Developing a following in the foundation of everything. If you want to get on major playlists, play festivals, play bigger venues, or even get paid a decent amount at shows in your city, you need to make people care. The first step to most major opportunities is having a developed fan base, however knowing how to do so is usually a gray area filled with a lot of fluffy and empty statements, leaving artists confused and resorting to spamming Facebook groups.
At the Kismet Thoughts Music Industry Meet Up on July 9th, three groups were created, each with the task of coming up with useful, unique, easy, low-cost, and realistic ways for young artists to grow a following at the beginning of their careers. Although the tips offered by each group varied, they were all based off of the fundamental strategies of relationship building, consistency, authenticity, and hard-work. Broken down, here is what the Kismet meet up group came up with.
part one of 2 – Build relationships and build your network.
The most important thing that an artist can do at the beginning of their careers is to stop focusing on the fastest and easiest way to appeal to the largest amount of potential fans, and to start thinking of growing an audience one person at a time. The theme of relationship building was one that was brought up by almost every group during the Kismet Meet Up and that was broken down into several categories.
• Relationships w locals in music and the business
Make the effort to go out and meet the people in your local industry and develop relationships of mutual support and be exposed to each other’s networks. This can happen at meet ups, your friends’ shows, random open mics, workshops, literally anything happening in the city that will draw people out.
Relationships w people at shows
An extremely important thing to do is talking to the people that your friends bring to your shows. Whenever I attend a band’s show, I usually bring several friends, and typically my friend in the band will say hi, but will not make the effort to develop a direct relationship with them. Not to fault the friends who have done it, a lot of the time they do not even realize the missed opportunity. However, building a direct relationship with mutual friends will ensure that they feel motivated to attend your shows without needing the middle connection, and is an easy way to grows your audience with every friend that is brought out.
Another really important thing to do is to make yourself accessible and easy to find after you play. Don’t go sit with your friends at a table in the corner of the bar because no one will want to approach you there. Instead, spend time at the merch table, and announce at the end of your set that you’ll be there so people can easily find you.
Another idea that was discussed at the meet is having someone in the audience during your set looking for the random viewers having a really good time and enjoying the music. As a non-artist who is always in the crowd during local shows, I tend to notice randoms not apart of the artists’ friend group who are clearly enjoying the band’s music. However, since the members are quite obviously consumed in their performance, they don’t generally have the time to identify these individuals. Having a close friend in the audience who knows your main entourage can look for the random bar-goers, members and friends of other bands who are really enjoying your music, and identify them to the band after their set so that a relationship can be developed.
Relationships on Social Media
Social media is a huge aspect of developing relationships into a more long-term, friendly, and meaningful form instead of a passive meeting after a show. As you develop your network, add/follow people so that you are able to stay in touch with them. Facebook is usually my first choice because the majority of people do have it and it’s a good (and socially acceptable) place to have conversations (vs sliding into dms). A useful thing to do after you’ve added someone is to message them. If you met randomly at an event, just reach out and say it was nice meeting them. A really important and meaningful gesture is messaging everyone who attended your show to thank them. Whether its your best friend or someone you’ve just met, everyone appreciates the recognition and appreciation for their effort and time. Messaging people additionally creates a place and an opportunity for longer-lasting conversations with the person, further allowing for a relationship to develop in the long-term.
Messaging people is also a huge component of getting people out to shows. Although this is a step that artists are sometimes resistant to taking, don’t be afraid to send reminders about upcoming shows to the people in your network who have indicated that they want to support you.. A lot of the time I’ve missed shows just because I simply didn’t know or forgot last minute, and all it would’ve taken was a short message to remind me. Messaging people additionally makes them feel like they’re wanted there which is a really important component. Just make sure if you message people about shows that you’re not spamming them, and that you ask them about themselves and how they’re doing to show. This shows that you’re interested in them and your relationship and not just getting people out to shows. Just don’t spam everyone on your friends list or every Facebook group for music in the city… please.
Another thing that can be done on social media is answering people’s comments on your videos/pictures with a question because it starts a conversation with someone who appreciates your music and allows you to develop a relationship with them. This is especially important when the comment is from someone you barely or don’t know because it is one of the rare instances that potential fans will come to you, and it is a wasted opportunity to simply reply with a “thanks” that ends the conversation. Even though someone may like your music, people have no reason to continue supporting you if they do not feel closely connected to you, so make sure you establish that early on before people move to the next band with good music.
• Find who you’re looking for
A huge advantage of social media is that it’s extremely easy to find whoever you are looking for. Whether it be locals in the business, other artists that you can connect and collaborate with, potential fans, or even professionals in the industry, if you put in enough time and effort into searching, all the information is available and accessible. One of the suggestions on Saturday was don’t be afraid message and reach out to people, especially in music because so many people are extremely willing to help. People want to learn, collaborate, and develop their networks just like you do, and most will be receptive to it. There are so many ways to find people on social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, reach out to people with the intent of getting to know them (vs self-promotion or self-gain). Adding onto this, try reaching out to pros on the business and asking them for advice. Offer to take someone out to coffee to chat and pick their brain for 20 minutes, if you do our research and find the right people a lot of the time they will be flattered and wanting to help. Also, while you receive valuable information and advice you develop a unique relationship with someone who might be willing to help you out eventually.