NEW YORK--The music industry is in a major state of crisis and some up and coming acts are reluctant to dirty their hands with social networking.
Some new artists signing at both major and indie labels are telling execs there that they'll make music, but don't expect them to do Facebook or Twitter. The labels are saying back that the days when performers--even mega-superstar performers--can keep fans at arms length are over.
"I was shocked to find out how many twentysomethings aren't interested in social networking," said Cameo Carlson, a former iTunes executive who is now executive vice president at Universal Motown Republic Group.
Carlson, who has risen to become one of Universal Music Group's highest-ranking female digital executives since moving over from iTunes three years ago, participated in a panel discussion this week at the Digital Music East Forum in New York. This was the same conference where the NPD Group announced that the music industry has lost 24 million music buyers over the past two years. Of those, a million were buyers of digital downloads, NPD said.
Later, Carlson said she understood many musicians would prefer to focus exclusively on their music. But she noted that in the digital age, acts must connect with fans.
Daniel Glass, who three years ago founded indie label Glassnote, couldn't agree more. He was on the same panel with Carlson and he said that he chose not to sign a promising new group after they expressed apathy about social networking.
"There may be some indie hipper-than-thou artists who want to let the music speak for itself," Glass said on Friday. "They are probably not for us. We believe an artist has a responsibility to communicate with their audience...We embrace the world of technology and the vast improvements in communication."
But social networking doesn't mean artists have to become pitchmen, selling themselves like the people hawking Ronco Pasta Makers on the Home Shopping Network. Carlson and Glass said each band can figure out what's the right way to address fans, but the labels can't do everything. The fans want the acts. "Some of them think once they sign, the labels will do everything," Carlson said.
During his CNET interview, Glass said most acts get it. One of the acts his label represents, Two Door Cinema, was sending Tweets from a video shoot as we spoke, he said.
"We need acts to be involved," Glass said. "When promoting a band, touring is still most important, but after that comes social networking."