Getting Ahead, Winning Fans In Today’s Industry

Being a talented musician rarely translates into being a gifted music professional, but fortunately enough, these skills can be learned. Here we focus on some key strategies for marketing yourself and winning fans in the modern music economy.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Most musicians are terrible music professionals, but with a few changes, anyone can make strides toward success.

There are great artists making music with the potential to change countless lives that will never be heard by anyone outside of their immediate circle. Is that because the industry doesn’t care about talent or that there are too many talented people trying to get ahead? NO! It’s because many musicians have no idea how to treat their career as a business, which is the only way most get ahead in music today.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you have great songs. You won’t get anywhere without songs people want to hear, so if you’re reading this, I will you are a capable songwriter. You have to believe this as well, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I spend a lot of time working with musicians who have all the pieces of a great career; they have a specific look, strong branding, memorable songs, and a fierce devotion to their craft. The problem is, those same artists cannot bring those pieces together in a meaningful way. I can’t fix that for them, but I can share the same advice I offer all of them:

You need a PLAN!

Most artists know where they want to go in their careers. They say things like, “We want to headline stadiums,” or “we want a platinum single.” Far fewer artists know how they’re going to reach those goals. Success in music requires planning, and that applies to all facets of your career. It would be best if you had a release plan, a promotional strategy, a social media plan, and a practice plan. What you’re going to do is not enough. You need to know how you’re going to get there, and the step you’ll take along the way. BE SPECIFIC.

Stop making excuses

We make excuses for everything. We want to promote ourselves, but we don’t have a budget. We want to have a cool logo, but we don’t know how to design things. We want to write a great melody, but our previous attempts fell flat.

Excuses are hurdles we put in front of ourselves to justify not working harder to achieve our dreams. They give us a reason to abandon our dreams and settle for less than we truly desire because we convince ourselves our goals are out of reach. That kind of thinking has ruined countless careers, and it will ruin yours too unless you make a change.

Starting today, commit to overcoming excuses. Work with a smaller budget, learn to design, write bad melodies until you find one that works, and do whatever else needs to happen so you can live your best life. Be the person you see yourself becoming rather than someone who gets defeated by walls they build in front of themselves. There is always a solution. It may not look or feel the way you thought it would, but that’s okay. Just keep going.

Focus on the fans that matter

Social numbers aren’t everything. Monthly Spotify Listeners do not determine your value as an artist. I’ve seen musicians with millions of digital followers play to empty rooms, and I’ve watched as complete unknowns sold-out places those so-called stars could never fill.

Digital stats don’t matter unless they translate to actual sales. One-thousand fans buying your album for $10 is worth more than 1,000,000 people streaming your new single and never listening to your music again.

Quality over quantity is key to building an audience. You need to stop worrying about the size of your fanbase and start concerning yourself with engaging your current fans in a meaningful way. Figure out the content your fans want to see, produce it regularly, and keep engaging with them as much as possible. Make them feel as if they’re indispensable to your career, and they will do everything they can to convert others to your fandom.

And above all else: Be yourself

Every notable entertainer today is viewed as being authentic. Their careers are made possible because fans believe they know the artist or group on a personal level. They feel like the talent’s best friend even though they’ve never met.

Being your true self is the only way to get ahead. You might be able to craft a hit song without putting yourself into the lyrics, but the success won’t feel as good or worthwhile if your soul isn’t in the product. You don’t want to end up on stage every night performing material you don’t care about, and your fans don’t want to pay to see that. Give the people the one thing only you can provide: Yourself.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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