Last updated on June 30th, 2022
If there’s one thing we’ve ascertained throughout this series of Muze’s “10 People Musicians Need On Their Side” articles, it’s that the music scene is vast, chaotic, exciting, and ever-changing. If you’re a musician looking to storm the territory of listeners and performers alike, you can’t do it on your own – that’s something else we definitely know to be true. Think of it this way: in order to take over a new kingdom, you’ll need an army at your back. In this case, that army is comprised of your fans.
When all is said and done, you have everything you need in order to start making your music. Write songs, play out, record, connect with musicians (on Muze of course), and show the world that you’re here to serenade the soundscape. Assuming you have the money for studio time and the energy to create new art, you’re good to go. However, giving people something they actually want to listen to is a whole other animal.
How To Develop A Fanbase
For as long as I’ve been an active musician here in Nashville, I’ve observed constantly and taken note of what differentiates artists who draw crowds from those who do not. I can honestly say that some of the most talented songwriters and performers I’ve ever met have just about everything it takes to become the next big thing, but they couldn’t draw a crowd to save their life. Why is that?
If you’re currently engaged in this endeavor, you know how frustrating it can be. Just because you have something worth listening to doesn’t mean anybody is going to listen to it, and that’s just a brutal fact. It takes energy and tact to properly reach people, and developing an ample fan base is an art in and of itself. Bear in mind that when you present people with your music, you’re actually asking a lot of them. You want them to listen to it, you want them to keep up with new albums/singles as you release them, you want them to buy your merch, and you want them to attend your shows. That’s a big commitment, and while you may not be seeing it reflected in your community right here and now, there are sensible steps you can take to change that.
I reached out to Sarah Beth Perry, founder and CEO of With the Band, an app that helps aspiring musicians cultivate a fanbase. Sarah is a Belmont University graduate and earned her degree in Music Business and Entrepreneurship back in 2019. Over the past few years, she’s developed some pretty impressive credentials and has worked with the likes of CMA, Tin Pan South, and Nashville’s very own Maggie Rose. If anyone understands what it takes to harvest that army of fans that you desperately need to storm the fields of musical madness, it’s Sarah Beth Perry.
“What do you do to help artists reach more fans?”
“I am the Founder & CEO of With the Band, a premier fan engagement company located in Nashville, Tennessee. In only four years, I have grown With the Band from an idea in my dorm room at Belmont to captivating packed-out arenas with creative and collaborative projects for artists such as the Jonas Brothers and Kacey Musgraves. With the Band’s new web/app platform (that we are in the midst of launching) provides a turnkey solution for artists to manage and monetize their fan bases through a Fan Crew – our modern-day version of a fan club.
We help artists reach more fans through both Fan Activations as well as Fan Crews. Fan Activations are one off marketing campaigns that we create with artists to help them create a once in a lifetime experience for their fans. Our goal is to try and evoke emotion in a fan that further bonds them with an artist and their music. Through Fan Crews, we enable artists to better manage and monetize their fan bases while fostering an incredible fan community. Our first Fan Crew we launched was for Maggie Rose, and our most recent Fan Crew launch was for Dylan Scott.”
“In the age of social media, what's the best way to reach fans?”
“More artists need to view their fans as a funnel. You need to initially ask yourself, where is the fan first hearing about my music. Was your song on a playlist on Spotify? Did they hear your song as a TikTok sound? Is their best friend a fan of yours?
Then you focus on converting the fan who has heard your music into a paying customer. You can do this buy selling them merch, a ticket to a show, or even getting a tip on TikTok or Twitch. Once you have a paying customer, you can then turn them into a super fan by creating emotional connections between them and your music.
Also, do not get overwhelmed with all of the social media platforms. Focus on one or two platforms where your key audience demographics spend the most time. These audience demographics should include age, location, and even favorite genre of music. If you have a younger Gen Z audience, you will want to be on Tiktok and Instagram. If you have an older Baby Boomer audience, you should spend most of your time on Facebook. We also tend to see a larger amount of country music fans vs. pop fans active on Facebook. Pay attention to where your target fan spends their time!”
Author’s Note: While we’ve certainly noted the importance of social media conduits in the past, it’s interesting to see how the different platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc.) align themselves with certain demographics. Therefore, you have something of a map to help you work smarter and not harder. It’s nice to know that you don’t have to be the cyber captain of every social media outlet in the multiverse.
“How should artists work to maintain a relationship with their fans?”
“From the smallest stage to the biggest, artists will start recongizing super fans who come to multiple shows. If you have an OG fan who has been there since day one, make sure to thank them for their support. Most fans just want to felt seen by the artist and by the fan community. If you have an opportunity to give back or surprise fans, do it! Even if it is something so small, you create such an incredible memory that will continue to keep your super fans engaged and spending their money on you.”
Author’s Note: In a sense, imagine yourself as a fan in the crowd. How would you want to be treated by the artist? What makes you respect them as much as you do their music? This isn’t just about gathering a crowd who will cheer you on wherever you go – it’s an opportunity to make friends.
“Anything else musicians should know moving forward?”
“Be intentional with your fan engagement. Some artists think fan engagement all happens naturally, but the artists who really succeed in creating a thriving fan base intentionally try to connect on a personal level with their fans. For a smaller artist this could look like responding to every Instagram comment or being at the merch booth and meeting fans at shows. For larger artists, this could look like creating a safe space for fans to make friends (both virtually and in person) or creating creative engagement campaigns that provide these emotional experiences.”
Author’s Note: When all is said and done, fans are people just like us. They want to feel noticed and appreciated, and considering everything they are liable to grant your career, it stands to reason that you should show them some love in return.