Who are you? Social media following is now a dealbreaker

By Alice Haldane

23 May 2024

In todays music industry, talent alone isn’t enough to catch the eye of record companies. Record labels are increasingly starting to prioritise artists’ social media following before they consider signing them. What does this mean for the aspiring artists for instance, Sunda Blue?

22-year-old Fred Greaves, from Merseyside, Liverpool is one of three members in aspiring band, Sunda Blue. Feedback spoke to him about how social media nowadays can be a make it or break it part of a music career.

Today, the electronic alt-pop group is all about using social media, especially instagram and TikTok, to grow their fanbase and get their name out there. As an aspiring band, Sunda Blue found it tough playing gigs across the UK without a solid online following. They took a leap of faith, hit pause on playing live gigs, and put all their energy into mastering their social media game.

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“The loose plan for the next 6 months is focusing on releasing and growing an online following before we think about playing shows again, because the benefit of an online following, for the amount of effort you put into preparing a live show, is not worth the growth at this point,” said Fred.

Sunda Blue’s dream outcome, like many other aspiring artists, is for the TikTok fame to translate into streams or following for their other platforms.

Fred Greaves, Photo: Fraser Wright

“I’m only making TikTok content because you have to. One of my friends actually, he is in a band called Dutch Criminal Record,  big on TikTok, and off the back of it they have signed their first record deal. He says one of the first things you get asked when labels will come to you is and look at is how big you are on TikTok,” said Fred. “I think a big part of it is, they’ve realised that TikTok is already a lot of the work that they would do, they wouldn’t have to do for a lot of the artists because they’re able to generate this audience without the support of a label, and all the money a label would throw at it.”

The Valla is an up-and-coming alternative pop band from London, and like Sunda Blue, they leverage social media to build their fanbase. Even with a decent follower count, impressing record labels with numbers seems impossible.

How do musicians grow online?

Artists must now wear multiple hats. They are not only musicians, but also content creators, marketers, and influencers. It’s an overwhelming shift, and it can take time away from the actual craft of making music.

“TikTok is a weird one, you’re constantly evolving the content you’re making and deciding what content does and doesn’t work. We definitely know that there are levels that we aren’t yet hitting, but can reach, but it’s about adapting and noticing which videos will do better and then developing them,” he said.

Two years into making content, Sunda Blue now offers free tickets to future shows through videos as a way of promoting. Layering text over videos, they say; ‘I give you permission to use this video as a ticket for upcoming shows’. This content ideas has become a bit of a theme for their page.

“I think what a lot of creators do is take inspiration from what other creators will do on TikTok. I saw a content creator who used that caption and it generated a good response. I think one of the big parts about that sort of caption, and why it does better than others is that, there’s an incentive in it obviously, but I think it quite easily generates reactions, whether it’s through saves or comments, that’s sort of the only way it will stay on the algorithm, stay on the FYP. I mean it worked at first for us, and it has been working,” said Fred.

Since posting, Sunda Blue can now see the type of content people interact with. “There are very specific things we’ve noticed you can do that make that bit of a difference. One being the outfit you are wearing, two being the backdrop of the video. If you get those core parts of the video right, then it’s more likely to do well.”

Though the haven’t hit it big on social media just yet, bands like Sunda Blue continue to create content, dream big, and more importantly, have fun with it.

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