Building a fan base is about momentum. It’s about taking a small buzz from a good show, and using that buzz to build a bigger buzz at your next show. But most of all, it’s about keeping your existing fans engaged while you earn new fans. If you aren’t consistently giving your current fans a reason to keep being a fan, then you’re probably going to be faced with fan attrition. And it’s hard to grow your base when you can’t even keep the fans that you have. So what should you do?
Give people as many opportunities to connect with you as possible. Most obviously this includes performing whenever possible. But more importantly, release a lot of music. You don’t have to be releasing 2 or 3 official albums a year, but you should be releasing at least 2 or 3 albums worth of material through albums, mixtapes, and especially hype tracks.
Though mixtapes are still popular, weekly track releases leading up to an album release are really a more effective strategy. This is because whereas a mixtape gives you a single opportunity to interact with your fans, weekly releases encourage repeat action. If you’re releasing music every week, fans can be conditioned to expect and want your music on a regular basis. By the time you release an album, your fans will have gotten to know and like you and your style. If they stayed with you as you continued to release hype tracks, chances are they’re going to want your full album.
However, how do you encourage this frenzy to download your weekly hype tracks?
Grow Your Lists
You need to build your email list, your Twitter following, and your Facebook fans. It is through these mediums that your fans find out where you’re performing and when you are releasing new music. The goal of every show, besides putting on a good show obviously, should be to get fans to subscribe to you through 1 of those 3 methods. Focus on one or two (I recommend email and Twitter) and commit to building your base. At shows, encourage people to follow you on Twitter. On your website, encourage people to subscribe to your email list.
To illustrate the power of a Twitter Following, lets use an example. Say you’re starting with just 10 fans (your closest friends) and you have a show coming up. After getting your friends to tell their friends and doing a little promotion, you have your show and 150 people show up. You kill your set and everybody loves the performance, but at the end you just thank the crowd and say goodnight. Even though people may have liked you, you haven’t prompted them to take any action to indicate their like for your performance. You get no new Twitter followers and no more people subscribed to your email list. So even though these people liked you and would likely be interested in hearing about your new music, they don’t have any way of hearing about it. Thus they quickly forget about you and at your next gig you have that same 150 people.
Now compare that scenario with one of someone who is growing their Twitter following. Say that in the previous story, at the end of your set, you asked the crowd to follow you on Twitter right then and there, or at the very least write down your Twitter username. Out of those 150 people, 30 people end up following you on Twitter. Over the next 2 weeks, you release 2 new hype tracks and Tweet to your followers to check them out. They retweet it to their friends and you get another 20 followers. Now, the next time you have a show you can not only ask your friends to come and spread the word, you can ask your 50 Twitter followers as well. Instead of that 150 people, you get 200 people at your next gig and people are coming to see you.
The same principle applies to your website. If you website has 50 visitors/day but you aren’t capturing your visitors’ email addresses, you’re not going to be able to communicate with those visitors that just come once never to return again. However if you are building your email list using something like Aweber, maybe 5 or 10 of those 5o visitors may decide to join your email list. That means you’ll have maybe 50 new people to share your music with every week. And when the time comes around to release an album, these people will already be familiar with your music, will have already downloaded the hype tracks that you’ve been releasing, and will be motivated buyers.
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