Today you're going to learn how to get fans for your music. It used to be that if you wanted to build a fan base for your music, you had to subject yourself to years and years of grinding.
Now though, using the tools and technology available to you, you can hack your way to a bigger fan base faster than ever before.
This doesn't mean that it won't take work or that you won't have to put in as much effort, but you might be amazed to find out the kinds of things you can learn about your fan base with a little bit of legwork.
Here's a plan for getting more fans for your music.
P.S. If after reading this guide you want a much more in-depth plan, one covering all you need to take your music career to the next level, have a look at The IMA Music Business Academy. That is the ultimate music business plan for independent musicians.
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1. Know What You Can Offer Before Trying To Get Fans
How can you get more fans for your music if you don't know who to go after, or what your vision for your band is?
I know, I know, you want to appeal to everyone, right?
The problem is that, not only is it impossible to make converts out of every one of the seven billion people on this planet, trying to please everyone is a failing strategy.
Consider the most popular cigarette brand on the planet, Malboro. How do they market themselves? As a cigarette for cowboys.
And how many cowboys do you know? Right, probably none, or at least very few.
How come they have the largest market share of any other brand out there then? How is that possible?
Because they branded themselves. Next time you feel hesitant about appealing to a specific type of fan instead of the entire world, remind yourself of this example.
Branding and finding your niche is an essential step. Before you do anything else, you want to get people on your side. Then, as your fan base grows, you can begin to branch out in your creativity, but be careful not to do it in a way that would alienate your original fan base.
If you aren't attracting anyone, change your brand. If you're making new converts at every show, even if progress seems slow, stick to your formula until you have a loyal and sizable following.
2. Play Shows & Build Your Mailing List Of Fans
If you have less than 100 fans or email subscribers, it's time to get out there and play so you can share your music with the world. This is vital if you want to get fans for your music.
Live performance is the best way to gauge interest. It creates a direct connection between you and your audience. It's also the best practice you can get as a musician.
You might have to spend some time grinding it out onstage, playing otherwise less-than-ideal venues that may not even pay for your performance.
And there's a good chance your stage presence and chemistry isn't great at this point. Film yourself if you have to, and determine what's working and what isn't. Stay humble, because there's always room for improvement.
This is the groundwork you'll need lay in order to move onto the next steps, which are far more strategic. You can't just play dark, dingy dive bars in your hometown, willy-nilly, forever. Once you've made a connection with people, you need to start homing in on what people like about you and your music.
Make sure to collect email addresses everywhere you go. Those who opt in for your newsletter are definitely interested in what you're doing. Some will unsubscribe, but don't worry too much about that.
Put an opt-in box on your website, and encourage your social media followers to join your mailing list too. MailChimp is a free tool you can use to start building your email list and send messages to them.
Once you have a decent sample size (100 fans should be enough, but if not, keep going), you can start learning more about who your fans are.
3. Going Where They Hang Out = A Top Way To Get Music Fans
How much do you know about your fans? If you just reached the 100 milestone, probably not much. Now is as good a time as ever to begin identifying commonalities between the people that make up your fan base. This will help you optimize your targeting.
Here are several questions you should be asking your fans:
- What bands or artists do we sound like?
- What social networks do you tend to use most?
- Who are some of your favorite bands or artists?
- What blogs and/or publications do you read?
- What podcasts or radio stations do you listen to?
- What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time?
The assumption here is that, by showing up in places where your existing fans are already hanging out, you'll be able to gain the attention of other like-minded people. Once you know the kind of person that likes you, it makes it easier to find more people like them to convert into fans.
Don't forget; if you don't have the time to sit down and talk to every one of your fans, you can use a tool like SurveyMonkey to survey your audience and speed things up. But don't underestimate the power of a one-on-one, personal connection.
Also keep in mind that there are a variety of different ways to show up in the places your fans mention. Guest posts, interviews, feature stories, album reviews, and radio play are but a few examples. Take some time to think about different ways you can appear in places where your fans already are.
4. Run Targeted Advertising & Marketing Campaigns To Draw In More Fans
Before launching an ad campaign, here is some of the information you're going to need from your fans:
- The gender split. Roughly what percentage of your fans are male and female?
- Age range. What age range are most of your fans in (i.e. 25 – 34, 35 – 44, etc.)?
- Location. Where do your fans live (not important if you've built your fan base locally).
If you've been building your Facebook page, this information is easily found in your “Insights”. If not, you may want to add these questions to your survey, or do a bit of guesswork.
Note: Answers to these questions (demographics) are nowhere near as important as the ones mentioned earlier (which help you build a psychographic profile of your target audience).
This is where everything really starts to come together.
You know who you are. You know who your fans are and the kinds of things they like.
Now you can put this information to good use by running targeted marketing campaigns.
Facebook ads are a great option, because they let you target people who have liked certain pages. If your fans have told you that you sound like Ed Sheeran, you can specifically target those people with your ad campaigns.
Just remember to be strategic with your ads, because you don't want to be wasting money. Direct people to a great music video, or to a landing page where they can sign up for your email list. You want to capture these people as soon as possible, and get them to take some kind of action while they're still on your site. They're as good as gone if you don't convert them immediately.
Other marketing ideas might include performing at events your fans like to go to, writing articles for publications your fans read, or making appearances on podcasts they listen to.
5. Play More Shows To Convert More Fans
If you've been implementing the strategies suggested above, you should be attracting new fans to your music daily. Advertising, in particular, will keep working for you if you keep plugging money into it. Ongoing performances and music releases should help you sustain your marketing budget.
You can rinse and repeat the steps you've already learned about to really supercharge your efforts. Only, now that you've taken the time to understand your fans, every undertaking should lead to better results, whether it's performing in venues where you know fans of your genre like to gather, or getting on the bill with other popular bands that play the same (or complementary) style of music.
You might see some trends emerging in terms of location as well. For example, you might see a high concentration of fans in Dallas, Texas. This is letting you know that it's a stop you should make whenever you're touring. You can't keep playing in your hometown forever, so hopefully you've started branching out by this point.
There are many ways to get a sense of who your fans are and where they're located using tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Page Insights. You can even look up similar sites on Alexa (i.e. a band or artist you know you sound like) and get a better understanding of who your audience is by spying on theirs.
Keep getting out there, keep playing, and keep connecting with your fans.
6. Release Killer Music
You may have noticed how I haven’t said a word about releasing music yet. That’s because this plan hasn't required it, at least to this point.
Sure, having a few demos and music samples could help you move things along, and an album is kind of like an industry “calling card” of sorts, but dividing your time between too many things at once (i.e. performing, writing, recording, marketing, etc.) might hinder your progress.
Would you feel discouraged if you released an album and no one bought it or streamed it? Many musicians do.
But imagine this – what if you followed the above steps and your fans were knocking down your door to get their hands on your “next” album (which, by the way, doesn’t exist yet)? How would that make you feel? That’s the right time to record and release, don’t you think?
Having recorded music opens you up to a host of new opportunities – radio airplay, licensing and placements, and of course, additional income. Getting your music played on the radio or getting it placed in a TV show could really supercharge the efforts you’ve already put into building your fan base.
But this picture could look quite different if you recorded first. I’m not saying that you can’t go about it that way, but you should at least figure out steps 1 and 2 beforehand, and that way, some people will be interested in streaming or buying your music.
And again, rinse and repeat steps 2 through 6 until you’re ready to…
7. Launch Your Fan Club
You’ve hit critical mass. And “critical mass”, by the way, is an indeterminate number of fans that sustain your music career. We’ll say 1,000 for argument’s sake (especially since Kevin Kelly makes a good argument about 1,000 true fans).
Let’s face the facts – you can’t be there for your fans all the time, and as your following continues to grow, it’s not going to get any easier to engage all of them.
But what if you could stimulate more conversation between your fans? What if you could keep their interest, even while you’re taking a break from recording and performing? What if you could turn your fans into evangelists of your music?
Doesn’t that sound amazing?
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Nothing about this plan is easy, though it is “simple.”
The right time to launch a fan club is when you hit “critical mass.” If you’re going to have a forum, you need people that are going to start conversations and get involved. No conversation = no ongoing interest.
And only your diehard fans are going to fork out the cash necessary to join. Also, you’re going to need to offer them unique and valuable content they can’t find elsewhere – behind-the-scenes videos, live performance videos, rare pictures, exclusive tracks, and so on.
But I will tell you one thing – the extra cash flow will be worth the effort of launching a fan club!
Just so you know, this isn't about adapting your style of music or branding to fit someone else's mold of what they think you should be or sound like. Rather, it's about figuring out what kind of people already like your style of music and attracting more of them. Using the technology and tools available to you today, it's easier than ever to get a lock on where you should be creating more of a presence.
If you're having trouble at step 1, it's because you aren't trying enough things. Entertainment is about catering to your audience, so you need to keep trying until you find something that connects!