4 Steps Any Musician Can Take to Organically Grow an Audience
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone’s editors or publishers.
Taking a leap of faith to release your own music can be a stressful task. There are so many unknowns, and some things take time to learn. One of the biggest areas that artists struggle with is building an initial audience for their music. In an age full of fake streams, subscribers, and paid promotions, it can be easy to obscure someone’s true importance. But, based on my experience as a musician and running a PR and digital marketing firm, I’ve found one thing to be true: you have to build an organic following if you want to be successful.
An artist can have a huge online presence, but if they don’t have a real cult following when they go on tour, no one will show up. So how do you avoid going on stage just to watch an empty crowd? I’ve put together four different steps any artist can take to build an organic following online, especially early in their career. You can read my take below:
Step 1: Publish high quality and consistent content
The key to gaining and keeping an audience is the quality of your content. You want to post things that people can connect with and are interested in. You need to take the time to produce good content. You want to keep your audience engaged and provide them with the highest quality content possible. This may mean, for example, investing in a photo shoot for new images.
It’s also important to think about the type of music you post and how that might relate to the type of content you’ll be sharing with your peers. Do your best to align your artist image with your music appropriately – from your wardrobe to your entire music video. The more consistent your content and branding is, the more powerful it will be. This is an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box.
It also means taking the time to make sure your music sounds its best. Never rush a project; just make sure the finished product is exactly what you want it to be.
Step 2: Collaborate with others
Another great way to build an audience at any point in an artist’s career is to collaborate with other artists. When you do this, it allows your sound to be heard by new ears – followers and fans of other artists. The greatest artists of today use this method, often exchanging verses between them.
When considering who to collaborate with, it’s important to assess the other person’s audience. It’s always best to collaborate with people who have a larger audience than you, but that’s not always the case. So collaborate with someone you feel comfortable working with. It never hurts to be heard by new people.
Step 3: Share your music with others
You know the classic image of that boring artist walking around somewhere downtown handing out hard copies of his CD to listen to? Yeah, you have to think like that, but instead of handing out CDs (people actually still do that and it kinda works), apply that kind of hustle in the now digital age.
I know it might be uncomfortable at first, but you should send your music to friends or people who you think might like to listen to it just for fun. Be sure to publish your music on all digital music platforms so that anyone listening has a choice of where to listen to your song from. It’s also a great way to get feedback that you can apply to further improve yourself as an artist. You need people to see that your music is out even if it should be scary at first. People can’t listen to something they don’t know.
Step 4: play gigs
Another amazing way to get more exposure for your music is to perform at live shows and events. Playing live shows allows you to be seen in person; there could very well be people there who would like your music. The more shows you play, the easier it will be to achieve.
It is important to perform well. Most artists make the bulk of their income from touring compared to paychecks from streams. Not only could you get paid to play your music, but you could easily sell merchandise and dive into other such business ventures. A good opportunity as an artist would be to be able to tour with an artist bigger than you. This would be ideal as your music would be exposed to fans of that artist.
As much as we would like, these types of opportunities are not always available. So take every opportunity to play, even if it’s in front of a few people. I’ve seen plenty of videos of famous artists performing in front of no more than 10 people before they got famous. Performing in front of an open mic is another great way to perform for other people and meet other members of your community.
Focusing on your content, sharing your music with others, collaborating, and playing shows in person are all things any artist can do to grow an organic following.
It is important to share your work with others, otherwise no one will be able to appreciate your work. You have worked hard on your craft – it deserves to be listened to and appreciated.