3 tips for growing your following as a musician

Do you know the most important key to success for your career as an artist – besides your music?

Most think the key to success is getting a record label deal or PR exposure. They may even think it’s all about knowing the right people. However, these are all things that happen because you actualized the most important key to success: your fanbase.

Consider this: fans are to a musician what customers are to most traditional businesses. Whether you want to grow streams, downloads, ticket sales, merch sales, crowdfunding support, or Patreons, it’s all going to come from your fans. Even if you dream of just getting signed to a major label or management company, they’ll almost certainly want to see a sizable base of dedicated fans so they know there’s profit to be made by signing you.

Sometimes, we hear of these fairytales where seemingly unknown artists get big record label deals out of nowhere. However, look closer and you’ll almost always find that what looks like a musical Cinderella story is anything but an overnight success.

In summary, fans help open up opportunities. If you want to take your music career to the next stage, it’s important to be just as serious about making fans as you are about making music. But how do we go about growing a following? Below are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to expand your fanbase.

1. Be intentional about first impressions

The artist-fan relationship is like any human relationship: first impressions matter. Think about your music as your first impression with any new audience. Make it count, and invest in the quality of your musical ideas, samples, etc. Take your time to create the best music you can make.

That said, when you post your new release on social media to get it heard, remember that first impressions happen in the span of a moment. So, be smart and account for short attention spans. Most first-time listeners aren’t going to listen through a one-minute intro; few will even stick around for 30 seconds.

When speaking about crafting a hit song, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter Benny Blanco said, “Everything needs to be catchy because a listener is either going to stay with the song or lose interest in the first five seconds.” Five seconds is effectively how much time you have to convince a first-time listener that your music is worth listening to, before you risk losing them. So, just make sure track previews on social media get the listener to the most exciting part within the first few seconds.

2. Know the tools that are at your disposal

A number of tools are available today that can help you find the audiences you’re trying to reach and encourage engagement. Below, let’s take a look at a few tried-and-true tactics for artists who want to actively foster a following.

Make new fans an enticing offer

Instead of just posting your music online and hoping for listeners to engage with you, consider making your audience unique offers that make you stand out from the crowd. In my opinion, one of the most powerful words in marketing is the word “free.” So, don’t try to sell anything to potential fans right away. Instead, create the feeling that you’re just giving it away. This is such a powerful way to start an artist-fan relationship that can eventually lead to more reciprocity from your fans, whether it’s in the form of future streams, merch sales, etc.

Consider offering free track downloads, giveaways, coupon codes, links to exclusive videos, and other fun and valuable content in exchange for social currency from your audience. This can easily be streamlined with tools such as download gates and secret link gates offered by various music marketing platforms, including Hypeddit.com.

Download gates allow you to share content in exchange for social media interactions. For example, let’s say you want to grow your followers on Spotify, and you also want to grow your email list. Using a download gate lets you share a free download that would, in this instance, only unlock after a new fan follows you on Spotify and subscribes to your email list.

On the other hand, secret link gates allow you to attract fans who are increasingly streaming content (as opposed to downloading). With these gates, you can share a secret link to your unreleased music video, for example, after a new fan pre-saves your release on Spotify and follows you on SoundCloud. Your creativity is the limit for what kind of content you can offer via links – and what better way to start off the artist-fan relationship than with a gift to your new fans?

Engage your existing fans to promote your new music

Email lists, which we mentioned above, are an often-overlooked opportunity for accelerating the organic growth of your fanbase. Building your own email list allows you to reach your fans not only on social media, but also directly in their inbox – and the more ways you have to reach your fanbase, the higher the chance they’ll see your latest release or announcement.

Most email marketing platforms (like Mailchimp, for example) have simple subscription forms that you can embed on your artist website. The aforementioned download and secret link gates can also be utilized to capture your audience’s email addresses.

3. Let your actions speak as loud as your music

The best time to embark on a new journey is now, even if you haven’t figured out every step along the way. If your goal is to have a music career that puts you and your music in the spotlight you deserve, but making fans isn’t one of your conscious priorities yet, then this is your opportunity to make a change.

Of course, make sure you’re happy with your music first and foremost. However, don’t let being a perfectionist paralyze you – your music carries your message, and your message needs to get heard.

And in addition to gaining confidence with your role as a music maker, challenge yourself to become comfortable with your role as a ‘fan maker.’ Don’t just hope for fans to magically appear, but instead, be thoughtful and don’t hesitate to use the latest tools, technology, and tactics (just like you’re doing for your music) to grow your following.

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April 6, 2020

John Gold John Gold is an independent music artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He's also the founder of the global music platform Hypeddit.com, which helps artists of all genres and career stages get more fans for their music.