Hashtags Are Officially #Over. So Now What?

Jennifer Lopez, shown in 2012, hopped on the hashtag bandwagon with 2013's "#liveitup."
Jennifer Lopez, shown in 2012, hopped on the hashtag bandwagon with 2013's "#liveitup."
Photo by Marco Torres

PREVIOUSLY: Why #Hashtags Are So Damned Irresistible to Record Companies

This social sphere of readily available media makes it easier for artists to reach their fans on a whole new level, but it also makes those fans able to reach other things with just the click of a button which in turn lessens the modern day music listener's attention span by a pretty big percentage.

The only way Katy Perry's new #smash would benefit from its hashtag would be if her listeners constantly banded together and sent out thousands of tweets about the song to make #smash a trending topic on Twitter, which we all know people besides her diehard KatyCats would not do.

Phrases that you add a hashtag to are supposed to be specific so that users know what the hashtag is about when they see it, but the word "beautiful" is not specific, Ms. Carey. People use "#beautiful" in their tweets every single day, and chances are they are not talking about your song. So what's the point of the hashtag? It seems like artists are using hashtags so blindly nowadays that the point of the hashtag is to make people wonder why there is a hashtag in the song.

Most people are not going to type the hashtag when they search the song in Google, and besides that, the majority of online music listeners see the use of a hashtag in song titles as a bit of a joke and a plea from artists to be considered "hip" and with the times. Now, it seems like even underground artists are hashtagging their song titles, as if the presence of the hashtag is more important than the song.

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As an up-and-coming artist, would you want your first impression to be a hashtagged song? For me, I would want relevancy and longevity, but a hashtag is not that way to achieve that. Maybe for established artists like J.Lo and Mariah Carey, the hashtag will help spark buzz at the time of the release, but after that initial hype, you are left with a hashtagged song title. Forever.

In fact, it seems like temporary hype is what music marketing has turned into judging by this past year. Starting with Beyonce's surprise release at the end of 2013, it feels as if every artist in 2014 pulled some sort of attention-grabbing scheme to sell his or her records. What comes to mind when I think of pre-Beyonce marketing is Lady Gaga's promotion of her Born This Way album in 2011. Gaga promoted that album to death, going as far as calling it the "album of the decade" before it was even released. You just couldn't escape Born This Way, and that is what helped the record sell over 1 million copies in its first week. But that was Gaga, and this is now.

Story continues on the next page.

 REWIND: "Surprise Albums" Might Be the New Normal

The current music layout has just about fully adopted the element of surprise as its main promotion tactic. From Madonna dropping a whole EP without notice, to U2 showing up on every Apple user's iTunes, to Jay-Z releasing his Magna Carta Holy Grail album free on Samsung Galaxy phones, to Rihanna casually posting her new single with Kanye West and Paul McCartney on her Web site, the music PR world has taken a sharp turn recently. But is it good or bad?

One could argue that these artists are using these strange methods as a shallow, attention-hogging way to get people to talk about their music, but another person could argue that by releasing songs and albums without any notice, artists are attempting to make it more about the music and less about the promotion.

Where will we take music marketing next? Will artists announce a release date for their album, but surprise us by releasing the album the following day? Will they promote a hypothetical album that is actually a totally different name and sound than the album they are promoting?

Okay, this seems pretty extreme. But either way, if the music is good, you will get the listeners, and with such a flood of good music coming out lately, I guess you could say I am #hopeful.

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