I’m not always the biggest tech person.  Let’s just say I still have a flip phone.  I don’t text much and if I have to text you back, it takes four pushes on the 7 to get an “s”.  I still prefer that ancient form of communication, email.  So it was with great trepidation that my parents gave me a playbook for Christmas.  They hovered, watched me open it, and immediately offered the opportunity to take it back.  They also blamed Santa for choosing the wrong gift.  See, I’m not opposed to technology, I just generally don’t spend money on it.  So I kept it and spent the rest of the night on it doing fascinating things like downloading 27 free books and playing one frustrating game of tetris.  “See the monster you’ve created?” I asked my parents as they waved from across the room to get my attention.

One thing I discovered in the process of figuring this thing out was that you can get on to twitter on the playbook, but you can’t sign out.  At least, I can’t (does anyone know how to do this?).  I only signed up for twitter – it is not at all my thing – because I’m in the middle of a career change and my friends told me that potential employers look for evidence that I can manage a twitter account, or that I have a profile on Linked In, etc.  I can make a tweet, but not well, and I don’t get the etiquette of twitter at all – if you’re retweeted, do you say thanks?  Is favouriting the same thing as liking?  That way of thinking on the part of employers drives me crazy – I’d far rather be working on acquiring skills or reading about something in my field than figuring out the rules of tweeting – but it is the way of the world.

The result of staying perpetually signed in to twitter is that you see constant updates.  I’m not used to this, because I look at it maybe once or twice a week, and give up after scrolling halfway down the page.  I’m all for being concise, but I’m not sure that the brevity brought about by twitter’s limitations has made updating all that interesting.

Anyway, did you know that some singers tweet all the time?  I didn’t.

I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this year about singers who tweet and tell their followers a lot about their daily and/or personal lives and we both agreed that with some people, it gets to be a bit much.  Here I am saying that after an opening that described my Christmas present in detail.  I do see the hypocrisy.  Overtweeting might be annoying to some fans, but more importantly for me, it makes the boundaries between performer and audience, and the reasons we like our singers, different from what they used to be. 

I’m a proponent of ‘write what you know’.  That’s why I write about my experiences with music, or about the music I have studied.  That’s why I don’t write western Harlequin novels, despite my mother’s urging that I should (and the small fraction of the collection of free books I got last night that are of that specific genre) (very small!  Like two, ok?).  I have not had the experience of an injured rodeo star making his way up the road to my place after his truck breaks down, only to help me decorate the house for Christmas, take care of the chores, and save the ranch from being acquired by the threatening landowner next door, while I nurse him back to health.  (Yet.)  The write what you know philosophy determines why we like the performers we do.  We assume they are writing from their own experiences, whether they are breakups, stories from the road, deeply personal challenges, or particular views on current events.  We like that they expose their innermost thoughts through the poetry of lyrics, a uniquely ambiguous form that tells you everything at the same time that it tells you nothing.  We wonder if their anger is genuine, if they’ll ever find that boyfriend again.  At the same time, we project our own experiences onto those same lyrics, admiring the performer for somehow knowing exactly what we’ve been thinking.

Then, next day, we open our twitter pages and see a picture of the pancakes and bacon they ate for breakfast and suddenly those magical lyrics don’t seem so magical.  Suddenly that performer is as real as the rest of us.  They probably actually burped after eating those pancakes.

Poor celebrities.  The ones who do manage their own social media are scrutinized to death: did they spell "you’re" correctly?  Are they able to string a full sentence together?  Meanwhile, these very celebrities are hiding behind the walls they’ve erected in an effort to escape all the people who want to be noticed by them, want something out of them, and they use this new, kind of anonymous medium to communicate with people.  Who can they trust?  Who is actually going to talk to them like they are a normal person?  Sometimes I read the comments on the musician facebook posts that come up in my feed, and most people don’t even respond to the singer’s original statement.  Most people comment just to comment: “Dude, your show last week was awesome.” “LOL, I love pancakes too.”

So, we’re ending up with quite a different performer-audience interaction than even ten years ago.  In many ways, it’s necessary for performers to be constantly in your social media face, so that you remember to buy their album and tickets to their concerts, when the record labels aren’t doing much to promote them anymore.  Still, I did a lot of research on one particular band in the early 2000s, and I spent ages digging around for interviews, newspaper clippings, pictures, all of which I kept carefully bound together in my files.  I went through their lyric booklets and liner notes again and again, trying to figure out their relationships to fellow performers, producers, managers, partners, families, and each other.  Now, I just open youtube and I can get 300 interviews on my first search.  It’s all very useful for research or totally obsessed fans, but it completely eliminates any mystery that previously existed.  In fact, I hate it because I don’t think I want to know everything about the singers I like.  They don’t want to know everything (anything) about me, so why would the reverse be true?  If you only rely on the small pieces of information offered by lyrics, interviews, performances, and liner notes, there might still be some magic left in the performers you love. 

Basically, I’m a curmudgeon.  Or old school.  Or whatever you want to call me.  I looked through the music available for purchase on my playbook and found a great album, and almost bought it.  Then I thought, I bet that’s available in an actual store, and I closed the program (app?).  Maybe I'm not so into this stuff after all.

An aside to anyone who made it through this ramble.  It’s year-end, and those thoughts of what/who was great in the past 12 months roll around in our heads.  It shouldn’t take the holiday spirit/take-stock-of-2012 for me to say this, but I’d like to publicly thank both Kyla Fairchild and Kim Ruehl for their tireless work in keeping this site going.  I made one of my best friends of 2012 through ND and found many other new contacts and friends, and none of that would have been possible without our two great girls.  Thanks, and may 2013 bring you all the best music you’ve ever heard.  On CD.  Or vinyl.

Views: 477

Comment by Jack on December 27, 2012 at 12:14pm

Should singers stop tweeting?  Shouldn't everyone?  Life's kinda short already.

Comment by Gillian Turnbull on December 28, 2012 at 12:03am

True.

I've reconsidered this since last night, and I've come to the conclusion that singer tweets are more interesting than regular people tweets.

Comment by Easy Ed on December 28, 2012 at 7:12am

I just Tweeted you my response.

Comment by Hal Bogerd on December 28, 2012 at 1:42pm

Just had a taco for lunch. Yummy.

Comment by Kim Ruehl on December 28, 2012 at 1:47pm

Twitter is definitely not for everyone, and if you're looking for a job that has absolutely no interaction with the public in any capacity which could be remotely considered promotional or marketing, you don't need to be on Twitter. But, if you're looking for work in any area of the media, or anything where you'll be interacting with clients/customers/communities, or anything where you're a writer cultivating an audience, Twitter is one of those "new skills" you could be learning while you're...well, while you're avoiding Twitter. 

To answer some of your questions - no, you don't need to thank everyone who retweets you. Favoriting something is sort of like "liking" it, but it saves it to a separate list (called Your Favorites) where you can go back and read the tweets again later. It's a great thing to do if someone's linking to an article you want to read later. Sort of like a "like" and a bookmark combined! 

Rosanne Cash has made the comparison to "cafe culture," and I think it's astute. If you're in a cafe, you can hear a ton of conversations going on around you. Maybe you interject. Maybe you start a new one of your own. You don't have to respond to everyone who's trying to talk to you, but if someone @s you with something interesting to say, you can respond to them and have a conversation. If they retweet you, it's sort of like they would do in a face-to-face conversation if you said something really smart/interesting/funny and they turned to the person next to them and said "Did you hear what she just said?" (So, yeah, thanking them is weird.)

Those are my two cents on Twitter. I see no magic and mystery around musicians, so I can't commiserate with you there. Many of them are either over-sensitive and socially awkward, or super shallow, or smartass punks. I love Twitter because it allows everyone to be human together. I imagine it might save some artists' sanity, to know at least some of their fans see them on a human level, rather than trying to live up to silly expectations of people who made you into something greater than themselves simply because you can carry a tune. (I'm jaded too.) 

Thanks for the kind end-of-year words, too! Hard to believe we're about to (in Feb) have our fourth anniversary in this format! Thanks to all of you, honestly. I wouldn't have a job if none of you were here discussing all this stuff.

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on December 28, 2012 at 3:29pm

Thanks for the thanks Gillian. This site would be nothing without you and all the others who post great blogs, comments, videos, photos, etc. So really the thanks goes to you guys and everyone who comes here just to read.

I don't spend a whole lot of time on Twitter but there are some artists who are quite funny and fun to follow.  My favorite is John Roderick of the great pop band The Long Winters. (Seriously, check out the album I linked to. It's a pop masterpiece)

Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, Neko Case and Rosanne Cash can be fun too.  I think twitter is just like any other channel, you need to find the people who are interesting to you and follow them and don't worry about the rest.

If you want to work in journalism or media having an active twitter profile with compelling content and a growing follower base would be a valuable asset to you and a prospective employer.

Comment by Easy Ed on December 28, 2012 at 4:44pm

I'm back with some thoughts to the question:

-More than a few celebrities don't tweet their own tweets. It's managed by their assistants,record labels, film studio, publicist, kids or dogs. I don't like this.In fact, I find it pretty despicable and deceiving. 

-I've made some great friends and connections on both T/FB...Linkedin is sort of useless other than a public depository of your resume. The only job contacts I've gotten there are offers to sell life insurance. Maybe they should rename it Lifedin. 

-Musicians and T/FB: Some I've discovered to be warm and charming (Arlo Guthrie comes to mind, but he's gonna take a break now) and others are complete a-holes who are mean spirited and can barely string together a sentence. Got to wonder how they write those beautiful lyrics and yes, it does kill the mystique. 

-Bands and musicians would do best to think twice before they hit the button. A surefire way to turn me off is the endless self-promotion that some do. I can go to a website for a list of concerts; I don't need a message every day for places I don't live close to. And I don't want to buy your hand made cat mittens on Etsy, thank you very much. Adios to you.

-I've told this to Kyla a few times before and of course I'll say it again. Twitter and Facebook are the CB radios of our time. Yes...all three of you women are probably too young to remember those but everybody needed one, everybody used them and in about a year they were history. The best thing about CB radios was that a guy named Chip Davis wrote and recorded a song called "Convoy" and hired a guy named C.W. McCall to do the vocals. I don't know what happened to C.W., but Chip founded a little group called Mannheim Steamroller that made audiophile recordings for nerds, and turned it into the gazillion dollar Christmas franchise.

-And the "lost in the story" point is that Tweeting and FB-ing are interesting time suckers that are already becoming dinosaurs. They too shall fade soon as something better and new comes along. You know the saying...if your mom and dad are doing it than you shouldn't. (I should mention I only tweet links to my No Dep posts...that self-promotion thing.)

So 10-4 big buddy...my two centavos.

Comment by JC Shepard on December 28, 2012 at 5:27pm

Well put.  I, myself, like Twitter for exactly what you don't like, Gillian.  I like to follow artists as real people we can development some sort of relationship with.  I do NOT follow (or mostly don't follow) managed tweets--I get enough of that corporate blah in the MSM.  

On Facebook I'm less picky about follows, but I don't really pay that close attention drinking out of that firehose... tho that's the link I followed here.  It's one part about the Content, one part about Communication, and a whole lot about using the right tool for the job.

Comment by Hearth Music on December 28, 2012 at 5:29pm

YES, John Roderick is awesome on Twitter! I use Twitter every day and it's great fun to keep up with other writers or with other publicists. Less so with the artists. I'd actually prefer hearing what kind of lunch an artist had rather than endure another computerized tweet announcing their upcoming gig in Nowheresville, MD. I follow very few artists on Twitter and only follow artists that post interesting and original content. I love hearing stories about tours and checking out pics from the road. But mostly I follow music writers, bloggers, and comedians. They consistently have the most interesting things to post.

twitter.com/hearth_music

Comment by Hal Bogerd on December 28, 2012 at 5:53pm

Ah, breaker one-nine, this here's the hbogerd. You gotta copy on me, Easy Ed, c'mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Easy Ed, for sure, for sure. By golly, it's clean clear to NoDepression, c'mon. Yeah, that's a big 10-4 there, Easy Ed, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy...

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.