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Blog // Sounds
April 24, 2012

What If Twitter Was Music

Last week, my friend Casey Lau made an announcement that Hong Kong band, Tigerbombers had joined Twitter (@Tigerbombers). As often happens, a conversation then developed about band websites and the relative merits of having your main online presence on Facebook. In the midst of that Spike (who blogs at Hongkie Town & Spike’s Photos) made […]

Last week, my friend Casey Lau made an announcement that Hong Kong band, Tigerbombers had joined Twitter (@Tigerbombers). As often happens, a conversation then developed about band websites and the relative merits of having your main online presence on Facebook.

In the midst of that Spike (who blogs at Hongkie Town & Spike’s Photos) made a funny and provocative comment.

It’s a funny joke, but it really got me thinking; about how we share music in the social media age.

The Tweetable Song?

Critics of Twitter often claim that you can’t say anything meaningful in 140 characters. Well, can you say anything musical in 140 notes? To test that out, I sat down an composed a short little orchestral piece, just a few bars, that has 140 notes spread out over various instruments.

While the piece is short, it’s certainly rich and dense, in a cinematic sort of way. Clearly, I could have composed a much longer piece, if I had been more economical in terms of how many instruments I used and how many voices were doubled.

In fact, if we move away from classical music and, for the sake of the exercise, factor out repetition, it’s amazing how few notes some songs use. There’s an original Jazz/Blues piece I’m writing, where the rhythm guitar part is only 20 notes. Sure the notes get repeated and recombined in different ways, but it is still only 20 notes – in a fairly complex harmony. The bass only plays 8 notes in the whole song!

Attention And Aperture

Of course, the number of notes is not the real issue. The challenge is how much attention our media-sautrated minds can give to those notes. Amazingly, when I post links to music on Twitter, those links attract a lot less attention and traffic than links to photos or written articles.

Perhaps musicians face the challenge of trying to ram music down a tube designed for text and images?

Google+ – Minus The Music

Nothing speaks to the secondary nature of music on social media more clearly than the design of Google+. I’m a Google+ skeptic. In fact, I almost posted a piece entitled Google¯ (or GoogleMinus), but the site’s recent redesign and the upcoming Google+ Photographer’s Conference have made me reconsider things.

Still, if you want to share music on Google+ you face a challenge. The service is optimised for sharing photos, videos and links to sites. But, if you want music to play on Google+ itself (rather than sending people out to another link) you have to embed the music in a video (or YouTube clip).

It’s a small thing, but it’s a extra layer of effort and hassle for the musician.

The Musical Badlands

Having a foot in two creative camps, allows me to compare the social media landscape for different industries. And, right now, it is much easier to write a clean, minimal strategy for photography than for music. Google+ and Twitter are built to let you see images without leaving the service and the sidecar platforms, like 500px and Instagram are growing fast.

The Musician faces bigger challenges, has a larger range of services to choose from and needs a more complex solution if they want to sell their work online. SoundCloud, for example, is awesome, but it doesn’t look like it will ever become mainstream in the way MySpace was.

The Most Important Investment

When I started blogging in 2001 ICQ & GeoCities were still popular. Since then I’ve seen, Friends Reunited, Bebo, Friendster, & MySpace come and go. The odds are that we will soon be adding Flickr to that list. And, it’s hard to see both Facebook and Twitter going anywhere but down from here.

You know the one about putting all your eggs in one basket? Well, the only digital basket you can ever really own is your own domain – your .com address. Once you have people regularly visiting your own site, you can serve up your music any way you like – and, you don’t have to keep it down to 140 notes!

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