By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
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Dallas freelance writer Beth Erickson shares her life as @txnewsprincess and can't take a break from Twitter for people getting worried about her well-being.
"If I don't tweet for a few days, people get really worried and think I'm dead. They must think, 'Well, we haven't heard her stream-of-consciousness babble in a few days; she must be dead,'" she laughs. It's the level of openness that she finds liberating.
"The voice that I use tends to be a facet of myself that isn't mom-centered. I mean, everything about my life is mom-centered, but Twitter is an outlet for me to be profane or whatever. People who read me on Twitter probably don't think I am an attentive mom, but I keep my kids separate," says Franklin.
Others aren't just sectioning off parts of themselves; they're creating entirely new, often more exciting personas.
Armstrong and a friend have a name for them: "fauxcializers," the people who are virtual wallflowers compared to their dynamic personalities online.
Twitter can be a goldmine for musicians, who can use it to connect with their fans, send out new tracks through posted links and remind followers of upcoming shows. In Houston and Dallas, however, it remains a largely untapped resource, embraced for the most part only by rappers.
In Dallas, Pete Freedman (@petefreedman), music editor of the Press's sister paper the Dallas Observer, enjoys watching the interaction among local hip-hop scene heads, including Mr. Hit Dat Hoe, which sometimes will run late into the night.
"I love watching the rappers make fun of each other's weight, haircuts and jobs. It's fake beef, with lots of 'LMAO' [laughing my ass off] and 'SMH' [shaking my head], but it's amazing. I don't know how many around-the-clockers there are. There are day-timers, evening tweeters and late-night and even all-nighters," he says.
Soul singer and Dallas native Erykah Badu (@fatbabybella) tweeted nonstop, Freedman says, even while she came under fire for her infamous music video shot in Dealey Plaza. The clip for "Window Seat" featured Badu in slow-motion walking through the area where President Kennedy was shot in 1963, and at the end of the video she stripped nude in front of passersby and tourists on Elm Street and feigned being shot in the head.
As the controversy swelled around her, she used her Twitter account to field questions about the artistic intent of the video, and she even tweeted about her eventual citation for disorderly conduct at the plaza by saying she was "taking one for the team."
Houston indie hip-hopper Fat Tony(@fattonyrap) has been using Twitter to disseminate his work and art since January 2009. With almost 1,200 followers on the site, his level of fan interaction is high, and he routinely talks back and forth with his followers at a fast clip. Most musicians, especially rock-and-roll guys, shun the transparency of Twitter in lieu of keeping that extra air of mystery between artist and consumer.
"I'd advise up-and-coming indie dudes to go against the grain and put their personality out there...For the average person, even me, if they get to peep your style and your thoughts and really relate to it they'll be more receptive to your music. The beauty of underground music is separating the stardom, and it helps you relate more to an artist as a person."
"Plus indie dudes can still be cryptic and mysterious if they really want, since you only get 140 characters per tweet," he says, chuckling.
Jeremy Osborn (@waysidedrive) of Houston alt-rockers Wayside Drive was at first ambivalent about Twitter as a vehicle for promotion and interaction, but soon saw the value. He echoes Fat Tony's assumption about rock bands having a "twitterphobia."
"Most rock and indie musicians are still stuck in the mind-set of the music industry they grew up in where the bands they loved were always at arm's length. I came from this mentality. Bands usually hold their cards pretty close to the chest, and don't always want to have that type of relationship with their fans. They don't want people to know their little secrets, like how they did this or better ways of doing that. Also, I don't think they fully understand that Twitter is about interaction and not just blindly posting crap that they're promoting."
Osborn and Wayside Drive noticed that just by using Twitter to promote shows and talk directly to fans, they got what Osborn claims to be a "1,071 percent" rise in Web traffic. The increased visibility got the band more gigs in the process, getting their music out to more and more listeners, "saving the world two ears at a time," as the band's site proclaims.
"I think in this new market a very important thing is transparency, and the sharing of ideas and the creative process. We see it in software, we see it in business and we need to see it in music."
Osborn points to Grace Rodriguez (@gracerodriguez), the president of Houston-based branding and consulting firm Ayn Brand, as one of the people who showed him the true power of Twitter.
A band member can microblog a tour and not just throw out concert dates and Web addresses at randomly scheduled intervals.