Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz has always been at the forefront of emerging tech trends. He was among the first musicians to start a blog in the mid ’90s — a time when record companies cringed at the idea of exposing the inner thoughts of celebrities — and is one of the most active artists on social networking sites today.
But Duritz not only uses these platforms to connect with fans; he uses them as a integral part of his personal life.
“I made a lot of friends on Twitter, from musicians to bloggers,” Duritz told Mashable in a phone interview. “We have a running joke that we’re all such good friends, but so much time will go by before we ever meet. I met my last serious girlfriend [actress Emmy Rossum] on Twitter.”
Duritz spoke with Mashable about how social media affects his personal life and music career. He uses it to discover music and meet new people, and talks about how the band will use the the web to reach out to fans in the future — including a possible talk show streamed from his apartment.
Whether it’s for work or play, the Counting Crows has experimented with various forms of modern technology. For example, the band released a slew of tracks from its latest album Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation) on Monday to fans via the popular peer-to-peer file sharing platform BitTorrent.
The bundle includes four new tracks, liner notes and artwork from the album, available for free to BitTorrent’s network of 150 million users.
“My idea has been to get music out to as many people, and always connect with them along the way,” said Duritz. “I’ve been blogging since I moved to Los Angeles after our first album in 1995, and realized you can connect with fans directly. I got really excited about that, but I was the only one doing it at the time, and record companies weren’t happy.”
This was around the time that the industry was compounded by Napster.
“It seemed like there was a connection between you and the whole world by having exposure to free content,” said Duritz. “As a band, it was so much better than getting billboards and paying radio stations to feature you. By putting music out there in front of more people, you have the potential to grow your fan base and pick up new ones at the same time.”
The Counting Crows released its latest album in June, independent from a record label. With that came flexibility for releasing tracks to a broader audience through a platform such as BitTorrent.
“We’ve also been talking about doing an interview show from my apartment, which now has a picnic table and astroturf,” said Duritz. “We thought it would be fun to get together a few times a month and stream it over the Internet. Fans could send tweets in real time and connect with us directly.”
The Counting Crows has also considered holding Google+ Hangouts with fans, allowing the band to web chat with others from all over the world.
“Instead of having a surprise show when passing through a city, we could hold surprise Google+ Hangouts and connect in that way,” said Duritz. “The technology that is out there today is allowing us to think creatively.”
Duritz manages the band’s Twitter account, which boasts nearly 1.5 million followers. Although he uses social media to interact with friends and fans, he also reads blogs and scours the web looking for new music.
“People think that there isn’t good music anymore and that is completely wrong,” said Duritz. “Good music is just not always in the mainstream, and DJs don’t take requests anymore. A lot of the music I listen to comes from Twitter, Facebook and Daytrotter, and I’m always blown away by how well Pandora matches my preferences to new bands too.”
He also calls himself moderately tech-savvy when it comes to gadgets. In fact, he was one of the very first to get an iPhone on its launch date in 2007, thanks to a friendship he developed with former head of Apple’s retail stores, Ron Johnson. (The band has played a series of Apple events over the years.)
“I can be pretty tech-savvy if I want to be — I can fix your TV, and never had a problem taping with VHS back in the day,” said Duritz. “If I’m curious about something, I will learn and don’t get easily intimated.”
Although Duritz has always been open about his thoughts on his blog and social networking pages, he has his limits.
“I don’t think everyone should have free entry into my life,” said Duritz. “But I’m willing to share some things. People don’t realize that social networks are actually meant to be social, and that there is something powerful about being social on them.
“Some bands worry about how to use social media sites for advertising, but that is not necessarily how it works. Many are using them wrong,” Duritz added. “They are missing out on its bigger potential by not being as social as they could be.”