[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
You got into this industry to feel connected.
Maybe you wanted to change the world, or maybe you just wanted a way to creatively express how you were feeling. Maybe you just wanted to tell your story, and maybe you wanted to hear the stories of others.
No matter your reason, most of us can safely say we got into this industry because we were craving connection. We wanted to let others know that they’re not alone. We wanted to change lives.
Then somewhere along the way we got bogged down in having to write the next social media post or having to book the next show or having to run a PR campaign. We forgot to remember why we got into this—and our audience suffered.
What I want to talk to you about today isn’t about how to book more shows or how to run your next PR campaign—all of those things are incredibly important, but the truth is they don’t mean anything without an audience.
And if you’re thinking, “I just have to make the right music, my audience will find me”, well, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not how it works.
Getting in front of your audience means getting clear on a few key things. The truth is it’s really not all that complicated—it’s just most artists fail to invest the time and energy needed to find their fans and then let them know how much they matter.
We’ve outlined three ways you can get started today with finding your target audience—the steps are simple, and the results will speak for themselves. So don’t be one of those artists who thinks just making good music will bring them a loyal fanbase. Show your fans what they mean to you and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
1. Get clear on who you are
Before you even think about strategizing how to find your target audience, you want to make sure you’re crystal clear on who you are and the message you want to convey. I’ve seen so many talented bands go unnoticed simply because they have no idea who they are. It’s not good enough to know you’re a rock band out of Dallas or that you like to post all your photos in black and white. I’m talking about having an actual brand.
Think about your favorite well-known artist and tell me what comes to mind. I doubt you’re fumbling around trying to put the pieces together and that’s because they have a really solid brand.
For instance: What do you think of when you think of Halsey? Mental health. LGBTQ rights. Social justice.
What about Taylor Swift? Her brand may seem to change with nearly every album cycle but there are serious consistencies that mean you and I always strike up some very clear imagery when we think of her. She takes risks. Offers her fans connection. Empowerment. And love her or hate her, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Think about your favorite bands and see what comes to mind instantly. Your fans should be able to do the same when it comes to you. Because in order to find your target audience and know who they are and what they feel, believe, and desire, you need to first know who it is you are.
2. Take note of what other bands are doing
Find a couple of artists who are in the position you want to be, in a similar genre, and make a serious case study out of them to figure out what they’ve done to get there and what they continue to do to stay there.
Find artists who are in the position you want to be in, say, another two or three years. It’s not realistic to compare yourself to a major label artist because they’re operating with an existing fanbase that quite frankly isn’t going anywhere even if they fail to post to social media or take another three years to put out an album.
So find artists who are more established than you are, but still growing (i.e. not necessarily signed to a label or touring the world, but who are playing more of the kind of shows you want, getting the endorsements your after, the Spotify playlists you want, etc.) then you’ll have a really good idea of what’s working.
Study what they do and how they do it. How do they interact with their audience? What platforms are they on? What kind of venues do they play? What kind of merch do they have? What cities are they popular in? What hashtags are they using to get in front of their fans? (tip: make a Google Doc of different groups of hashtags to use, so when it’s time to post to IG you can simply copy and paste your go-to hashtags. Having a few different groups to choose from means mixing it up so that IG will favor you in the algorithm. For whatever reason, if you use the same 10 hashtags over and over, IG tends not to like that. Probably because they think you’re a robot.).
Pay attention to everything those artists/bands do, take note, and then make it your own. If you can start to use their own strategies for getting in front of fans and make them into your own, you’re well on your way to building an engaged audience.
3. Seek out your future fans
There are a lot of ways to find new fans. Offline, shows are a great place to get in front of new faces. This can be at your own shows or (and especially) the shows of others. Sometimes this means going to other artist’s shows and interacting with the audience, maybe hanging at the merch booth if one of the artists on the bill is your friend, and just getting to know people and introducing yourself. It can also mean standing outside venues of major label artist’s shows and getting to know everyone in line, having a conversation, and eventually sharing your music and asking if they want to sign up to your mailing list on the spot.
Online it can mean joining different Facebook groups and getting involved by offering feedback on fellow artist’s posts, commenting with your own stories and thoughts, and just getting involved in your online communities.
On Instagram it can mean finding artists that have a similar sound and are of a similar size to you and seeing who their fans are. If those fans they seem like they might like your music, then get to know them by following and commenting on their posts. (Note: I do NOT mean comment about your music, I mean find common ground in their photos and interact with it – i.e. comment on their photo of their latte with how good it looks and ask them what kind it is. Don’t post comments that say “we’re a rock band from Arkansas, check us out.”)
At the end of the day, building a community isn’t only one of the smartest things you can do for your career, it’s honestly one of the most fulfilling. Because when you get down to it, we got into this to build a connection.
And sure, it can be overwhelming sometimes to keep up with all the day-to-day. But don’t forget why you got into this—to make a difference. To meet others who are just like you. To tell your story and hope it connects with someone else. That’s all getting in front of your target audience really is. A chance to connect. So don’t worry about “getting it right” or putting a ton of pressure on yourself. Just see it for what it is—a chance to get to know the others who truly think like you, and see the world in the same way you do.
We’re just getting started—if you’re looking for more tips and examples on increasing fan engagement through simple, effective social media strategies then join me for my free Masterclass ‘How to gain your next 1,000 fans. 3 simple steps that lead to higher engagement, sold-out shows, and life-changing opportunities’ on September 18th at 6pm EST. Register here and I’ll see you there!