A blend of indie and folk, Pete Miller’s songs explore the unmasking of human tendencies. His lyrically clever offerings delve into the raw nature of humans: exposing, proposing, desiring, and accepting. Miller’s determined approach and desire to transcend traditional music boundaries have established him as a prominent, emerging local musician.
Napster, guilt trips, and xoxobubbles
As with most of my interviews, what you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
“I feel like my first experience, even before instant messenger, the one that had the most impact on me, was Napster. I was in high school at the time, 15 or 16 years old. And, just the ability to share music was really cool. It was right when a bunch of artists that got me into music, Jack Johnson for example, made me realize that I didn’t have to be in a band. I could be a solo musician playing simple chords with a catchy melody.”
“I remember, we had dial-up and I was going to drivers-ed. Before I left for class, I started to download a Limp Bizkit song. When I came back something had happened and it hadn’t downloaded. That’s a random memory. But, just the idea of being able to share what was in your library, there was no money, it was just this crazy free-flow of information and it was awesome. I heard so many weird, off-beat recordings that weren’t, you know, straight off iTunes. Like, Jack Johnson did this recording in his basement and it got on Napster and it was now my favorite song. I really looked forward to coming home from school and looking for songs. And, this was way, way before I got into music.”
“I remember thinking ‘MySpace is so cool, but it’s so weird.’ It was such a weird concept to me to have a profile—this was before I had a music page—and that people would message you. The whole concept of getting friends and sharing my info … I wasn’t too into it. Only when I created a music profile was it then ok for me to accept that I wanted others to look at my profile. Having people look at ‘music me’ was much more comfortable. Then I scrambled to get music up on my page. I was living in Burlington, VT at this point, and I had a buddy who was on my softball team, and I was like, ‘Hey, can we record at your house? I’ve have to get some songs up on MySpace.’ Because, in my head, I was like, ‘everyone is going to listen to this.’ I would click refresh everyday just to see the play total go from like 101 to 102. Then I would think, ‘that was an ok day, I got one play.’ Of course, it was me, because I had listened to it that day.”
“When I started on Facebook, it was more comfortable for me to use personally. Mainly because I knew who people were. They used their real names. Unlike MySpace where people were like, user: ‘xoxobubbles.'”
“I remember starting to post on Facebook. It was right when it came out. I was a sophomore or junior in college. It wasn’t as ingrained as it is now to post a status update. I would let people know when and where I was going to play but the usage wasn’t as high as it is now. Now, people are on it all the time. Back then it was a little more cumbersome and less integrated in my life. I mean, I used to check it once a day, and now I check it a lot of times a day. Now, with the noises associated with Facebook posts, I have to close it or it get’s really distracting. I’d be looking at it everytime it made a noise, and I’d never get anything done.”
What do you like about social media?
“Starting out on Facebook and having ‘friends’ on a personal level, and then getting into music and becoming a musician, it was a great way to reach those existing friends with my music. Especially friends that perhaps didn’t know that I played music. So, it was a great way initially to let people know that, ‘Hey, I play music. Check it out. Listen. Now you know.’ And, now I use Facebook to market the band, and really that’s it. So, I’m marketing myself, myself being the band and our music, constantly to my core group of friends. And that core group has really expanded because of how our music and personal lives are intertwined. It’s a really, quick, painless, effortless way to get likes, and listens, and unique impressions, and shares. I mean, when we released the first of our three videos, it was awesome. People shared it. Numbers were probably small, but for us, compared to anything we’d done up until that point, it was off-the-charts. It was really neat seeing all of the shares and where it went. I just kind of sat back and watched it. And, really enjoyed it.”
“Social media is a really great tool for a small, fan-based musician like me. Or, more accurately, ‘we,’ as in, the band.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“I feel good when I get a ‘like’ for my music, but then the feeling’s gone in five minutes. Especially when I post a photo of the band and me playing music on Instagram. I get that satisfaction from people liking it, but then five minutes later, I’m like, ‘well, where am I at now?’ So, I go and check it again. I mean, how do you quantify that feeling and what is that feeling equal to in non-social media terms? It’s a really weird reaction that’s so short-lived.”
“You can overdo it. You can share your stuff too much. I know that when my friends post things over and over again I’m like, ‘c’mon, I’ve already seen that way too much.'”
“It’s super-distracting and time-consuming. Especially when I’m setting out to finish writing a song or something like that. Now. it’s become ingrained in me to be like, ‘OK, I need a break. I’ve got to check Facebook.’ And, then something else happens and all of a sudden I’ve gone down this weird rat hole of watching like, a Coolio YouTube video or something. Random stuff. So, it is really distracting. And, on the flip side, it’s stressful. I don’t always want to be thinking about what I’m going to post next. I can get into that habit, and it’s a lifestyle that I don’t want.”
“I don’t like guilt-trips. I really don’t. And, it really just irks me when people do that on social media.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“On a very selfish level, I think it would be the best thing ever. From a business perspective, I would lose a lot. People would think I’d stopped playing music, and coming back would be really hard. People forget really quickly. I’d lose a ton of momentum.”
“On a personal level, on a music level, I would probably gain a lot from disconnecting. I’d be writing more and I’d be solely focused on the music, not on the marketing. As a business I would lose. As a musician, I would win.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“Conversation. Marketing. Mask.”
If you’d like to watch “Pete Miller and Band” band perform, you can check them out this Saturday night, November 9, at 8:00 p.m. at Frontier, 14 Maine St., Brunswick, Maine.
I want to thank Pete for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Pete on Facebook at: thepetemillermusic
You can find Pete on Twitter at: @thepetemiller
You can find Pete on Vimeo at: thepetemiller