The Flood and the Drought:
Are you killing off your own fan base?
Being an independent artist gives you the benefits of no strings attached, but the risk of no one’s hand to hold. Making decisions on your own can seem more like a burden than a freedom, and at the end of the day you may feel like you’re still coming up short despite your best efforts. But maybe it’s not what you’re doing that’s causing some trouble. Perhaps, it’s how you’re doing it. Over or underwhelming your fan base may be the difference between the career you have and the career you’re after.
Problem: “I’m playing plenty of shows! Why aren’t more people coming?”
Flood: Are you playing too many shows? If you’re consistently playing more than two shows a month in the same city, you’re probably drowning out your fan base. No one can keep up with “Event!” “Event!” “Event!” on Facebook and find the time, money, or excitement for each one. Fans need to feel like they’re catching a show they may not see again for a while. Remember back in Economics 101: Supply and Demand. Keep supply low and demand high. If you’re in the middle of promoting a new record, play in surrounding cities and switch up the venues at which you perform. You can play as often as you’d like, but don’t overwhelm any area too heavily. You never want to be old news- especially too early in the game.
Problem: “I’m touring, why isn’t my fan base growing?”
Drought: Do you have a substantial fan base in the cities you’re touring? Are you opening for a larger act who does?
If you said no to one of these questions, you may be trying to bite off more than you can chew. To headline outside your own city, you need to have enough connections to tour and make it worth the time and expense. If you’re opening for an artist or band who is more well-known, make sure they have networked a significant amount in the areas you will be playing together. House shows and small venues are a great way to build a fan base outside your own city, just make sure people know you’re coming. Have your connections promote the shows and encourage others to come out; if you’re there and gone in a flash you won’t be able to leave a lasting impression.
Problem: “I’m active on my social media, why don’t I see a change in my numbers?”
Flood: Are you posting too much fluff?
Find the balance between quality and quantity posts. An epic Instagram twice a year won’t be enough to keep people engaged, and neither will a daily picture of your breakfast. Find or do something newsworthy, share the news, and spend a few weeks sharing that great news. If you haven’t done so already, consider these changes to your social media sites:
Switch up the topics you post about and see what gains the most attention.
Use trending hashtags that are relevant to your music (not too many, we’re trying to stay afloat here, remember?)
Buy or download a good photo-editing app to amp up the quality of your pictures. These are not to replace the high-res photos you should have professionally done for your press kit and website, however. For day-to-day postings, check out photo-editing apps like VSCOcam, Afterlight, or Wood Camera to name a few. After you’ve done this, post photos that are worth taking. (Watch the selfies and food-pics, people!)
Consider promoting your fan page on Facebook. You’d be surprised how many followers $20 a month might get you.
Follow pages and accounts by local bands or people in your area.
Get to know your fan base. Find people who “like,” follow, or use hashtags to reference musicians similar to you. This way, you can specifically target the people who might be interested in your music. Follow these people or “like” their activity. Catching social media attention is a great way to let people know you exist.*
*Be careful though— Don’t go on a frenzy. No one needs their feeds clogged by your excessive activity and they’ll certainly un-follow you if it becomes too bothersome.
All in all, be a go-getter. In the Entertainment and Music Industry, you need to sell yourself professionally while finding ways to relate to your fan base. Spend money where it’s needed and create a quality brand for yourself. While you’re rocking out and kicking-ass, just find the balance between the flood and the drought.
Ellery Bonham is a writer and electronic-pop musician living in Nashville, Tennessee. After studying the Entertainment Industry and Creative Writing at Belmont University, she now works for Artist Growth as a Creative Production Assistant focusing on helping artists prepare for the music industry. She is a firm believer in all things good, local, and coffee-infused.