We all know that a strong fanbase is the backbone of any musician’s career. Your fans are the people who will regularly support you by buying your music, coming to your shows, and sharing your content. Your fanbase is also a notoriously difficult area of your career to control. There seems to be a sort of mysterious aura around virality, which means that you can’t be sure whether your latest single or video will get 10 likes, or 10,000. That said there are some simple things you can do to make sure you’re headed in the right direction, and making your fans’ lives easier by encouraging them to follow you. Here are some of the most important things to work on:
The Internet and social media are crucial tools for modern musicians to relate with their fans. Make sure you have the following:
1. Buy a domain name and make a great website. Build in social media widgets for Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, Instagram etc. Make it easy for people to find your digital and physical products, and your upcoming shows.Your website is a crucial thing to work on, as social media alone can become fragmented if you don’t have a centralised page. Not all your fans will use all social media channels, so give them a single point of reference that is just about you and your music.
You can also use your website to give away exclusive special offers, free downloads or video previews that are not available on other social media channels.
2. Create your own YouTube channel and use it to post music videos of the best quality you can make, alongside intimate home-recorded snippets of tours, recording sessions, and funny moments.YouTube is a great way to share your songs and interact with other bands that you like or sound similar to, drawing attention to your band.
3. Social Media. In spite of the importance of your own website, social media is still a big factor of any band’s fanbase. Even non-musical platforms like Instagram are extremely popular with musicians, and can generate a lot of interest and interaction from fans. When using social media you can also check the analytics of any given platform, to see when your fans are most active, and which sort of post they respond best to. Use this information to tailor your future posts!
4. Collect emails and make a mailing list. This is a way of personally writing to your fans with important updates. It is not controlled by Facebook’s algorithms or Twitter’s trends, but a simple way of you saying: “hey, check out my new album” to someone who is probably already interested!
5. Play shows and tours. This is the most obvious and easy way of establishing a personal connection with fans, and making new ones. It also encourages people to go home and tell their friends and family about the great gig they saw last night, increasing your chances of getting a good reputation.
6. Choose your shows wisely. As your career develops you shouldn’t just play every show that you get offered. Instead, try to play at venues, events and festivals that are designed for the kind of fans you want to cultivate. This may seem “niche” at first, but it’s much more likely that you will make more new fans if you’re playing somewhere that suits and promotes your type of music and aesthetic.
7. Keep it moving. If you don’t have any live shows coming up, let your fans know what you are doing and planning, otherwise they might get bored or frustrated that they can’t check out your live show. It’s crucial that as many people as possible have to opportunity to see you play live, and get to know your stage personality. Do some market research to find out where your top fans are, and go to them!
Products and Rewards
8. Fans like to feel that they are part of your career, and have helped you out by supporting you. The main way they can do this (apart from coming to shows) is by buying your music or your merchandise. Don’t make it difficult for them by forgetting to bring enough products to shows, or making it hard to find your music online.
9.Make the effort to go to the merch stand after a live show, and chat with people. Fans liketo ask questions, find out more about your plans, and feel valued.
10. Offer people rewards for liking or sharing your social media posts, or interacting with you online. These can be simple things like guest list tickets to your next show, or a free download. Crowdfunding platforms have made this kind of reward system even more prominent in the artist-fan relationship recently (some like Gigstarter can also help you spot your fans and plan your tour), but you don’t actually have to be creating a crowdfunding project to work in this way. However, keep it subtle. You don’t want to look like you’re just bribing people to like your music!
With all of the above in mind, the most important thing is to be sensitive and responsive whilst actively pushing your music forwards. You shouldn’t post excessively on your social media platforms, as you could put people off. It’s only when you get to be a superstar that you really have fans that will like and share photos of every minute of your daily existence!Here are more tips on how to make the best out of your fanbase.
Be aware that there are different etiquettes surrounding each form of promotion and social media. You cannot apply a one size fits all method. If you are an independent musician who does not have the help of a manager or a label to promote you, you have to use your own initiative and instinct, and develop a social awareness of what’s hot or not. It’s better to cultivate a few loyal fans at the start than to spam everyone you’ve ever met and make yourself look insincere. Remember, if you are consistently playing good music and releasing it, fans will also come to you!
Martha is a musician and a writer with over 10 years’ experience as a DIY/Indie artist.
She currently lives in Berlin, where she writes and translates for iMusician, and plays violin and guitar with several different bands.