Tips for Growing a Following
Posted by Esteban Miranda on
Music is inherently an artform that is best when shared, it brings people together, allows for great catharsis from the point of view of both the musician and the audience, and also has the ability to create an intensely emotional experience. These can range from heartbreak to euphoria, anger or passiveness.
Essentially, music is a medium through which we share emotions and ideas with other people. So in order for that goal to be achieved, we need an audience, people who are listening to your music.
When you're a music producer starting out your journey, and you want to get exposure and share your music and build a fan base, this can be an overwhelming concept. Especially if you don't know where to begin.
Social media is flooded with content creators and people who are vying for your attention, so making sure you stand out in the digital sphere is more important than it ever was.
Further, with more people making music, there is not only more competition, but there is more of a necessity to be doing things yourself. In years gone by bands could rely on their talent getting them picked up by record labels, who would pay for all sorts of marketing and promotion.
But these days, you have to do a lot of these things on your own.
Now, don't be disheartened by this prospect, because every producer you can think of who has 'made it' started where you are right now!
There are certain things you can do which are guaranteed to help you build a following and an audience, and that's what we are going to cover today.
The Importance of Having an Angle
As we have already mentioned, there are millions upon millions of users on social media in this day and age. Some of them are content consumers, many are content creators themselves, so in this maelstrom of endless reels, posts and videos, you need to ensure you have a unique angle from which to pitch yourself.
One of the best ways you can do this is by creating "Music and..." content.
Let's explore what we mean. I won't mention any specific people by name (because they haven't paid me to!) but the following examples are based on actual accounts I've seen on Instagram and YouTube.
So, you have music that you want to share with the world, but you don't yet have a platform to do it from. You could set up an Instagram, Youtube or TikTok channel (or likely all three) and begin posting content which focuses on music and something else.
Music and memes is an obvious one; make silly music related memes. I've seen a YouTube channel which makes great Ableton Live production content, but it's presented by a Muppets style puppet.
There are also people who put on a whimsical personality, make music out of household objects, or any other number of things that will act as bait for people who are scrolling their social media feeds.
The point is, people are always on their phones, and always looking for silly or relatable content to consume, follow and share. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that there is so much out there that there isn't any reason people should care about your music over all of the other music they are seeing advertised to them.
It's easy to forget that social media is a form of marketing, and learning how to capitalise on this market is a great way to get yourself exposure. Doing this by creating "Music and..." content is a really solid starting point.
Good Old Fashioned Networking
Now, some of you may be old enough to remember a world without the ever prevalent social media feeds we live with today.
In those days, making a name with yourself started by getting your boots on the ground and yourself to gigs, shows, conventions and any other relevant gathering of people in the industry.
If you're studying music in a University or College setting, go to EVERY. SINGLE. EVENT.
Seriously. Do not underestimate the power of getting your face out there, making a name for yourself as the person who is always at other people's shows or events.
These places are goldmines for networking opportunities. You never know who you could run into, and many producers share stories of their latest release or radio show being the result of meeting the right person in the smoking area of a gig they went to.
Think of it this way, if you want your music to be heard by a specific person, there's very little chance they will choose your email that you sent over out of the likely dozens they received. But if you get yourself at the events you know that person is going to be at, whether it's an artist's DJ set, a local music convention or networking event, you are drastically increasing your chances of being listened to. If you've already met someone at a gig and send over some music afterwards, they have a face to put to the name. This is incredibly valuable.
Don't underestimate the value of word of mouth, and in-person networking.
If you've never checked our r/WeAretheMusicMakers on Reddit, you definitely should. It's an amazing online community where musicians and producers from all walks of life and all skill levels meet to talk about all things music production.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with Reddit, let me tell you what this isn't. It isn't a place to just post links to your own music. But that doesn't mean you can't get some exposure by being active in this subreddit.
A guaranteed way to see organic growth on your social media channels is by being active in online communities like this one. Not because you have an unlterior motive to promote yourself, but because you want to actively learn and help others learn things about music production.
In doing this, you will gain a recognisable username, so make sure this matches your artist name. Over time, if you are regularly interacting with people on there, and you're speaking from a solid knowledge base, this will drive people your way to listen to your music.
Now, there are subreddits on Reddit dedicated to sharing your own music, but these inevitably just become a bombardment of people posting what essentially amounts to 'LISTEN TO ME!!!!!'
However, if you're smart about it, and make a name for yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and willing to share their information and skills, this will have the knock on effect of sending people your way, whether they're audience members or potential collaborators.
Now, r/WeAretheMusicMakers isn't the only online community like this, there are many out there, so be sure to do some searching for communities of people who want to share and discuss music!
Be Your Own Promoter
If you're living in a city, or somewhere with a good nightlife scene and/or student population, you should look into putting on your own events.
It's by no means a walk in the park, but there's a lot of benefit to organising your own club nights, DJ shows or events.
The obvious one is that you then have a guaranteed platform to play your own music from, but there are a few important points you want to make sure you're hitting if you look into putting on your own events.
Firstly, you need to make sure you have a good team of people around you. Putting on your own event by yourself would be very difficult, there is promotion, booking, ticket sales and choosing a venue, to name just a few of the things you have to consider. If you can get yourself a good team of people to run events with, things will go a lot smoother.
Secondly, if you're putting on events with the aim of playing your own music at them, be humble about it. If you're able to book artists or DJs for your events who have a bigger following than you do, don't put yourself in the headline slot. This will annoy them, and the audience, as well as giving you a reputation as someone who thinks they're better than they actually are.
Another thing you need to consider is the cost of putting on an event. These things can get expensive, so it's only something you should look into if you have the budget to afford it. Having said that, some venues will allow you to put on an event without an upfront cost, but they will take a portion of ticket sales. There is potential for arrangements like this one, so begin by asking around your local venues to see what kind of deal you could cut with them.
If you're a gigging musician or a DJ, this is a great way to get yourself exposure. After all, live music events are enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, so the prospect isn't to be sniffed at. If you do it right, and get a good team to work with, putting on your own events is a guaranteed way to build exposure.
Think About Your Branding
This is an easy thing to overlook. Being a music producer means more than just making music, especially if you want to build a following.
A great way to get yourself noticed among the sea of other people who are trying to the exact same thing you are, is by having a bit of professional branding worked into your social media channels.
This could mean a few things.
If you are savvy with a camera, or know someone who is, get some professional looking photos taken. In the world of smartphone cameras, we are all used to seeing high definition photos, but a photo taken with a proper DSLR camera will always look cripser and better than one done with a phone. Having some professional and well edited headshots can make a huge difference to how you come across to potential new fans.
Another thing to think about is branding. Branding is super important for a musician, because it gives people an idea of what you're about before they hear your music. So you want your visual branding to reflect the overall vibe of your music. Do you want to be a faceless music producer, keeping your image out of the spotlight? Maybe you want to opt for a logo rather than a picture of yourself. Or you could go right in some professional headshots, like we said. The main thing to remember here is that it's up to you what your branding looks like, but you still want to be aware of what the trends are and what makes good branding versus bland branding.
What's important to bear in mind here is that music, in some senses, is still a business. Sure, we usually get into it from a creative and fun point of view, but when you're in the realm of wanting people to listen to you and take you seriously, you need that level of professionalism to help you stand out.
There's a fine line to be found here, because what is part of your brand could be totally alien to someone else's brand, so it's important to take some time to consider how you want to visually portray yourself.
There's a reason this concept keeps coming up when it comes to making it in music production.
It's relevant for your production process, your social media posting, and your branding.
It's something you need to be on top of, for a few reasons.
Firstly let's talk about your content. If you're building a brand on social media, you need to make sure the content of your posts is consistent. If you've chosen a particular angle, such as a "Music and..." channel, then keep this kind of consistent content coming. Similarly, if you want to solely dedicate your posting to your music and your process, you need to stick to it.
But consistency also applies to your overall posting. Try and post things at the same time each day, week or month, and if you have a lot of things to share with your followers, spread them out. Due to the modern social media algorithms we all have to deal with, keeping your posting schedule consistent makes sure you are always appearing in people's feeds. Avoid bunching all of your posts up to a couple of days and then posting nothing for the rest of the week or month.
Why is this type of consistency so important?
The entire point of branding and building your following is letting people who come across your profile know who you are. Chances are, someone who stumbles upon your Instagram profile will have a look at your most recent post, and listen to a few seconds of audio. There's a lot at stake here, so making your profile as consistent and engaging as possible means people are more likely to stick around on your profile, give you a follow and actually enagage with your content.
This is one of the best ways to build a following.
Music is something that has been collaborative since the beginning of time, essentially. Sure, solo musicians exist, but working together with other musicians provides several advantages.
The obvious one for building a following is that, if you put out music which is a collaboration between yourself and another esatblished producer, straight away you are appealing to their audience as well as your own. You're both sharing your audience to bring more reach to both of your music.
The other great thing about collaborating with people is that the music business is, like most other businesses, as much about who you know as it is about what you know.
Making real life connections with artists you've collaborated with can give you an in to the network of local producers in your area, or even on a wider scale. Due to online communities like the Reddit one I mentioned earlier, we are now able to collaborate with people from even further afield, getting our music heard and into the awareness of people all over the world.
Collaboration doesn't always have to mean musical collaboration, though. You could work with artists, photographers, film makers or any other creatives. There's no limit on the kind of creative collaborative projects you could embark on.
The arts industry is a really friendly place, with people wanting to help each other out and work on creative endeavours as much as possible. So, do research into what creatives are living near you, or active on your social media spheres, and reach out. You never know what doors you could unlock for yourself by collaborating with someone.
Get your music on Bandcamp.
Bandcamp is the best place to release your music online, because it takes the smallest fee from each sale compared to every other music site across the internet.
I've found so much amazing music on Bandcamp, and getting your own music on there has severla benefits.
When people buy your music from Bandcamp, they can also choose to subscribe to you, so they'll be getting a notification whenever you release new music. You can also send messages to your followers using this system. This kind of artist loyalty is a huge driving force in people's music tastes; once you find an artist you like, you're naturally going to be interested in any future music they release.
Bandcamp is a great place to find other small scale artists and labels, too. I've found plenty of small local labels from all over the world, that you wouldn't be able to come across in the oversaturated world of streaming services.
But this isn't to say that you shouldn't put your music on streaming services. Anywhere you get your music is going to be great for your ongoing exposure, but I think Bandcamp just has a really cool and old school feel to it, and you can get some music exclusively on there that isn't available anywhere else.
Get out there and build yourself up!
So, hopefully you found some useful tips in this guide to help you on your road to building up an audience for your music. It's a long journey, and the most important thing from this list is that you ensure consistency throughout your efforts.
Get out there, get promoting yourself, and get building a following!
As always, thanks for checking in with us here at Top Music Arts, and be sure to stick around and search the rest of our blog for some more quality music production related content. While you're here, you should also check out our Ableton Live Project Templates, which are a guaranteed way for you to inject some professional tricks into your own productions. We have a dedicated international team of producers working on perfect recreations of huge well know tunes, and you can download these projects to dig through and see what tricks you can extrapolate from them!