Online Presence for Singers

In this conversation, Frisco and Otaño discuss the ways that singers must manage their online presence. Read on to discover ways to improve your website and social media to your professional advantage.

 

Cris Frisco: So, today we’re jumping into a fraught topic and discussing singers’ online presence—both on websites and on social media. Kerriann, I know you’re a big proponent of social media in the industry.

Kerriann Otaño: I was just recording a podcast called “My So-Called Opera Life” with two singers, Marcelle and Elise, and we got to talking about the fact that they know me primarily because of social media. I’ve never met them before, but because of the way I talk about the opera industry—advocating for singers, the importance of mental health care, grief and gratitude—and how I believe that leads to better art, I already have a relationship with these potential collaborators. 

CF: First I think we should say that, in 2022, an online presence is a huge part of the industry. It’s largely how people of a certain generation keep track of each other. Because we aren’t seeing each other in person on as regular a basis, it’s become a way to keep in touch both personally and professionally. I think it can be an incredibly powerful tool, but it also has a couple potential downsides.  

KO: I agree. It really helps for someone to pop up in my newsfeed, and I find myself saying, “What is this great soprano I worked with three years ago doing? Let me look at her website…let me see what she’s working on.” I think it’s so valuable in that regard.

CF: I think singers underestimate how important it is to stay in the minds of the people who make casting and hiring decisions. There are just so many truly talented artists out there in the world, and sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded of artists. And I do think that’s where social media can be very useful. If we were going to come up with some Do’s and Don’ts for social media, what would be on your list?

KO: My best advice is drafting. I write things down in my notes app on my phone and make drafts on Instagram or TikTok. When I’m in the moment, what I’m making feels insightful or funny or interesting. I like to look back at it the next day with fresh eyes. Sometimes I come in with hot takes—but when I draft these things, I can really ask myself if what I’m saying is productive and valuable and if it’s how I want people to see me. 

CF: One of the things you always have to keep in mind is that once you post something, that’s where your control of that content ends. Once it’s out there, it can cross anyone’s newsfeed—colleagues, friends, people you don’t know—and you have to ask yourself, “Is this something that represents me and that I’m comfortable with anybody in the industry seeing?”

KO: Before you post online, ask yourself how you want to be perceived. How do you want to affect other people with what you post online? Does what you post online make people want to work with you? Would people who see your content know that you are a good colleague, a passionate artist, and a great collaborator? How do you want to be seen? The way that you post online should be intentional and based on how you want to be perceived and received by audiences and colleagues. Lean into the positivity and the authenticity of that. 

I find that on the Internet, the instinct is to put a shiny filter on everything and say, “Look how great my career/life is going.” You don’t have to pour everything of yourself into the Internet, but don’t curate a version of yourself that doesn’t exist in the real world. Be authentic, because there are people who will connect with that authenticity and then connect with your art more deeply. I think the way that I represent myself on social media is an important tool when it comes to how I’m able to interact with artists and administrators.

CF: I think this probably brings us to one of the “don’ts.” I think you want to be very careful about using social media for complaints. We all need people in our lives that we can call and complain to after a rough day, people we can grab a drink with and say all the things we need to say in the heat of any moment. The trick is finding the balance between those things: not being a fake proxy of yourself, but also not using it as a bullhorn for all your grievances and problems.

KO: Yes. If it’s on the Internet, it lives forever. Even if it’s in DMs or only sent to close friends. Don’t be a bully, don’t badmouth colleagues. 

CF: So much of what you’re marketing with social media is not only your talent, but yourself as a colleague and a citizen. When we hire people, we consider that we’ll need to spend weeks or months with them.

KO: And we hire people that we want to put in front of donors, the press, and our community. We want to know we can trust the artists to represent the art form and themselves—and your social media will show us that.

CF: Another place I think you want to go through a draft process is in posting videos of your singing. Just be mindful that anything you put on the Internet becomes fair game for companies to see, because one of the things we do when we’re considering a singer is search for performance videos online. You may only submit two videos for prescreening, but if we’re interested in you, we’ll probably go looking for more—and that is one of the things you can control. 

KO: It’s about taking control of the things you can. Your website is a perfect example. 

CF: What are things you think should be on everyone’s website?

KO: We need fresh recordings of you, a current bio, some juicy press quotes, and a way to contact you or your manager. I need your bio to be up to date so I can pull quotes from that when I write press releases about our artists. 

CF: Yes! The thing that’s nonnegotiable is that you have to keep it updated. People pull your bio and photos from your website all the time, whether you’re expecting them to or not. Make sure these are things that you feel good about having out in the world. I don’t think you need a ton of recordings—a few is great as long as they’re current and representative. Keep your calendar updated so people know when and where you’re booked. 

KO: It’s important to consider your audience. What you share on your website should probably tell me all I need to know about you as a working artist: what you’re currently singing, where you’re working, and how I can get in touch with you. Instagram is great for the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes. On TikTok, I’m trying to reach working artists and people who have never seen opera. But on Facebook, you’re potentially reaching general directors, board chairs, donors, people you may live with in a homestay. You want to keep your audience in mind.

CF: It’s also important to remember that our industry is multigenerational, and that means different people use different platforms. For example, if all of your content is on TikTok, there is an important slice of the industry who probably isn’t seeing it.   

KO: I also understand it can feel overwhelming. Start simple. Sit down with your friends and trusted colleagues. Ask them and ask yourself how you are perceived. You don’t need to start with four Tiktoks and three Reels a day, you just have to start by asking yourself some questions: How do I want people to see me before I get to the gig? Do I want to be perceived as professional, hardworking, and collegial? Do I want to be seen as fun and fun to be around? Do I want to be seen as someone who is a disrupter, who challenges institutions? Find these terms to describe yourself and then figure out how you’re portraying yourself online and if it’s reflecting how you see yourself and how you want to be seen. 

CF: I think that’s excellent advice.

Kerriann Otano and Cris Frisco

Kerriann Otaño is the vice president of engagement at Opera Delaware. A former singer, she performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, and the Wolf Trap and Glimmerglass Festivals. Cris Frisco is the director of musical activities and director of the Handorf Company Artist Program at Opera Memphis. He teaches at the Mannes School of Music and is a NYC-based coach and pianist.