Hanging out on Twitter late last night, I came across a tweet under the #jazz tag, and it said something to the effect that the poster wished that more jazz musicians thought Twitter were cool enough to use it. It got me thinking about social networking in general and what an amazing game-changer it has been in the last 5 years and certainly about how much I have come back to using it in the past few weeks.
When my father and I launched TIMKAT Entertainment in 2008, the entire focus was on the ability to market jazz music in a whole new way, starting with a new online audience and new generation of listeners. To swim upstream against the giant hip hop, rap, and rock tide. To do our best work at promoting not only our own company, but other fine talents as we found them. The focus is still alive with our company today; however, that statement last night really got me going. How, in the age of information-in-your-face-all-the-time, and with jazz sales at such lows, would an aspiring jazz musician not want to learn something about social networking and utilize it to his or her fullest advantage?
For us, streaming online and social networking have provided slow but necessary visibility to people who seek jazz and hunger for news on it. This has been no more evident than this week's activity on Twitter, to which I am very grateful for the new followers. I often try to follow people back as a gesture of solidarity in a tough marketplace. Social networking is crucial, especially for an art form that only comprises about 5% or less of the music-buying public's tastes; I believe that there are more classical listeners out there than jazz! Social networking is lifeblood, especially for a company that operates out of the midwestern United States, away from the glitz of jazz life on the coasts, and as far as away as it gets from the world's largest jazz fans: Japan!
Granted, our blog and following are not yet the biggest out there; but it's honestly due to my having taken a hiatus for the past 2 1/2 years, and that in itself drives home the theory that social networking as a marketing tool works, pending your commitment to it, just as with any business. As many of you know, my partner in this business and my father, Mr. Tim Ballard, passed away in 2009 from a long battle with lung cancer, it knocked a lot of the wind out of my sails, and changed the direction of where the company needed to go. Since then, I have had to muster the spirit and courage to want to play, write about, and promote jazz music again, both my own and others'. It was all I could do to stay afloat in other areas of my life, but this isn't a pity party. It's a celebration of the power of social networking and our continued presence in the music business online.
As an indicator of growth, in the MBA business program, we learn that if you double your sales every quarter, you are doing something right. In technology, if you double the amount of people using your database, you are doing something right. It assumes that people are telling their friends and family about you; they are returning for more of your product or service. With this, I have to assume that in the world of social networking, doubling like this might also be a trustworthy standard, only performed at a faster rate, due to the sheer speed of how people share information. Case in point: when I started again with blogging and tweeting again early last week, I had all of 10 followers on Twitter. Tonight, I have a legitimate 40 followers and it has doubled almost every day (always blocking and excluding the spammers). Does that mean I'm doing something right? If so, I'm going to keep at it and learn all the time how I can improve (and thank you all for coming along for the ride!)
To close, which seems more uncool to you all -- you're obviously advocates of social networking or you wouldn't have found this blog --- "looking" uncool as a jazz musician and refusing to have a Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or some other account, or potentially "being" uncool because no one has the opportunity to learn who you are and thus you're giving up the free facility to share your work with others around the world? I would tend to vote for the latter and of course welcome your thoughts here. I could be completely all wet about this ;)