a musician who puts social media to good use.

Canadian singer/songwriter Matthew Good is probably one of the more progressive practitioners of social media in his field. So it was really cool this weekend to meet him in person and ask him questions … because of a contest he ran via social media.

Good recently created M+, a sort of uberfan community where, for a $25 annual subscription, one receives access to bonus content — demos, videos, events, etc. It’s not dissimilar to how The Damnwells are using pledges from fans to finance their new record, which I blogged about a while ago. A few days before his show in Rochester, he posted the following:

Fig. 1: A Special Opportunity for M+ Members!

The reaction was swift and enthusiastic, some fans offering to drive several hours for the opportunity. As luck (and perhaps persistence) would have it, my brother and I both made the cut for the 10 fans for the soundcheck and Q&A. He played a couple of tracks (“Great Whales of the Sea” and “It’s Been Awhile Since I Was Your Man,” which they had not played in, er, a while and repeated the ending a few times), talked a bit and then threw the floor open to questions.

I asked a rambling question about his use of social media (it sounded much better in my head!) and his use of it to get straight to the fans. He responded that while he finds it a handy promotional avenue, it would be a mistake for up-and-coming acts to hitch their fortunes to social media in a vacuum. Good said touring, physically connecting with fans from town to town (which he’s done for 20 years), was key. Bands who bank on mainly spreading the word via social media without touring would just get lost in the “white noise,” he said. In short, it’s about selling the steak, not the sizzle. For Good’s full answer, see this video. (Also see more photos.)

While Good refers to his activities as promotional, it’s worth noting he doesn’t use it completely one-way. He is fairly responsive on his blog — which he updates feverishly — sometimes replying to comments and overall keeping the discussion lively (and occasionally intense). On Twitter, Good tweets regulary, but doesn’t reply often (his most regular @ replies include Pete Yorn, who ranks among the top musicians in overall social-media use). His Facebook page is more a place for fans to interact, as Matt closed down his personal account a couple years ago because he could not keep up with the raft of friend requests and comments from fans.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

So while he’s too busy to take full advantage of two-way communication opportunities, he certainly has more of a plan and earnestness than the Oprahs and Ashtons who jump on Twitter for trendiness or ego fulfillment. Matt’s tweets generally point readers toward his blog or feature observations about the town he’s visiting (or the occasional odd story such as the guy in NYC who somehow thought he was Brandon Flowers of The Killers). Instead of chasing a social media outlet because it’s trendy, Good has sound reasons for what he uses. Or to use a popular mantra: Goals first, then tools.

The experiment in Rochester is, I hope, the start of a new way of giving his fans a window into his life in a face-to-face way. The important lesson is that social media, to him, is not an end in itself but a means to build and better engage audiences. And for a guy who plays and tours hard, the live interaction, even if just a half-hour, between the mercurial artist and his band with the fans likely does all parties some good.

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