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Music Collaboration: The Rise of Social Media in Group Music-Making

Facebook Music

A few years ago, superstar modern classical composer Eric Whitacre commandeered large swathes of YouTube in to playing in a massive ‘virtual orchestra’. Each player submitted parts, which were put together after the event. That’s only one amazing example of what can be done when you leverage communications and social media for a single purpose. In this article, we’ll look at a couple of other examples that use the modern phenomena of Facebook, YouTube and MySpace to make great music.

Nearly two-thirds of all teenagers listen to music on YouTube, and YouTube has helped to move some “left-field” artistic obscurities into the mainstream. Increasingly, people are getting the feeling that they’re more immediately involved with the music approval process – the process that determines whether or not something will go ‘viral’. Indeed, going ‘viral’ is, nowadays, a great deal better for record sales than a successful traditional advertising campaign.

This sense of involvement means that more people are feeling entitled to engage with music in the social sphere. No-one is exempt: classical orchestras are embracing the new audiences and improved performance value of streaming live gigs directly to smartphones. Some orchestras are even reaching out to educate and inspire young musicians by allowing them to practice alongside the orchestra.

It’s a phenomenon that’s spread to the very superstar end of popular music, too. We’re not just talking about famous pop musicians covering other famous pop musicians, but about social media getting involved at the very grass roots of music generation. KFC Australia are running a Good Times campaign to celebrate the best of Australia, and have signed the Madden Brothers on to perform a song comprised entirely of lyrics made by commenters on the KFC Australia Facebook page. It’s an entirely new way to use digital social media for creative purposes.

If anything, we’re seeing proof in the maxim that having ‘skin in the game’ – being somehow involved with the successful outcome of a music product – will encourage you to push for that successful outcome. We’re also seeing that social media can move passive listeners to being active agents in the success or failure of a music industry product. It’s a wake-up call to industry experts, who’ve so far been able to rely on a combination of artist hubris, great billboard graphics and high-profile performances. They’re seeing that the true success of a piece of music could come through consumers who feel they’re somehow personally invested in the success of that piece. Hence, the rise of social media use in group music-making.

Is this to be a short-lived phenomenon? This is unlikely. Social media affords us a more instant and more personal means through which we can engage with products, services and suppliers of both. It gives us more immediate control over the shaping of our cultural world, while at the same time exposing us more deeply to it. The creation of music – and essentially cultural thing – is obviously going to find a home in so rich a hotbed of cultural activity.