Twitter initiative sees increasing engagement

During a particularly interesting Twitter conversation from the Metal as Fuck twitter account one afternoon, between myself (obviously), Crushtor and Aussie band Frankenbok, a number of issues came up that were enormously interesting to talk about. From this came the weekly metal chat on Twitter (all using the hashtag #metalchat), after Crushtor suggested that perhaps it might be a good idea to allocate the discussion a hashtag and involve the broader community.

Critics of the Twitter interface are likely to argue that the 140-character limit that the network imposes is counter-intuitive in a chat situation. In fact, I’ve found that the limitation is welcome. Why? Because it keeps people focused.

In order to say something that will be taken seriously, and that will convey your message accurately in a character-limited chat situation, one must refine the statement, question, or comment to a point where it is precise. One can always send more than one tweet – but in so doing, one runs the risk of having the first tweet responded to before one’s statement is complete.

The first metal chat was Online versus “real” promotion, which addressed the topic of whether the hand-in-hand increase in the use of online media (MySpace, Facebook) to promote gigs with the decrease in flyers, posters and street press, has had an impact on the decreasing numbers of punters at metal shows. During this chat, many relevant points were brought up, although the number of people involved was quite low.

After that first chat, I started to see a number of ‘tweeple’ (people on Twitter for those outside of the jargon) asking what the metal chat was, and how they could get involved. Crushtor has been so good at pimping the chat to people, that he pulled up the announcement on Metal as Fuck that I’d posted (and subsequently forgotten about) and sent out the link to those who were interested.

By the second week, we started to see a greater number of tweeple engaged, plus people who came into the chat late and, although having missed the ‘live’ chat, appreciated the discussion. This second week’s topic was about the relevance of the music industry in an increasingly digital age. The very interesting thing about this chat was that it demonstrated the (often quite strong) views that many fans have of major labels. Some were so vehement as to claim that the industry needs to be shut down, and that bands need to go it alone.

From my perspective, having worked as a journalist – and now publisher – in the music industry, with good friends who are neck-deep in the industry and who have been for a long time, the notion of ‘getting rid’ of the industry altogether didn’t sit well. For, not only do you have labels, but you have band management, publicists, A&R managers, recording studios and their staff (producers, mixers, engineers etc), production and manufacturing, art, distribution, sales, media… the list goes on. All of them are components of this big notion of ‘industry’.

Although we’ve only been running the metal chat for a couple of weeks, it is becoming clear to me that it is a vital communication that has been disregarded, or perhaps ignored, for too long. Being able to run the chat on Twitter – although it is initiated and chaired by us at Metal as Fuck – gives the chat a disembodied sense of ‘objectivity’ that is essential for people within labels, for bands, for fans, and anybody else, to engage with it candidly. Perhaps better yet is that it gives people the opportunity to take part in a discussion wherever they are in the world, and for all comments to be valued equally.

It is not easy to chair such a discussion – especially if you have metal elitists with very fixed views on board, and especially when the chats start to veer off topic. Skilled moderation is always difficult, whether face to face or online, but at least with Twitter (and perhaps thanks to the 140-character limitation) it is not so hard to bring participants back to the topic.

While the chats are beneficial and seeing increasing cross-industry, global engagement and interaction on pertinent topics related to metal generally and the music industry specifically, it also, let’s be honest, is good for Metal as Fuck too. As the initating body, and as the chairing body with a responsibility for coming up with topics, promoting topics, and engaging the tweeple involved, we also commit to writing up summaries of the chats each week. Well, that is, I do – I’m the key writer on the Metal as Fuck blog.

The reason I write up the chats is fairly self-evident: it provides a readable account of the chat for those who missed it, and/or for those who would like to revisit it; it provides an instant archive of the chat; and it summarises the key points.

I’m hoping that we see greater engagement with the passing weeks, and that the major labels also start to see the value in the chat and engage with it as well.

If you like this idea and want to be involved, keep an eye out for the hashtag #metalchat on Twitter. Or, if you have some ideas for forthcoming chats, feel free to send us a tweet (to @metalasfuck), or drop a comment here.

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