Bands and music artists have various ways of expanding their fan bases these days, both "live" in person as well as "digitally" on the internet.
That being said...there's the good and the bad.
Let's start with the "bad." It's really not "bad" per se...it's just a lot of work. Today's music fans have lots of options, and it can be overwhelming and time-consuming for them (and for the artists!). Most music fans today discover new music either from "word-of-mouth" from friends, or they discover them online (also often through word-of-mouth from their friends, via social media) or the daily, continuous 'click, click, click'. You WANT to be in one of those "clicks".
It is a lot of work for musicians to "be where the fans are", because they are in so many different places. The good news is, music fans ARE searching out and craving new music. You as a musician just have to be there. As the saying goes, "must be present to win."
One of the biggest search engines, and possibly the most-used search engine for music discovery, is YouTube. According to Google (YouTube's parent company), over 4 billion people per day use YouTube, and over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube. That's a LOT of videos. Given that TV channels such as MTV, VH-1, CMT and others have mostly become vehicles for reality TV shows (and not music), most music fans discover new music on YouTube. Thanks to streaming technology, music fans can find and enjoy music "on the go" through their mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
There's also downloads (iTunes) and streaming (Spotify). Both of these platforms utilize tools and metrics to allow fans to participate in music discovery. It's important to be on both (as well as other stores, but those are the 2 most popular for downloads and streaming, respectively).
In order to have a music video, a download or a stream, you've got to have music. If you are an artist or band that's serious about your craft, don't keep your fans waiting for long periods of time (like over a year) to release some sort of new music, even if it's an acoustic cover of a current popular song. Yes, your die-hard fans generally won't give up on you, but to expand your fan base and move your career forward (and therefore recruit and earn new fans), your machine has to keep on moving.
The following are some tips to earn new fans, grow your fan base, and even make some super-fans.
1. Give Away Some Music For Free
Yes, this is controversial. And yes, we know that artists have to make money. You can't do it for free. It's not a hobby. You want it to be your career. We get that. And we're not saying to give everything away for free. But if you are a new indie band with virtual no fan base, the BEST way for you to start recruiting a fan base is to have some music to give away to fans. Many of our successful TFC Artists are doing this and growing their fan bases, such as Monday's Mona Lisa. Let them know you exist. Look at it as a "sample" of what's to come. This can be a download of 1 song or several in the form of an EP. There are quite a few bands right here on TFC that have done just that with much success. The reasoning behind this is that everyone loves something for free, and you want your new and growing fan base to start to get to know some of your songs (and to discover and be aware of you as an artist)...and then they will seek you out for more. It's a starting point. It will also get people to come out to your live shows.
2. Get Out There and Do Some Shows!
You're a musician, right? So get out there and do some shows. Of course, some of these shows (and maybe many at first) won't be paid (see a previous link that we posted about that here) and you may only have a handful of people there. Take advantage of that. Those folks that come out and support you at the very beginning of your career (when nobody else knows, or cares, who you are) are your potential future super-fans. Fans love to be the one that "knew you when" and "before you were a big deal."
Make sure you treat your fans like GOLD. They have set aside time and money to come and see YOU. Make them feel special and appreciated. Don't retreat to the back room after the show or leave the venue. Get out there and talk to them. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Let them know what you're working on and what's coming up in the future for you and your band.
Remember their names...hell, remember their MOM's names too, and their puppy on Instagram if you can remember it! If you recognize someone in the crowd from one of your social media sites, someone who's always sharing/commenting/liking, CALL THEM OUT, say "hi" from the stage. Say their name. They deserve for you to recognize them because they remember to check your every day and help you pursue your dream. They won't forget the small things, and you'll see it later when you have a packed house. Those are the ones who will be buying one of each item on your merch table. They will become your super-fans.
If you've never booked a show on your own, get to know folks at some of your local venues, and once you've played there a few times, ask them for some referrals. We've found that the music community for the most part includes people that want to help you and see you succeed.
5. Don't Forget Streaming
Make your music available on as many platforms as you can. There are several aggregators that can do this for you (CDBaby, Tunecore, etc.). Get your music into as many of the stores as you can. Have your music available for download (iTunes) and streaming (Spotify). Nobody is going to know who you are if you're not out there. There's a huge playing field for you here, and if you're not in every corner, those who are will be seen and heard before you (or maybe even instead of you).
6. Social Media
EMBRACE social media. At the very least, have a Facebook, Twitter & Instagram account. Snapchat is getting bigger and bigger everyday. Use it. And be sure to create a TFC (The Fan Connection) Artist account. We are a growing social-media-meets-ecommerce platform "just for music" and are rolling out a TON of new features in the coming months (more on that below).
In short, don't "hide" from your fans. We see bands every day that don't have social media accounts. Or they'll have one or two, but ignore the others. We know FIRST HAND how much more difficult it is for us to find out who you REALLY are if you're not "Keeping up With The Joneses" so to speak.
If you are seriously pursuing music and increasing your fan base, you have to be where the fans are. And that's social media. And it's free...so there's no reason NOT to do it. The most important thing is to keep your social media UPDATED on a regular basis. Don't go weeks without posting something new. EVER. Try to post something on your social media at least a couple of times per week. Again, it's about keeping the fans engaged and let them know that you're there. Interact with your fans. They want to feel like they are part of your journey.
7. Have Some Merchandise To Sell
Remember when we told you to give some music away for free? Here's where you offset that. Have some merchandise (T-shirts, posters, etc.) to SELL at your shows and online. Yes, this can cost a little bit of money to start out. But if you keep your spending in check, and shop around for some good deals (they're out there!), you will start making a profit on your merchandise sales. ALWAYS have something to sell at one of your live performances. Not only will you be making some money, but your T-shirts will be "walking billboards" advertising your band.
Your posters will be literal small version of a billboard hanging on someone's wall. Can't afford posters? Print up 8x10s and sell them for 2 bucks. It's something the fans will want you to sign, and you're pretty mug will be hanging in their room.
Did you know that The Fan Connection will soon be rolling out no-upfront-cost online merchandise stores for Artists? (Again, if you haven't signed up for our newsletter...do so here to stay updated with all the new things coming up that we have to offer).
Before we began our Beta launch here at TFC, we talked to HUNDRENDS of independent bands. The ideas of how to do this are endless. Can't afford to pay a T-shirt shop the bulk amount? Then go buy 5 packages of white v-necks from Walmart (3 in a pack and about $4). Grab some iron-ons. Sit the drummer at the computer and make him design a logo, print it, iron it, and sell them for 5 bucks. At least you've GOT something, and something is better than nothing!
8. Release Music on a Regular Basis
Do not go a year without release some sort of new music, especially if you are releasing 5 or 6-song EP's. Many artists have found success releasing 2 EP's per year...essentially dividing up a full-length album into 2 digestible music collections per year for their fans. And no, it's not necessary to continue to "give away free music" to your fans once you've established a fan base...although fans may appreciate the occasional free download of a recent cover song (you can do this acoustically at very little expense) or even an acoustic version of one or more of your fully-produced songs. Another idea would be to start playing a new original song at shows, and once that song becomes a "fan favorite", release it as a single download between EP releases. Always create some sort of video content to upload to YouTube for each of your songs. Make it simple, but also make it compelling. Think outside the box.
In a nutshell...stay in front of your fans with new music and don't go too long without releasing something new. Always give your fans something new to discover. INTERACT with your fans, both on social media and live in person at shows. Don't shun them (we never understand when artists do that...they are such an essential part of your career). Get out there and play live. Encourage them to sign up for your email list, and then USE that email list (but don't OVER-use it).
How Can You Use The Fan Connection to Promote Yourself and Your Music?
First, create a TFC Artist account like so many others have already done. Sign up for our email list (you can even do that below). Check back with us often.
We're rolling out a TON of new features in the coming months. Currently, you can share your most popular social media links directly from your TFC Artist Profile page (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube). You can post your most recent (or favorite) YouTube video directly to your page. You can choose the genre of your music as well as where you're from. Don't forget to add your bio and a photo! You can even post a blog directly on your Artist page.
Soon...we'll have a custom music player where you can upload your music. We have on-demand merchandise stores on the way, as well as professionally-managed Fan Clubs! We'll be rolling out our live video streaming as well as promoting our chatrooms. We also have Artist bulletin boards on the way!
Not to mention, we plan on offering premium features to bands and artists which will take everything to a completely new level. And if you have any suggestions, please contact us. We're always listening!
Become a part of music's newest and most exciting "music-only" social media platform...The Fan Connection (TFC).
Social Media...interviews...tours...blogs...fan clubs...merchandise and more!