expand your music audience

How to expand your music audience in three easy steps

Marketing to your fans is essential for your music career, but if you want to expand your music audience, you need a plan for growth. Here are three ideas to make that happen.

Many indie music artists make incredible art but experience challenges connecting with new fans because their marketing approach needs tweaking. A good percentage of these artists are trying to market themselves but are going about it the wrong way. A better understanding of marketing will put the power in your hands and then you, the artist, can hold all the cards.

Marketing vs. distribution

First, you need to understand the basic difference between distribution and marketing. Distribution is about where consumers go to purchase or consume something. Marketing is why the consumer is going there to purchase it. Putting your song up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, ReverbNation, YouTube, etc. is distribution.

Many of you have probably made a purchase on Amazon recently, but you didn’t buy the product because it was on Amazon, did you? Amazon is a distributor. You weren’t just scrolling Amazon web pages when you randomly came across this shiny object that made you pull out your credit card.

No, you were marketed to first. You were made aware of the product and somehow your buying decision was influenced enough to want to purchase it. That’s marketing! Then you chose to go to your preferred distributor (Amazon) to get it.

I want you to think about marketing your music with this in mind. What is going to get people excited enough to learn more about you and your music?

1. YouTube

Posting your original songs up on YouTube is a form of distribution, but the only people who are going to experience that music are already aware of you as an artist. Marketing your music is not just about making your current fans aware of any new releases. This approach is not getting you into growth.

Marketing growth is about finding new people to expose your music to. This may sound elementary to some of you, but I’ll bet you’re not using the tools you currently have in the best way to grow your audience.

I know this because I see it every day with both indie artists and label artists! One slight tweak in your approach on YouTube could change everything.

Why not post a video of you interpreting a cover song that is popular right now? This will generate traffic you would never have gotten posting an original, as a percentage (however small) of people who are looking for the original artist’s video will stumble across your version and watch it. That’s growth.

That means new people watching you as an artist. Not only are they experiencing your spin on a song, since they already know the song, they are focusing on your interpretation. The information that is coming through as they watch is your artistry. Not for nothing, you might discover that people are responding to qualities of yours you weren’t aware you possessed.

If they like it, people will respond. If you ask them, they’ll subscribe. If you’re smart, you’ll give them a free download in exchange for their email address so you own the information.

If they learn to like you as an artist, then they’ll be far more likely to listen to your original music. When they do listen, they’ll have an open mind and an open heart because your cover rendition won them over and they’re prepared to love you.

That’s marketing on YouTube. Always ask yourself, where’s the traffic coming from? This will influence your cover song choices.

2. Social media

Most indie artists copy their idols’ social media behaviors. They have posts of them doing this or that on stage or behind the scenes, etc.

This method is important but you need to recognize that it only supports the fans who are aware of you as an artist. Think about it, if they don’t know you, how are they going to see a post like that?

Don’t stop doing this sort of social outreach, it’s an important piece of your social media strategy — but only for your current fans. These posts will do little, if anything, to expand your audience. You want to get your content in front of new people who aren’t currently aware of you. This requires a different thought process and execution strategy.

Take off your artist hat and put on your record label executive hat for a minute. Imagine you just signed the greatest unknown act in the world: YOU. In the interest of clear communication, let’s give you a name: MC XFactor. Nobody knows about this new artist, so how are you going to get MC XFactor in front of a new, targeted group of people who are likely to enjoy his music?

Well, let’s say MC XFactor is a rap artist. Right off the bat, we can target tons of rap artists with faithful followers on all sorts of social media platforms.

But let’s drill down some more. What kind of rap artist is MC XFactor? If money and connections were no object, what rap artist would you put MC XFactor on tour with because the headliner’s audience would relate to MC X Factor’s music?

Don’t look now but you are in the process of defining your audience. Once you’ve determined exactly who the audience is, you have to find where they hang out online. This is called targeting.

If MC XFactor would absolutely CRUSH it on tour with Lil’ Wayne because his fans would love your artist’s music, start following people who follow Lil’ Wayne on Twitter and Instagram.

Love them first. Be the first to reach out, shake hands, and say “Hello.” Some percentage of these new people will follow you back and hang if you have interesting content, so don’t try to shove your mixtape down their throats immediately after they follow you because they will un-follow you. You would hate it if someone did that to you, right?

What if when they followed you back you asked a question about THEM? You already have common ground in that you both like Lil’ Wayne. Start there. Between current news, tracks he’s featured on, lyrics, artistry, etc. you have a truckload of content to start a conversation. This is how you create a relationship with someone new. This is getting you into growth.

It’s little steps, baby steps, but these little gains every day add up over time. The bigger your social media grows and the more you engage with that audience, the more attractive you become to new potential fans and the industry.

3. Permission marketing

What are you doing to ensure you own everyone’s contact information after they’ve attended your live show or landed on your website? You could have a million followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but you don’t own their contact info — the respective platforms do. You must take your music marketing a step further and convert as many social media followers of yours into contacts you own.

You already know about Facebook and how few people see your posts unless you pay. Get a squeeze page — a landing page that captures opt-in email addresses — and work around that problem. It’s called permission marketing, which works off the idea that the lifetime value of a fan is worth exponentially more than the .99¢ or $10.99 you’re hoping to get for a single or a CD.

You’re supposed to be an entertainer. Find new people every day, entertain them on social media, get them to love you, then capture their info and deepen that relationship.

An artist with tens of thousands of engaged contacts is quite powerful to the industry, brands, and other artists. Once you accept this as the one viable method to grow your brand and expose your artistry, you’ll be on your way to making a living as a music artist.

Crowd image by salajean sourced from Shutterstock (editorial use only).


Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Nashville artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. The CLIMB is a podcast produced by Brent Baxter (award-winning hit songwriter) and Johnny Dwinell that’s dedicated to helping singers, songwriters, and artists like you create leverage in the music business.

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