Build a Real World Fanbase

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Your record may be superb, but if no one sees or hears it then it might as well not exist. Thankfully publishing your work these days is super easy with web and real world tools being pretty easy to access. However there is no point in pressing 10,000 copies of your new record only to discover there is no one to buy any of them.

You need an audience, and even better fans who want to buy your things so you can afford to make more music.

If Your Build It

We tend to think that if we lob it out there we will suddenly have people battering down our door to throw cash, and the other benefits of fame, at us. It is the lure of the Web. YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud etc. want us to give them free content so they can attract visitors and sell them things (adverts etc.).

They want you to think that simply being there is enough. It ain’t. The day when you could post something good (or funny) and go viral are over, simply because the pool is so large that not enough people can see your thing at once to get that groundswell going. Sure it can happen but odds are it won’t. Use the publishing tools but don’t assume your presence is enough.

If it is at all possible then you need to play live locally.

2 Become 1

Remember that there are now two local areas. It is the first local area: the place where you live, the venues in your home town, that you really need to concentrate on as it is where you initially have the most power.

I know sometimes it is hard and you have fears but this is where you start to drive traffic to the web and money into your pocket. A person who sees you in-person is more likely to buy a CD than someone who watches part of your YouTube video and gets distracted and lured away by the clutter.

You may feel powerless in the real world (and probably want to avoid it) but the moment you start to step up and do things then you are immediately the one in-control. The person on stage is instantly more important than the person on the carpet. You may need to convince a manager or two to get on stage but they want good acts as that is how they make money.

If you think you are too ugly to be in public then hire a whole band to make your record – call the band Milli Vanilli or Boney M. Otherwise just suck it up. If you are truly that ugly then use it as a selling feature – come watch the Elephant Man play guitar. If you are ordinary looking then use that too by singing great songs. That’ll surprise them. Go back to the rules of good music, fill them and people will think you are superb.

There are a host of articles online on getting gigs locally so I won’t cover any of that. But get out there and do it well. Don’t think that turning up, tunelessly strumming a guitar and whining into the mic will be enough. Engage the audience:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    Robert Louis Stevenson

    Put in a bit of stage dressing to let us know this event is special so we pay better attention. Even a couple of candles is a great start. What if you walk on stage and light those candles (with a match or fancy lighter)…

  • Wear special clothes. I hate going to see bands and they look so ordinary I wouldn’t even notice them at the bar. If I see a Country band I want that singer to be wearin’ a big ole hat and have more stitching on his shirt than my Ma’s quilt. If I see a Metal band I want black jeans and hair, lots of hair. Sure it may be a bit cliche but looking like you are here to mow the lawn says you don’t care and don’t want me to care.
  • Sing to me. I hate seeing singers who sing into their chests, no sense of projection. If the story is worth telling then I assume you want me to hear it. Sing to me.
  • If you are a female singer take care to seem like a real person. I loathe seeing female singers pretend to be divas and wearing glittery or skimpy outfits. It will do you more damage than good. You don’t need to imitate Sinead O’Connor but let us engage with you, the person and not a little girl screeching into her hairbrush.
  • Let us know you have a CD. Maybe give one or two away to get them in hands. No need to feel odd about selling your wares. If you are good then people want a take-home. Just be sure the CD is the same as you are live, same material etc. Once that CD is more than 6 months old consider it to be time a record a new one. That makes you look even more accomplished (because you are) and doubles your chances of income.
  • Make sure the stand with your CDs is manned at all times. Usually your Tour Manger arranges this but if you don’t have one then make sure whoever does it gets something more than your vague appreciation.
  • As soon as the show is over and you have wiped the sweat from your brow get over to the CD stand. Talk to fans. There will probably be an exceptionally large lady come up and want your attention. Give it. She will probably buy three CDs and give two away, after posting a YouTube video of your show.
  • Give printed handbills of your upcoming gigs as well as your website address. Pop an email address on there as you never know who is in the audience who just might want to talk to you.
  • Say “thank you” to everyone for everything.
  • If you have a girlfriend then make sure she understands that you are at work the whole time. While you can pay some attention to her, it is really the room you are working. If she can’t handle than then you have a decision and either way I am sorry.
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