In the music industry, we usually lump "fans" into one category. You're either a fan or you're not. But in reality, there are many steps towards becoming a fan, and once you are a fan, there are many steps up and down. "Fans" aren't permanent either. The fact of the matter is just because someone is a fan now doesn't mean he or she will always be a fan, and your actions affect that. Whether you're aware of it or not, you might be doing something that's actually pushing away your fans and your potential fans. In this article, we're going to talk about a few key things to avoid when trying to develop a strong fanbase.
Let's start with your potential fans, because this is where the whole process starts. If you let people slip through the cracks, you're missing out on your full potential. These new impressions are really valuable, and your actions at the start of a relationship can either create lifelong fans or push them away. Here are the two biggest things that are turning them off.
1. You make it really hard to buy your music
Okay, so someone found your music on YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, or wherever, and they think it's awesome. Now they want to take the next step and actually own your music, but they can't find any links to buy or download. Not only is this annoying for your new fans, it's also holding back your music career. Especially when people just find your music, they're not dedicated enough to spend a lot of time digging for it. They'll either give up and move on, or they'll pirate it, and that's a huge missed opportunity.
These days, it's easier than ever to sell your music online. There aren't any hoops to jump through or gatekeepers barring your way, and you don't even need a website to get started. For the most part, you just need to sign up for a service like CD Baby, TuneCore, or Bandcamp, set up your store and/or select which digital stores you want your music in, and start selling. Once you have this set up, you should link to it anywhere people could come across your music, like your YouTube videos and your SoundCloud page.
If, for whatever reason, you're not ready to sell your music online, you should at least offer free downloads in exchange for an email address. This way, your new fans get your music and you have the ability to contact them down the line when you're in the position to actually sell something. If you don't have anything else set up, NoiseTrade is a good option to start trading your songs for email addresses. It's totally free, and you can link to your NoiseTrade page or embed the widget almost anywhere.
2. You talk at your fans on social media
Next, we'll talk about your current fans. Your connection with these fans on social media is extremely important. Yes, you want people to buy your music, but being able to connect with them again and again online is the next best thing. You'll be able to easily provide them with news about your new song, EP, album, crowdfunding campaign, or tour.
But once you have fans on social media, it's very easy to push them away with your messaging. No matter how much someone enjoys your music, if you're spamming their social feeds, they're going to unfollow you, and then they'll miss out on all your new content, albums, and shows.
The best thing to remember is that social media is, by definition, social. You need to treat it like a conversation, and that means you shouldn't only talk about yourself. You need to find a good balance of promotional posts and fun, engaging posts. Be funny, be deep, share stories, ask questions, get opinions, and make it fun.
It may seem pointless to talk about something other than your music on social media. After all, aren't you supposed to be using these channels to promote your music? Yes, but on most channels, your posts will actually reach more people the more engagement you have (that’s likes, comments, shares, retweets, and replies), and people just aren't going to engage if you're posting the same thing over and over or just talking about your new album constantly. Once you get this engagement going, when you have something important to post, like a new YouTube video, an album, or a gig, your fans will be looking forward to your post – and there's a much better chance they'll actually see it in their feeds!
As you can see, there are a lot of places where fans can fall through the cracks – and this is just scratching the surface. You need to optimize your entire process to keep your fans around and supporting your career. In the New Artist Model online music business courses, you’ll learn how to turn your music into a successful business – a business where you're the CEO! You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you achieve a career in music, and you’ll be able to do it all with the resources you have available right now.
If you'd like more strategies like these, you can download this ebook for free. It will take you through some of the best strategies for indie musicians to help you grow your fanbase and your career.
Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music, and a member of the team who brought MIDI to the market.