How musicians can grow (and keep) a fanbase using Reddit
Reddit may not be the obvious choice for musician-fan engagement, but it has proven to be a great option. Here’s what you need to know to get started…
Reddit is a social news and content aggregator website which — if you remember the message boards on the Internet in the 2000s — is also basically the world’s largest message board. It is divided into subreddits: communities organized around a specific person, place, or topic.
Pretty much everything you can think of has a subreddit. Pickles (r/pickle), capybaras (r/capybara) — every major brand, TV show, and niche interest is represented. Subreddits range from very small to the very popular, like r/funny which has 53 million members. The sheer amount of people active on Reddit makes it an opportune place for musicians to present their creations and increase their fan bases.
If you want to know how to grow as an independent artist, being accessible on popular social media platforms can provide big opportunities. Here are some tips and ideas on how to make Reddit work best for you. [Note: I’ll refer to the parts of Reddit devoted to music production and performance as “Musicians Reddit.”]
Why should musicians be on Reddit?
There are really two good reasons for musicians to be on Reddit: education and music promotion — musicians subreddits tend to focus on one or the other. It’s important to know the style of interaction peculiar to Reddit; the casual, “friends hanging out” vibe means that even major celebrities and brands need to match that energy and try to keep their promotions from sounding too corporate.
Some subreddits have rules about how often you can self-promote, or if you can self-promote at all. As Matty Monroe, who runs one of the largest music subreddit communities (r/indieheads), says, “The best way to get your music heard is to become part of the community.”
How to get started on Reddit
Joining Reddit is very easy; you simply create a profile with a username and password and start following subreddits. Like any social media site, it can take a while to get used to how it works and gain traction with other users. The main ethos of Reddit, and especially Musicians Reddit, is against endless self-promotion. When you promote yourself, it is doubly important to be casual, humorous, offbeat, and engaging.
1. Create a Reddit profile
Go to reddit.com and click on “Log In.” At the bottom of the pop-up window that appears will be a link that says, “New to Reddit? Sign up.” Enter a valid email address and you will be asked to create a unique username and password. Reddit will create your profile, then prompt you to follow subreddits in three or more topics of interest to you. Once this is done, you’ll verify your email address and be good to go!
2. Join subreddits or make your own
At first, join as many subreddits as possible to find the ones that interest you the most. Once you have learned how subreddits work and have started to build a community, you can create your own subreddit devoted to your music. This can become a good nexus for people seeking info about your band, listening party, your live shows, and other new music news.
Over time, you may want to have multiple subs: r/YourBandName could be a forum moderated by you where you are most active, but you might want to also have r/YourBandNameFans moderated by somebody else. People will often perceive you as more legitimate if the promotion comes from someone other than you, so it can be key to have friends and fans involved in your subreddit.
3. Establish guidelines for your community
One thing you can always count on with the Internet is that someone will bring the drama, unpopular opinions, and negativity. With any self-governed community such as a subreddit, it’s very important to set rules with consequences or your group will devolve into chaotic infighting.
You should maintain control over your subreddit until your music career makes you too busy to do so (we should all have this problem!), and then turn it over to a trusted friend/fan who you can count on to maintain order. The bottom line is, if your subreddit is a positive, fun place to be, people will want to come there; if it’s a troll-infested cesspool, the chances of your music reaching new ears dwindle to near zero. In general, Musicians Reddit is a fairly drama-free, positive community — as far as these things go.
Benefits of using Reddit for musicians
There are several benefits that come with participating in Musicians Reddit. In the groups where self-promotion is encouraged, like r/listentothis, the members are motivated music fans, many with extensive music knowledge, so you are starting with fertile ground on which to grow a fan base. Additionally, AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with established artists have often led to increased visibility for those on the ground-level.
In Dave Grohl’s AMA of 2012, a friend of the band The Winter Brave tipped him off to them, and Grohl later promoted the band via social media, leading to one of their songs getting over 100,000 plays. Hudson Mohawke, a DJ, had a song go viral because of Reddit and top the Spotify charts as part of a meme where it was included on a Redditor’s “sex” playlist. While the artist found the association somewhat annoying, as the song was “very unsexy,” the moral of the story is, you never know how things might unfold!
Engage with fans through AMA sessions
AMA sessions are not just for famous musicians like Dave Grohl — anyone can do them! You’ll want to choose a sub with an established audience for your first one. The main subreddit for this is r/IAmA (22.6M members), where everyone from celebrities to construction workers tell the audience about who they are and their work.
There is also r/AMA, but this is a less formal environment (“I just lost 50 pounds AMA”). It’s up to you how formal you would like the AMA to be; on r/IAmA they are basically like full interviews, but by just tagging the title of your post with AMA, you can casually answer questions (“Just finished recording my new single AMA”). Once you have started building a fan base and have your own subreddit, you can host formal and informal AMA sessions there.
Network with other musicians
There’s an old business adage that says, “Notice the competition but don’t worry about it.” You have far more to be gained by connecting with, befriending, and collaborating with other musicians than by seeing them as enemies. On Musicians Reddit, there’s thousands of people making music of all types; engage with their music and they may engage with yours. When you collaborate and/or cross-promote, you both benefit from the attention of your combined fan bases.
Promote music and get live feedback
Connecting with Reddit, and especially Musicians Reddit, will offer you a new interactive platform with which to promote your music. Keeping in mind the principles discussed here, it’s a great way to converse with people who become engaged with you and your music.
That being said, don’t feed the trolls! Be choosy about which of the larger groups you solicit feedback from. Some groups police negative comments more than others. If you engage with subreddit communities related to your genre, interact more than you promote, and keep a steady stream of engagement going with people interested in your music, Musicians Reddit can be a great place to expand your fan base.