Before I get into this post, I'm not saying that performing live isn't important. I'm merely bringing up a point to consider when marketing your music. Many musicians play out like there's no tomorrow, and it works for them. Some find more effective music marketing comes from social media and exposure via YouTube/Pandora/Spotify/iheartradio. All are viable options, but this begs the question: are live shows as important as they used to be?
Each town has a scene, and it's possible to be making waves within your local scene but also be largely ignored outside of your home market. It's also the case that you could be incorporating tactics that are causing you to earn a reasonable income from your music based on internet campaigns, yet no one in your local scene knows who you are.
We'll explore the internet options that are available and define briefly what the ideal roles of various social media sites are. We'll start with your music. When you record a new release, you have options for mass distribution online at a relatively low cost. For example, you can use sites like Pandora and YouTube to drive up exposure for your music.
If you post your music on Pandora, then you may be included in the radio stations of anyone listening to anything similar to you. Get heard a couple of times on this, and if the listener likes it they may seek you out. Meanwhile, if you post an interesting video to YouTube for your music, there's the possibility that people will stumble upon that video when browsing the site. YouTube is the #2 most utilized search engine, so if your song can be linked to another topic it may be helpful to tag it as such. For example, if someone searches for Steven Slate Drums EX 3.5, they'll see in the first page of results a myriad of videos that have tagged Steven Slate Drums 3.5 EX in them. So if someone wants to see how good SSD 3.5EX sounds, they may find your video in the results and watch your video.
Now that people are listening to you on Pandora and watching you on YouTube, the next step is to give them a place to seek you out. Spotify is great for this, as you can tune in to just the music you want and listen to it as often as you want. But what happens when the person who found your music on YouTube or Pandora is tired of listening to it on Spotify, and they are ready to purchase the song?
This is why you put your music on iTunes and Google Music. Most smart phones are either an iPhone or an Android, and being on these two digital distributors will enable anyone anywhere to buy your music and download it directly to their device.
So if we can discover music we like via the internet, become passionate fans of the music via the internet, and then purchase our own copy of it via the internet, how important are live shows in this day and age? I'd argue that they are definitely an important factor, but are more practical when you've attained a larger fan base and therefore can gain a larger live audience. That said, there's nothing wrong with playing live, as it adds to the human face of the artist and builds a personal connection to the artist in the mind of the fan. Just don't overplay in one area, which could burn your fans out and cause show attendance to drop.
But that last paragraph touched on a couple of functions of certain social platforms that are key to any musicians career in this day and age. Notice that I said nothing about using Facebook or Twitter to gain fans? Well, there's a big reason for that. Let's explain.
Twitter is a good place to post quick links to interesting content. For example, when you post a new YouTube video, you can post it to twitter to gain exposure for that YouTube video. Essentially, twitter makes a great place to act as a spam wall, so feel free to post to twitter often and provide links to what you're doing (just don't over-do it).
But Facebook isn't a platform for gaining new fans. It can be used as such, but most people who log on to Facebook aren't searching for new music. Most people who log on to Facebook are trying to see what's going on with the people and pages they like, and interact with them. So you should definitely try to get your fans to like your Facebook page, but do not use this as a spam wall. Facebook is the place where you talk to your fans, engage them in conversation, and solidify them as loyal supporters of your act. After all, if they love your music AND feel a personal connection to you, it'll be far more difficult to get your band out of their stream of consciousness.
Long story short, even though it's entirely possible to have a career in music without playing live shows these days, it's not something that should be totally ignored if you're capable of it. If you're not capable of it, don't sweat it. Learn about the online methods of exposing your music to new fans, and do whatever it takes to get your music listed there.