I got an e-mail from an LA artist who was told that I would be able to give advice on how to grow a local following. (He must have never come to an LA show… cause… well… I don’t have one there… :-P)
I’m convinced that growing a following comes from a few things, but before we start, let me define a few of the terms.
1. Family – They are either in your corner, or think you’re an idiot. Move on to the next sentence.
2. Friends – These guys are great to have at your shows when you first start out, but eventually, they will get bored of you, or you will piss them all off. (Or maybe that’s just what I usually do… my bad…) They will probably ask for your merch for free, and try to get into shows for free, so don’t count on them.
3. Fans – These are peeps who will buy all your albums, sing all your songs, record your sets, tell their friends about you, and basically love your music. They are the ones who will allow you to have a career doing what you love. You need to find THEM.
So how do you grow your fanbase? How do you get more of these? There’s literally a million different options. There are websites that promise you that they will help you get fans, and that’s great and all, but I bet you a hundred bucks, that most of these websites are scams. After all, if they really knew how to get that many fans, wouldn’t they just use this great website they made, to make their band the biggest band and have U2 open for them? (duh?) Be very careful of these type of sites. They are usually bitter, old musicians who just need to pay their children’s tuition and have lost their moral compasses and are okay with taking money and giving empty promises. They prey on the hopes and dreams of new artists. The other half that run sites like this are just crazy.
There are some websites however, that give YOU the tools to get fans, but it’s on YOU to utilize them. Reverbnation, Topspin, and Purevolume are all great examples of sites that can give you these tools. (And they all cost different amounts.) Obviously be in as many places as possible like myspace, facebook, etc… Just because a site isn’t popular right now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on there. It might blow up, and then you’ll be one of the hipsters who missed the opportunity.
But if you just throw money at your career, you may turn out like Paris Hilton, or some other type of artist who has a hit for a day, and then it’s gone. Chances are you’re not Paris Hilton, cause I don’t think if you were you’d be reading my blog. You also need to be careful what you post on these sights. Let’s say you make it big, but have to perform “Friday” by Rebecca Black at every show… ha. sucks to be you, bro.
So here are a few of the things, off the top of my head, that you must have to grow a solid fan base:
1. Quality music: Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it compare to John Mayer, Jason Mraz, etc… Or is it vastly inferior? If it’s not the best recording, is it a GREAT song? Good music will always bring fans. People can’t get enough of it. I love it when people say, “I hate so and so’s music”. That’s fine and definitely an opinion, but there’s a reason that they are successful and you’re playing in a venue that you paid to play in, and the sound man isn’t even watching. So write good music, and record it the best you can. And keep writing, cause one song will only take you so far.
2. Live Gigs: Are you playing live gigs? If so, are you being on appropriate shows where you mix well with the other artists? After the gig, has everyone walked out with something of yours? A flier, a CD, a memory? If you’re just focusing on spreading your music on the internet/social media, you’ll get a bunch of trolls who don’t go out to live shows. (probably…) Think of it this way- the way that you get fans is the way that you’ll keep them. If you post funny videos, they’ll only like you for your funny videos, so you’ll have to keep posting them. You need to play as much as possible when you first start, and then start to play less and less frequently to condense your draw.
3. Merch/Follow Ups: Are you selling merch at every show? Are people signing your email list? If you aren’t, do you have a rich family member/wife paying your bills? (And are they single??? Cause my rent is due tomorrow… and uh… yeah….) If people aren’t signing your e-mail list, figure out why not. Is it because you are only bringing friends? Are you not talking about signing up? Are you not passing the clipboard around? I used to tell Kitty, my old assistant, that the e-mail list was more important than selling the CD’s because it meant I could have repeat customers. (Repeat Customer = Fan)
4. Be Engaging: Are you consistently engaging your audience? (both at your shows and via social media) Are you thinking about your shows? Or are you just telling them about your shows on twitter and facebook, and then being boring as hell, or not tuning your guitar, or playing any good music at the show? This is a great way to be known as annoying, and lose fans and friends, and wakeup in a van down by the river one day, wondering where your life went.
5. Be Interesting: Are you being interesting? Or just making noise? If you’re not being interesting, why would anyone want to pay attention to you. Do something crazy. Seriously.
I think these are all the places I started with. In the end, you just need to have fun. Enjoy the journey, and make good music. Without good music, no one will care about your band. (And by good music, I’m talking about the types of songs that make you feel things. It can have your own feel, be original, but people can tell if you’re trying to be John Mayer. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself. You can have the same feel, but bring it original… seriously.)
Cool. Now that I’ve done all that. Please sign up for my mailing list and come to a show. It’s a fair trade… 😛