Your Second Self: The Online Artist

Originally published as Your Second Self: The Online Artist at Cut Common.

The term ‘Second Self’ refers to your online identity, to your virtual life lived in parallel to the real world. Cultivating a second self to communicate and promote your work is an inexpensive and dynamic way to build audiences and support. Creating an online portfolio will give you ownership over your artistic identity and allow you to shape the story you want potential supporters or collaborators to see and hear about your work. Most importantly, your second self allows you to maintain a clear distinction between your personal and professional online content.

The challenge in creating your second self is to cultivate a voice that feels authentic and will resonate with supporters. In order to achieve this, it’s important to take time to evaluate your goals. Consider what you hope to accomplish, who you are trying to reach, and what you want to convey to your audience about your music. A clear and unique artist statement will guide the look and content of all your online material.

Sunshine Coast-based cellist Louise King has a distinctive mission statement which gives a strong indication of what to expect from her website, social media and performances:

I simply love music, what music can do for people and for a community. In my work I celebrate how music connects, inspires and uplifts the spirit. If you are a music lover, enjoy attending exciting artistic performances, appreciate bold vision, compelling education projects, and you can see these types of events being part of your local community, please join me in celebrating the beauty of music through education and performance.
— www.cellodreaming.com.au

Remember, the goal is to share your music and present a dynamic picture of your identity as an artist. Creating and maintaining a compelling online presence will increase your chances of connecting with audiences near and far. As an active musician, it’s inevitable that information about you and your music will wind up online in YouTube videos, a bio on a concert website or tagged photos on a colleague’s Facebook page. Connecting with your audience and growing your network in this way is valuable, but you will often have little to no control over the way this content is framed and presented. Creating and managing your own online portfolio puts the story back in your hands.

Getting Started

Creating a webpage has never been easier with a range of templates from sites such as WordPress and Squarespace.  Keep your navigation simple with just a few tabs including: About, Listen, Gallery, Contact, Social Media Links, and an up-to-date Performance Schedule. Effective blogging requires a substantial investment of time and energy, and should not be included on your website unless you have a specific area of interest which can generate regular content.

Pianist Alex Ranieri’s site is no frills but well written, easy to navigate and current. Creating a website using a template from WordPress or Squarespace should only take a few hours, and is an excellent investment of your time and energy. Why not make it a date night with a colleague and spend an evening working together to create your sites?

Social media provides a range of options to share dynamic content that can direct your audience to your website, which contains the most comprehensive information about your work. An active and engaging social media presence can build your community, develop your audience and promote your performances, but maintaining a multi‐layered online presence can be time consuming. It is important to settle on a realistic and sustainable model for this area of your work from the outset.

Invest in great visuals. Word Swag, Instaquote and A Beautiful Mess are three great apps that can easily turn your smartphone images into stunning visuals that integrate seamlessly to your social media pages.

Have at least three sound excerpts, apps such as GarageBand (iOS) or HiQ MP3 Voice Recorder(Android) are easy and inexpensive. You can also create useable audio files on your smartphone,  this short CNET video shows how to record better sound on your handset. Even a 30 second clip is useful if it highlights your repertoire interests, musicality, technique or ensemble playing.

Internetiquette 101

Effective social media is about respectful interaction with others so take the time to thank others if they post generous comments or a favourable review. Keep it classy, as online spats or inappropriate comments are career-limiting choices.

Go. Make something happen.

Your online presence is an opportunity to share your professional life, the value of your work and your unique place in the world. In the words of DIY marketing guru Seth Godin: “Go. Make something happen”.