Many a classical musician is active on Facebook or Twitter. For the opera singer especially, these social media platforms and others offer unique and exciting opportunities for branding and audience engagement.
Why the opera singer in particular? For starters, a gig for an opera singer usually involves at least a 3 week commitment in one city, a substantial amount of a time to connect with the local audience and media. Secondly, the rehearsal process for an opera is just that: a true process, with constant change and development. The move from stark rehearsal room to a stage with sets, costumes and make-up is ripe for interesting photos and backstage anecdotes. Lastly, an opera singer is inhabiting a character and telling the story of the opera itself, two elements intrinsic to the art form that can easily be parlayed into social media content.
I’m assuming the average opera singer has a personal Facebook account. If that’s the extent of your social media “presence,” I suggest first and foremost starting a Twitter account. Twitter is, in my opinion, more of a specialists’ forum, a venue where people interested in a particular subject tend to follow almost anyone else interested in said subject. Starting a Facebook fan page, I think, is only justified once you already have a somewhat established fan base, whereas Twitter is a great place to recruit said fan base. (“Liking” a Facebook fan page is a much greater commitment for someone to make, I think, because it is essentially the act of inviting you into their personal space).
If possible, your Twitter handle should be your first and last name. Not sure who to follow? Start with this list of opera companies created by @EverydayOpera. As for your updates, try to keep them mostly professional and opera related: you are an artist, not Snooki. That said, don’t be afraid to be yourself and share personal anecdotes or goof off every now and then.
If the speed and micro-scale of Twitter scare you, and you know you won’t update it regularly, then a blog is not a bad place to start. WordPress and Blogger are free and user friendly, though if your website has a blog function, then utilize that. (Note: consider starting a Twitter account if only to link to your blog posts, it will increase traffic.)
Next Steps: Networking and Content
If you have a gig on the horizon, contact the opera company’s marketing or public relations department in advance if they haven’t already sought you out. If tagging said company in a Tweet (“looking forward to singing Rosina @operacompany next month”) does not yield a re-tweet, then shoot them an e-mail pointing out that you are on Twitter and/or Facebook and are looking to cross-pollinate.
Establishing a relationship over social media with your host company is a mutually beneficial proposition: the opera company wants its fans to know you, and you want their fans to become your fans, too. For a good example of what this looks like, check out the Facebook page and Twitter feed of the soprano Elizabeth Caballero.
Liz is a major talent with whom I had the pleasure of working on Madison Opera’s recent production of La Traviata. From before the rehearsal period to opening night, she actively engaged Madison Opera on Facebook and Twitter, and I responded in kind – any mention of Liz (or Violetta) put out by the company tagged her accounts. Some samples of what Liz would post include:
- photos with other guest artists
- rehearsal room and backstage photos
- rehearsal updates
- humorous anecdotes
- videos related to the production
- ticket links for the production
- thanks and good wishes
This all added a layer of intimacy and excitement to the proceedings, but it also did a few other things. First off, Liz was satisfying the fans and followers she already had with rich content about her current activities (she regularly garners at least 10 likes for a given update). Secondly, she was providing content that was appealing to and easily shareable by the host company. And lastly, with the attention brought to her social media pages by the host company, she solidified a new fan base in our city even before the curtain went up on her spectacular Violetta. You can see below the excitement she still generates months after the Madison production (with all three comments coming from fans and colleagues in Madison):
So there you have it. Liz has nearly 1,500 Facebook fans and counting, and much like Joyce DiDonato (the ultimate example of a singer mastering social media), she is also building plenty of good will along the way.
The YouTube Factor
It should go without saying that if you are a singer, you should have an active YouTube page, first and foremost for casting purposes, and second, for the public to get to know you. In my capacity overseeing the marketing and social media operations at Madison Opera, I would almost always post YouTube videos of guest singers in advance of their arrival. Even just one or two good clips, either of a recital or a staged performance, can go a long way for host companies looking to promote their artists (though in order to really complement a singer’s Twitter and Facebook feeds, the more extensive the selection the better).
Hopefully this has been helpful for any singers out there debating whether or not to take the social media plunge. Before signing off, here’s a re-cap:
- Twitter and Facebook are a natural fit for opera singers. These are communities built around niche audiences eager to hear from the artists themselves.
- In any social media forum, be yourself but be professional.
- Test the waters with a Twitter account first; launch a Facebook fan page (separate from your personal page) once you have a strong enough following.
- Tag and interact with your host company and its fans/followers when you are on a gig.
- Post rehearsal updates and photos, offer a peek behind the curtains, talk about the music and the role. Humor is good.
- YouTube videos make it easier to promote yourself and for others to promote you.
- The frequency, quality, and interactivity of your updates on all social media platforms will directly impact how large your following is.
There’s plenty more to write on this subject and you may either find this post massively incomplete or totally overwhelming; in either case, post questions below in the comments.