Your Music Business Needs Customers (Fanbase)
Like any organization, your music business requires that you attract and sell to your customers. Whether you are selling tickets to your live shows, asking fans to buy your music or merch, or getting fans to subscribe to your fan club, your fanbase follows the same basic marketing and sales rules as companies in other industries.
To effectively build a fanbase, you typically need to get your music in front of people who already like the kind of music you produce.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to research and understand what other, more well-known, bands and artists who have a similar sound to your band are doing to successfully build and engage with their fanbase. It’s also crucial that you are able to communicate clearly and describe your music well in writing, typically wherever you write and publish your band’s biography, such as social media profiles and your website.
Where Do You Find Your Fanbase?
The first and most important step in this process is to know where your fanbase, and the fanbase of similar, well-known bands in your genre tend to hangout. Once you are familiar with the popular online and offline communities in your genre, you’ll have an easier time understanding what they are looking for, how to talk with them, and how you can authentically turn them onto your music and slowly turn them into your fans too.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when getting fans in your genre:
- Where do the fans of well-known bands similar to yours hangout on and offline?
- How can you be where those fans are and introduce your music to them?
- How can you give them an easy way to experience your music with little initial commitment on their part?
The reason we recommend finding a way to expose a new music lover to your music with “little initial commitment” is because someone who just discovers your music may not be ready to commit to venturing out to a live show, buying your music, or taking other major steps that require a large buying decision or financial commitment.
The truth is growing a fanbase takes a good deal of effort — consistent effort over time is what ultimately builds the right results, which are fans that love what you do, can’t wait to hear more from you, and are willing to introduce your music to their friends.
5 Steps to Getting Fans and Build a Fanbase in Music
STEP 1: Before Anything, Build (and Maintain) Your Band Website
This one can be an easy one to overlook for a lot of musicians these days. The trend over recent years has been to point “yourband.com” to one of your social media accounts to reduce the amount of work it takes to maintain a separate website. Don’t do this!
Ultimately, you have the most control over the content that lives on your band’s website. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media give you a limited amount of fields you can customize, so it’s important to use that limited real estate to promote your music’s permanent address: your website.
Remember, social media platforms can also be trends and fads. MySpace, Friendster, and others came before Facebook. SnapChat, Instagram, and TikTok are also riding similar popularity roller coasters. What happens if one of these platforms doesn’t exist in the future and your music solely lives on them? You’ll be forced to start over.
Give your music, content, and email subscription options a permanent home that is 100% within your control. The other fanbase steps will establish the necessary marketing channels for your website.
STEP 2: Start With One Social Media Platform
Social media is notorious for being a burden and complicated if you don’t take the time to plan and execute consistently.
To bite off only what you can chew, get started by creating a presence on only one social media platform and actively engage with your followers. This can include posting updates, sharing behind-the-scenes content, and responding to comments and messages. Additionally, you can use social media to promote upcoming shows and releases, and to connect with other artists and industry professionals.
Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling on one platform, pick a second and tackle those two together. Keep adding one new platform every few weeks/months as it makes sense for your audience. If your audience only lives on a couple platforms, stop there. If they are spread out on several platforms, make sure you don’t ignore them!
STEP 3: Next, Collect Email Addresses
This is one that seems to be an obvious miss for way too many musicians. And, if we’re being honest, there are a lot of businesses in every industry who miss this too:
Make sure to collect the email addresses of your fanbase and listeners!
The more you miss the opportunity to ask for an email in person or online when someone is engaged and seems genuinely interested in your music, the harder it is to build an email list of owned, and eventually monetized, fans. Until you own their email address, your fans are only considered rented and can be easily lost in the shuffle.
In-person opportunities to collect email addresses may include at your live show and at your merch booth. Remember, if they came to your show (and stuck around after), chances are they are going to be interested in hearing from you again.
Online opportunities to collect email addresses may include free gated content on your website or an email subscription form. You could also share invitations on your social media to entice fans to subscribe.
Here are some other specific ideas to collect email addresses that expand on the above:
- Print business cards with your band’s website and an offer for a free song download. When someone gets your card and goes to download your free song, they sign up on your email list to redeem the song.
- Ask venue owners at bars, restaurants, or coffee shops where you perform if you can leave a stack of those cards on the bar or near the register — a place where patrons and/or customers will see it and grab one. If you’ve ever been to a Starbucks they do something similar with their iTunes song or app download of the week.
- Put the same free song download in your email signature.
- Post the same offer on your social networks.
- Email and/or message people back when they download your free song to thank them, and let them know when and where your next live performance will be, and ask them to bring a friend…maybe sweeten the offer with a free ticket to your next show or put them on your guest list so they don’t have to pay the cover charge to see you their first time out to one of your live shows.
The ideas here are to:
- Pique someone’s curiosity enough for them to put in their email address
- Claim the free song or other gated content you promised
- Allow you to seize the opportunity to immediately continue to build the relationship with further engagement by reaching out to them while the free content is fresh and interesting
Get creative with how you attract people interested in your music to sign up on your email list. When the initial engagement (and free subscription) is built on trust and authenticity, it will be easier to remain in constant communication and build a strong relationship with them.
STEP 4: Email Your List Regularly
This is the second thing that seems to be an obvious miss for way too many musicians:
Do Not Ignore All Those Email Subscribers You Worked So Hard to Obtain!
Use this email list to regularly stay in touch with fans. Whether it’s behind the scenes content, music and show announcements, artist news, interactive opportunities like contests or giveaways, or other engaging content, remember to email your fans to stay top of mind!
To ensure you create content worth reading, remember to first ask yourself a few questions:
- What’s in it for my fans?
- Why should they read my next email newsletter?
- Why should they want to come out to the next show?
- How does this content benefit my fanbase?
If you don’t, they’ll forget about you and any future email from you may be ignored, unsubscribed from, or marked as spam.
To help you maintain an email cadence, create a content publishing calendar at the beginning of the year and try to plan out your emails in advance. If you have things that come up throughout the year, remember that this plan can also act as backup plans or be easy to adjust to accommodate new additions, such as big news announcements.
This content publishing calendar can also be used for things like website content, social posts, Patreon content, and more.
STEP 5: Be Human at your Live Shows
Most of our steps are focused around online interactions, but once you start to draw those fans to your live shows, it’s important to continue being authentic and grateful in person too.
- Mingle with and welcome people who come to your venue before you take the stage
- Invite them to take photos with you or sign up for your email list
- Interact with them from the stage to make them feel special and included
- Talk with them after the show, shaking hands, taking selfies with them, or interacting and thanking them at your merch booth
BONUS STEP 6: Build a Community Around Your Music Brand
Playing shows, selling merch, and being a musician is great, but just having the fans around isn’t enough. Oddly enough, your music isn’t about you. It’s about your fans, and they need to feel included, heard, and cherished by their favorite musicians and artists.
Building an online and offline community around your band and music creates an experience that shows your fans that they mean the world to you.
To start your community and band experience, think about other bands that you know who engage well with the fans.
- What do you like about how they do it?
- What ideas can you borrow and make your own to attract and keep your fans engaged more often?
The biggest example that comes to mind is Taylor Swift. The way she shares and engages with her fans is the reason why her fans call themselves “Swifties”.
Creating that experience and value for your fans is important for a free community, and it’s even more important when you want to turn that fanbase into a subscription-based fan club. Have you ever heard the saying “right hook, right hook, jab”? It’s basically a marketing way of saying “give, give, get”. The more value you can give, the more value you’ll get
Attract new fans, keep their interest, engage with them, build a relationship, give them reasons to hang out and stay connected to you longer, and ultimately that community will return the favor and help you build a profitable relationship through music sales, merch sales, subscriptions, ticket sales, and more.
And that’s how to build a fanbase in music. Now get out there and make us proud. *tear*