How Bands Create a Lasting Fan Base
Becoming a world renowned music artist is not something you can simply get a degree in and have a job waiting for you the moment you get handed a diploma. Being successful within the music industry does not rely on learning facts and statistics. Nor does it rely solely on the talent of the artist. Being successful within the music industry requires “social smarts,” including finding an audience, connecting to that audience, and ultimately establishing their own fan base. And in today`s technologically active society, there is no better way to do so than through social media.
Establishing a fan base through the wide world of social media has surprisingly become easier than one would expect. A hopeful artist playing guitar on a street corner, standing over an open guitar case filled with loose change is a scene of the past. Today, social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram, as well as music sharing/radio sites such as Soundcloud, Pandora, and Spotify have allowed artists to quickly and easily share their music to broad population of potential fans. It is all about making yourself known, and the easiest way to do so via social media is through the use of “hashtags” and “retweets.”
The Handy “Hashtag”
The “hashtag” can be found and utilized on pretty much any form of social media today. However, its use originated on Twitter. The hashtag indicated by the # symbol, is used to mark the key phrases, words, and topics of a Tweet. According to the Twitter Help Center, “people use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.” Twitter also emphasizes how commonly hashtagged words and phrases often become “Trending Topics.” Both Twitter Search and Trending Topics are visible to all users. The Tweets and their Tweeters that appear in these categories are visible to all, regardless of whether or not you are following them. With this being said, the proper use of a hashtag by an artist could be what causes a future fan to come across them and their work.
The Remarkable “Retweet”
Unlike the hashtag, the “retweet” is exclusively utilized in the world of Twitter. Essentially, a retweet is a re-posting of a Tweet by another user. When this is done, those who follow the “retweeter” can see the original Tweet; even if they do not follow the person who originally posted it. This feature deems extremely beneficial to unknown and rising artists. Current fans can share the music and persona of their favorite newfound artist via retweet to others, and potentially broaden that fan base even further.
One rising artist that has used the “retweet” to his advantage is Hoodie Allen. Allen is extremely active on Twitter, and uses his 700,000+ followers to his advantage. The hip-hop artist will constantly reach out to his fans and followers to retweet his Tweets regarding new music or upcoming tours, and provide them with something in return.
Typically Allen rewards various retweeters by following them back, free tickets, and sometimes even personal phone calls from him. Not only does this create a personal connection with his current fans, but those who retweet him are also promoting him as an artist and his music as well.
So why are social media users so important to a hopeful music artist? Because these active social media users are already in position as an online audience. Users already scroll through their timelines as a form of entertainment or a way to pass the time. The simplicity of things just popping up on our timelines keeps us as users engaged and loyal to our social media. It is up to the artists to take advantage of this opportunity, and make it so they are the ones users come across on their social media. The great thing about Twitter and Instagram is that it is like a web among users. The retweets or likes of one user can be seen by their own followers, and the followers of those followers, and so on.
It is also important to keep in mind that the connection between users is not only national, but worldwide. The use of social media and its features, such as hashtags and retweets, make it possible to establish and maintain these connections. The more people the artist can reach, the broader the audience spectrum becomes. Established fans not only generate, but truly define the success of the artist.
If having all these established fans is such a benefit to artists’, how can they do this? Especially when they’re starting from scratch, it’s very hard to establish a fan base, but it’s important to know the demographic and other vital information. An important article from Musical Think Tank basically gives a step-by-step guide on how musicians can narrow down the type of person they look to target. This is a similar algorithm that Facebook uses to show ads to different people, because they know that these people will have a higher percentage of clickthroughs on ads and interactions with the ads. Bands have to identify the demographic they wish to appeal to, just as the article says, to really get started with identifying their target market.
Once bands are able to identify some sort of demographic for their potential fans, the bands have to very specifically target interests outside of music. If bands are solely focused on the musical aspect of advertising and getting their work out, it will fail drastically. Fans like to see the bands make an effort to reach out, and in return, fans will reciprocate that tenfold. For example, if Band A acknowledges the presence of other bands within the same genre and then recommends those artists to their fans, this will show the artist actually cares! If bands can build these relationships, then this will be the first big step into getting their foot in the door and growing their fan base. Understanding the type of music and type of persona your fan base wishes to have is almost an element of stalking. Bands have to know their fans well before their fans even know they exist.
For example, an up and coming band would have to understand the type of demographic that is typically interested in their music. This band would then have to capture the essence of this kind of band well and really be able to envision what the fans want. For example, they wouldn’t start with CD’s anymore (maybe in 2005), instead, the band would begin with an online streaming service, such as Spotify. In 2013, roughly 23% of music listening was through online radio or music sharing sources. It’s likely that this figure has only grown since then, and would be an important fact for new bands to understand about their demographic.
Another thing about generating fans is how you stand out. Artists like Taylor Swift & The Weeknd have made it because they stand out. There is an element about them that makes them almost dangerously attractive, and most fans of popular music are good at figuring out if they will be a consistent artist or more of a one and done type deal. The importance of standing out, connecting with your fan base, but acknowledging some of the things that you just have to do to be popular are not to be underestimated. Hitting it big can sometimes be a lot of luck mixed with talent, but a lot of artists who have grown have been very meticulous about the whole process and how they reveal themselves. Ultimately if luck isn’t on their side, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in, but popularly bands have a lot of hoops to jump through to create the fan base and lasting success that they do.