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With music's digital age being driven by the creation of data and the dissemination of information (especially on social media), it's ultimately the interaction with said knowledge that is fueling EDM's explosive global rise. Ticket brokering service Eventbrite's recent survey shows dance culture fanatics are ten times as likely to use social media, tweet about the music they're listening to four times as much as the average Twitter user, and engage in 72% more conversations about said music. Insofar as live experiences, EDM fanatics tweet about shows 30% more often than fans of other genres, enjoying the lifestyle experience of a live set, ideally while attending with their friends. While being armed with this knowledge has likely led to SFX's massive growth in the festival ownership and marketing space, what about the trickle down effect this has on EDM at-large?
In order to answer this question regarding social media and the rise of EDM, I spoke at length with Antonis Karagounis, owner of Washington DC's Echostage mega-club (and party promotion brands Club Glow and Panorama Productions plus other significant DC entertainment holdings) regarding social media's importance in serving the wildly expanded and thirsting for information and entertainment EDM community at-large. It was a fascinating chat that certainly provided a great view of where dance and club culture are at present, strategies for sustainability and development of these re-emerging cultures, and the heights to which both are aimed.
How engaged are you personally these days with social media, and how are you piloting the social media development of your brands?
I find out what's happening, and stay aware of what's going on. People mainly like tweeting me questions about [Echostage] and our parties. There are so many posts, but I try to stay committed to answering as many questions as possible. I've been promoting parties since 1994. Social media has allowed the game of promoting to change. It's easier to get your message out there, but there's also more competition. There's no school to study at to understand how to excel at social media, but I do read books by people like Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki for solutions.
Overall, what do you view as the unique strengths of your brands overall, and how does, say, Echostage manage the task overall?
It's a difficult job. [For instance], [Echostage] has 34,000 fans on Facebook. For [Echostage], it's a full time job. Our fans matter. They know and care about the music, and about our brand. As much as they want to talk and ask questions about set times, we also have to push our events and happenings, too. In EDM, people take pride in community, the DJs and the events. Our following is tremendous, and that's definitely due to the strength of our brand.
In what ways do you engage with your followers, and what in your style of interaction do you feel differentiates you from other music/promotional brands?
We hire our staff from our fanbase [on social media]. It's easy to train anybody, but it's hard to find people with the level of passion for this culture to serve our fans. Between Twitter and Facebook we can easily receive up to 150 applications for jobs with the company. [When fans become staff and we train them] on social media, we know that we have multiple outlets, so we tell them to imagine that for each brand to "wear the hat of that brand." If you're tweeting for Echostage, think like someone [engaging with] the Echostage account. The same strategy applies for Panorama Productions, Club Glow, and Barcode, too. We want those who use our social media to talk and participate in conversations, but to remember that there's a different tone for each channel.
EDM artist engagement with social media is at a quantifiable all-time high. Do you use social media to get a better sense of which artists will succeed in filling your clubs?
It's hard to gauge as some artists have a huge response on Facebook and Twitter that [doesn't correlate] with high live attendance numbers. Some artists just have fans who are more vocal than others. Gauging popularity by just using social media is difficult. What we have found though is that when we post live sets from artists that the sets that are downloaded the most give us the best indication of who is truly popular.
Any tips for artists who wish to excel at the social media aspect of brand management/development? I find that while there are a number of younger artists dominating social that older/established artists are still slowly figuring it out.
Artists should be personal [on social media]. Age doesn't matter [as far as how artists engage with social media]. I will say that artists who post a lot tend to also be artists who have a lot of time on their hands. Some artists are very personable, and people respond to that. Others are not so personable, but the fans can always tell overall who's being genuine and who's pretending, and that's important. A helpful tip is to realize that artists must own their own mistakes because if you do that, people will forget them faster.
The digital/mobile explosion in the online industry has caused evolution to occur at a much faster pace than ever before. As a promoter and venue owner, what has been the most difficult part of handling this growth?
In the 2000s, we really understood search engine optimization. Around 2008-2009, SEO was still important, but by 2009-2010, we really saw where Twitter and Facebook had grown in importance. Now, with Facebook, the algorithms have changed and its harder to get out our message. Even though we push fresh and noteworthy information, Facebook has [largely] closed those channels. It's harder than ever to find a way through those gates.
Insofar as looking ahead into the future of EDM and it's social media-led mainstream expansion, what is one piece of advice you would give to a promoter, venue owner or artist looking to make a splash?
You want to blow up, just not in your face.