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Q&A with Social Media Guru, Eric Alper

Eric Alper certainly is a jack-of-all-trades, and one name you should be familiar with if you’re in the music industry, or on Twitter. Director of Media Relations at eOne Music Canada and chosen by Billboard Magazine, Paste Magazine and The National Post as the Best on Twitter, Eric Alper is a fountain of music and industry information. Here’s a little peek inside the mind of the great Eric Alper. What inspired you to push online social media and become one of the most recognized Twitter users within North America? Social media and especially Twitter allowed me to reach people more directly, about music news, fun facts, and hardly-seen photos and general stuff that clutter my brain. I had no idea my reach would grow this far, this fast. I do social media without a plan to do anything other than to entertain myself, really. By sharing not just eOne Music information, and really only put online what I love, or find cool. It just happened that it connected. Based on your panel from CMW 2012, what are some important guidelines about engaging the online music community? If you treat social media as a key part of your PR campaign and wider brand strategy you can achieve real results, earning the trust of your fanbase. But remember, you don’t ever own your brand, the fans do. Artists have to be more accountable to the fans – that means whatever you tweet or post is going to spread further than your own fanbase with just a share or RT from a fan, and you have to always keep that in mind. Artists have to be aware of being transparent – and that’s a good thing. Long ago are the days where the mystery is part of the campaign. That still works for some artists like Bowie or Jack White, but you WANT your fans to share your photos, your music, your videos. Make your fans the best PR team you could ever put together. What tips do you recommend for bands and artists who have just begun to embrace social media? You can still be authentic on social media sites, and share your persona and personality, but you don't have to share everything. Every post or tweet can possibility exclude current fans or future ones, if they don't agree with your personal views. Don’t be mean. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say if your mother is reading. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you set yourself up for failure. So many of your fans are checking out and listening to music and watching videos through their phones, so post things accordingly. Don’t hand off your social media activities to the one member in the band that doesn’t like to talk or share. If you love something, anything – a photo of another band, someone else’s song, a book you’re reading, an awesome place you just ate at, share it. Not everything will work, and that’s ok. Social media works 24/7, and happens even when you’re not on it. Become a true participant in each social media site you want to engage in, and don’t always post about your new release, or ask people to buy stuff all the time – you’re a band, not an infomercial. So expect to dive in fully, and have fun! Select a fan of the week. Facebook makes it easy to find out about birthdays – wish someone a happy day – it’ll blow their minds that you care. Share what’s on your iPod or the first album or song you ever bought. Allow fans to write the last line of the song you’re working on and give them a credit. Do a Google+ rehearsal and allow the fans to see behind-the-scenes. Have the fans design your new t-shirt, tour poster, or album cover. Look outside the music industry for cool ideas and happenings in other industries are doing. Hold a Facebook or Twitter party for autographed CDs, merch, and stuff the fans would love to have. Invite the fans to join you for food before the show (I bet you won’t have to pay). Create and share an Rdio or Spotify playlist. Get on Pinterest and post photos of your fans, the shows, your fave performers or people you admire. Seriously, anything goes! Where do you see the world of social media heading, what big trends do you predict for the online music community? Over the past 2 years, paid subscribers in the US have more than quadrupled over the past 24 months, a growth rate of roughly 340%. Canada is a bit behind in the offerings for streaming sites, and we’re witnessing the start of a new generation consuming music more than any other time in history. They want to listen to music, when they want, however many times they want, and – more importantly – share it on every available platform. The sharing part is the most critical. It’s really no different than when I was a teenager, calling my friends up and inviting them to hear the latest purchase at the record store – today, there’s so many more places to share what you love. The record labels were traditionally society's music filters, and this has forever changed. Now someone with a large following online can potentially sell a band better, faster, and cheaper than any marketing department.  But it’s not just the ones with celebrity status or a big audience that can sell you – everyone, and anyone who has an opinion about music can help you spread the word. Expect big strides in recommendation systems online. They’ll be the ones to expose you to your fans who like "familiar" larger and more successful bands. As a social media guru what social platform is the most important one to engage in, in order to generate and maintain a musical following? Forget, for a second, the big social media sites every band should be on – Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, MySpace, Tumblr and Pinterest. Each site should always directly back to the artist homepage. First impressions are key to any relationship and today that will most likely happen starting in the Google toolbar. Your homepage is also imperative because you own the content. You don’t anywhere else. If any of the social media sites go down, your homepage is still active. Hot social media sites come and go – I can’t even keep track of the new ones popping up on a daily basis offering promotion for bands – but you’ll receive far more hits to your homepage than any other place. Content is still king on all digital platforms and whether it’s website or blog content, and keep it simple – no more than a handful of tabs, with links to all your social media networks the fans can join. As someone who has been in the music industry for over 20 years you have been able to watch social media change the face of the music industry. What do you predict will be the future of the music industry? I’m crazy enough not to predict what will happen, but I do know this: The one thought process will never change, and it’s been this thought since the 1950s, regardless of format, template, size and stature of the music industry, and it’s this: Is it great? Does it make my hair stand up? Does it make me want to listen to it again, and let everyone I know how great it is? The band’s competition isn’t the local band down the street. It’s Springsteen. It’s Lady Gaga. It’s Justin Bieber. Every band is competing for the same ears and eyeballs as everyone else, and only the great will survive.
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