There are plenty of reasons to pursue a career in the music industry. However, all of them fall flat without an audience to appreciate your music. Unfortunately, learning how to build a strong and dedicated fanbase is a daunting task.
It can be hard to know where to start, especially when you’re at square one, with virtually no followers. Even if you are gaining fans, knowing that they are people who can be leveraged for a successful career is another hurtle altogether.
However, the process of building a loyal fanbase is not as complicated as you may think. Well it takes some effort and dedication, if you follow the proper steps and invest enough time, you can form an audience and make a rewarding living from music.
I see artists do everything to get a label’s attention BUT build a fanbase.
They’ll send 100 emails a week, spam 1000 comments a day, buy fake followers, but won’t go live on IG and tell their story or won’t say, “Thank you” to the handful of people supporting their music.
— DJ Pain 1 (@djpain1) June 18, 2019
The following are some of our best tips to keep in mind when trying to build a dedicated following for your music.
- Make Great Music
- Know Your Niche
- Create A Memorable Brand
- Build an Online Presence
- Create High Quality Content
- Diversify Your Content
- Be Honest
- Play Live Shows
- Run Contests & Giveaways
- Spend Time On PR
- Don’t Forget About Your Family and Friends
- Learn the Tricks of Social Media
- Keep an Email List
- Engage and Give Your Fans a Reason to Be Invested
- Don’t Expect It to Happen Overnight
- Stay Humble
1. Make Great Music
People tend to jump past this step in an excited haste. Instead, they quickly write some songs that aren’t well thought out and record low-quality demos of them.
These types of artists assume that as long as you follow the proper marketing tricks, the music you release doesn’t matter. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. At the end of the day success in the music industry still comes down to the music you have to share with the world.
Once you have, invest the time and money into high quality, studio recordings. There’s a misconception that this is an expensive endeavour. However, with online recording studios like Sundown Sessions, it’s easy to get high quality recordings of your music at an affordable rate.
2. Know Your Niche
If you plan to build a fanbase of listeners who appreciate your music, you need to target the appropriate audience.
We live in an era where the spectrum of music is vast and there is a lot of cross over between genres. This is awesome but it also means that there is lots of music that’s hard to categorize.
Without being able to fully articulate the music you play, it can be difficult to know what type of audience will make up your fanbase. So, take some time to think about your music, what genre(s) you fall under and what your ideal fan would look like.
Doing this isn’t meant to pigeonhole your music by any means. Instead, it gives you a better understanding of how to promote your music and build the type of fanbase who will care about your sound.
3. Create A Memorable Brand
Once you know your niche and understand what genre(s) you fall under, you can begin to build a brand around your music that will appeal to your fanbase.
Music is like any other product; a big part of its audience appeal is the image attached to it. People want to follow acts that they identify with and artists that stand out from the noise.
So, consider what image and ideals you want to surround your music once you begin marketing it. Are you a happy-go-lucky folk group, with a retro vibe or an aggressive death metal band that features dark imagery?
Although these may be extremely different examples, they illustrate the importance of finding your image. Once you do, you’ll be more informed for creating content that will attract your target market.
4. Build an Online Presence
The first thing people do when they hear a band they like is look them up online. So, it should go without saying that you need a strong online presence to succeed in today’s music industry.
For starters, get yourself on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You don’t have to be on every platform, in fact it’s almost better to have a couple really strong social media platforms, then a bunch that are never updated. The two biggest platforms for the music industry are Instagram and Facebook, so it’s recommended to at least start with those.
Then, make sure your music is on all streaming platforms using a digital aggregator such as DistroKid or CD Baby.
Finally, make sure you create a website that will act as a home base for your music. Don’t be discouraged by thinking it has to be something fancy. A simple site with photos, music and links to your social media profiles will suffice.
Make sure you add links to your website on all your other social profiles. This way your fans can easily go there and discover all the other places they can follow you online.
The video below with SEO specialist Neil Patel has some great thoughts on building an online presence through social media. Although it’s not directly about the music industry, the tips are valuable no matter what industry you work in.
5. Create High Quality Content
Once you’ve created a network of social media platforms, you need to create attention grabbing content to release on them.
Beyond the music, it’s important that you have high quality photos and videos that will encourage your audience to follow you. Content really is king, so when you’re not releasing music, you should be filling the time with other types of content for your fans.
This gives them a reason to keep coming back to your pages to discover what your latest post is. It also creates an opportunity for current followers to share your content, leading more people to discover your music.
So, invest time and money into photoshoots or even simple videos. Keep a backlog of content that’s ready to be released, so you’re never without something to post.
The video below has some great thoughts on what type of content will help you build followers on social media:
6. Diversify Your Content
Speaking of the importance of content, a great tactic to build a fanbase across various social media profiles is to figure out how you can stretch one piece of content across several platforms.
For example, after making a simple video of a cover song, the average band may just post it on YouTube and leave it at that. However, the savvy artist will hype that same video over a number of days and platforms.
You may start with a couple Tweets and Facebook statuses, hinting at something coming soon. Then you can start posting teaser pictures and video snippets to Instagram.
Even after you’ve posted the video on YouTube, the posts don’t need to stop. You’ll want to share it lots and could release behind the scenes content to aid in its exposure. Some artists may even use a platform like DistroKid to license their cover and release it on streaming platforms.
By fragmenting your content across multiple platforms like this, you’re heightening the chances of new and current fans discovering it.
7. Be Honest
Don’t try to be something you’re not or create an image that isn’t you. People can smell this from a mile away and it does a better job of driving your fanbase away, rather than building it up.
Authenticity can be difficult but your followers will applaud you for it. It makes you more relatable and is also much easier on you than trying to be something you’re not.
Granted, the industry is about creating an image and a brand around your music. However, make sure the image you create for yourself is something you believe in and can get behind one hundred percent.
8. Play Live Shows
Despite the rise of the internet, there is still a huge amount of people in 2020 who discover their music at live music venues. So, there’s no better way to quickly build a fanbase than going out into the world and playing concerts.
Look at the venues other bands in your genre are playing at and try to get gigs there. Booking shows with similar acts can also go a long way.
Not only are live shows a great way to build a new audience, they also give your current fanbase something to attend, keeping them invested in your music.
9. Run Contests & Giveaways
It’s a well-known fact that everyone loves free stuff, no matter what it is. So, why not gather together some of your merch, music or show tickets and hold an online giveaway.
Running some kind of a contest that requires your current followers to share a post or invite friends to follow you is a common tactic for fanbase growth.
Furthermore, it doesn’t just help new fans discover you, it also creates an entertaining, interactive experience for your current followers
Some contests will be better than others but you’re always guaranteed a few new followers. If you get lucky, your contest will go viral and your fanbase can skyrocket. All of this at the cost of a few pieces of merchandise.
10. Spend Time On PR
You can’t expect people to follow you if they’ve never heard of you before. This is why PR campaigns are such a key step to building a fanbase.
There are plenty of publications out there just looking for content and artists to feature. So, take the time to find out where they are and what type of music they’re looking for. Once you do, approach them in a professional manner and you’re bound to start seeing some success in this area.
One of the best ways to build a fanbase of new listeners is by collaborating with other artists in your niche.
Although this could mean featuring them on a song, it doesn’t have to. Collaboration can take many forms and all are equally beneficial to growing your audience.
If you already release simple videos of your band playing songs, consider inviting another artists on board for one of them. Another approach in the video realm would be to cover one artist’s song and have them make a cover video of yours.
You might also consider running a giveaway with another act, which features a prizes from both bands.
Finally, one of the best ways to collaborate is through live shows. Beyond booking shows with other local acts, consider doing a “gig-swap” with a band from out of town. This is when you organize a show with them in your city, while they organize one with you in there’s.
All these methods of collaboration will introduce yourself and your music to a slew of new listeners. The best part is that if you collaborate with acts similar to you, you can be certain those who discover you will be into your sound already.
12. Don’t Forget About Your Family and Friends
Your family and friends also count as a part of your fanbase, so learning how you can leverage them to build an even bigger audience makes a difference.
In the case of social media, share your music content on your personal profile as well as on your band page and invite friends to follow your band’s account.
On top of that, reaching out to friends and family directly is a great tactic for fanbase growth. Send them a quick message or talk to them in person, telling them about your latest project and asking for their help sharing it and spreading the word.
The biggest key with this type of promotion is to make sure you personalize what you are writing and posting. If you copy and paste the same message to all your friends, it comes across as spam. If you put your relationship with your friends before the music, they’ll be more willing to help and support.
13. Learn the Tricks of Social Media
Every social media platform chooses what content its users see based off complex algorithms and filters. Because of this, if your posts aren’t properly optimized, they could end up being seen by very few people.
Proper techniques include things such as using hashtags, formatting the text in a certain fashion or posting at a specific time of day. There are entire articles dedicated to this topic. So, we encourage you to do some further research around the social platforms you use.
All successful businesses have mastered this tactic in order to build a steady stream of customers, but few bands give thought to this when it comes to their fanbase. This gives an advantaged to the acts that take the time to properly learn how to use each social platform.
This video has some awesome tactics for optimizing your Instagram content in 2020:
14. Keep an Email List
Building a fanbase is useless if you aren’t able to leverage those fans in a convenient and easy way. With the rise of social media, people have begun to overlook the importance of email lists.
However, in 2020, limitations of social media such as algorithms and filters create a barrier between you and your fans. So, email remains one of the most direct ways to tell your fanbase about upcoming promotions, releases, concerts and contests.
Because of this, as you build your fanbase, be sure to explicitly offer an email sign-up for those interested. Once you have the emails, don’t spam them consistently as you would on social media.
Offering well thought out newsletters, once or twice a month is a much better tactic and ensures your fans won’t unsubscribe due to too many emails.
15. Engage and Give Your Fans a Reason to Be Invested
Success in the industry is really not about how many followers you have, but rather that you build a fanbase who are loyal and dedicated to you.
It’s not a one-way street and your fans want you to care about them, just as much as you want them to care about you. So, dedicate time to engaging with them over social media and in person.
This means, replying to their comments, thanking them for their support, asking them what they want to see from you next and actually following through with it!
When bands take the time to interact with fans and show their appreciation, it makes a huge difference. This can really set you apart from other artists and give people a reason to follow you, beyond the music.
16. Don’t Expect It to Happen Overnight
Rome wasn’t built in a day and in the same way, you have to remember that no fanbase was formed overnight.
Not every post you make will see a ton of response from followers. In the same way, you’re bound to have concerts with a low attendance. However, the important thing during these situations is that you stay positive.
Whether you have a fanbase of 10 or 10,000 followers, building a music career for yourself is never an easy task. But if you’re following the proper steps, you’ll eventually see a gradual growth in followers and income.
Once you start to see even minor success, it makes the hard work worthwhile. So, set realistic expectations and keep a positive outlook as you work.
17. Stay Humble
Once you start to gain a following to any degree, it’s integral that you don’t forget what you’ve been doing to build a fanbase up until this point.
Many acts get lazy once the ball gets rolling and assume things will progress for them automatically. Unfortunately, this usually has the opposite effect and in the worst case, can cause fans to forget about you.
In order to maintain your fanbase and continue to see growth you need to remember the values and tactics used to get yourself to that point. So, even after success you should continue to post valuable content, make great music and above all else, never act like you don’t care about your fans.
Conclusion: How To Build A Fanbase
Gaining an audience of invested followers in 2020 is an involved but not impossible task.
The first step is to identify your genre and create a memorable brand for your niche. Once you do, you can begin to produce high quality content that is targeted towards your ideal fanbase.
Having a strong online presence is integral. This includes utilizing proper social media tactics, building a website, collecting an email list and running contests.
While online presence is important to building a fanbase, don’t forget about everything you can do outside of social media. Collaborating with other artists, playing live shows, approaching press outlets and asking friends for support are all worthwhile tactics.
Finally, be patient and set realistic expectations on how long it will take to see results. Once you do, don’t stop what you’re doing and never forget the importance of engaging with your fans and making them feel special.
It’s a common misconception that the artist is doing the fans a service. However, when you follow this guide and begin to see success, you’ll soon discover it’s the other way around.