How To Conquer Your Musical Niche

image from miccontrol.comThis guest post is by Jon Ostrow cofounder of MicControl, a music resource blog and community and MicControl Consulting, consultants for the social music market.

The internet has done a lot of wonderful things for musicians. By somewhat leveling the playing field on a global scale, musicians can now market their music and expand their brands further than ever before, quicker than ever before. Day after day we are inspired by the success stories of others who came out of nowhere, only to be the next trending topic on Twitter or the most viewed and shared video on Youtube… but there is a big piece of their stories that is typically left out:

How exactly these artists got to where they are.

See every time we hear of yet another artist who has broken through from obscurity to being reported by mainstream mass media, the success stories are typically coupled with 'overnight sensation', 'viral star' or some other similarly ambiguous (and unrealistic) term.

Believe it or not, almost every single artist who has found success online, virally or not, has had something in common. They targeted, and subsequently conquered a niche.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a niche is simply a specific or 'specialized' market. In other words, it is not 'the whole world' or 'rock fans'. A niche is a very detailed, smaller sub-section of a bigger market, but most importantly those who are characterized within the niche are far more likely to be loyalists than fans of a more generalized market. Not to get too 'marketing-jargen' on you all, but typically speaking, the more specific a niche, the more dedicated those within it will be, and visa versa, the more broad a market becomes, the less dedicated the fans will be.


Plain and simple, if you really want the internet and social networks to become the success drivers of your career that you hope they will become, you MUST target and conquer your niche. Below are four very simple things that you will need to consider and map out in order to get yourself on track to conquering YOUR niche:

Understand That a Niche Typically Starts Very Small

The internet is and always has been about BIG ideas. By giving us a further reach than ever before, it has become second nature for us to always think on a global scale.

This is a mistake!

Remember that a niche can and usually does start very small, as in so small that it can be targeted locally. By working with your niche locally first, you can build up buzz in your area, making it easier to connect with all of the influencers in your area, opening up doors to connections with influencers outside of your area on a regional, then national and then even global level.

An example that I always like to use when discussing Niche Marketing is Phish. Everyone has heard of them and they are widely considered to be one of the greatest touring bands of all time, but it is far less understood that by the time they were signed to a label and started touring the country, they were already local heroes, selling out some of the biggest venues in the area on their own. In fact, Phish didn't even tour outside of the northeast until years after they had formed the band, because they found it better to target the local scene and conquer it first before moving on. By the time they left the northeast, they already had fans waiting for them in other parts of the country, because as we discussed, niche fans are more loyal. Their local fans loved the music and helped make sure the word got out.

Know EXACTLY What Your Niche Is

The more detailed an understanding you have of your niche, the better of you will be. As mentioned above, as your niche becomes a more specific section of a market, the more loyal the fans will be within!

Now, your niche can really be whatever you want it to be (within reason – more on this below), so deciding which niche you fit into best is really up to you. But no matter what that niche is, you absolutely need to have a full understanding of what that niche is. Here are a few things for you to consider so that you can better define and locate your niche:

  • Demographic (age, gender location)
  • Similar / influential artists (remember to start locally, then branch out to the regional, national and global scale)
  • What are the influential promotional outlets?
  • Where do the fans exist online?
  • What blogs do they read?
  • How do they find out about new music?
  • Are they into fashion? If so, what brands?
  • What are their favorite hobbies?

Now that you have the proper understanding of your niche, you need to seek it out and see if it is truly worthy. Some niches won't exist online or at all in the way you hope and so the demand for your music just isn't enough to get you on the map. Some of you will be lucky to decide upon a great niche on your first attempt, but some of you may need to test the waters until you find one that really works.

Cater To The Needs of the Loyal

I think it has been said enough times by now, but one more time for good measure: the more specific a market (niche), the more dedicated the fans within will be.

So with this said, you need to cater your online presence, live shows, studio recordings and official releases, merch, etc.to the needs of the loyal, so that they will continue to support at a diehard level, evangelizing your brand and increasing the overall strength and influence of your brand. This is a critical part to successfully conquering your niche.

Nail the Perfect Pitch

Believe me, I am well aware that you probably dread having to compare your music to that of someone else's. I've been there and I know it can feel demeaning to say that your baby, your creation, only just 'sounds like someone else'.

So trust me when I say that when targeting and attempting to conquer a niche, making a comparison to another band similar in sound or style to your own is a VERY good thing!

By making sure that you've targeted a meaningful comparison, you will have an easier time building interested from perspective fans. Relevance here is key. As much as you may want to avoid the comparisons of sounding just like someone else, if you can compare your sound to an artist from the same niche, you will have an easier time attracting the RIGHT fans rather than avoiding strong comparisons, only to impress fans of the wrong genre or scene.

I have written a separate article that will walk you through how to craft the perfect pitch for your music so that you can make sure it becomes the deadly marketing tool that it has the potential to be, rather than just another wasted opportunity, as it has become for so many artists.

What Have YOU Done to Conquer Your Niche?

My ideas above only scratch the surface… there are TONS of different ideas, strategies and techniques available to you to help you to truly conquer your niche. If you've done anything else than what Ive listed above, or have some feedback or questions about my ideas, please leave a comment below!

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  1. Thanks for this opportunity Bruce! Love contributing my work for the readers here 🙂 If anyone has any feedback or questions, please feel free to get at me directly on Twitter (@miccontrol). Thanks!

  2. Great artiucle Jon.
    I would like to add a tip. Create a ‘hook line’ to use alongside your act’s name. Something succinct and compelling that encapsulates what your act is about and pulls in your niche audience.
    Often an act’s name does not mean much in isolation and during the fleeting moments a potential fan comes across you. Make it easy for them to recognise you are the act for them.
    Eliza Michaels is author of The Fan Formula – 7 steps to attracting and keeping a large loyal fan base so you can get your music out there in a big way

  3. Great Article!
    I am an artist manager and the thing we try to do is get our acts to work with those artist that are in the same market. This doesnt only let us work the niche but it allows their fans to see for themselves.

  4. Thanks for article…good points. I was wondering if anyone had any more tips on actually testing your niche. I’m assuming it involves a certain amount of just trying things to see what works. I just think it would be hard to gauge results in the beginning.

  5. Thanks, I really enjoyed reading this article … I agree that person-to-person communication is far more powerful than words on a screen … so working on a local level makes a lot of sense …
    If you’re interested, I’ve built a Social-Media-Music-Page-Builder-Mashup … 😀

  6. Excellent article Jon. Extremely motivational and inspirational. I very much could relate to what you were saying about the difficulty and our reluctance to compare our own creations with someone else’s. I used to have trouble with that. How arrogant for me to even consider that my work is so different than anything preceding me. 🙂
    What was an eye opener for me was when I realized that I’m constantly doing that in my mind with other artist’s music. It’s a logical way of categorizing and making sense out of the vast variety of music that’s out there. The mind always needs reference points.

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