Marketing Fanbase

Published on September 30th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession


The 10 things you must know to establish a loyal fan base

As a music artist, your fans are the centerpiece of your career. It doesn’t matter about the quality of your songs, how good you play or for that matter, how good you look! If the only people supporting your efforts are your mom, dad, girlfriend and brother-in-law, then it’s time to go after some fans!

Building a great fan base – one that is both effective and sustaining, is not out of reach, if you are willing to learn some simple strategies and put forth the effort on an on-going basis to find and connect with those who love what you do!

Here are 10 things that you must know to effectively build a loyal fan base.

1. Stop marketing to everyone

Yes, that’s right. Most music acts are not compatible with the mass-market model. It takes a significant amount of money to launch a new music artist on a major label. Broad appeal and commercial viability are a given. You’ll have more success by narrowing your focus.

Using the long-tail approach will not only save you money, but will also help to establish a direct relationship with your fans who truly like what you offer. By centering your marketing around your niche, much of the guesswork is taken out of the equation.

Bottom line: plug into the people whose interests and preferences fit your music and lifestyle. Differentiate through market segmentation.

2. Know thy fan

If you want to be effective at building a dedicated following, it is imperative that you have insight on the activity of your fans. You do this this through metrics. Google Analytics in addition to other sites such as FanBridge, Reverbnation, Bandcamp and Nimbit can give you information about the who, what, when, where, why and how of your fans.

It’s amazing that for years, record labels had little, to no information about their bread and butter – the fans. They gauged success on past sales and would then allocate a huge percentage of their budgets to those acts who sold well.

By knowing all you can about your fans, you will be able to give them more of what they want, and in turn, build a hardcore, loyal following that will translate into more revenue so you can actually do what you love. Sounds like a win-win to me! (For further reading, check out my post Using Metrics to Track Your Effectiveness as a Music Artist).

3. All fans are not created equal

As a music artist, chances are you already know on some level that some of your fans are more loyal than others. These fans may buy everything you offer and will chomp at the bit to get ahold of any new recordings. Conversely, there are those fans who like your music and may buy your singles, but that is about the extent of it.

So perhaps now, a light bulb just turned on in your head about the very notion that all fans (who are also consumers) have different levels of interest in you. With this knowledge, you can offer different merchandising packages to fit their needs in terms of value vs. pricing. Additionally, by directly communicating with your fan base, you have the opportunity to convert many of your casual fans into super fans! (For further reading, check out Giving Your Fan’s More Choices to Increase Music Sales).

4. Welcome new fans with open arms

New fans are no longer outsiders. Interact with them immediately and make them feel welcome as a part of your circle. Fans appreciate music artists who genuinely take interest in them.

5. Focus on quality not quantity

Ever see those Myspace profiles with 8,000 fans and 300 plays? How about 2,000 FB likes but only $100 in monthly merch sales? Obviously, there is something not quite right here.

Fan acquisition is nothing new. Even the majors hire independent marketing firms to “create” a fan base on social media sites such as Myspace. The premise behind this, is perception. After all, it can be tough to pitch an artist with 10 fans. But let’s face it. If the music isn’t all that good and your profile sucks, what difference is all this going to make anyway? It’s really the same concept as throwing money at radio stations to get songs played. Whether the song is any good or not, is irrelevant. History shows that many songs have cracked Billboard’s Top 10, but sales didn’t follow.

Much of your focus needs to be centered around your “core” fans. Remember, many of your “likes” are merely smoke and mirrors. Don’t take what I’m saying out of context. Every fan is important, and you should be treating every single fan like gold. However, as I mentioned in #3, the consumption patterns of your fans are not equal. Also, understand that many of those so-called “likes” don’t really mean anything at all. Could have just been someone who saw your page, thought it was cool at the time, liked it and never came back.

While I’m on this topic, let’s talk about impressions. Impressions serve as metric for the level of fan activity (as you notice on your FB fan page). They measure how many times a person has viewed a certain page. Often, impressions are tied in with widget technology which is merely a tool to track impressions.

Analyzing impressions is really anyone’s guess. It’s the equivalent of cars passing by a billboard, but the question is, how many people really paid any attention? As the narrator in the Tootsie Pop commercial says “the world may never know!”

It often helps if the widget is tied into a certain aspect of say your website, such as streaming music or a tour schedule. At best, it can give you some sense of your popularity among fans. (For further reading, check out a guest post by Dave Scotford: Social Networking Tactics for Musicians: Converting Your “Friends” to Fans).

6. Reward your fans frequently

If your fans are treating you well, then return the favor. Free tickets to your shows, backstage passes, perhaps even some free merch.

Another idea is to create a tie-in with reward vs. activity. Say a fan brings 5 new people to your show. Those fans would get a free t-shirt. Or, perhaps you can classify fans based upon purchases, very much like retail stores do with their rewards cards. Each level has various perks. Be creative.

7. Interact with your fans on a personal level

Creating an emotional connection with your fans will turn more people on to your music. The record business is over, as we know it. To really stand out, you need to be in the music artist business. By positioning yourself as not only a musician and songwriter, but as a name that has brand recognition and prestige, you will be able to maximize both your fan base and your income opportunities in the entertainment industry.

“I connect with people,”  mentions crooner Michael Buble in the Star Tribune. “What I do is a completely emotional thing. I never learned to read and write music. It’s not mathematical for me, it’s emotional.”

A site that emphasizes this important strategy, is TalentWatch. Artists are required to submit a personal video along with their music that tells their story and enables them to create a personal and emotional connection with their fans. It’s the fans that decide who rises to the top on TalentWatch, as it should be – giving each artist an equal chance. It’s free to register.

8. Engage your fans consistently

Remember, you are in the “artist” business. Just because you don’t have a new release to promote, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be interacting with your fans. Fans want to get to know who you are, as a person. Be creative about the topics you tweet or share on your blog or FB page. What movies, books or songs do you like? Do you have any stories you can tell, or perhaps some encounters you had, that can help to create a special bond between you and your fans?

9. Work your email list

Your email list is important! If you don’t have an area for your fans to sign up to your mailing list, you need to! What many artists do, is give away free content or merchandise in exchange for an email address. Pop-up’s often work well, but you will always have those who hate them. You’ll never please everyone.

10. Create an unforgettable live show

Anyone that reads my blog knows how big I am on developing your live show. Online promotion is an incredible way to create awareness, but the true connection comes when your fans see you play. You should know your songs so well, that they become second nature to you. Create moments within your sets that will leave a lasting impression with your audiences (For further reading, check out my post Taking Your Live Show to the Next Level).


About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

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