Social Media for a Classical Singer – Friend or Foe?
Singing Nessun Dorma live from Ely Cathedral for a ‘Fairy Tale Christmas Concert’. Streamed on Christmas Eve connecting audiences with performers in this post Covid world.
The clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 1996. My close group of friends and I are gathered in one of our parents’ houses. Wearing our favourite party outfits, ‘Rachel from Friends’ haircuts and desperately trying not to spill our glasses of Lambrini or bottles of WKD all over the carpet, the anticipation is building.
Big Ben chimes out its familiar bongs and we go crazy. “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!” we shout, following up with a dodgy version of Auld Lang Syne performed with inebriated dance steps and attempted harmonised vocals. We may have graduated from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London a few months earlier, but if there’s a song and dance to be had, we’ll always give it a go. 45 minutes later, we all go home and without an iPhone to check…just fall asleep.
Fast forward 25 years and it’s midnight, January 1st, 2021. I’m at home with my husband, curled up on the sofa drinking a cup of tea. We discuss turning in early as the prospect of celebrating New Year’s Eve during a pandemic is almost too depressing to contemplate. However, we justify it by wanting to say ‘good riddance’ to 2020. London calls in the new year with a fancy drone display and fireworks across famous landmarks. I reminisce back to 1996 and long for us to be surrounded by friends. I feel a surge of sadness thinking how different this year is.
My sadness doesn’t last long though as our room flashes continuously with the shine of notifications on my phone. Messages from family, friends and some of my lovely fans wishing me happiness for a brighter year. Texts, WhatsApp’s, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all playing the role of postman to deliver words and emojis that make me smile. Now THIS certainly didn’t happen all those years ago. This year especially, I have never felt more grateful for technology.
As a singer, social media plays a huge role in my life both professionally and personally and on the most part I just love it. The connection it creates is something my 18-year-old self just wouldn’t have believed. However, just one week into 2021 and the dark and divisive side of social media has already reared its head culminating with one of the most powerful men in the world being banned on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Goodness knows if he still has a MySpace page.
It’s an ever-evolving topic but right now, social media appears to have two very polarising appearances. Is it a friend or is it a foe?
In an age where digital music sales have almost obliterated those of CDs, and where high street music shops have been deeply impacted by the rise of streaming, social media has been my number one place to go to help promote my music.
It has meant that I can directly connect with fans of my music. My professional Facebook page has around 60,000 followers and since being ‘blue ticked’ on Twitter it is now much easier for me to connect with fans, friends, and also with peers in the music industry. Having the ability to share a video, a song, or news of forthcoming releases and then for them to be re-shared is priceless.
It’s not just about promotion though, it’s also an ongoing conversation with fans and friends. I LOVE connecting with those who enjoy my music and feel so grateful to anyone who gets in touch to wish me well or tell me how my music has impacted them. I love to let other artists know how their music has impacted me too. Again, the girl in 1996 would never believe you could now directly tweet your musical heroes.
The part of social media I find hard however is time management; with people connecting all over the world it’s a 24/7 operation – I can see why some people employ others to manage their social media for them!
I look after my own social media, and I know that I have to get better at this as I always feel compelled to respond immediately and that can be challenging when there are only so many hours in a day.
Social Media is moving so fast with new platforms and features introduced regularly that if you don’t get straight in with you feel left behind. I enjoy watching Tik Tok videos but already feel like I’ve missed the boat by not using it professionally…YET!
A number of online cultures are also emerging. ‘Comparison’ is tough when you look at other accounts and worry that you are not living the edited life of shiny, filtered celebrities and as for ‘cancel’ culture, that just sounds terrifying. like someone can just be switched off and erased from existence with one simple ‘delete’.
The area I feel most uncomfortable with is when social media communications turn sinister. Like many people in my industry, I have been sent filthy unsolicited messages and photos. I’ve had complete strangers reach out with offers to model naked for them and even my husband has been sent abusive messages just for being married to me.
This behaviour is not appropriate, but I take solace in knowing that I’m not the only one this happens to. I know friends who have experienced far worse.
I was once described on Instagram as looking like a tiny ‘dot’ on a pitch when I sang at a premiership football match, and this made me laugh out loud! I do of course get people ‘sliding into my DMs’ that really should know better. I feel more should be done about these trolls, as the impact it has on people can be so damaging, but fortunately for me, social media is something I still really enjoy, especially hearing from fans of my music.
Thinking back to 1996, the closest we got to fan engagement was through ‘snail mail’ in the post. I was even in charge of writing a fanzine for a famous Britpop band. Decades later, I am so very grateful that I can connect through writing this column and I love sharing what I have been up to on my social media accounts. Considering we are still in a pandemic it’s my way of saying hello in the absence of live shows.
Before we know it though, we’ll be in a much better place, I am positive of that.
Looking ahead to New Year’s Eve 2021, I hope we can party like we did in the nineties, but maybe I will pass on the Lambrini and opt for champagne instead!
I hope wherever you are and whatever is happening for you right now, you and yours are safe and well. If you haven’t said hello on social media before, please do. I so love hearing from you all.