American gospel/Christian rock singer Shaun Groves wrote a post back in May arguing that if the music business dies it will be because artists didn’t change rather than because technology killed it (thanks to Techdirt for the pointer). Shaun’s point is that social media have given artists the tools to have direct relationships with fans, and that now some artists are taking advantage of them those artists that don’t will start to lose their popularity. Further, this development will be a challenge for many top artists who have traditionally relied on other people to take care of their public persona – an option that is becoming less and less viable. Shaun put it like this:
Someone can be hired to hit the “publish” button on a blog post that gets e-mailed over, invite people to a Facebook event and even write to people for an artist and signed their name (it happens), but no one can convincingly be the artist every day in post after post or interact with commenters regularly. Artists can’t hire anyone to be them 24/7 and the internet demands those kind of hours.
I think this is also becoming true for brands more generally. I’m not convinced that everyone wants to have a relationship with all the brands they like, but they do want to know that what they see is what they get and that no-one is pretending that anything is something that it isn’t – i.e. they want to trust the company that they are buying from. That trust only comes when companies act and speak with integrity, which I think – and this is where the leap comes – means empowering everyone who has contact with the customer to have the sort of interactions that Shaun is describing. They may not be as long lasting or as intense with brands as they will be with popstars but they need the same feeling of integrity.
All of which is why one of my great hopes for social media is that it will make us all more human.