Digital and Social Media -Tips for Musicians from Steve Lawson

A few year’s ago we invited solo bassist extraordinaire Steve Lawson to speak to artists in Newcastle and Leeds and how as an early adopter he has used online platforms and social media to build his career as an independent artist. Here are some notes from the sessions plus we recorded a short video with Steve’s top tips. Re-reading this in 2021, much of what Steve talked about still has currency.

Four key points to remember

  • Understand that your input into social media as an artist should be to based around ‘conversation’ not ‘broadcast’ (me!, me!, me!)
  • Remember playfulness and “make beautiful things”
  • Do an audit of what you think is good use of social media and use that as a basis for developing your own style
  • Once started be consistent i.e. post on a regular timetable

1% rule (internet culture) – who provides content?

In internet culture, according to wikipedia, only 1% of internet users of a website or online community add content, the other 99% lurk. There are other variants of the ratio, 90-9-1 for example – which states that on a collaborative site like wikipedia 90% of community consume content, 9% change or update content and 1% add new content. No doubt this ratio has shifted since first proposed in the early 2000s especially since the pandemic. The message Steve was sharing is that as an artist you should be getting involved either creating or ‘change / update’ content rather than just be a lurker. See

Who listens to jazz online?

Jazz and improvised music not suited to ’shallow grazing’ e.g. iTunes style 30 second audio preview clips yet audiences will listen to jazz at jazz festivals rather than reality of listening to jazz at home. Steve recommends as an ethical platform for your music.

Paying for music = special experience

Arts economy motivated by gratitude.
“Wow, I enjoyed that, thank you – let me give you some money”

How to help people find your music?

We’re drowning in digital music. It would take over 200 years to listen to all the music on Spotify as its catalogue stands today. There’s a real need for filtering and curating.

Old world examples – John Peel, Fiona Talkington BBC R3. Who are today’s filters? Bandcamp fans / artists act as filter by recommending and reviewing other artists releases.

Getting money for your music downloads?

Letting people download with offer to pay what they feel it’s worth to them. A few people may want to pay substantially more than £10

People downloading for free? Look at it another way, if they spend an hour listening to you and your music this is a valuable investment of their time. They may return for more music, share their find (you) on social media and show gratitude (pay something to you).

Make better use of recording studio time

If spending money to go into the studio then why not combine with a live streamed gig in the evening ?
You can sell tickets or use a tip jar. Check out these websites:

Different online models for artists

David Lowery
Tag line “Artists For An Ethical and Sustainable Internet #StopArtistExploitation”

Social Networks

Imagine social circles like a venn diagram, overlapping circles with soft gradient edges.
It’s an easy trap for musicians to have only one big circle full of other musicians. Think about how to reach out to and connect with people who could be your audience.

Social networks allow the listener / consumer to build a 1-1 relationship with the artist
If they have that relationship more likely to want to show gratitude

Extrovert v Introvert

It’s not all about being a loud mouth. Find your own style. Do an audit of what you think is good, or you like to read and use as a basis for developing your own style.

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