Music Blogs

Bands: How to increase your fan base (part 1)

  • By Trev@circlestudios
  • 16 August 2013


This week Trev, our music industry insider from Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham, draws insights from a UN negotiator on how to engage a target audience, even if they are potentially hostile to you!
Back in part 3 of my blog, "So you want a recording contract?", I talked about the risks of spamming people with links to Youface/Twatbook and why it doesn't work. And, for my pains, I had a raft of messages asking me how people are supposed to engage with fans or record labels without the spam.  As a result, I decided to dedicate the next 2-3 blogs to this subject.
As a starter for ten, and though I speak for myself on this - I'm sure most other industry insiders will be nodding their heads -  sending a pm/dm/email/carrier pigeon message saying "hi, please listen to [link]" doesn't work.  I'm not going to open it. 99% of industry insiders aren't going to open it, 95% of potential fans aren't going to open it. But just sending the link with no engagement at all is even worse. Nobody is likely to open it at all.
So what will make people listen? Well, you need to play a bit of amateur psychology here. While social media means it is possible to reach a much wider audience than ever before, using social media well is not simply a question of logging on, sending out a hundred spammy links then logging off again.  Not if you don't want to be quickly written off as a spammer. And not if you really do want your audience to engage with your message.   So let's see how clear we can make this: 
Clear enough?
Because if you are just on broadcast all the time you'll sound like a used car salesman.  Not a musician.  To make social media work for you, you need to make friends with your prospective audience.  (Okay not really friends friends. but you gotta at least engage with them in a way that makes them think it's not just a one way street.)
You see, social media is called "social" because it allows two way conversations, just as "broadcast" media (radio/tv/newspapers) was about broadcasting a message.  Indeed, the strength of twatbook/myface/flicktube lies in the easy way they allow connections to be built.  It allows you to open conversations with people that, in days gone by, you would have had no possible way of accessing. Because, fundamentally, people enjoy human interaction (except before 10am... or maybe that's just me) and enjoy being engaged (especially if they are getting something they want out of that interaction).  
Now, before I get a raft of messages telling me that's much too hard and it's easier just to broadcast spam, I need you to be clear on this:  nobody said it is easy.  It's certainly not as easy as the old broadcast world because all you needed to do then was to design your broadcast in a way most likely to capture the target audience you had in mind.   And believe me there are many that hark back to the good old days of Payola (we'll talk about this in a future blog).  But no. This is much trickier.  Because this brave new world requires an investment of your time to build relationships and to have conversations with your audience.  
Worse than that, as previously discussed, every time you put out any communication, a whole variety of potential target audiences may be reading it.  So to the extent possible, you need to try to individualise your pitch as much as possible.  This alone will differentiate you from the spammers and means you are more likely to engage with the targets in question. So how do you do that? How can you engage your target audience in the way they want to be engaged without them thinking you are just another spammer who wants to take their precious time/money? 
Let's look at what other people do in similar situations.  My oldest friend used to be a United Nations negotiator during the Bosnian war.  He was based in Sarajevo at the height of the siege around that city. It was well known that he was incredibly successful at getting his own way with the warring parties.  While the powers that be would spend hours negotiating over the even the briefest cessations of hostilities, he had on a number of occasions pulled off the virtually unthinkable from prisoner exchanges and hostage releases to ad-hoc ceasefires so that, for example, injured UN staff could be evacuated by helicopter. Over a quiet beer one night (followed by several noisy ones) he explained to me that his entire strategy rested on one simple premise: if you are nice to people and engage with them in a human way when you don't need them, they will be more likely to do something for you at the point you ask for it.  Quite literally, he would make 'friends' with thieves, murderers and war criminals so that when he was in a tight spot he could call on a favour.  Make sense?  Can you see how this could apply in your situation? Put simply, if you engage with potential targets and 'befriend' them when you aren't asking them to listen to your music (far less buy your record) they are more likely to oblige at the point you do ask for that favour.
Next week, we'll look at a little case study of how a group put that into practice and successfully engaged with their target audience.
The author of Machiavelli's Guide, Trev, is a record producer and Chief Engineer at one of the UK's top studios, Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham.  Check it out at www.circlestudios.co.uk. He has worked with clients from major and independent record labels across a range of genres from metal to hip hop and has a particular penchant for green jelly babies.  Go follow @circlestudios on twitter if you like the kind of inane rambling you get to read here. Alternatively, look up Circle Recording Studios Birmingham on Facebook.
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