LAS VEGAS – CTIA’s Super Mobility Conference capped off three days of keynote sessions with a talk from musician John Legend.
While Legend might seem at first glance an odd fit to keynote a wireless show, the musician had some interesting thoughts on how social media and technology are changing the way artists interact with their fans.
Legend was interviewed by Chris Hercik, senior vice president of creative and content at Time Inc.’s The Foundry.
Talking about how Legend shared the first photos of his child Luna, the musician said mobility and social media have allowed he and his wife Chrissy Teigen to control their messaging.
“We like to control our story as much as we can,” Legend said. “We like to be our own publicist, and tell our own story. We feel like mobile technology has given us the opportunity to do that…it allows us to control the narrative more than we previously could have.”
Legend also spoke to how he and Teigen manage their public and private personas and what they share with the public.
“There’s plenty of things we don’t share,” Legend said. “But we do feel that it’s much easier to be truthful…We’re pretty honest on social media…I think part of the reason is that what we’re selling is us…My music is me.”
Legend said he has a digital team that manages a large part of his social media assets, but he said his fans likely know when it really is him behind the posts.
“I really try to engage my fans in a very edifying conversation about these things,” Legend said, noting that he regularly shares book suggestions, as well as his opinions on political and social matters.
Technology has not only shaped Legend’s carreer but fundamentally changed the music industry. He noted that the first group that he performed with back in college actually mailed CDs to those who bought them online. Obviously, things have changed a lot since then.
“There’s been a lot of challenge for the selling of recorded music,” Legend said. “There’s less money in the pot for all the people. For artists we still have it pretty good because we can make a lot of money on tour…we have ways outside of just the business of selling recorded music.” That said, Legend thinks that streaming services and digital music have ultimately been good for music.
“I think it actually makes music more listened to than it ever has been,” Legend said. “My music goes with me everywhere…I think that’s a beautiful, powerful thing.”
Mobile has become a big part of live shows, as fans like to take pictures and videos of artists while they perform. Legend said the trend is a double-edged sword.
“I have kind of a love, hate relationship with [smartphones at shows],” Legend said, acknowledging that mobility is an incredibly powerful marketing tool but can sometimes get in the way of appreciating the moment. “But sometimes,” he admitted. “I’m just like, put your phones down and enjoy the music.”