To say that Jessica Northey of Tucson-based Finger Candy Media’s #CMchat Twitter launch has succeeded in its first year would be a massive understatement.
“Country Music Chat, also known as #CMChat,” her Web site states, “has generated over 1.5 Billion impressions since its beginning in May 2011 on Twitter, and reached over 50 Million according to Hashtracking.com.” ((I was wrong about the numbers, spoke to Charlie from Hashtracking and it is 1.5 BILLION IPRESSION (with a B–WOW)
A Washington Times feature on Northey in July said that “Twitter chats work because they provide access to celebrities/influencers, centralize discussion and keep people regularly engaged with a topic. They are almost an untapped resource for promoting to a targeted and engaged group of people.”
In a mid-July phone conversation from her office in Arizona, Northey said that #CMChat “is a Hashtag community that brings together people all speaking about this same subject.” *Hashtags are words or phrases prefixed with the symbol #, a form of metadata tag used to group and isolate these when clicked upon.*
In the subject of country music, Northey was one of the first to recognize the power of Twitter from a tech standpoint, just as Blake Shelton was one of the first to get it from an artist standpoint.
Twitter, with its famous 140-character limit on messages, is very new. The company launched in 2006. One year later, Jessica started using it, recognizing it had a major advantage over text messaging via cell phones, often involving paying a fee or electronic “postage” to send the text.
“Something clicked,” she says. “Why not have your own SMS (Short Message Service) through your Twitter account?”
She was way ahead of the curve there, and far ahead of nearly all of country radio and Music Row. Though Twitter is just a 6-year-old company with barely 400 employees, and #CMChat barely a year old, the technology’s ability to have fans and artists interact directly has changed much of the way the country and country radio businesses work.
The focus of #CMChat is a weekly one-hour program, when as Northey told the Washington Times, “I host a celebrity from the country music industry including artists, radio, TV and multimedia journalists. Throughout the week, people now use #CMChat to share information with each other.”
On one recent Monday night, the guest at #CMChat was MCA Nashville standout David Nail; at another, Warner Music Nashville trio The Farm. More than 2,700 Tweets came in during the hour for one of the artists, with more than 800 unique users of the #CMchat hashtag.
In a time of drastically shrinking CD sales and a crippling nationwide recession hurting concert attendance, this type of positive number is music to the ears of Music Row labels and managers.
One of the cool developments Jessica has noticed is that it isn’t just the young stars like Shelton, Miranda Lambert, or Taylor Swift – artists who because of their age would naturally tend to be tech-savvy – who are using Twitter. So do veteran stars such as The Oak Ridge Boys and Charlie Daniels.
Jessica got a personal thrill when one of her musical idols started following her on Twitter.
“I was the first person Merle Haggard followed when he got on Twitter, which is amazing,” she says, smiling. “I was like, ‘holy cow, that’s pretty cool.’ I wasn’t even following him yet. Every time I see that someone like Hank Jr. is following me, I get all dewy and gooey.”
Northey notes that even though Taylor Swift’s Twitter following dwarfs that of any other country star, Swift is often not swift to Tweet.
“Taylor hasn’t tweeted anything since July 10,” Jessica said July 19. “She might have the reach, but not the frequency. Blake Shelton, on the other hand, pretty much Tweets every day.”
Asked why Twitter chats are so effective, she told the Washington Times: “It gives artists and fans a leveled playing field. I think people think there is a separation between then and someone who is famous, but in reality especially when it comes to Social Media, they are as new at it as you.”
By Phil Sweetland