[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea G. Ira.]
As musicians, we’re usually focused on our home base when it comes to developing an audience. You grind the local venues, play with local bands, and work to expand to nearby cities. After all, the local fans are the ones who will regularly come out to your gigs and support you, right?
Traditionally, geographic growth has taken on this linear progression – first you make a name for yourself locally, than regionally, than nationally, and an international audience is seen as a final step after conquering your home country.
But today, international growth is not so much of a linear step as a side step that may happen simultaneously to your regional or national growth as your music spreads online.
Check this out – online, your music could be discovered in France, or Brazil, or Australia on YouTube, Spotify, or any online outlet. And there’s absolutely nothing stopping that international fan from getting on Twitter or another social channel and sharing your music with all of their friends and followers. And if those folks dig your music too, the organic growth builds from there.
This international music discovery is fueled more and more by the rise in popularity of playlists on Spotify and other streaming services. These curated lists are becoming a staple of music discovery and a listening tool for a lot of music fans, with many playlists getting hundreds of thousands or millions of followers across the world.
Yep, you are a global enterprise whether you know it or not. So now let’s look at ways you can harness international awareness for your music. If you are looking to monetize any audience, this goal-setting guide will help you organize your priorities. The free guide covers every aspect of your career and helps you narrow your focus and set actionable goals.
Discovering International Attention – Your Analytical Toolbox
The first step to harnessing an international demand for your music is to know it’s there in the first place. Many artists are blissfully unaware that their music is gaining traction in other countries – and that’s a missed opportunity. But if you know you’re getting a bunch of attention abroad, you can take steps to connect with those fans and monetize that opportunity.
Your best friend here is going to be analytics. Most online tools you’re using everyday to promote your music and grow your fanbase have some form of analytics built in. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will give you information on your followers and where they are located, your website is collecting analytical data about site visitors, and your email list most likely collects basic location data as well.
Music distribution services like TuneCore also give you access to streaming and sales data broken down by country.
Even streaming sites like Spotify have insightful analytics you can access. If you haven’t already, create a Spotify for Artists account to get access to a ton of data like how many streams your songs are getting, what playlists they’re added to, and – most importantly for this article – valuable demographical data like how old your listeners are and where they are located. There’s an easy app you can download to your phone and have your analytics right at your fingertips any time.
As you dig through your analytics, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed, so what should you look for?
Not surprisingly, one of the key stats you should check out is the geographic location of your fans. So for example, if you head onto Instagram, open up your “Insights,” and scroll down to your “Followers,” you be able to see the top countries and cities your fans are from and what percentage of your audience they make up.
Same thing with Facebook. Head to your “Insights,” click the “People” tab, and you’ll be able to see your top countries and cities and how your fans break down geographically.
As you watch these analytics, keep an eye out for spikes vs. sustained growth. If your Spotify listening data shows a one-time spike in streams from Brazil, it may not be something you should act on. But if you’re consistently getting increasing streaming numbers from Brazil, that’s a good indicator that you have a sustainable fanbase there.
Harnessing International Awareness
Once you know you’re getting international attention, what should you do now that you’re armed with this knowledge?
It could be as simple as making your content language-accessible. If you regularly release YouTube videos that you know are getting a good amount of viewers in Korea, it may be a good idea to crowdsource or hire someone to add Korean subtitles to your videos. It’s simple, but it brings your Korean audience into your world a little more.
Reach International Tastemakers
If you want to take a more active approach, try some outreach to international music industry tastemakers.
If you’re seeing steady interest from fans from say, Germany, find out who the local bloggers, radio DJs, and playlist curators that influence local music culture are. What bands and musicians are dominating the local scene? Getting to know the music culture and what’s popular is the first step, and then you can figure out where your music fits.
After you do your research and brainstorm some ideas, make a list of contact information and start getting involved in their world. Follow the bloggers and playlist curators you want to connect with on social media and join their conversation in a meaningful way.
When you reach out, use your analytics data to show your local popularity and suggest some cool ways to work together or add value to what they are doing.
When it comes to international Spotify playlist curators, you’ll want to start small and work your way up the ladder. Keep in mind that once your music gets on a few playlists, your music will start to gain momentum and positive data, which will lead to more placements. I’ve outlined the whole process for getting music on Spotify playlists right here.
Use Data to Route International Tours
Another idea is to actually pack your bags and head out on an international tour to the countries you’re seeing pop up again and again in your analytics. British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose did exactly that when she noticed that Mexico City brought in the most streams for her music on Spotify.
I know jumping into an international tour can be intimidating – after all, you probably don’t have any connections with the local industry, venue owners, or promoters.
But remember, you are in direct contact with your fans and if they want you to play a local gig, they can make it happen. Lucy Rose used social media to reach out to her international fans directly. They booked her for gigs in everything from small venues to house concerts and welcomed her into their homes for the nights. In the end, she ended up playing in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay to audiences that sang along to all her songs.
Ron Pope is another artist who found an international audience through Spotify (ed. note: Through TuneCore, no less!). After he started using the platform in 2010, his music was organically being discovered in countries like Sweden and Norway, securing him over a million streams monthly in Sweden back in 2013/14.
These streaming numbers can serve as leverage points when you’re communicating with international venues. Promoters want to know you can fill a room, and if you can give them detailed listener or fan data broken down by location, they will feel a lot more secure taking a chance on you.
Ron Pope was able to use his Spotify numbers to his advantage and book the Bråvalla festival in 2013, and his international audience has only grown since then.
Hopefully this article has you thinking about your career on a more international scale. Remember that the opportunity for global expansion can pop up at any point in your career – but if you don’t react to that opportunity, it may never reach its full potential. But with a lot of planning and an entrepreneurial mindset, you can be a global artist.
Teaching musicians how to harness opportunities is one of the core topics we teach in the New Artist Model Music Business Accelerator course. In the online program, we teach you how to be a musical entrepreneur, setting up a business that allows you to follow your creative vision. We hope you check it out.
Chelsea G. Ira is the Director of Marketing for The New Artist Model.