Thoughts on social media with Ben Kenney of Incubus
July 21st, 2014
It’s not everyday I get to sit down with well known musicians. Sure, I’ve met plenty of musicians after shows or have friends who are touring musicians, but being able to have a one on one conversation with Ben Kenney of Incubus was pretty awesome and made me a little giddy.
Kenney’s music resume is impressive as he is the bass player of Incubus, former guitarist for The Roots, and previously played with Incubus members Mike Einziger and Jose Pasillas in Time Lapse Consortium. In 2003, Ben Kenney replaced Incubus bassist Dirk Lance and made his debut performance with the band at Lollapalooza.
Needless to say, I was thrilled that Kenney agreed to sit down and chat with me about social media. He presented some very reflective responses to what he thinks of the networking platforms as well as how he uses each form.
Boasting 29,524 likes on his personal fan page, 26.1K followers on Twitter, and 12K on Instagram, Kenney has plenty of eyeballs watching him in the social media world. Knowing that, he carefully curates the content he posts to his social media platforms.
“I like to take my fans along for the ride as much as I’m comfortable, said Kenney.” “What would I want to see if I’m following a musician? I want to know when they’re recording an album and when they’re touring.”
With the commercial success Incubus has achieved, it’s no surprise they have over 5.7M Facebook fans, 221K Twitter followers, and 62K followers on Instagram. While Incubus takes a break from touring, Kenney uses the opportunity to perform and tour with his side project.
“Social media has had a huge impact and it’s responsible for [helping me promote] my music outside of Incubus,” noted Kenney.
Like most musicians, Kenney began using Myspace in 2005. “It was wild. I started with 200-300 followers and within 6 months, I had 30,000 followers.” Kenney describes the beginnings of social media as the “Wild west.” I have to agree with him because at the time it was so new and there was no advice or rules to follow.
I found his approach to social media much like mine, carefully considering the kind of content to put out there. Kenney did bring up the permanent nature of social media. “It’s so far away in the future and most people don’t think about that concept.”
Kenney went on to describe his point: “I ride a motorcycle and I’ve had a couple of close calls. After my close call, I thought what was the last thing I tweeted? Because it makes me think of Heavy D’s last tweet before he died and he tweeted something very profound.” Kenney quickly looked up Heavy D’s last tweet and sure enough, it was very profound. It read, “BE INSPIRED.”
It’s a thought that never occurred to me before, that if you’re gone tomorrow, your social media post could be everlasting. You’re not there to edit or change your last post or tweet. Kenney said, “I don’t want to post anything I’ll regret. I’ve been tempted to go back through my tweets and delete some.”
As we moved onto the topic of Facebook, Kenney admits that Facebook isn’t his favorite social media platform. “It’s a necessary evil, but it’s also great because it doesn’t cost anything to speak to people. The platform is there to advertise and throw ads in people’s faces. I’m not dissing Facebook as it has become the standard. I haven’t printed a flyer in a long time because of Facebook.”
Facebook has drastically changed over the years with the evolution of ads and paying to promote posts. Yet, the concept is still there – the ability to communicate with fans directly. Kenney gave a great example: “If you’re a musician and you decide you want to paint trash cans this week, you have an outlet to sell them.”
Kenney added: “Facebook is a mandatory thing but I don’t find it as exciting as Instagram. I love photography and imagery so I enjoy Instagram the most.” If you check out Kenney’s pages, you can tell he’s got an eye for photography and does capture some beautiful photos.
Twitter to Kenney is something he checks to see “If everyone is still alive.” Ben describes Twitter as a “Giant cocktail party,” which I thought was a perfect way to depict the networking site.
“Certain conversations [on Twitter] are happening in certain corners, but it’s always the loudest person communicating the most often – they just don’t always have the most interesting things to say. It’s usually the most quiet person that has the most interesting things to say. What do I say at this cocktail party? Sometimes it’s too much noise”
I feel the same way about Twitter – too much information at times. I can hardly keep up with the tweets that seem to zip by every second.
Kenney also brought up the new frontier of psychology of social media and how it’s “Overwhelming and intense.” He added: “We do compare our lives to others on social media. You could be sitting at the DMV, look on your phone and someone is posting that they’re in the South of France and you’re thinking: Shit I’m not…I’m at the DMV.”
I found this part of our conversation very interesting because sometimes we find ourselves obsessed with how much engagement a single post will receive. While many people see your post, Kenney said, “It’s wild because so many are quietly watching [your social media profiles]. I can post something, but not everyone likes it. Maybe they see it, register it, but not everyone interacts with or endorses it by liking it.”
Indeed, the world of social media has become something no one could have predicted, especially for the music industry. It’s a tool that has allowed bands to promote and sell their music without the help of a major label. Even Kenney agrees that before the days of social media, you had to hire record labels and executives to help you reach your audience. Now, you can fire up a Facebook fan page, Twitter page, Instagram account, Tumblr, YouTube, Reverbnation, and the list goes on. At times, it’s truly amazing how many social media platforms are available at your disposal.
At the end of the day, there is no denying that social media has played a major role in his personal musical career. It’s fundamentally changed the way fans discover music as well as changed the way musicians are able to market their music. As social media continues to rapidly change, there is one clear takeaway for Kenney. “I wouldn’t be able to tour without it. This project wouldn’t be possible without social media. It’s my connection and without it, many wouldn’t know what I do on the side.”
To cap off an amazing time with Ben Kenney, he posted a fantastic photo from my guest room, which is fondly known as “The Beach Room.” If you’re curious to see his post, you’ll have to visit his Facebook page to find out.
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