): Back in the day, we used to create mix tapes and, you know, give to our best friends. And now we have a means of doing that, which sort of can spread word of mouth much faster and maybe reach a broader audience.
YENIGUN: Julie Ramaprasad is a professor at McGill University in Montreal. She specializes in information systems and their effects on the music industry.
In 2009, she and Professor Sanjeev Dewan conducted a study that examined the relationship between levels of social media activity, or blog buzz, and album sales.
Ms. RAMAPRASAD: For several weeks, I got album sales from Nielsen Soundscan for a set of albums, and then I collected data using Google Blog Search on the number of blogs that had mentioned that album. Whether this is a causal relationship or not is debatable. But we saw really when there is a lot of blog buzz, especially for independently released music, there is definitely an increase in sales.
YENIGUN: So what is buzz exactly? And how should an artist go about generating buzz? Will Eastman is a DJ, a record producer, and he owns a night club in D.C. He says that one way to build buzz is by talking to your fanbase constantly. He keeps the social media sites Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud in his pocket wherever he goes.
Mr. WILL EASTMAN (DJ; Record Producer; Nightclub Owner): I have an iPhone in my hand right here, and I can put up a link to my new single, a preview on Twitter, like I did yesterday. And then immediately see how many people have re-tweeted that. I can go to my SoundCloud page, and I can see how many people have played it. I can look at their comments. I like that instantaneous feedback.
YENIGUN: For everyone that follows Eastman on Twitter, the song that he posts will show up on their screen. Then those followers can choose to resend that song to their followers, and the viral spread begins.
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YENIGUN: When Eastman is considering booking an act, he pays attention to how much online chatter there is about the act. Now when someone has, say, seven million Facebook followers, corporations start to pay attention. And there's plenty of money to go around, says Toby Benson. He handles digital marketing for Tiesto, a DJ who just passed seven million likes on Facebook.
Mr. TOBY BENSON (Director of Digital Marketing, Tiesto): There's a variety of advertisements that are leveraged against each page refresh that you see on Facebook. So if you click around to, say, four or five different photographs on Tiesto's page, you will be what's called served four or five different advertisements, which Facebook charges advertising partners for.
YENIGUN: Facebook gets all of that ad revenue, Benson says. But there are other ways for a fan page to put cash in an artist's pocket.
Mr. BENSON: For example, we just announced a flyaway to Tiesto's headlining performance at Ultra Music Festival. And that was in partnership with Heineken, who's a long-term partner of ours, and they're providing the flights and the hotels and some spending money and some tickets.
We send the message to our fans saying: Hey, you can win this. All you have to do is click here. That then takes you to Heineken's Facebook page, where they are encouraging fans to like their page, thus opting into Heineken messaging.
YENIGUN: So with more and more fans comes greater and greater leverage when dealing with sponsors. And with Heineken picking up the tab, Tiesto sees more money from ticket sales. But according to Benson, these platforms are more than just marketplaces of attention.
Mr. BENSON: For artists to be able to communicate with their fans on a one-to-one basis, instantly through these platforms, whether it be Facebook or Twitter, is an incredible treat for them.
YENIGUN: That may be true, says producer Will Eastman, but liking something on Facebook only goes so far.
Mr. EASTMAN: In all honesty, an ideal fan is a fan who supports your music and shows up.
YENIGUN: Sami Yenigun, NPR News.