In the music world, everyone always seems to be trying to get bigger. Whether it’s getting more fans, playing bigger venues, or conquering a bigger city, we always want more. In fact, it's gotten to the point where many musicians think they're doomed if they live in a smaller town. Not only does it put a hard cap on the size of your local fanbase, you also only have a few gigging opportunities nearby. Whereas, in cities like New York or Los Angeles, there are literally hundreds of venues to choose from and a huge population of music fans searching for good artists.
It's pretty ingrained in the music community that if you want to be successful, you need to move to one of those big cities, but I want to take this opportunity to flip that idea on its head. There are actually quite a few benefits to being an artist in a small town (and many musicians realize that they've been taking these things for granted after they move to a big city). Instead of trying to go big, the key is to focus on making the most of each relationship, be it a relationship with a fan or a local company.
1. There's less competition
When you live in a small town, you're often one of the few bands on the block, and that means less competition. If there's a gig, you have a much better chance of actually getting it simply because there aren't too many options. On the flip side of this, just because it's easier to get gigs doesn't mean you should slack when it comes to your live performances. You're often playing for the same audience night after night, so you need to really bring your A-game to give them something unique and new.
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2. You have a tight-knit community of fans
If you're in a small town, the size of your local fanbase will be limited, and unfortunately that number will be pretty small compared to a band from New York or LA. The thing to remember about being an artist in a small town, though, is that it's not a numbers game. Instead of trying to sell thousands of CDs to your small local fanbase, focus on developing a tight-knit community of fans. Just like the "1000 true fans" concept, it's about giving your fans unique experiences, like house concerts, direct access, and personalized products.
3. It's easier to get buzz going
That being said, once you've developed that tight-knit community, it will be a lot easier to get buzz going for your gigs, albums, and other events. In a small town, you probably personally know a good percentage of your fanbase, and personal connections are much more likely to participate in your career. The key is to keep it personal. Don't send out huge, generic email chains to your local connections and fans. Keep it personal, and keep it fun.
4. You know the decision makers
If you're a band in a big city, it can be difficult to get support from brands, but in a small town, it's a whole different story. It's much easier to set up sponsorships and partnerships with local companies because chances are, you already know the decision makers.
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When trying to set up these partnerships, don't think in terms of big partnership deals with companies like Red Bull or Mountain Dew. Instead, think about how you can create a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe a local burrito truck could give you some money to record your album in exchange for you giving out coupons at your shows. Maybe a local apparel store would be interested in helping you out with merch in exchange for some shout-outs.
5. You're not really limited to your hometown
At the end of the day, you're not really limited to your small hometown. Especially today, the internet has opened up a huge number of possibilities for reaching music fans and growing an international career without stepping foot out of your hometown. You can reach a huge audience on YouTube, develop a relationship with these fans on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and drive them to purchase via your website and email list. You can even broadcast live performances to the world with tools like Stageit.
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You can download this music promotion guide for free to learn the best strategies to get your entire online presence working together. You'll learn how to grow your fanbase, develop your connection with your fans, and drive them to buy.
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.