How Indie Artists Can Harness the Power of Social Media During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A conversation with Shara Sprecher, TuneCore’s Social Media Director, on how artists can harness the power of social media during a pandemic.
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COVID-19 has already changed the way we consume art. Gone are concerts, but here are live beat battles and stay-at-home NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Streaming is down, but Tory Lanez’ Quarantine Radio garners him thousands upon thousands of views every time he hits Instagram Live. For prominent artists, the options seem clear: take to live streaming and weather the storm. Social media is more of a tool than ever before for A-List acts, but what about the indie? How can independent artists harness the power of social media during a pandemic?

This was the question I posed to Shara Sprecher, TuneCore’s Social Media Director. The Bushwick-based social media guru believes “this is an amazing time for artists to experiment” with their social posts. “As long as they’re being personal and being themselves, people will relate to that,” she says of ways artists can engage on socials during this time. “If they’re having not the best of days, they can share that with their fans, and maybe they would relate. In terms of what they could be doing: live streaming is an amazing thing. A lot of people are doing Instagram Lives or Facebook Lives. I’ve seen artists do sessions on their band page, but then share it on their personal page. It’s a great time to reach out to other musicians.”

Of course, TuneCore is doing its best to be a resource to artists during COVID-19, too. “The content we’re sharing is the stuff that would be useful to artists right now,” Sprecher explains. “If people wanna work on connecting more with their fans, we have a lot of tips on live streaming. If you wanna get into Twitch, we have a whole post on how to monetize your streams. Maybe you wanna work on your career a little more? We have ways you can work on your release plans. It’s just trying to put content forward for artists—if they are feeling more productive—to take this information and go help themselves.”

On the flip side, TuneCore is also advocating for artists to check in on their mental health. Sprecher stresses to me that this time is what you make of it, and if you are not feeling productive as an artist, there is no pressure to force yourself to make music. Staying sane is the most important part of getting through these trying times.

“If you don’t feel like being productive, that’s okay,” Sprecher concludes. “This time is what you make of it, and there’s a lot of good things that can come of it.” Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

DJBooth: Can you briefly break down what you do at TuneCore? What’s a typical day like?

Shara Sprecher: I am the director of social media at TuneCore. That is working on content across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My day-to-day is monitoring customer mentions, and if there’s anything we can help [with], I help. Or I have them send a DM to reach support. Our support team is fast and able to assist them. [I also] work on whatever content we have: blog posts, New Music Friday Playlists—where TuneCore artists are welcome to submit releases. It’s putting together the graphics and getting the stories ready. It’s all social media needs, in a nutshell.

How has the pandemic changed the way TuneCore approaches its business?

The biggest thing is we’re all obviously working from home. Our company is already a digital company—we were able to do that pretty seamlessly. We are putting more of a focus on providing our users with content that will help them through this time. 

How has the pandemic changed the way TuneCore approaches socials?

I always try to take a positive approach to everything, so our content isn’t doom and gloom. I make sure our imagery is artists at home, not people at a show. Making sure the content we’re sharing is the stuff that would be useful to artists right now. If people wanna work on connecting more with their fans, we have a lot of tips on live streaming. If you wanna get into Twitch, we have a whole post on how to monetize your streams. Maybe you wanna work on your career a little more? We have ways you can work on your release plans. It’s just trying to put content forward for artists—if they are feeling more productive—to take this information and help themselves.

We also have a list of resources for them—there’s a lot of places offering free equipment, plugins, and classes. We’ve done stories where it’s like, “Don’t feel like you need to succumb to pressure to be productive.” If you’re not feeling productive, don’t feel like you have to be. We’re trying to address all sides of it.

What specific initiatives is TuneCore taking to support artists during COVID-19?

One of the things we did early on is these virtual mentor sessions. Members of our Entertainment Relations team give time slots for when they’re available, and users are allowed to sign up with specific members. They have a 15-20 minute one-on-one with the team member, talking about whatever it is they wanna talk about with their career, their release. It’s one-on-one help that we offer. It’s something we have been talking about doing for a while, and [before] SXSW was canceled, we had an event that was supposed to be a version of this. We decided to email those people that had RSVP’d initially and give them the chance to take one of these virtual sessions. Then we opened it up to our user base as a whole.

It sounds like you were on the ball from the beginning.

We also offer live sessions once a month. We have one coming up on April 30, that’s gonna be on home recording. Because people are at home, we’re trying to make sure the topics will relate to artists’ needs at home.

As a social media wiz, what advice do you have for independent artists during this time to keep their engagement up?

This is an amazing time for artists to experiment. As long as they’re being personal and being themselves, people will relate to that. If they’re having not the best of days, they can share that with their fans, and maybe they would relate. In terms of what they could be doing: live streaming is an amazing thing. A lot of people are doing Instagram Lives or Facebook Lives. I’ve seen artists do sessions on their band page, but then share it on their personal page. It’s a great time to reach out to other musicians. If an indie is friends with another indie, they could collab on a group stream or an album they work on at home. There’s a lot of venues doing their own streams. If [an artist] sees something, it’s a great time to reach out like, “Hey! I perform, I can get in on this.”

While A-List artists are using Instagram Live to their advantage, how can smaller acts capitalize on the uptick in screen time without having their efforts overshadowed by a more significant act?

If it’s something you wanna try out, just go live and see. Obviously, be prepared in advance with what you wanna do, don’t just wing it. If that doesn’t give results, you can post a story ahead of time, and I’d also post in-feed and across other social networks. This is a great time to get other artists involved because you’re sharing your networks. You get double the awareness. The important thing is—with artists, at whatever level—to build and maintain engagement with fans. It needs to be in a way that’s comfortable for [the fans]. Maybe one artist does it in an amazing way, but that might not make sense for you, because that’s not your vibe. That’s okay. The point is to figure out what level of engagement you’re comfortable with giving your fans and maintain that.

If you could share one hopeful note to all artists, what would it be?

It is what you make of it, and if you put your lenses on and look at this in a positive way, this can be an amazing time. You have an opportunity to study, learn, and hone your craft. You can take time to study up on business, marketing, and learn how the different platforms work. On the flip side, if you don’t feel like being productive, that’s okay. This time is what you make of it, and there’s a lot of good things that can come of it.

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