3 Ways for Independent Artists To Grow and Build Their Fanbase in the Digital Age
You’ve finally done it. After weeks hunched over your overheating laptop, scrolling through seemingly endless lists of sample packs and mixing and mastering for countless hours until you finally got that kick pitched exactly how you like it, you’ve finally completed your bedroom debut EP and you’re bursting at the seams to get it out to the world. There’s just one more problem… What do you do with it now?
For thousands of DIY artists around the globe, this becomes the biggest question. You’ve put your blood, sweat, tears and countless hours into completing your project, and now you want nothing more than to share it with the world. For independent artists without a label and distribution, it can seem incredibly daunting getting people to listen to your work, let alone generate sustainable revenue off of it. Sure, the internet makes it easier than ever for independent artists to share their works with the world, but this leads to an oversaturated artistic market. Subsequently, just because the platform is available and ready to use, doesn’t mean the best ways to utilize it to your advantage are always obvious. We’re here to point out some tips and tricks to get you started, and maximize the benefits of each existing resource.
This list is hardly a yellow brick road to Cardi B levels of success, but rather a comprehensive guide to navigating some of the endless resources available to young DIY artists. We’re here to help you organically grow a fanbase, and cultivate a community that will catapult your music into the limelight.
- Content Content Content: Look, we know your spine is already starting to curve unnaturally from sitting at your computer putting your heart and soul into your music, and the last thing you want to do now is work on even more pieces of content. In today’s world, virality and content creation are key for engaging new listeners with your art. Just look at the countless kids on TikTok gaining hundreds of thousands of views just from dancing to other people’s music or singing about numbers in Vietnam (we highly recommend checking out Ytiet’s videos, by the way). Vulfpeck, a funk band from Ann Arbor, Michigan, started off posting funny skits to their Youtube channel years ago. From comedy skits to posting live recordings of their in-studio sessions, Vulfpeck cultivated an incredibly eager and dedicated fanbase that took them from exclusively online to selling out Madison Square Garden. Make a couple how-to videos, maybe some funny skits here and there, live stream some track breakdowns on Twitch while constantly engaging with other users; as an artist, you really cannot go wrong with producing more and more content that promotes your music. It will only help push your name further and further into the algorithms of places like Youtube and Facebook. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it can be incredibly rewarding to put yourself out there in ways you’ve personally never considered. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up teaching yourself some new skills along the way.
2. Engagement: This one also requires a little more footwork on your part, but standing out among the masses often does. The name of the game here is engagement, and while this may turn off the more socially anxious of artists, it can be an invaluable way of establishing your brand. Online engagement with fans and potential listeners is always important, but the engagement we want to suggest here is more with different publications and music writers around the globe. Unfortunately, the days of playing live gigs around your local circuit are on hold, particularly with the fact the pandemic has pushed any live music out until at least 2021, so reaching out to different writers and publications can be a super helpful tool towards spreading your music to the masses. Do some research, figure out what style or genre your music best fits in with, find out the publications and writers focusing on your niche the most, and then take to the web and create some meaningful contact. Blogs, A&R’s, and playlist curators constantly take to Twitter looking for new music coming out each week. Their replies are open, and they’re waiting to hear from you. Be your biggest fan. Promote your music to those with the power and resources to share and your music. While we’re certainly not suggesting you harass anyone online, we suggest you promote your art around the internet like you’re a publicist getting paid $3k a track to share a client’s music. Like we said, it’s a lot of legwork and requires a good amount of research, but the risk is worth the reward.
3. Utilizing Resources that will put the most power in your hands and money in your pocket: These days, the internet may be the most useful tool for getting people to listen to your music, but how exactly are you supposed to monetize your work? Before the pandemic, touring became the most lucrative form of income for most musicians due to the impact online streaming had on record sales. Ironically, due to the pandemic putting touring out until at least next year, the internet is now the only option many artists have for making a living. So, how can you utilize the tools at your disposal? There is standard streaming on DSP’s like Spotify, but to post your music on these sites you’re often required to have a distributor which can carry a hefty entry fee and the royalty returns are often already abysmally low even when people start listening to your music. You have to get creative. Many artists have started turning to sites like Patreon, Onlyfans and other subscription based sites in order to generate revenue. People will often release free music on sites like SoundCloud, and link their Patreon, Twitch, Youtube, etc. into the description, and then offer other exclusive content through these sites through a subscription based paywall. The other content could include more music, videos or other art (think back to the content described in the first suggestion), or anything else you think your fans will want to see. This has become a great way of fostering interest around one’s music and begin cultivating a loyal fanbase that will want to subscribe to your channels in order to get this exclusive content. Many new platforms these days are even basing themselves around this subscription based economy, modeling themselves as a type of all-in-one subscription/ streaming service. One of these new resources is Matter, and it is becoming a useful tool for artists to build a community and fanbase. Matter not only offers the highest revenue to artists per individual stream, they are an amalgamation of a multitude of invaluable resources. It’s an all-in-one platform combining the best of marketplaces for beats and sample packs, as well as offering an option to create your own Onlyfans type subscription service dubbed “Artist Clubs.” It’s the quickest way to connect fans to you for exclusive content, while putting some extra change in your pocket. The over encompassing social media streaming platform connects thousands of active users daily, only allowing you a better chance at building that fanbase.
At the end of the day, you have to find what works for you. In the midst of a pandemic coupled with the daily pressures of the music industry, it can seem daunting trying to narrow down the best options to make your music pop. Though there’s no cut-and-dry path towards making a name for yourself, we hope these few tips and tricks will get you off on the right foot towards well deserved success.