How To Build An Online Following – Indie Artists (Part 1 of 3)

 “Social and digital media is a bullet train, and that bullet train is not coming home.”
Howard Schultz

First things first. This blog series is going to contain statistics. I think this is important as musicians and bands especially if they are indie (not signed to a major recording label or their subsidiaries). They need to know what they are up against if they want to expand into the broader playing field and gain larger audiences. As they say, ‘knowledge is power’.

So let’s get powerful.

Websites, various arms of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc…) and online means for content distribution (Spotify, Google Play, KKBox, iTunes and iTunes Radio, YouTube, Mobile platforms –  and the newcomer Tidal (more on Tidal later in the series)) are all tools. Very POWERFUL tools. The problem is that not only you have access to use these tools to distribute your content and brand – so does every musician/artist/producer that has internet access.

According to world leader in world music analytics ifpi.org digital revenues accounted for 46% of global recorded music sales for 2014. That amounts to approximately US$6.85 billion. For the first time, the industry derived the same proportion of revenues from digital channels (46%) as physical format sales (46%). – ifpi.org”. One of the ways to get a slice of that financial pie is to acquire and expand your audience digitally so that they not only want to buy your music/merchandise and recommend you through their online networks and word of mouth but also to become lifelong fans of your works.

Do What Others Won’t Do.

Want to stand out? Here is one way to be different. Send your music to be reviewed by non-music publications. Not only will this make you original but you will stand out from the rest of the crowd by avoiding the bottleneck created by artists sending their music to be reviewed by music magazines and websites like Billboard, NPR (National Public Radio), Guitar Player, Spin, The Wire among others.

There is a catch however. The music or album must be around the same theme as the magazine. For example, if you produced an album of music for yoga sessions, instead of only sending it to music publications why not send it to nature magazines or health & wellness or travel publications for review. These non-music magazines and websites will be surprised you are asking for a review and will most likely give a positive one (once the music is well recorded/produced of course). Make sure to request that ALL your online contact information be included in the review as well where to purchase the music online. This is a great example of niche marketing and a way of getting your music to stand out. To reciprocate (which is ALWAYS a good thing in building and sustaining marketing relationships) you can create a screenshot of the online article or scan/PDF of the review in the magazine and place the picture on your own social media with a link to the source website. I’m sure the reviewers will appreciate the gesture of free advertising and increased views on their websites (also establishing the chance of more favourable reviews the next time you send them music). Since we are talking about social media let’s look at one of the most popular ones, Twitter.

Indie Artists – Make That Blue Bird Sing.

According to the IFPI Digital Music Report 2015 about 50 % of Twitter users follow at least one musician. That means you can potentially reach about 164 million people (about half of the 328 million active users as quoted by Twitter – as of 27 September 2017). In his book, ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’, Gary Vaynerchuk says of Twitter, “The only way to differentiate yourself and pique people’s interest is through your unique twitter-bird-singscontent. Breaking out on Twitter isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about deejaying it.”. The fact that 500 million Tweets are sent per day means that you really have to be creative to grab the attention of the reader. To do this according to Vaynerchuk, one has to realize that entertainment and escapism are highly prized commodities in the Twitterverse and that you will have to use your skill in creating ‘infotainment’ that will tell the story of your product, sell your brand and, eventually, develop a loyal following that will favourite your tweets and expand your fanbase by retweeting your Twitter feed.

However, in a digital society where there is a constant avalanche of information how does one grab a person’s attention via an entity where 82% of its active users are on mobile (as of August 2017)?

Answer: Use images.

Tweets with images, according to Dan Zarella,  “… uploaded to pic.Twitter.com were nearly twice as likely to be retweeted while the use of Twitpic increased the odds by just over 60%.”. You can see his blog about it here. Now that does not mean you can put up any image and hope for the best. The image has to be ENGAGING. Remember the advice from advertising icon Leo Burnett:

Make it simple.
Make it memorable.
Make it inviting to look at.
Make it fun to read.

There are also some other strategies on how to make your tweets more effective via an article from Izideo that can be found here.

Due to the onslaught of online information the consumer may have grown impatient so the images MUST be compelling, tell a story and at the same time tell something about you and your music. Occasionally you will announce though Twitter a call to action (buy new music, come to a show) but most of the time Twitter must be used to engage your followers, identify with them and their needs and make them feel that they are part of your world. There is lot that can be said about using Twitter (and other social media) to your advantage but it will be too much to explain within this 3-part series. I would strongly advise any indie artist who is serious about using social media (and they SHOULD be) to purchase Gary Vaynerchuck’s book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” here.

Be Consistent … Repeat … Be Consistent … Repeat …

To get above the noise and the hundreds of thousands of musicians worldwide (side note – you have to STOP thinking that it’s only English speaking music market that matters. Want to really expand? Start looking at emerging, non-English markets. Hint: Think China/India/Africa) you have to be consistent. When using social media you have to be dedicated to getting your message out there. If you are doing one tweet a week you are woefully behind. Grant Cardone (not a musician but a businessman) put forward the idea of the 10x Rule. The Rule states that to get above the noise you have to work 10 times more than your peers. You are not here to compete with them but to DOMINATE the market so that you will have the largest share of the monetary pie. It is all great to be an indie artist but the reality is you have bills to pay and food to buy. Having a strong online following that will buy your merchandise, pay to download your songs and come to your shows will surly help to relieve your monetary problems don’t you think? As artistic as it is it is still a marketplace where you are vying for the public’s attention and yes – their dollars. Some of the concepts of the 10X Rule can be found here. I have Grant’s audiobook on constant repeat and it is helping me to get things done in ways that is making me start to dominate my sectors. If you are serious about getting things done you can purchase his mp3 here.

Sounds like too much work? This is ONLY the beginning. There are many other ways to set you apart, be unique and gain a loyal online fanbase. This is only part one of the series and we will be going deeper into this topic within parts 2 and 3.

It would be great to hear your views on the matter. Leave a comment below and sign up to my mailing list for free updates from Lancast Ltd.

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