Independent Hawaii Musician Kenneth Makuakane Thrives on Social Media

This week is the first ever Nā Hōkū Festival, a celebration of the arts and culture of Hawaiʻi. I am fortunate to be a guest speaker at their conference event, which features three days of educational and inspirational sessions covering every aspect of being a Hawaiian musician. Other events include concerts around Oʻahu, and the kick off event, the annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Music Awards happening tonight. (You can watch the ceremony live in HD via local TV station Hawaii News Now. Scroll down and look for the player in the left column if you don’t see it featured.)

Really, though, this post is about Kenneth Makuakāne. He is an independent Hawaiian musician, earning a comfortable living for himself, his lovely wife and their small child. So yes, it can be done, and I want to share with you some of how Kenneth does it. Here is an excerpt of a phone interview I did with him just in time for Nā Hōkū Festival!

Rox: How long have you been using social media?
Kenneth: About 4 years ago I joined Myspace. I attracted about 4000 fans. Over time though, I noticed Myspace was not about friends really but about signing up a lot of people. It was not really faciliting my needs other than serving as a free artist site. Then Facebook came along, and after 3 people asked me to connect with them there, I did. I find it a much better format for me because it is much more interactive. Podcamp was a real experience for me too. I started using WordPress for my blog after than and going to the Social Media Club meetings to learn more.

Rox: How are you using Facebook? I know you have a fan page for your music.
Kenneth: Well, I leave it on all day when I am at my computer. I get the notification sound and can respond whenever someone interacts with me. There is more interactivity and ease of use; it is easy to create events. It has a chat capability – fans see you are online and want to talk! I had to finally turn it off though, as I get too much – I only use it when I have time. The good thing is people can message and I can respond when I have time. A lot of Japanese fans now, sending me photos, etc.

Rox: What is your larger strategy in using social media?
Kenneth: I’ve changed my branding to being a solo artist. First I was a “lei and white pants musician” at the hotels, then musician for musicians and record producer, now back into the performance end. Had to rebrand myself and find another avenue. Social media has done that for me – it creates opportunities for younger and older people to connect – they feel like they can talk to you now! Greatest part – you don’t have to have live chat – you can respond in your own time. However I always answer my fans; that is very important.

Rox: What other tools do you use to connect with and support your fans?
Kenneth: Well, I learned I had to build a fan base. One by one. So they trust me and know me and call me a friend and know that Im a real person. They know I will answer. I do my Google Alerts to find out who is talking about me in other places. I go to those places and start commenting to people and then it drives them back to my site.

It takes time, but is well worth it. I have gained loyal fans, they are buying my albums, reading my stories, telling their friends about me.

Rox: Do have a specific example of how social media directly is supporting your business?
Kenneth: Yes! last year and this year I held a CD release party at the Ala Moana Hotel. We only used social media to get the word out, and both events were standing room only! That was the only marketing we did.

Rox: You also sent me some links showing you were ranked in the top 10 on both the folk artist (where you are #3 today right behind Makana!) and the world/reggae.
Kenneth: Yes. Just like when my music was used on your, my fans use their own Google alerts and find me there and that helps build my connection to them, and your fans come to my web site too. All these links from other people help me on the ReverbNation charts.

Please visit Kenneth’s website here.
Please visit Kenneth’s blog here.
Please visit Kenneth’s Facebook page here.

Thank you Kenneth!