Often bands ask what can they do to grow an audience more quickly, so they can become professional musicians.
There are a few things you can do but as usual its never easy and may involve spending money and lots of time:
- Work harder and smarter. Easy to say but this is really the thing that will make the most difference. Focusing on building an audience within a specific niche (often of fans of an act which sounds similar to yours) is the way to make this work. By using forums, Twitter, Live Unsigned, social media and real world interactivity like flyering other bands gigs you can make a difference. You can’t connect with everyone and most people won’t like your music, focus on building a relationship with the people who will.
- Give your music away free at first. Swop your music downloads for email addresses. The more you charge for your music the harder it is to get people to download it and often the more you will have to spend on marketing to get them to do so. As Ian from Topspin has said don’t even think about trying to sell things until you have at least 2500 people on your mailing list and if you can its a bonus. Once you have a fan base you can then start to think about making money on the next release, tours and merchandise.
- Write amazing songs and be great live. Easily said but being really good will further your career more than everything else. Before spending money and starting promotion, focus on creating great, original, remarkable music that other people love. Many musicians do all the right things but get no results, often the reason is the music is just not good enough. Get feedback from other people who like the music in your genre (not your friends) by posting tracks on Soundcloud and asking for opinions. If reactions are positive then start to promote your music online, if not write better songs.
- Spend money on niche advertising. Use adds on social media, web searches and banner adds on sites specific to your genre. You can start a small campaign for under £5 a day and only pay per click. Make sure you target a very specific demographic and if you don’t know who your audience is find out before paying for ads. Find out where people who like similar artists to your band hang out online and focus your efforts there. Be careful to focus on a small niche of people to make this effective, especially if you have a small budget. Its really easy to waste money on online advertising if you are not targeting it correctly. Marketing people say that fans need to see your name 9 times before they will investigate you, this is another chance to get this process going.
- Be innovative. Use the latest technology as it becomes available. The first acts to use Youtube got some of the biggest benefits, how can you use the latest technology (like UStream) to promote your band? You need at least one tech savvy person in the band and if you haven’t get a friend involved. Read Mashable and Techdirt and keep up with the cutting edge of social media and tech. Be ahead of the game.
- Hire a PR company. You can do everything yourself but when you hire a PR company you gain the connections and relationships they have built across media in many cases over years. Make sure it is a company that has successfully broken an act in your niche recently. Be careful about turning your online campaign over to a PR company, often they don’t keep up with the times with regard to social media. Agree a spend and expected results with the company, this can be expensive if allowed to run out of control. If you have a good story it helps. There is no guarantee of results and if the press doesn’t like your music, you can end up with bad reviews!
- Be friendly and approachable. Treat your fans well and ask them to tell their friends. Make friends with industry people and you’ll get better results. The music industry is a people focused business and nobody wants to work with idiots.
- Ask for help. If you get friends and family involved either financially or just in terms of spreading the work load you can get more done. Don’t be afraid of asking, they often enjoy being part of the music world. You could even advertise for an intern, someone who wants to gain experience in social media or the music industry and ask them to help.
If you don’t ask you won’t get what you want. At the early stages of your career you will need to use every resource you can from friends to the latest technology to guerilla marketing to build your career. Its not easy but when it works its worth it. You can build your career online but only if you work hard and have great music.