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For Aspiring Artists, Social Media Can Get Fans Too Close For Comfort


A country artist once said all he needed to write a song were three chords and the truth. To succeed these days, he might also need a bunch of social media accounts. The Internet allows artists to gain a following by essentially inviting fans into their living rooms. Emily Siner from member station WPLN reports that those fans sometimes overstay their welcome.

EMILY SINER, BYLINE: Olivia Frances is sitting in an armchair in her Nashville apartment, hunched over a laptop. Frances is 18 years old. She moved to Nashville last summer to propel her music career. She's outgoing and bubbly and has dived into the music business with a so-far undeterred enthusiasm. Part of that means immersing herself in social media.

OLIVIA FRANCES: I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine...

SINER: Standard stuff for a teenager these days. But wait. There's more.

FRANCES: ...Bandcamp, Broadjam, Music Xray, HitLicense, Google Play, ReverbNation and of course, iTunes. And it's so hard to keep track of them all.

SINER: Frances is far from the only aspiring singer-songwriter to spend a lot of time on social media. Big numbers online mean more fans to see your shows and maybe get the attention of a label. It's a big change from the pre-digital music days.

CHARLES ALEXANDER: If somebody didn't, like, believe in you and said, oh, we don't think this is going to work on a label, then you were pretty much done. Then you were a lounge singer, right?

SINER: Charles Alexander is a Nashville digital strategist for musicians.

ALEXANDER: What's beautiful about this time is that if your music is something that you believe in, you have so many tools and platforms at your disposal to sort of get the word out relatively inexpensively.

SINER: Frances hasn't had any big payoff yet from promoting her stuff online, but she enjoys cultivating fans and talking to them, which has recently led to an unexpected side effect. There are fans who enjoy talking to her a little too much.

FRANCES: You're telling me something like, well, I'm going to the dentist today because I have a surgery I have to go to. Sometimes, it feels like there aren't really any boundaries anymore.

SINER: Then there was the middle-aged man who messaged her incessantly on Facebook.

FRANCES: You know, the questions he was asking and what he was telling me about his personal life I thought were just a little too personal for someone who I really don't know except through social media.

SINER: Frances says many of her female peers have the same kinds of interactions with doting male fans. And she can't really ignore them, she says, because at this point in her career, she needs all the fans she can get. So she's been trying to gently cut off their conversations sooner, but she says she's not going to stop posting about her life on social media.


SINER: That includes a songwriting session in her living room with a Nashville guitarist. They're working on some new music.

FRANCES: (Laughter).

SINER: When it's over, she pulls out her iPhone to take a selfie.


FRANCES: Here we go.

SINER: For NPR News, I'm Emily Siner in Nashville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.