3 great ways to grow listeners and a fanbase organically
By utilizing the bountiful amount of social media platforms available, implementing user-generated content, and expanding your content’s reach, you could accumulate large and loyal fanbase.
Post to Facebook. Text your friends. Live stream a concert.
We all know there are certain things we can do to grow our listenership and fan base.
But most of what we’ve been told to do falls under the category of “tactics,” and unless it is anchored by strategy, our results will be hit and miss.
When growing organically, we need a way to attract and hold the attention of the people we draw in.
Which is exactly why we need a few big ideas to grow our listenership.
1. Identify and court your “Dream 100”
Many artists end up relying exclusively on their “owned media” for their marketing campaigns, forgetting that there are countless influencers, communities, groups, forums, fan clubs, and other destinations where being seen would greatly enhance their visibility.
When I say, “owned media,” I basically mean your website, blog, social channels, and the like. If you’re starting from scratch, or have 100 followers or less, you can ignore most of what’s been said about social media strategy, because your exposure will be very limited.
One principle we must accept as artists in the modern age is that our audience has already been built. Someone has access to our future fans!
All we need to do is identify the various individuals, brands, companies, and organizations who have a greater reach than we do and begin building a relationship with them.
This is your “Dream 100” – and while it doesn’t literally need to be 100 influencers, reviewers, radio stations, artists, or otherwise, it certainly can’t hurt to do your homework and begin thinking about who you want to be in collaboration with over the long haul.
How to implement this
Once you know who your Dream 100 are, follow them on social media, comment on their blog posts, subscribe to their email lists, buy their occasional product, and build a relationship with them. Getting on their radar isn’t that hard if you’re regularly adding value with your communication!
As the relationship continues to develop, you can begin to make your own “asks,” though sometimes you’ll be presented with these opportunities without even asking.
Here’s how to leverage the relationships you’ve built:
- Interact in relevant groups and forums. As much as possible, be relevant, answer questions, and add value. When the moment’s right, share your music (e.g., “I noticed you’re a fan of Periphery – our latest track was inspired by them, and we’d love to hear what you think of it!”).
- Guest post. If they have a blog, ask to write a quality article for it.
- Guest host. Offer to guest host (co-host) their radio show, podcast, live stream, or otherwise.
- Guest interview. Offer to be interviewed on their show (be sure to let them know what value you can bring to their audience).
- Collaborate. There is a near limitless number of possibilities – they just need to be created. Appear on each other’s YouTube channels, do a co-write, play a show together, or otherwise.
2. User generated content
Although getting your friends, family, and fans to create content on your behalf might seem like a stretch – especially if you have a small following – I have found again and again that there are more people willing to help than you even realize.
If you’re the only one creating and sharing content for your band, then there is an upper limit on the momentum you can personally create. If you have zero support, you’ll find yourself hoping and praying for viral attention (what I said about 100 followers or less earlier applies here too)…
But even if you only have, say, 20 to 30 people generating content for your music asynchronously, your marketing efforts can pick up some serious steam.
Whether it’s a fan music video, press quote, digital illustration, or otherwise, the more assets you have access to, the less you’ll have to rely on self-promotion alone to grow your listener base.
How to implement this
Obviously, you should collect anything your fans and the media send you over the months and years – quotes and testimonials, newspaper clippings, pictures, smartphone videos, thank-you cards, or otherwise.
The bigger the catalog, the better. And keep in mind – you can reuse the same content over and over, assuming you space out the repetition.
Aside from waiting around for your fans to send you stuff, though, you can also…
- Ask. The quick and dirty way to get something from others is to ask. You can easily send out a few dozen emails or texts per day requesting what you want created, whether it’s a fan illustration, video testimonial, write-up of your last gig, or otherwise. You can reward participants with a pizza night at your place. Remember – many people are bored and are just waiting for the call…
- Hold a contest or giveaway. Invite your fans to participate in a fun contest (e.g., “Our latest single is called ‘Battlefield of the Mind,’ and we’d like to see how you would transmute that concept to video form. Create your best interpretation and send it to us by XYZ date for the opportunity to name our next single.”) Ask participants to post the video to their own channels and get permission to post the videos to your channels too.
- Repurpose. Turn quotes and testimonials into attractive Instagram graphics using Canva. Take clips from videos and turn them into memes. Take a bunch of videos and create a compilation. There are always opportunities to repurpose the media you already have.
3. Content syndication and distribution
Videos go on YouTube. Live streams go on Facebook. Articles go on your blog.
There are certain conventions we’ve come to accept, without realizing that there are often multiple homes for one piece of content. The idea itself is unsexy, but the results from wider distribution and syndication can be quite surprising.
Videos, for example, can easily get 2x, 3x, 4x (and even 10x) the results when distributed across a broader base of platforms (not just YouTube) – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and more.
There are also plenty of low-cost tools that can be used to easily distribute your blog content across 20 social networks, like OnlyWire.
How to implement this
I could point you to plenty of other automation tools and dozens of destinations where you can put your content. But as I mentioned at the outset, when a big idea is reduced to a tactic, it tends not to work.
So, here are some things to keep in mind with content distribution and syndication (before you worry about “being everywhere”):
- Always know what the goal is. What are you trying to accomplish with your content and distribution schedule? What results are you trying to produce? Document and reference often and avoid venturing outside the scope of your plan.
- Create a follow-up plan. Monitor your channels and respond to comments as much as possible.
- Use a targeted call to action. Most people aren’t ready to buy from you after consuming a single blog article or music video. So, your call to action should be along the lines of “like our page” or “join our free newsletter” so you can capture the attention you’ve worked hard to gain.
- Track results. Just because you can publish to dozens of destinations doesn’t mean all of them will be worthwhile or effective. If you can automate most of your posting, fine, but otherwise you must track and evaluate results from each destination, and after six to 12 months, keep the winners and prune the others.
The only trick to generating more big ideas is thinking big.
So often, instead of going for what we want, we go for something we deem easier to get.
But because most people fight over the low hanging fruit instead of shooting for the moon, there’s always less competition at the top.
Start thinking bigger. You can build your listenership organically and it doesn’t need to take forever.
David Andrew Wiebe is the Founder & CEO of The Music Entrepreneur HQ and author of four books, including the much-praised The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing and Thriving in The Information Age. Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work and music instruction.