Have you ever wondered how some artists seem to have all the luck? How they’ve acquired troves of dedicated fans, and seem to constantly be in motion, be it with a new single, tour, or video? How is it that they seem to have such a solid support system, when by all accounts you’re just as talented, have been around just as long, and are perhaps even in the same market?
The answer is community. The artists who have learned to leverage the power of community are the artists you’ve heard about. It’s as simple as that.
The good news is that anyone can tap into this golden resource, and by doing so, you open up your visibility and your connection with fans. And to be honest, it’s a whole lot more fun than tweeting to no one and hoping your post gets a few likes.
When you build your community and engage them, you know your audience is waiting to hear from you, you know they’re going to click “like” and comment, and most of all, you know you can count on their support. So how do we make this happen?
1. Don’t be boring online
This seems simple enough, right? But if you struggle with posting regularly and keeping it engaging (i.e., not just posting about your shows and music), you’re not alone. This is one of the main struggles I see artists face, and unfortunately it’s a big one, because let’s face it — if you’re boring online, no one is paying attention and your career is going to get stagnant fast.
Take the time to get clear on your brand, and then bring that brand to your audience. Show them who you are beyond the music, and I promise you’ll hook more fans than if you just spam them with info on your shows and new releases.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the number-one thing I ask artists to remember and live by when it comes to posting online is that there’s a lot of great music out there, but there’s only one “you.” Your music could get you a lot of fans — maybe even a few big fans. But it’s your personality; their connection to you as a person; and your values, beliefs, and ideals that are going to bring you those superfans. Trust me on this one.
2. Use your shows as the networking opportunity they are
Please don’t be that band that goes onstage, plays a set, and then either slinks off to the back to hide or leaves the venue. Your shows are a prime networking opportunity and a chance to build your community from the ground up, while engaging in real time.
Remember that whole “show them your personality” thing I was just saying? This really comes into play here. Use your shows as an opportunity to connect with the audience, the other bands on the bill, and even the venue workers.
I know, I know — it can feel awkward and uncomfortable to approach people you don’t know and ask them how they’re liking the show, or what their favorite local band is, or simply introduce yourself and thank them for coming out (people really remember that kind of thing). But would you rather be comfortable with no fans, or break out of your shell in the name of success?
3. Get involved in existing communities
There are so many opportunities — both online and off — to embed yourself in an existing community, and then leverage that built-in audience to spread your message in the most authentic way possible.
Here are some examples:
- Get active in Facebook groups by offering your knowledge and expertise whenever possible. There are so many to choose from, ranging from networking groups that connect musicians and industry people across the world, to genre-specific groups, to city-specific groups. Find the ones you fit best in, and then get active in there. The more often people see your name pop up and associate it with a general helpfulness, the more weight your name begins to carry.
- Get out there and go to local shows that aren’t your own. Find the bands after their set, congratulate them, introduce yourself, and really get to know them. This is important — it’s not enough to just say “great set” and move on. Make the time to follow up with them and build a real connection.
- Find local opportunities that have nothing to do with music, and get yourself involved. There’s a lot of value in being a part of community events where your target audience is bound to be, and just getting to know people as people. When it feels appropriate, it’s okay to mention your band, but that shouldn’t be what you lead with. Again, this goes back to the idea that if you can hook people on your personality, they’re much more likely to support your music.
4. Listen to what your fans say (as well as what they don’t)
If you have 200 diehard fans constantly asking you to play in Arizona, you better find a way to get to Arizona. Once you’re there, you need to interact with those fans like crazy. Hang out with them before the show. Ask to sleep at their house if it seems appropriate. Talk to them about what the Arizona scene is like, what they enjoy, what they wish was different. Take notes.
If your fans keep telling you they love a certain song that you’ve only been playing live, consider making that your next single. If the photos you post of your dog get the most attention, do more of that. If your fans go to Warped Tour, do the battle of the bands to get on there. (And even if you don’t, be one of those bands that stands outside the venue giving away stickers and chatting with people in line while sharing your music and swapping stories.) Take every single opportunity you can to get closer to your existing fans, and to get to know potential fans.
Just as important, however, is to listen to what they aren’t saying. If no one is liking or engaging with your 12th post about Saturday’s show, stop doing that. If you dropped a single with no warning and no one is listening or cares, don’t do that again. If no one is coming out to your shows, think about why that could be (are you boring onstage? Do you play out too often? Who are you sharing the bill with?) and rectify the situation.
There are so many learning opportunities, and the truth is that your audience will tell you what they want — you just have to be willing to listen. Sometimes, you’ll find that what your audience wants isn’t necessarily what you set out to create — but sometimes that’s okay. You just have to be willing to be flexible while balancing what’s most important to you.
If they want more covers, give it to them. If they’re telling you they want less hometown shows by not showing up, be willing to adjust. Be flexible and always be willing to learn from your experiences.
The answers to your struggles — and your future fans — are right there waiting for you; you just have to be willing to listen, and to break outside your comfort zone.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is a pop-punk enthusiast and the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and Infectious Magazine. You can find hanging out with her dog, eating sweets, and curled up with a good book. Read more at http://angelamastrogiacomo.com/