WHAT TO DO ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?

For middle class artists such as myself, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become indispensable marketing tools. I’ve been grateful for these formats providing the opportunity to engage, one-on-one, and as a group, with a broad spectrum of people who are inclined, for their own reasons, to support my artistic endeavors.  

However, as I’ve tried to comprehend whether or not Facebook’s chief executive and operating officer have any real understanding of how to steer such a sprawling juggernaut through the truth-challenged-cyberscape of global ideology, I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that they simply lack the will.

Nothing I’ve read online or seen on cable news ventures to guess whether it’s even possible for Facebook to voluntarily police such an extraordinarily far-flung enterprise. Even if Mark Zuckerberg’s moral compass was lost in the aftermath of such an inconceivably large windfall - one can only imagine the learning curve that comes with hitting a Lotto of that size - turning a blind eye to Russian interference in our democratic process is, for me, profoundly troubling. Tack onto this the question of our personal data being pirated by tech giants all over the world and, in terms of moral decency, the Internet is looking more and more like the Wild West on virtual steroids. And perhaps because of a lack of substantial public outcry, our lawmakers appear unwilling to challenge the tech giants with anything resembling legislation. All of which set me to thinking that I have a moral responsibility to take conscientious stock of the Facebook platform and my use of it.  

A few days ago, I sat in on the first marketing meeting for a new Rodney Crowell album set to be released in late summer. I opened the discussion with these two questions: how can we promote the album without Facebook? And can we create our own Internet platform for the purpose of communicating with fans and followers? The answer was this: “if you want to stay in business, we can’t.” The marketing team validated my concerns about Facebook’s executives but went on to explain, that, like it or not, Facebook is the reigning information super highway and its fastest growing demographic is the baby boomer crowd---consumers who buy books, cds and vinyl records. In other words, the people I want to reach.

Many boomers, they continued, are just now finding their way onto the Internet and would be reluctant to follow me onto a new platform. The team asked that I consider this: both good and bad intentions exist on any heavily trafficked pathway and isn’t the music I make best served by utilizing Facebook’s positive potential. All of which, from a marketing point of view, made perfect sense. Even so, I wasn’t entirely convinced. Later on, Joanne Gardner put it this way: turning your back on eighty-plus thousand people who support your artistry just because the world is full of dirt-bags would be a damn shame. Which is the clarification that resonated most.

In the interest of full disclosure, I can honestly say that I feel a protective loyalty toward the folks who buy my records and concert tickets—which results in my striving to do the best work I can. But it is also important to acknowledge that I run a relatively small entertainment business and need all the help I can get. And so, with these things said, until such a time that we all reassess the Internet and social media’s shadowy downside, despite my misgivings, and ironically commencing with this message, my team will continue using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

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Yours as ever,

Rodney

Jordan Fann