Industry Roundup: 7 Modern Ways to Build Your Fan Base

Forget everything you know about online marketing - these are the seven golden rules to making a meaningful connection with fans who want to give you money for making music.

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An MTV study has revealed seven key areas that modern music fans expect from their favorite underground artists. There's some strong lessons for you and your band in here - can you work on any of them?

1. Fans expect 'Zero Distance'

Remember that old line about how everyone in the world is connected to within six people? The internet has made that number much smaller, and you need to make it easy for any fan to have only one degree of separation so they can connect straight to you. Being active on Twitter and Facebook makes you available to fans in a way that was impossible before.

2. Fans like being 'friends' with bands

The difference between a fan enjoying your band and being a fanatic who tells everyone about them can be as simple as feeling like they have a personal connection with you. It's really an extension of point one; 75% of young music fans feel a personal connection with artists who are open about their personalities, and almost all of them say it's okay for an artist to have some human flaws. Everyone has endearing human qualities which are worth sharing with a fan base.

3. Fans expect certain behaviour from each social platform

There's a few rules-of-thumb that have emerged from each social platform. These points will help guide your content updates, but feel free to break these rules for opportunities to personally connect with fans:

Facebook is like a band's homepage and includes all official announcements for tours, albums and new.

Twitter is to updates on micro-activities, like which instrument is being recorded in the studio or funny tour stories.

Instagram is for sharing snapshots of the world through your eyes. Beautiful new guitar? Dingy old apartment? That's your life. Share it.

Tumblr is the perfect blogging platform because it's so simple to use, and some fans love subscribing to long rambling streams of consciousness. It's a great place to connect on a mental level, and to share media from the internet that you like which might not be relevant to the band at all.

4. Fans love to co-create with you

Harness the power of that crowd of followers by giving them a creative challenge. Dare them to make a parody cover of your latest song, or run competitions to design gig posters. Maybe their doodles can be part of your next piece of artwork.

5. Fans listen to albums less, shuffle tracks more

Okay, so the rock genre is still perfect for listening to albums from start to end, but we can still draw a solid idea from this point.

Every music fan likes finding new music, so try building playlists which include your tracks but also show off your awareness of great similar artists. Do this every month or two, and people will start to return to see what new goods you've got... and start to share it with their friends too. You're building a reputation and bringing new and regular traffic to your sites.

How should you build these playlists? Two obvious ways are to embed Soundcloud tracks in a Tumblr post, or the throw a playlist together in Spotify to embed on your site.

6. Fans aren't put off by 'selling out'

Selling out isn't such a big deal as it was in the '90s. It's normal and expected for bands to actively market themselves, and the ones who don't will often fail before they get a chance to take off.

If you get the chance to place a song on a commercial, it's not as bad as you might think - in this era of free music streams, fans are starting to understand that you need to make your money from somewhere.

7. Buying music is a symbol of a fan's commitment

Fans have the option to steal your music. Horrible, I know. This is why their purchase should be so highly valued by you - they've made a statement that they love your music, probably after hearing it elsewhere, and actively want to enjoy it again and again. You have to value that, and thank people personally when you get the chance. Send them an email if they register it with you during the purchase.

What other lessons have you picked up while building a relationship with your fan base? Join the discussion in the comments, and feel free to ask questions in the comments where UG staff will be taking part.

We'd also love your feedback on the new direction of industry articles - do you prefer reading band advice, or just the latest industry news? Post your thoughts below.

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

    IVOSPAZOUT
    Pfft, skip all of this shit, say you're here to save your fans from suicide and depression and you'll have a legion of teenage girls thinking you're god. Get a few tatts, write some shit breakdowns, and you'll be set
    Jimmeister
    worked for MCR!
    TomWhaley
    wrong band. You might've been right if you said A Day to Remember or something...
    Jimmeister
    yeah you're right, they did say they were a band that wanted to save your life so I related to that
    IVOSPAZOUT
    Pretty much any of the Verb the Noun bands could fit this mould. Pierce the Veil, Sleeping with Sirens and so on.
    dakielster
    Three Days Grace
    dsperez88
    Yeah about the article...fok the fans. They either like your music, or they don't.
    falco.1993
    That's not a very conducive attitude! They don't have to listen to your music, they choose to. Being personable and having gratitude for that will probably get you far in both music and life in general.
    crazysam23_Atax
    What are you? Early '90s Metallica? Seriously, you don't have to let the fans run things, but you should at least be nice to them and treat them well. You're literally seeking fans as clients. Being a professional band is a business and treating clients like shit is NOT a good way to get new clients.
    bradd101
    Yeah, s'not like they're the ones who pay the money to keep your band running or anything....
    Shotgunmerc
    Periphery is a prime example of a band that has mastered pretty much of all these except selling out. Don't really think they could do that
    igo147
    Periphery didn't have to sell out at all because they've managed to gather a large, supportive fanbase before they even got signed, so they never had to cater to the lowest common denominator to gain their fame.
    Katerrakt
    be the guy from youtube, who does all kinds of covers of other peoples songs, build a fanbase of at least 1 to 2 thousand people, post a video of you playing an original song, and there you go its important to have that base, to ensure, that someone spreads the word about it that facebook stuff is also a good point, but nothing essential
    Izzysaidwhat
    One of my favorite local bands that I'm close friends with has a "fan account" where occasionally they pay for the fan's gasoline & tickets as a way of saying "thanks for supporting us for so long"
    Neolwyn
    How about 'don't do it for the fans'?! Asking for suggestions like "which music should we play tonight?" or "which album cover do you like the most and which should we use?" to me it's when a band starts losing its integrity. You don't have to be an ***** but you don't have to be an ass kisser either. People like bands for what they come up with by themselves and how it relates to them. I think bands should please themselves first. Some people will like it, some people won't, some will start liking it and some will stop following your band because "you changed...". That's ok, we're all different.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Yes, but things where you get people involved are kind of cool. For instance, if a band does a crowdsourcing thing and offers to play a cover of a song if they donate $X, then diehard fans might be willing to pay whatever amount X is.
    Jonbagga
    good stuff, if your fans need you to spoon feed them instagram shots, tweets about recording in the studio and hang their finger paintings on your fridge for them to listen to your band, you have the wrong fans.
    Macejko
    these articles are pathetic
    fatgleeson
    This article shares some good ideas that I personally hadn't thought of. If you don't like it, feel free to figure everything out on your own and don't learn from others' success
    Slash-Hudson
    play your music, do your thing and if people like it very much, they will become fans. thats so easy
    godisasniper
    So have you ever actually been in a band? Or been fans of a fantastic band that had very few other fans? The fact is, you can't just make great music and leave the rest to chance, because that's not how the business works. You have to get out there and make things happen, because how do people find your music to become a fan of you if you're just "playing your music and doing your thing" and not connecting to them?
    Slash-Hudson
    well, yes i play in a band, and the funny thing is, we tell our friends that we play at a place, and if they want to they can come and check us out. so that are about 10-15 people... then we play with other Bands that already have a fanbase,... they see us and if they like us, they will check out our facebook profile. maybe they will come and see us again, and bring some friends with them . In April we played at a kind of "Battle of the Band"-thingy where the crowd had to vote which 4 Bands will win and play at a open air festival. and although about 15 of our friends were there we got 63 Votes and played at that damn open air festival.. there were many people that never heard of us before but they liked us and came to us after the show, told us what they liked and what they dont like. after THIS show, a DJ asked us (who saw us there) if we wanted to play at one of his parties. we said yes ofcourse.. and at this show we reached even more unknown people who just liked our music and show. Every band should know whats good for themselves. One thing, i must say, is true about these points.. some of our fans always tell us to print shirts or patches, but we dont have the money. now after 4 Months, some of them showed up, with shirts they printed on their own.
    iommi600
    Or... you can get someone from the audience to show her boobs. 0:30 here:
    robo37
    See if I said "I want to see some breasts" on stage, I'd be a registered sex offender.
    igo147
    That's actually a pretty great article. Once you have actual fans, not just friends of the band members', you have to do something to keep them constantly interested in you until you get signed and get actual promotion going on, and even that doesn't mean you have to stop. If you don't want to be a bunch of no-names and have people care for anything else than you releasing an album once in two years, you have to have a personal connection with your fanbase. Unfortunately, it's not the 80s anymore, you have hundreds of new bands entering the game every year, just doing your thing won't get you far. If people like you personally and don't treat the band as "Joe the singer and the Back-ups", they will stand by you and support you even if they don't listen to your music that much. I've seen little local bands give gigs for 300 people in bars that can fit a little over 100 and major label acts playing for an almost literally empty room. "Fuck the fans" attitude can only result in "**** the band" and being forgotten as soon as people get bored with your debut and move on to another band. It's the 2010s, they will. Of course, you can skip all that if you're making music for yourself or for the money, but don't expect your "career" to be that fun or satisfying when you notice that your fans treat you as faceless guys with instruments, not as people.
    FoxAndTheHound
    If a fan talks to you at a show, or even if you just notice someone really enjoying the music, give them free stuff, i.e. stickers, C.D.'s, something like that. If you can't afford to give stuff away for free then offer them a discount on your products. Your C.D. costs $10? Tell them you'll give it to them for 50% off because you really appreciate their support, but you still need to cover production costs. I do this with my band a lot, and i've seen other bands do it pretty successfully too. It helps the fan feel a personal connection and it gets your product out there...a win win situation!