Ever wondered why Helena Hauff, Shackleton or Crooked Man aren’t on social media? Can an artist survive without social media? We thought we’d ask them to find out…

There’s no doubt that the last ten to fifteen years have been defined by the rise and near-ubiquity of social media. Since around the mid-2000s most artists, producers and DJs who work in electronic music have created their own social media presence.

We’re not talking about SoundCloud, Mixcloud or anywhere else that hosts your mixes or tracks here. Instead we’re talking about the four big social media platforms of the past ten years: Facebook, Twitter Instagram and TikTok, and for the vast majority of artists, they’re simply unavoidable. 

Most of us have a mixed relationship with social media; it’s a space where we can share jokes, opinions, music, where we can do business, do research, make connections, have fun. It’s a truly wonderful resource that was literally unthinkable just a few decades ago.

However, it’s also where opinions can be fed to us to shape consent, where elections can be won and lost, where representation and persecution of minorities continues to be a worrying factor, where our data is used to sell us things we didn’t know we didn’t need, where some users experience anxiety and isolation, others abuse and persecution.

While every single person involved in marketing or PR will insist that a social media presence is essential to music industry success, there are a small number of artists who simply refuse to play the game; we asked Crooked Man, Helena Hauff and Shackleton why they’re not on social media.

If you like this article, you may enjoy our series on artists who have decided to drop using Spotify.

Those platforms are run by money-driven megalomaniacs that don't give a shit about making the world a better place.

Crooked Man / DJ Parrot

In a career that began in 1988, UK house pioneer Richard Barratt, also known as Crooked Man, DJ Parrot, LadyCop, member of Sweet Exorcist, The All Seeing I, Funky Worm and many more, has worked with Róisín Murphy, Cabaret Voltaire and Toddla T. He’s remixed Amy Douglas, Greg Foat and Lou Hayter, all the while creating an enviable catalogue of his own heavy-duty twisted disco. 

crooked man social media

What is your current situation regarding social media, do you have any presence at all?

No. Though worryingly I do sometimes get random people saying stuff like “Saw this on your such-and-such page” and I’m thinking “Eh..? What page??” 

Why do you choose not to be on the main social media platforms?

The short answer would be that I’m a contrary old Northern twat. But beyond that happy fact, I guess it’s a small protest against the pervasive notion that everyone needs to know everything, all of the time, everywhere. It’s a vain attempt at keeping a little mystery around the creative process.

For me, finding music and having no clue as to where it came from or who made it always added a particular frisson to a record that no amount of major label marketing could ever match. I’m not right sure we need to be told exactly who everybody is, what brand of shoes they wear and what they had for breakfast.

What do you think are the effects of the ubiquity of social media on young artists?

It’s the world they’ve grown up in and it’s completely natural for them to communicate in that way. Summat that feels to me like the horrendous commodification of self is just their day-to-day life.

It’s unlikely that they’ll be hankering after making mysterious unnamed 12-inchers any more than a youthful me was desperate to have a dance to the Joe Loss Orchestra.

How have you managed to thrive in your career without social media?

Hmmm… I’m mot sure “thrive” would be the right verb! Record labels can certainly be somewhat thrown when it dawns on them that an artist has no Insta etc. Which is good, because if they still persist in wanting a relationship it means that they might genuinely like the music. Or alternatively, are at least as daft as I am. Hopefully both.

What other thoughts on the subject would you like to share?

I’m not all bitter and twisted about the modern world, honest. I often find myself smirking at e-guff. For instance, a man like my fellow Sheffielder Luke Una is just built to be gobeshiteing all over social media. I call him an Internet Influenza, coughing amusing thoughts up, shooting his viral load everywhere.

Some people’s personalities are well suited to be continually making noise, and other people really need to keep their traps shut. I’m one of the latter.

These new platforms and forms of communication have not necessarily had such an enlightening and unifying effect on humanity as was perhaps thought a couple of decades back.

Helena Hauff

An uncompromising DJ whose sets span techno, acid, electro, EBM and post-punk, Helena Hauff has also released two artist albums on Ninja Tune, has a small but perfectly formed discography on labels including Lux Rec, Panzerkreuz, Solar One Music, Fabric etc. and is founder of the Return To Disorder label. If you don;t know Helena, then it’s time to put that right. Maybe start with this 303 jam.

helena hauff social media

What is your current situation regarding social media – do you have any presence at all?

I’m on SoundCloud.

Why do you choose not to be on the main social media platforms?

I was on Myspace for 2 months in 2007 and I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. It consumed way too much of my time and it weirdly made me think too much about what other people thought of me. So I made the decision to never join another network again.

What do you think might be the effects of the ubiquity of social media on young artists?

First of all, I need to say that I don’t judge anyone using it, I really don’t. I think the idea of ‘you’re only famous because you are on social media is stupid. If you don’t have the talent to back it up social media isn’t gonna get you anywhere (in most cases).

The pressure on young artists is immense though. I wish more people would realise that it’s optional. If you don’t like it don’t use it.

I regularly have conversations with other artists that envy my position as they believe the social media thing is massively affecting their mental health. But I’m aware that it can also have a positive effect for some people. If you’re housebound maybe the online interaction is actually helping you cope for example…

How have you managed to thrive in your career without social media?

Very well. Could I be more famous? Sure. Do I care? No. I’m very happy where I am. Any more fame and I would possibly have to compromise on my sound and play more commercial music anyway. I’m in the happy medium place right now where I can do whatever I want and still make enough money to live a comfortable life.

Do you have any other thoughts on the subject that you’d like to share?

I feel like we should think a little bit more about who we are actually engaging with and selling our data to. Those platforms are run by money-driven megalomaniacs that don’t give a shit about making the world a better place. They are undermining democracies all over the world, covering up human trafficking, helping spread misinformation and much more.

But leaving the field to the bigots might not be the right thing to do. Maybe it’s better to engage and try to change things. So I’m not sure if my position is necessarily the best to hold.

I think the idea of 'you're only famous because you are on social media is stupid. If you don't have the talent to back it up social media isn't gonna get you anywhere (in most cases).

Shackleton

UK producer Sam Shackleton has released his highly original music on Mordant, Perlon, Honest Jon’s, Hot Flush, Crosstown Rebels, ran the Skull Disco and Woe To The Septic Heart! labels, has released eight artist albums since his career began in 2004, and has collaborated with artists including Pinch, Ernesto Tomasini, Anika, Zimpel and Appleblim. 

Shackleton social media

What is your current situation regarding social media, do you have a presence at all? 

I have a Bandcamp page so anyone who wants to contact me can do it via the contact form. I am easy enough to track down if people want to find me.

I have a website for my label too but I am not sure how functional it is. I like having it somehow as my artist friend Zeke designed it with a kaleidoscope effect but I don’t think it appears too prominently in Google searches, unfortunately.

Why do you choose not to be on the main social media platforms? 

It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I think that people started listening to my music before all this became a thing back then. I have always been quite pleased that people have seemed to carry on listening over the years so I never really thought about trying to push for more attention via social media.

In my day-to-day life I get quite distracted by silly things and really wish I could focus better and so I think if I had to keep social media sites going as well, I would have even less time for getting on with what I want to.

Meanwhile, the whole thing seems to have moved on to such a point that I do not think I would even know how to step into it if I wanted to. The vagaries of what makes things popular or gain attention in the world of Twitter or Instagram are pretty much a mystery to me.

What do you think might be the effects of the ubiquity of social media on young artists? 

I’m not sure. I would say that these new platforms and forms of communication have not necessarily had such an enlightening and unifying effect on humanity as was perhaps thought a couple of decades back. 

How have you managed to thrive in your career without social media? 

I am not sure if it has always been to my disadvantage. Possibly there was a time when people still liked a bit of mystery although I think that is finished though now.

Of course, you always hope that when you make the music to the best of your ability that there will be an audience for it regardless of whether you are posting on social media. Maybe that will prove to be wishful thinking though.  

I would say that these new platforms and forms of communication have not necessarily had such an enlightening and unifying effect on humanity as was perhaps thought a couple of decades back.

Words: Harold Heath

If you struggle with social media addiction you can visit UK Rehab for confidential advice.

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Author Harold Heath
5th December, 2022

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