How Musicians Find Other Musicians Like Them

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What if I told you there was one technique most musicians skip, leading them to remain stuck with under a thousand followers on every platform? This often results in them not gaining a substantial fanbase, manager, label, or any significant attention. Then, what if I revealed that this technique has been the cornerstone in building most music careers, contrary to what other YouTubers pitch in Facebook ads, or the ineffective strategies like paying for botted playlists and focusing on vanity metrics that never lead to genuine growth?

This technique is what gets you out of algorithmic jail and is based on my observations of how popular major label and indie artists build their fanbases. It will also help you make lasting friendships with people who share your passion and will support you for years to come. In this comprehensive guide, I will show you the time-tested ways your favorite musicians have built their fanbase throughout the social media era, providing you with secrets that are updated for 2024.

Understanding the Basics

First, we need to understand how everything fits together and why being detail-oriented and thorough in investigating these techniques is crucial. This is the foundation for effectively leveraging TikTok, Spotify, Instagram, or YouTube algorithms to promote your music. It’s also essential for finding musicians to collaborate with, making features, remixes, split releases, and engaging in other creative projects.

We’ll also identify producers, managers, video directors, booking agents, mixers, mastering engineers, lawyers, photographers, labels, and other team members you should have on your radar. Knowing who these people are means that when they discover and follow you, you can recognize them and start building meaningful relationships.

Finding Your Community

This guide will help you identify fans who are most passionate about your genre and are likely to spread the word about you. This includes YouTube reviewers, TikTok accounts that recommend music in your microgenre, or Facebook groups, Discord servers, subreddits, and other forums where fans and influencers in your community congregate.

Many musicians are lost when it comes to playlists, venues, YouTube creators, blogs, and websites that could potentially feature their music. They also struggle with identifying the right hashtags to use on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. This guide will teach you how to navigate these areas effectively. The sooner you learn these strategies, the more you can absorb and implement them daily.

Community Theory

Understanding community theory is akin to learning music theory. Once you grasp it, you can better observe and analyze what successful people are doing to promote their music. This knowledge is more important than hiring a publicist or anyone else to promote your music because today’s successful artists are those who are students of the game.

I’ve seen firsthand how musicians who built a fanbase actually got there. I’ve worked at a major label, talking to artists right when they get signed, helping them tell their stories coherently. I’ve heard thousands of musicians’ stories from various genres and sizes over the years. This extensive experience has shown me that after investing in recording and producing their songs, many artists who understand this strategy and spend zero dollars on publicity or content manage to blow up and gain a substantial fanbase.

Getting Out of Algorithmic Jail

Many musicians are skeptical about how this work actually helps them. They often find themselves in algorithmic jail, where their posts only get a few hundred views. They come to me for consulting, hoping for a solution. The problem is often using ineffective hashtags and not interacting with the smaller artists they should be engaging with. Even if you’re making good content, you’re stuck because the algorithm doesn’t know who to recommend you to.

Teaching the algorithm who your community is will help it recommend you to the right people. If the only people you interact with are not relevant to your music, the algorithm won’t know what to do with your content. However, if you have a list of 25 smaller artists with 10,000 to 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify who make similar music, the algorithm can successfully recommend your content to their fans.

Collaborations and Features

Collaborations, features, remixes, co-writes, and split releases with other artists are some of the best marketing opportunities in the history of music. These strategies not only get you on another artist’s page but also on the release radar of all their fans, which is invaluable real estate in music marketing. Being tagged on social media with another artist teaches TikTok, Instagram, Spotify, Twitter, and YouTube algorithms to recommend you along with that artist, allowing algorithms to build your fan base while you sleep.

Building Algorithmic Connections

To be effective at this, you need a deep understanding of your community. When it comes to TikTok, every time someone blows up, it’s because they understood their community well enough to target and collaborate with the right people. They knew the language and hashtags to use, which are critical details often overlooked by many articles and how-to videos.

Algorithms can only see the connections users and music genomes make. A marketer I respect, Coco MoCo, says, “the more niche you go, the more you grow.” By starting in a small niche and understanding the conversations happening in the smallest corners of the internet, you can grow outward from there. Trying to build without a niche often leads to failure because you need to show the algorithm which fans to recommend you to.

Valuing Community

Many artists undervalue the importance of community. Ads on platforms like Facebook don’t bring in the best fans who are actively consuming a genre and recommending music to others. These fans don’t click on ads. Instead, the musician Spotify sees you connected to in their genome and other artists starting to grow in your genre are what matter. Building with community work gives you the best algorithm possible, which builds your fan base for free and isn’t dependent on paid ads.

Healthy Algorithmic Growth

Not all algorithmic connections are created equal. Years of experience have shown me that genuine interactions and collaborations create a healthier algorithm than artificial methods. By associating with small artists and making genuine connections, the algorithm will recommend your content to their audience, helping you grow organically.

Meeting Early Fans

Most musicians aren’t making exceptional music initially. However, the community can help you grow and improve. Fans in your genre are often more forgiving of rough edges and potential. Finding your community means meeting early fans who will support you as you grow and improve. These fans are likely to welcome you into their playlists and music libraries.

Learning and Improving

Being involved in your community allows you to learn from other musicians. Observing their work and seeing what makes them successful can inspire you and help you improve. Many of your favorite artists and their teams have done this work for years, understanding the dynamics of their scene, genre, and community. This awareness gives them a distinct advantage.

Real-Life Examples

Here’s an example from IglooGhost, one of the most influential producers today. Before getting signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, he was just an unknown artist making music on the internet. He built a network of friends who also made music, which eventually led to the right people hearing his work. This community connection was crucial to his success.

Building Your Network

So what is the work? I have a spreadsheet for my fictitious band, Incel Hypebeast, a hyperpop act. This spreadsheet is available for free, and you can get a copy by providing your email. In this spreadsheet, list every artist who is musically similar to you, regardless of their size. Having a comprehensive list helps you understand every part of your community, from artists to mix engineers, video directors, and team members.

Research and Observation

Once you have a list, start researching. Follow these artists on social media, observe their activities, and take notes. Look at their Instagram bios, websites, contact pages, YouTube About pages, and Facebook About sections to find their publicists, lawyers, or managers. Enter this information into your spreadsheet.

Learning from Others

Pay attention to what these artists are doing that’s smart and take note of it. Look at their Spotify bios and see if there’s something you should be doing similarly. This research will make you a better version of yourself and inspire you to become a more authentic artist. This is what artist development is about, and it’s why you can’t hire someone else to do it for you.

Engaging with the Community

Enter all your targets into Reddit, Facebook groups, and Discord searches. Learn about the community, engage in conversations, and understand what happens in your community. For example, if you’re great at flipping samples, hearing about producers like Kenny Beats doing beat battles on Twitch could provide you with significant opportunities.

Following Targets on Social Media

Follow all your targets on social media. If you don’t want to mix your personal feed with this research, create a separate account just to follow these musicians. On Twitter, you can use lists to organize these targets. By doing this, you can observe where they play, who they are friends with, how they market and promote themselves, and how often they post. This is invaluable research.

Utilizing Information

As you follow your targets, you’ll find useful information. For example, you might discover a playlist that fits your genre perfectly or a venue to play at. Enter this information into your spreadsheet. When you see a target share an article about their music, add the writer to your press list. Observe the hashtags they use and log them for future reference.

Breaking Out of Algorithmic Jail

To get out of algorithmic jail, follow and interact with the artists in your community spreadsheet. Engage with the hashtags they use by replying to videos and comments. This will help you show up in those hashtags and gain visibility. The same goes for Instagram.

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