The internet is a fickle friend to an artist.
On the one hand, a quick glance at success stories that span the genre spectrum – from Dua Lipa to Fall Out Boy to Justin Bieber – shows how the web can help get your career off the ground way quicker than ever before.
On the other, there are a million other talented artists vying for the same viral path to stardom and, as the attention span of music fans seems to be shrinking by the minute, your chances at success breaking as a YouTube or Instagram star are likely diminishing at a correlating rate.
I would never deny the importance of a strong digital marketing campaign or aiming to create content with viral potential. What I would suggest, though, is a commitment to covering your other bases as an artist developing a fanbase as well. Putting in the legwork to develop a local following and then expanding that gradually to a regional, national and eventually <fingers crossed> international fanbase will give you a much better chance at creating legitimate fans that will stay with you for as long as you put out quality content.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, when fans have an intimate experience with an artist in a live setting there is a bond that far exceeds anything that can come to fruition over the internet.
Here are five tips on how to grow a local fanbase:
Go to Other Shows
No matter what category your music falls in, there are people in your city that are fans of that genre and likely other artists and music industry types that are trying to champion the same sort of sound. Find those local shows and network. This is where the seedlings of your fanbase will begin to grow. It’s also where you’ll start building your rolodex of music industry professionals.
The more involved you are in your “scene”, the better the chance of your project becoming a local favorite.
Set up Your Own Shows with Other Local Bands
Now that you’ve got your bearings in terms of where the local shows take place and which bands you enjoy/bring a crowd, throw a show!
Most local promoters are booking a ton of dates at any given time. They’ll welcome the opportunity for one of the acts that they are organizing a show with to book the full lineup. Fill out the bill with bands that bring people out and whose fans would be into your music.
Make yourself available to their fans and convert them to followers of your project. Also, when you book other acts on your shows, they are more likely to return the favor.
Be Active on Social Media Around Local Bands/Venues
Local music scenes converse on the internet as often as they do at shows. Make sure to follow other bands, venues, promoters and fans you meet at shows on Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook. Take part in the conversations going on around local music and shows.
If you want to get really crazy, start a Subreddit for music in your town and invite all your music friends to join.
Want Press? Start Local
Local press is a great way to learn the ropes of a proper press campaign. Find out the people that are writing about music in your area and reach out to them casually. “Hey! I saw you wrote about this band. We’re playing with them on Friday. Would love to have you come out to the show and hang out. Here’s some of my music. We have a couple of guest list spots so if you’re coming let me know and I’ll throw you on the list.”
Something like that should be enough to get their attention. Make friends with the writer at the show and hopefully they’ll start posting about your music. Who knows, as they start growing in their career as a writer and start to contribute to bigger outlets maybe they’ll be the ones to give you your first larger-scale write-ups.
Embrace Your Town
Maybe you’re not from New York or Los Angeles or Nashville, but guess what…neither are the other people that will be coming to your local shows.
Be proud of where you’re from and, in turn, you’ll give potential fans a reason to do the same. Even if you are from a major market, take pride in that. Embrace the history of your ‘scene’ and all that it has to offer. A lot of people that would come to your shows probably feel just as lucky as you do to play on the same stage where some of music’s biggest moments got started.
Let them know how happy you are to be a part of it and you’ve created a perfect intro to that “bond” that will help convert them to true, long-term fans!