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MMF report proposes new support to help artists avoid digital burnout

By | Published on Monday 30 May 2022


The UK’s Music Managers Forum has published a new report based on two roundtable discussions with its members on the topic of digital burnout, making a number of proposals for how the music industry can better help artists meet the demands of being an always-on creator in the social media age.

The roundtables were staged in response to a number of articles and conference discussions about the pressure artists are now under to create ever more content to keep their social media feeds refreshed. Creating that constant stream of content is often unrealistic, and risks reducing the amount of time artist have to actually make music, while also potentially having a detrimental impact on the artist’s mental health.

Then there’s the frustration that record labels and digital platforms sometimes try to force a one-size-fits-all approach on artists, when – in fact – what kind of content works on what platforms – and what constitutes success data-wise – will depend very much on each artist and their fanbase. But that flexibility is not always available.

That particular frustration has popped up lately with artists complaining about the TikTok-based demands being made on them by their labels, based on the argument that – while we know that TikTok is now a key music marketing tool – that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every artist to just open up the TikTok app and start posting something – anything – to just tick the TikTok tick box.

The MMF’s report states: “Managers on the roundtables brought up the huge pressure being applied by labels for artists to generate a continuous stream of ‘content’, as well as the tendency of labels to judge an artist’s value based on social media numbers rather than the integrity of their music”.

“There were also comments that some labels overlook the fact that every artist is different and therefore may not be suited for every social media/digital platform”, it goes on, “while others prefer not to engage on social media full stop, and would rather this responsibility was devolved”.

Of course, adopting a more bespoke approach to each artist’s digital marketing requires more resource at the labels, with many managers reckoning that the industry’s digital marketing teams are often “under-resourced, overworked and in some cases junior in experience”.

“Many managers felt that as digital content is a creative expression for the artists, as well as a promotional marketing tool, relationships with digital teams should be considered as thoughtfully as an A&R or producer matching”, the report goes on. “Label digital teams need to become more tailored to ensure they are suited to the artists that they are working with”.

That said, while labels could potentially find better ways to work with artists on their digital content and marketing strategies, at least artists signed to labels have that extra support. Self-releasing artists are even more likely to experience digital burnout.

“With less of a support network behind them, these entrepreneurial artists can experience an overwhelming amount of work with digital choices and obligations leading to burnout”, the report notes. “Adding to this workload, managers and artists are now expected to become social media experts, to generate content. Managers and artists now need to master Photoshop, video editing, knowledge of algorithms behaviours and other digital skill-sets”.

Managers working with self-releasing artists also noted “the lack of industry-led digital education and resources for artists, a lack of finance to create impactful digital marketing campaigns, and limited staff support. Self-releasing artists also have the issue that brands who used to partner with them now want to see even bigger digital stats for consideration of financial support”.

As for the digital services, many managers felt that streaming platforms sometimes put too much emphasis on social media stats when deciding what artists and tracks to champion and playlist. Plus building strong relationships with the streaming services often adds to the social media workload.

“Managers are also exhausted from constant demands to publicly thank [streaming services] whenever a new streaming landmark is reached”, the report says. “Also discussed was authenticity, questions as to whether these [service] ‘shoutouts’ were necessary, and if the [services] even acknowledge and act upon them”.

The report makes a number of recommendations for how labels, digital services, managers and the wider industry can help deal with the issues around digital burnout. That includes more resources for digital marketing teams, a more bespoke approach to each artist’s digital marketing plan, storing of content to allow artists to take breaks from social media, more access to insight on what works on social media, and more training and mental health support for artists and managers.

The report also adds that “there was also a suggestion to set up an independent body” to instigate discussions between “all stakeholders, which includes artists, managers, labels, social media platforms and [streaming services], looking at different perspectives, and working out actionable solutions/best practices, which needs to be constantly reviewed/monitored”.

You can download the report here.