As algorithms increasingly hinder artists from reaching their audiences, and as one platform in particular fails to compensate creators when their songs are covered, the debate around just how we should view social media platforms is heating up.

Are social media platforms friends or foes of artists? It seems at US music conference SXSW, no one has any idea.

The panel Content Distribution Platforms: Friends or Foes?, held at SXSW yesterday, saw four media publishing specialists offer vastly objective opinions.

Granted, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer artists an instant audience; but what if that artist’s audience is over a million globally engaged fans whose attention has to be purchased? That’s the argument surrounding social platforms like Facebook, where its algorithm means artists will need to pay for their updates to be seen.

Facebook openly admits its organic reach will be declining over time and is making moves to monetise many of its features – and so it should. Facebook offers artists a tool the industry had never been privy to before. Unlike the industry of old where street posters were king and tour date locations were guessed, social analytics allows us to track where fans are, how engaged they are, and whether an artist’s content is resonating or not.

This is where it gets tricky. If an artist already has a successful revenue model, social media platforms are consistently monopolising ad revenue and taking away existing revenues from creators.