“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” -Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”
You’ve heard it over and over again—one of the most powerful tools you have in this industry is yourself. Your music might be great, but that’s not what keeps people coming back for more. It’s your personality. It’s your beliefs. It’s the way you share pieces of yourself and by doing so invite your fans to feel less alone in their own actions, decisions, and understanding of the world.
What sets you apart isn’t the music you make—it’s the person you are and how you convey that.
Understanding this—truly grasping and embracing it—is one of the essentials when it comes to finding and building your tribe. The people who will be your biggest supporters, allies, and salesforce. They’re the ones who look for your every tweet, go to every show, and tell everyone they know about you. They are your super fans, and not only are they your biggest asset, but pinch yourself for a minute, because when you have a tribe it means you’ve actually impacted people other than your immediate circle with your art—that’s pretty incredible.
In some ways, your tribe will form naturally. They’ll discover you through an ad or another band or a press article, but in other ways, you’ll need to work to find them, and certainly to nurture them once you do. So how do you do that?
Finding Your Tribe
When you’re first trying to find your tribe, it can be tempting to just wait for them to find you. And while sometimes that will happen, it’ll never be in the capacity you hope, and if you’re not careful, you might find that you’re letting them define you rather than attracting people who already believe what you believe. So the first step really is getting clear on your branding, your beliefs, and your why.
One of my favorite ways to get in front of new fans and industry connections is through Facebook groups. There’s a myriad of groups out there that focus on building and strengthening the music community and I’ve found it’s a great way to network and if you’re a band, find others who will vibe with your message.
I also encourage interacting with similar sounding bands and their fans on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you either, go on their feeds, comment on something they care about, and start a conversation. Try to do that a few times a week with different people (and occasionally the same people, to build those relationships) and you’ll begin to find yourself with a growing tribe. After all, people can’t become part of your tribe until they know you exist.
Beyond the internet, one of the most powerful ways to get out there is still in person events—like shows and industry networking events. Beyond your own shows, get out there to open mics and friend’s shows and get to know the audience, the sound guy, the bartender, everyone you can. Cast your net wide, but stay focused—your tribe is out there, you just have to let them know you exist.
Nurturing Your Tribe
As Simon Sinek’s quote says at the top of this article, there are two ways to influence behavior—manipulation or inspiration. I don’t know about you, but the latter seems a lot more appealing and viable in the long term.
If you have a tribe, odds are they’re already feeling pretty connected to you and your music, but taking the time to nurture that is what will keep them around for the long-haul. Make sure you’re doing the basics like planning out content that connects with fans (IE brand building posts, not just sales posts) and don’t forget to go the extra mile for your fans.
Some of the everyday things you can do include responding to comments, encouraging conversation by asking questions (“What’s everyone doing this weekend?” “What song should we cover next for #CoverTuesday?” ) or creating polls (“Which movie are you most looking forward to seeing?” “Which of our songs do you want to see remixed?”)
Occasionally, throw in some more unique, time intensive opportunities. Run contests where the fan wins exclusive or limited edition merch, or a house concert (subject to your city) or a one-on-one Skype chat or performance. Anything that makes them feel valued and special.
Whatever you do, you always want to treat your fans like you would any other friendship. This means listening to what they want, what they have to say, what they need, and not just pushing your music on them. Trust me on this—your tribe is there because they vibe with your personality (maybe even more so than your music—you’d be surprised how many bands I’ve gotten into because I liked the person and that made me like their music more). So you want to be sure you’re giving a bit of yourself to them. Make time for them, and they’ll give you the world.