So you've decided to take the plunge and take your music from a hobby to a career. Let me be the first to congratulate you for pursuing your dreams. It's not an easy path to be on and will take many years of building before you are able to pay your bills off your passion (ie: don't quit your day job just yet). Like any other profession, networking plays a big part in the growth of you as an artist and can open doors to many opportunities. You can also inadvertently burn bridges and miss out on opportunities without even knowing what you did wrong. I'm here to help.
In this digital age you may be thinking to yourself "Tom, I have 50 to 1,000 likes/followers on my social media. Why do I need to leave the studio when I have wi-fi?" Well, because with all the internet socializing you have access to via your smart phone or laptop, a face to face conversation is still the most powerful interaction on the planet. Here are some tips for fan building.
1. Know your community
Whether you're starting out Atlanta, New York or somewhere out in Utah, it is vital that you know your surroundings. Not just the venues and their respective bookers, where are your fellow creatives? Members of your tribe? Potential fans? A little bit of research can go a long way to building a fan base and getting them out to your shows. When you're out and about, don't be so quick to hand out a flyer or a cd and walk away unless you want to dig your promo out of the trash five minutes later. You did pay for your promo materials right? Fan building takes a bit of finesse (like a used car salesmen trying to sell undercoating on an 05 Dodge Stratus), especially if it's a cold intro (ie walking up to a stranger.) A friendly conversation that can organically shift into letting them know about your show can go along way into them paying the cover to see you perform or buy your music.
2. During the show
Using a platform like Sonicbids can open up many opportunities for performances. But once you’re on site and your set is finished do you just pack up and head out?
While you're up on stage have someone from your team scoping out the crowd and make notes of who's vibing out to your music the most and make sure you (or the most social person in your group) have a conversation with them post show. Collect their contact info. Usually an email and zip code (for analytics) and a twitter name will suffice. Don't stop till you've met everyone that there is to know where you just rocked. Whether it's 20 or just one that came out, they'll appreciate it. Remember that this is no longer a hobby. Grow that email list. Knowing your fans (and them knowing you) will keep the retention rate high and hopefully they'll more bring a friend with them to your next show. I call it the "man I wanna have a beer with those cats" factor.
Also, get to know the other artists on the bill. Don't leave in the middle of their sets. These are your peers and a good first impression can have long lasting effects (remember that the people you see on the way up are the same you see on your way down). Music is a collaborative process and whether it's inside the studio or planning a future show, you want their fan base to intersect with yours.
3. Be yourself
At the risk of sounding like Jiminy Cricket, don’t fake the funk. Some of the most successful artists and people behind the scenes I know are very personable and have bs detectors. If your vibe is off, they will not want to fool with you (this will come more into play as you build and meet people in the industry). Besides, you have enough on your plate. Building your empire and maintaining a persona 24/7 is a huge pain in the ass.
One last thing, take off those damn sunglasses. Eye contact is essential for making connections. Plus you won't run into stuff on stage, bruise your shins, and end up limping around like an extra from The Walking Dead.