Most bands who are just starting out often ask themselves the same question: “How do we build a local following?” And a good majority of experienced musicians would respond succinctly with, “Just play as many shows as possible,” which is certainly good advice. But an artist doesn’t just want fans. An artist wants a community, people who can get behind the music and the message. This is the artist’s challenge. Luckily, there are some strategies that can really help get the locals on board (assuming the music doesn’t totally suck). Here are three good ways for you, the artist, to build a local following:
1.) Make a lot of friends (particularly within your genre/scene)
Okay, I know this seems like a crude piece of advice, but whoever tells you that being a musician is not a popularity contest is wrong if your goal is to have more fans. Even if you weren’t the most popular kid in high school, it helps to be outgoing. Seems obvious, but if you’re not already a charismatic socialite, this can be a challenge. Generally, every artist’s first few shows are attended by supportive friends. Later on, you may have some work friends, classmates, or even family members who come to a show every once in a while. However, if you get in with a certain crowd that you know is into your type of music, they will back you 100 percent. This will provide you with an organic foundation for your fanbase since these people know you not just as musicians but as friends, and they can vouch for you when inviting other friends to come to your shows. Ultimately, the more friends you have that are into your music, the more personal your connection to your fanbase. I know you like to think your music can speak for itself (and perhaps it can), but it helps to have some loyal comrades to help promote you. Consider it a sort of “street team.” Networking is just as much about social activity as it is about business. So stop playing video games, get off Facebook, and go meet some real people! Go to parties! Go to shows! Be present.
2.) Befriend other local bands with loyal fans
Don’t have many friends? Have trouble meeting new people? Well then one of the best things you can do is form strong ties with other local bands within your scene who already have somewhat of a strong, loyal following. Hang out, play shows together, sing on each other’s songs—before you know it, their fans will become your fans too. People love seeing bands work together; it’s all part of developing a musical community. The music scene is not just about one band, and it’s certainly not about rivalry. It’s about the whole movement, and the more you act like a team player, the more likely you are to gain real respect. In order to keep these types of connections going, always be sure to return favors and do what you can to help your fellow bands whenever possible. Too often connections are lost and bridges burned simply due to lack of reciprocation. Become a part of the collective musical effort, and your fans will do the same.
3.) Book and run your own shows with other locals
This is a path that more bands should be take advantage of, but don’t because of the extra work involved in booking your own shows. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, be sure to talk to the right venues and the right people as you play “promoter.” Band-run shows are the best for everyone involved. There’s no middle man taking a cut of ticket sales, so all of the money (if any) goes back to the bands. When you are in charge, the show runs the way you want it to. One of the main advantages here is that both bands and fans will be more inclined to come to you for information and opportunities in the future. Bands are more likely to want to work with you because you hold a valuable key to the scene. This is a great way to make connections on a higher level, a level that shows how responsible and proactive you are (assuming you do a good job). When you start consistently booking solid shows, you and your band will be recognized as true team players in the community, making fans more inclined to support your work and spread the word. People love supporting a DIY effort
These are just a few ways in which you can easily build a community around your music. It has nothing to do with being a “rock star” and everything to do with being a hard-working, responsible, and dependable individual. People can see right through superficiality, so the best thing you can do is be true to yourself and to others, and lend a helping hand to your local music scene. If you do, others will respond with appreciation and respect. Now get out there and make some moves!
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