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The Importance of Being Social, Pt. 2

The Importance of Being Social, Pt. 2
Down to the nightclub! Kenny Vaughan and his trio playing their regular Monday night gig at Nashville’s 12th South Taproom—an intimate pub where you can chat with the musicians between sets. Photo by Ariel Ellis

In today’s world, communicating online (rather than actually speaking on the phone or in person) is certainly the norm rather than the exception, but there is still a twinge of the old soul inside of me that craves the old way.

In my February 2013 column, “The Importance of Being Social,” we talked about the scope and significance of online networking, and how to make a social site work in your favor for musical pursuits. In today’s world, communicating online (rather than actually speaking on the phone or in person) is certainly the norm rather than the exception, but there is still a twinge of the old soul inside of me that craves the old way.

Granted, I send emails and Facebook messages like the rest of you—I’m just not saying I like it. Don’t get me wrong: If you are trying to land session work, gigs, writing partners, or looking to find a band to play with, then having an online presence is extremely important. I don’t discount this at all. What I’m doing is making a case for the original friend—a living, breathing individual you can actually hold a conversation with—not the one the Internet says you have a lot of.

Have you ever noticed there are a lot of musicians who don’t tweet or use Facebook on a regular basis? It’s not often you see a tweet in the vein of “I wrote a hit song today,” or a top session guy posting that “I just got paid triple scale.” They simply go out and do their jobs without the fanfare the pop stars feel they should bestow upon us. There is a very fine line between promoting and bragging. That said, anything we post could be viewed as being cocky—and the more high profile the gig, the cockier it could appear. Like anything else, it’s all in the presentation.

Even though we’ve been hashtagged and poked to death over the past few years, we’re actually still in the infancy of social media. And I’m not trying to fight the phenomenon, but instead embrace and evolve with it. The only caveat is that it’s on my terms. Too often, we get swept into the fray because someone else is on a website and we think we should be there too. Instead of simply reacting, find out how a particular site works and then make the choice if it is right for you.

Having your nose buried in a computer screen, however, can only get you so far. You need face time to get real results. No, I’m not talking about the iPhone feature. Face-to-face interaction with someone is still the most effective way to negotiate, create, and sell. When you present yourself or ideas in front of someone, it makes it a lot harder for them to say no, simply because of the emotion tied to it.

It was reported in a recent survey that people are discovering the bulk of new music on YouTube. This is a good thing. There is plenty of worthwhile stuff on YouTube, from Rig Rundowns (shameless PG plug) to rare concert footage. But not getting out of the house to check out the bands and get hit in the face with tone and volume is bad. What happened to going to see live music and then actually talking with the musicians after their set? Where are the late-night, pint-riddled discussions about tube versus solid-state, or flatwound versus tapewound?

Fortunately, those days are still alive here in Nashville. Pick any of the East Nashville bars on a random Tuesday, and you’ll see players who tour with some of the biggest names in the industry. And they get together and talk. You’ll hear about road stories, new gear, available gigs, and sessions that may be coming up. Yes, Nashville is certainly a saturated market—with more musicians per square mile than common sense—but I would imagine that there is a place in your town where musicians interact or hang. If not, maybe it’s time you find or start one.

I’m sure that more than a few of you out there are content with communicating primarily online and have no plans to change. If that’s your thing, then rock out. But remember this: No man is an island. We need the interaction to mold our relationships. I could hire you for my band straight off the Internet, but you’ll be gone in five minutes if you don’t have people or hang skills—blazing chops or not. Conversely, there are many marginal musicians that get great gigs because they have a great attitude and positive outlook.

Am I saying ditch the Internet? Of course not. The Internet and social media are both fixtures in our lives. Yet these tools should be used to complement our lives, not run them. The music we so love to make is best heard live, and interacting with the people who make it is best done in person. There is a great big world full of musicians waiting to play music with you. You just have to go talk with them.

Steve Cook has been fighting his rock-star frontman urges for decades, holding down the low end for such artists as Steve Cropper, Sister Hazel, and Phil Vassar. Join in his “touring therapy” on Twitter @shinybass.