Today, music is available in abundance. There simply is no shortage, and access isn’t a problem either. People can listen to their favorite music, to their heart’s content, either for free or for a low monthly fee.
And while your geographical location can factor into your viability as an artist, the world is a much smaller place now thanks to advancements in technology.
Even then, gaining local support as an artist is important. It can help you take your career to the next level. A strong local fan base can help you get on the radio, win contests, play tours, and more.
So, how do you encourage fans to support local music? How is it beneficial? Let’s have a look.
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The Benefit Of Local Support
As an artist, the benefits of gaining local support are relatively obvious.
When you have a loyal and supportive fan base, you’ll sell more merch and music, you’ll have bigger audiences at shows, you’ll get more votes whenever you enter a radio or songwriting contest, and so on.
But that’s not why your fans will get behind you. You need to see things from their perspective and consider what’s in it for them.
Here are a few ways in which you can make it a win-win for everyone:
- Involve your fans in the process. Let them help you choose your brand colors and fonts, album covers, what songs to record, and so on. Let them in on your successes and give them all the credit.
- Create an experience for your fans. People don’t generally go to shows to watch bands stand around to play anymore. Now that might be fine if you’re The Eagles, but if you aren’t, I would suggest creating a fun and engaging experience for your fans. Give them a reason to come to your shows. Host them at great venues. Get other artists to perform on the same bill. Organize food and drink specials. Have door prizes or contests they can participate in. Get creative!
- Offer something for free. Your most loyal fans deserve more. Don’t just put them on your VIP list. Give them free tickets to a show or early access to a new single. Give away T-shirts, guitar picks, buttons, or anything else you can think of.
- Do something special. Bands and artists often create cool perks for their crowdfunding campaigns. But what if you gave lessons, initiated Skype chats, or played the homes of your fans on a more regular basis? Doing something special for your fans gives them a reason to support you.
- Create a community. A band is like a curator of experiences. If you consistently book great venues with great food and drink, if the right people are in attendance, if there are fun activities to engage in, it wouldn’t be a mistake to see yourself as a party host. Don’t let the fun stop at your shows – host a local meetup group or gathering and keep the momentum alive. Interact with your fans outside of the bar.
- Give back. Do something for the community. Donate to worthy causes, clean up highway medians, volunteer at the local homeless shelter. Be a humanitarian and philanthropist.
- Fight for a cause you believe in. Not all bands should take a social or political stance. But it can work to your advantage if you feel strongly about an issue. You can quickly attract a like-minded fan base that wants to see meaningful change in the world when they see you’re aligned with a cause they care about.
There Is A Right Way To Do It
A little while back, I saw a friend of mine share a post about supporting local music on Facebook.
Maybe it wasn’t so much what he said as much as how he said it, but people started responding with forceful questions. They asked why they should support local music, and how that was any different from supporting global artists they already knew and loved.
“Support local music”, unfortunately, has become a bit of a throwaway catchphrase. Many artists aren’t prepared to defend their perspective if someone disagrees with them. For the artist, the only reason it makes sense to say it is because it helps them. They haven’t thought about the big picture.
I’m not saying this is how your fans would react if you encouraged them to support local music. But if you truly want to see your local scene succeed, you need to show it in your actions and not just talk a big game.
There is a right way to go about this. And I believe education is the right way. Heavy-handed preaching is the wrong way.
If you know what “content marketing” is, you already know what I’m talking about. Today, businesses use engaging and value-adding content to attract prospects to their business. They give first, but they don’t expect to receive anything without first giving.
This is a better approach to take. You can educate your fans about local music, your successes and struggles, your perspective on the local scene, and so on. This will get them excited and increase their desire to participate.
Collaborate & Cross-Promote With Other Local Artists
Some artists and bands are better at working together to create a scene than others. Even if you don’t really see that happening in your town, be the first to take that leap. Network, make contacts, book multi-bill shows. Do something nice for others.
If you care about your local scene, you need to start collaborating and cross-promoting with other artists. There’s no way you can build a scene all by yourself. You will require the help and cooperation of others to boost the status of your music scene.
Here are a few things you can do on a practical level:
- Record a single with a local artist. It could even be a whole EP or album if you have the time. You can expose your audience to a new artist, and your collaborators can do the same for you.
- Play shows with local artists you like. Look for opportunities to book multi-bill shows and mix things up a bit. If you’re in a rock band, invite singer/songwriters or even someone from the country music scene. Keep it interesting and build connections far and wide.
- Share intel. Partner up with other artists and share intel on local venues and gigging opportunities. Work together and boycott venues that have questionable practices.
- Talk about each other. Mention each other in your blog posts or newsletters.
- Appear in each other’s videos. Publish them to YouTube.
Cover Local Music
And by “cover local music” I don’t necessarily mean playing other people’s songs, although that may not be a bad idea.
I’m talking about becoming an independent journalist, covering the local scene and sharing your ideas, thoughts, and perspectives on what’s going on, and what you’d like to see happen.
Look, you’re a musician, and you may even have a day job. I’m not suggesting you create another job for yourself.
But if you could connect with some local photographers, writers, and artists, you could potentially create an entertainment magazine (or blog, or podcast, or newsletter, or whatever you want it to be) for your local music scene.
If you aren’t as ambitious, you could simply write reviews and editorials for your blog.
It’s very likely there’s no way for you to cover everything that’s going on locally. But by becoming a news source in your own right, you can show others your passion for the scene. You can introduce them to new bands and new music. You can explain what’s going on, and how you think it could change for the better.
Lead the way if you want others to follow. If others see you talking about them, they’ll begin to see you as an influencer in the scene.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
So, you expect your fans to attend shows, buy merch, give to charities, grants, music programs, and the like?
Well, maybe you don’t. But If you think they should be supporting local music, then you should be putting your money where your mouth is.
I know this isn’t easy. Artists don’t always have a lot of money. But even giving a small amount on an ongoing basis can make a difference. It also shows that you care about what you say you care about.
Nothing is more important than your actions. Ideally, your actions would match up with your words every single time. But most people aren’t that transparent. That’s why people say, “talk is cheap.”
Let your actions do the talking instead. They will always speak louder.
You don’t necessarily need to advertise the fact that you’re buying merch from other artists or giving to charities and causes you believe in. But you could put on fundraising concerts to help them raise more funds. Or, you could donate a percentage of the proceeds from your album to these causes.
If people see you making a difference, they’ll be more likely to support you too. It can quickly become a win-win situation for everyone involved – you, your fans, and the organizations receiving the funding.
Attend Other People’s Shows
You wouldn’t be much of a local music supporter if you didn’t attend other people’s jams, open mics, or shows, would you?
And the truth of the matter is that if you’re regularly showing up where other artists and fans gather, you will become recognized, you’ll make new connections, and you will see new opportunities come your way.
I realize it can be difficult enough to maintain a rehearsal, writing, recording, and performance schedule without making other commitments in your calendar. But again, this is about being the leader. If you don’t show others the way, they can’t follow you.
If you’re already attending other people’s shows, then it might be worth branching out a bit. If you play in a metal band, maybe check out the jazz community. If you’re a country artist, perhaps mingle with punk rockers for a bit. The common interest of music will make it easy for you to connect with others.
Also, use these opportunities to introduce yourself, hand out business cards, and offer to help (if there’s anything you can help with). Don’t be slimy, and don’t hand out cards indiscriminately. Aim to build real relationships with people, even if they seem unwilling to reciprocate.
When deciding whether to trust someone, people naturally look for proof.
Proof can take time to earn. Just because you say you’re a community supporter doesn’t mean you have a strong track record to reference. This doesn’t make it false, it just means you may not have the credentials.
That’s why you need to start tracking everything you do.
If you play a fundraiser, you should find out exactly how much money you helped raise. If you bring 50 people out to a pub gig, you should ask how much revenue you helped the bar earn that night. If the money you raised for a charity helped save the lives of several people, you should find out how many.
You may be doing good in the world already – you just need to put it into more concrete terms.
Help other artists and bands in whatever capacity you can. Making individuals better means elevating the quality of the whole scene.
If you haven’t gotten the message already, you need to know that local support starts with you. You need to be the catalyst for change. You need to be the kind of person that’s endorsable.
Other people will jump on the bandwagon in droves if they believe in you and what you’re doing. First and foremost, you must remember that you’re selling yourself.
You need to give people a reason to fall in love with the local music scene. Become a curator and a tastemaker. Turn people onto different acts. Sprinkle your conversation with references to the best, worst, and weirdest shows you’ve been to. Talk enthusiastically about the scene, and show your passion.
Most of all, make every one of your appearances and performances count. This will keep your fans coming back for more.