I’m not gonna grumble about Facebook’s new set of billionaires. I don’t even worry at the moment if Facebook is prying into this post to garner more information about me. I wonder what I can learn from Facebook to improve the lives of the artists I work with. After all, Facebook must have done something right. They weren’t the first to market. Friendster and Myspace came before them. So what parallels do I see in their success that any artist can replicate? Here are five biggies:
1) KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID
Remember the early days of Myspace? Annoying graphics and colors clashing with insane widgets all over the place. What did Facebook do? White pages with a thin blue bar. A modest number of links, but all done in a neat orderly fashion. Sure, it’s expanded over time, but to get it going they kept it as simple as possible to attract people. Counter that with many artist web sites. A ton of junk and useless information competing for ones’ attention. A lack of focus on pushing a single song. A cacophony of information that is often never updated. The audience just wants to hear your music. Everything else is secondary. Focus on the one thing you presumably do well. If you don’t get that done right, the other stuff is irrelevant.
2) BE OPEN
To grow their audience, Facebook opened up their API so developers could do some cool new integration tools. Sure, they’ve closed that off somewhat and change the rules often, but that happened AFTER they became huge. Not on the way up. Meanwhile, on the music side, many artists close themselves off. They overprice music that is hard to give away. They withhold music on Spotify because it doesn’t pay much and forego the exposure. They complain about people’s ability to use their music on YouTube videos without permission. Get over it. The more open you are to new uses, the more likely your music will grow.
3) IMAGE MATTERS
Once you nail the content, you’ve got to use images and have a definable image. Think about how many Facebook posts are more successful with an image. The better the photo, the more likes and comments. Without nailing those images, you’ll have a hard time finding an audience to embrace you. At the same time, you need an image that remains branded in people’s minds. Last week, people complained about the lack of respect Mark Zuckerberg gave investors by showing up to meetings in a hoodie. I, on the other hand, saw in my mind a very defined image of who Mark Zuckerberg is. Rather than worry about pleasing or conforming, make yourself undeniably memorable.
4) MAKE SUCCESS YOUR MISSION
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t just make Facebook. He made its success a passion. At any point, he could’ve stopped, made money and moved on. But he is consumed by a higher goal that drives him to make the business achieve heights only he can see. A billion people using the service? When you put your entire focus on nothing but the business for 24 hours a day for years on end, you can. How many artists out there are that driven? Every minute you play a video game, watch a TV show, hit the snooze bar, or stay later at the dive bar is just further proof that you don’t have it. That’s more telling than the music you create. Nearly every successful artist I know has a drive that would never let them think about any of those things. If you want to be the top of the game, the game has to be at the top of your priorities every minute.
5) LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE
Facebook believed in itself. They withstood years of people asking for an IPO. They could’ve gotten very rich years ago, but held out for bigger riches. Their belief in themselves and foregoing some short term financial gain paid off. Do you have the fortitude to do that yourselves? Can you reinvest every dime you make back into your music? Can you hold off on a record label payout until you’re big enough to command the biggest advance possible? Most importantly, do you believe in yourself enough to trust you can make it work?