Today, we’re going to talk about the starting line to finding your first 1,000 super fans. You’ve got this dream in your head that you can’t shake out. You might have some cover songs on YouTube and Instagram posted. You’ve done acoustic gigs here and there, but you’re ready to take your music to the next level. You want to make some kind of commitment that shows you’re serious and you mean business. And by business, you’re curious what it looks like to turn your love for music into a bonafide career.
I’m super excited for you if you’re in that place. I know that it’s scary to put yourself out there and it’s even more scary to think about a promotional game that’s meaningful and effective.
So, this episode is about chipping off just a bit of that first layer of music marketing, figuring out what it looks like to start when you have no idea where to start. And this idea comes from a theory by Kevin Kelly.
Here’s a direct quote from his blog:
Whatever your interests are as a creator, your 1,000 true fans are one click from you. As far as I can tell there is nothing – no product, no idea, no desire – without a fan base on the internet. Every thing made, or thought of, can interest at least 1 person in a million – it’s a low bar… The trick is to practically find those fans, or more accurately, to have them find you.
Before the Internet, this was very difficult for musicians. You truly needed a label or, at least, a lot of advertising money to reach said 1,000 people.
But because we have all these tools, like a website, social media and email, this is actually EVEN MORE possible and very achievable as long as you take the right steps.
In fact, working towards a major record label LIMITS your possibilities of succeeding, because you’re throwing aimless darts at a very small target. You need a framework and system, and this starts with your first 1,000 fans. And with the system, you continue to grow fans from there.
And with a 1,000 fans, you’re full-time career is just around the corner. Let’s look…
With a thousand SUPER fans, you can accomplish any of these goals. If you could leave your job right now and do music full-time with at least one of these salaries, would you be happy starting there?
So, identifying and finding your first 1,000 fans can start like this:
1000×30 = $30,000
1000×50 = $50,000
1000×100 = $100,000
Having your first 1,000 fans find you requires specificity. And to do this, you need to define your sound. When you’re starting out, you will not likely be able to fly with simply “pop”. Music continues to change; in fact, more and more genres are becoming crossover. Country has some pop influences. Pop has more hip/hop influences. There’s also hip/hop with some rock influences. There are definite shifts in the music industry, technologically, business-wise and even sonically. So, it doesn’t fly to simply be “pop”. So, here are some examples from mainstream of specificity.
Bruno Mars is a pop artist. He’s got the pop feel with influences from Michael Jackson with an Elvis Presley and Hawaiian twist. (That’s where he grew up.) Or another example is Bruce Springsteen – an artist that some folks deemed as the new Bob Dylan, but had a Roy Orbison singing style.
For you, start with an artist that sounds somewhat like you. Then, think of an artist that contrasts to that. Then, define what makes you unique from them. This isn’t true about me, but I could say I sound like Colbie Caillet and lyrically similar to Rihanna, but I have jazz influence. Now, that’s really funky.
From there, you can define your specific genre, sub-genre and then niche. For example…
Chance the Rapper’s genre is rap with gospel influence and some spoken word. In the marketing world, we call this a “unique selling position” which means they’ve got something special to offer to a very specific amount of people.
The Civil Wars is in pop, but has a “singer/songwriter” feel with country and folk influences. Kina Grannis is pop, but primarily acoustic and soft.
Next, you’re going to define your culture and demographics. This is something musicians hardly think about. I don’t blame them, because they’re focused on their music. But this point is important, because it helps you as a musician DEEPLY connect with your fans.
To think about this… imagine all your fans are hanging out in a room. You’re not performing a live gig, you’re going to just hang out. What are things they might like? What shows would you watch? Where would most of them be located? What age range would they likely be? Would your room have more men or more women? What kind of conversations would they have fun talking about? These are questions you’ll need to answer to understand your fanbase. And this is how you’ll connect with them in a unique way that changes the way they interact with you and your music. As a result, you’re creating a fanbase that continues to grow.
Music has a powerful and natural word of mouth among its fans. And this is why being able to truly connect with fans is so important.
So why is defining this so important? Here are a bullet point reasons why this is effective and works for not just major label artists but especially independent, DIY artists as well.
1.) Specificity makes writing your bio a bit easier. In episode 8, I talk about the importance of bios and how to right a good one. But in a nutshell, bios are what PRs review and share directly on their blog when they review their music. It’s what makes it easier for potential fans to immediately get connected with you before even listening to your music. So by defining your specific niche, your streamlining your PR efforts.
2.) It streamlines your creative process. As musicians, we definitely can suffer from the “new shiny” temptations, with a new gadget or instrument here and there. This is also very true when we try to create music. By defining your niche, you’re committing to a culture and sound. And contrary to what most believe about boundaries restricting creativity, there actually have been studies done that show boundaries (like canvases or color limitations) can draw out more creativity than when artists have more at their disposal. Creating boundaries allows you to exercise those creative muscles to think differently about what you already have, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
3.) It’s a huge part of a “SMART” goal. And by SMART, I mean a goal that’s specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. Having the 1,000 fans is only part of that. But give yourself a reasonable time frame and specific actions to achieve those 1,000 fans, and you have a smart goal. These types of goals are important because it makes achieving a music career more realistic, digestible and reasonable. If you have goals and plans to grow more – then awesome! But if you don’t have 1,000 super fans that are willing to pay $50-$100 annually to support your music career, then you’ve got yourself a solid goal.
4.) Makes social media curating more streamline. When you understand your niche and then start defining your fans and what they love, creating content for your social platforms should be easier. Creating a lot of content may be a challenge, but understanding the general things to post can certainly help the process because having a defined niche provides a grid and framework for what to post.
I briefly grazed over how to define your niche. But I do have a freebie mini-guide for you can download below that’ll help you with defining your niche.