How to bolster your social media presence by harnessing the power of meme culture.
The Value of Memes
I was playing bass at a recording session yesterday, and at one point during the downtime between takes, the guitar player I was working with played The Lick. The drummer looked up from his phone, laughed knowingly, and said “Ohhhh, man. There it is–The Lick.”
The guitarist responded by asking “Have you seen Adam Neely‘s videos?” And, in no time at all, they were both down the rabbit hole, discussing various Youtube videos and channels.
After a few minutes, the singer broke in and asked “Who are you guys talking about?” At which point the guitarist enthusiastically introduced her to all things Adam Neely.
What is the lesson to be found in this anecdote? Memes are money.
Ok, maybe memes aren’t money per se, but they are an increasingly integral form of digital marketing in the modern music marketplace. If you’re a musician who is trying to bolster your presence on social media for the sake of expanding your business, you should be thinking about how you can use memes to establish your online identity.
Why Are Memes So Powerful?
Your audience has to work to understand them.
For the most part, traditional advertisements are intended to appeal to as large of an audience as possible. Memes, on the other hand, are often cryptic, hard to understand, or just downright confusing. This may sound like a disadvantage to using memes as advertising, and in certain ways it is, but the tremendous upside is once someone is in on the joke, they feel a much greater sense of ownership of your product than they do with a traditional ad.
Your audience can use them to indicate they belong somewhere.
Because memes are more exclusive than ads, they can be used as a password of sorts. As much as music strives to be an open, accepting community, there are still elements of the community which are aggressively insular–where you have to prove you belong. As silly as it sounds, memes can be a means of proving yourself to other musicians. For instance, if I’m jamming with a musician I don’t really know, and I make a joke about Weet-Bix, and she laughs and plays a snippet of Sunday Feels, we’ve both just passed an informal test. If, as a musician, you can create content that provides your audience with a pathway to being accepted, you have done something incredibly powerful, and have likely garnered a fan for life.
Ruben Wan + Panda is a staple of the Instagram guitar scene
Dos and Don’ts of Finding Your Memes
Now, I hate the word “branding” because it reminds me of my annoying cousin who is trying to start a clothing line with shirts that say stuff like “Namaslay.” However, in this instance, using the word is a necessary evil. Here are the do’s and don’ts of using memes to solidify your brand as a modern, online musician:
Do start from a place of love.
Think about some of the memes associated with your favorite musicians. Sam Blakelock really loves Weet-Bix, those were part of his childhood as much as Cocoa Puffs were a part of mine. I can confirm Ruben Wan really loves pandas–he even had a panda related name back when he played Maple Story and League of Legends. Your audience isn’t necessarily relating to the subject of your meme, they’re mostly relating to your passion for it, so make sure you choose things that are important to you.
Do use the items and symbols right in front of you.
You already have relationships with things you can turn into memes. You’ve lived a life full of inside jokes and references. Just look around! What are things you have a unique connection with? Bacon? Flamingoes? Donuts? Clifford the Big Red Dog? Hot sauce?
Do experiment with different memes.
The good news is you don’t have to create a transcendent meme on your first try. If one meme doesn’t seem to stick, try another one. Experiment with using musical memes and memes which have nothing to do with music. Try anything and everything so long as you’re passionate about it!
Don’t try and force memes into existence.
There’s nothing worse than someone trying too hard to make something cool. If you’re trying to build something substantial, insincerity is your kryptonite; avoid it at all costs.
Don’t steal other people’s memes.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes theft does pay, especially in the realm of music, but it usually doesn’t, and it always makes you a jerk.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting you spend more time coming up with memes than you do practicing, writing, or befriending other musicians, but I definitely recommend putting together some sort of self-marketing strategy which involves a plan for establishing your trademarks–including memes.
This is a great article from Forbes about the evolution of Meme Marketing.
This video explains how and why musicians give each other informal tests.
Jacob Unterreiner is from Phoenix, Arizona. Around the valley, Jacob is known for three things; his musicianship, his strange habit of wearing the same eleven shirts he’s had since middle school, and a strict 10:00 PM curfew that he adheres to religiously in order to maintain his sanity as a high school English teacher.