When lockdown began in March 2020, the music industry was cast into doubt. The support put in place by the government was poor at best, and there was more focus on Brexit and fish than there was on the arts industries that we display proudly as a nation as some of the leading in the world.
The entire music industry has been on the brink for a year now, however there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. With the vaccine on the go, venues and artists alike are announcing gigs and tours like there’s no tomorrow, which seemed unlikely for a long time. Even with these struggles, artists have flourished without the traditional means of utilising the gig circuit, for instance, internet starlet Baby Queen who was named BBC Radio 1’s Future Artist of the Month for March. and London based Indie band The Rills, who have managed to gather a following over the last year on the polarising platform TikTok. We asked Bella and frontman of The Rills, Mitchell Spencer, a few questions about harnessing the online world, and here’s what we found out…
How important do you think social media is for you? And how is it important to musicians in general?
Baby Queen: “I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m an internet addict. I think the internet and social media have become such integral parts of our lives and our identities, that it’s difficult to imagine a world without them. For me, social media has been my only way to connect with the people listening to my music, because I haven’t played any live shows and so I haven’t been able to meet anybody face to face. I think especially during this time, the internet is the most valuable means of communication we have as artists and it’s important not only for us, but also for fans to be able to feel like they have a direct line with the artists that they look up to.”
Mitchell: “I think it’s important for sure, it’s the first place you’ll be able to interact with your fans and that’s key for us. However, it’s not really necessary, if you’re a great artist then you’ll make great art whether you take your socials seriously or not. Some of my favourite artists don’t really use socials at all, they have a kind of mysterious vibe and that’s cool too. I suppose it all depends on your personality and how you want (or if you want) to be perceived by people.”
Has the lack of a gig circuit increased your use of social media platforms?
Baby Queen: “My entire career has been forged on the internet because I signed my record deal and released the first song during lockdown. I haven’t met one person who listens to my music in real life (other than my friends and family who kind of have to listen to it to be polite), so the internet has really been the only place I’ve been able to forge relationships with the Baby Kingdom – which has changed my life. I think without being able to play live over the past year, we’ve had to come up with other ways give the listeners the shows and experiences they deserve.”
Mitchell: “For us it’s been a bit of a revelation. I don’t know whether we were doing something wrong before or not but experimenting with other platforms and just being really honest with new fans has helped us grow an audience really quickly. Of course the lack of gigs has made it feel quite odd as we’re desperate to get out and play in front of the new fans, but really getting out and playing only seemed to help us grow an audience passively. This year we’ve been able to find people who really care about the music, but also about us as people which I think has been the big difference.
Your feeds seem to be a mixture of promotional material as well as some fun carefree photos, is this an insight into how you are yourself? Is it important to communicate your true self on your platforms?
Baby Queen: “There are loads of things that I have to post to promote certain things or let people know information about releases or radio shows etc., but it’s always been really important to me to be as true to myself as possible online, because that’s something that I’ve always advocated for in my music. It’s not easy to be yourself on a platform that other people use to make up their entire overall decision about you and your character though, so I’m definitely still learning.”
Mitchell: “Absolutely! The promo stuff is vital to growing an audience but also our socials are just us being us. I’d say we’re all pretty good at expressing ourselves online, we’ve been on socials since we were kids and I think our fans appreciate us trying not to take it all too seriously. I also think people can smell inauthenticity – working on the band’s socials has kinda helped me find myself, or maybe more like refine myself. Knowing that you have to be yourself for people to care helps you find out exactly what you like or don’t like doing pretty quickly.”
Mitchell, you take quite a comedic approach in your social media. Why is that? How do you think it’s helped in increasing your audience/listeners?
Mitchell: “Yeah, for sure! A big part of it for us is how funny social media is as a concept – it’s a crazy world and being comic or a bit self-referential with it always feels more natural. Sometimes we feel a bit like walking adverts and sometimes we feel well out of our comfort zone too, I think the humour is our way to settle into it all a bit better. But even so, I just think that’s our personality. I’m a huge Mighty Boosh fan and that kind of deadpan delivery crossed with absolute silliness has become a part of who I am, I guess.”
What recommendations would you give to artists who perhaps don’t utilise social media in the best ways?
Baby Queen: “Don’t think about it too much! I think the music industry is changing and people are really desperate to connect with something real or something they can actually relate to. I know, as a music fan myself, that I don’t want to follow an artist that seems robotic or hesitant. It only ever works if it’s real and it comes from you. Remember you’re connecting with people, not boasting about your achievements. I think that’s a mistake I see people making quite a lot.”
Mitchell: “Try it, but don’t just half-heartedly do it – really throw yourself in the deep end. If it’s your thing then it’ll work, if it doesn’t then no bother! You don’t have to be funny or anything, just be yourself & show your skills, or your personality. People are probably way more interested than you realise.”
Grab a ticket to Baby Queen’s debut headline show HERE
And catch The Rills in 2021 HERE