How Musicians Interact With Their Fans To Get Their First Fans

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Trying to get your first fans is always tough, and whether that’s your first 10 or 10,000, there are techniques and a mindset to be in. While for some of you, it’s obvious what to do in your community to find fans, I find time and time again people ask me what in the hell they do to talk to people in their community. So I’m going to show you examples of how you should interact with your community so you can do the most important work you can be doing for your music.

So in this video, I’ll show you how to interact with your community and get your first fans. Hi, I’m Jesse Cannon, a music marketing nerd who is teaching musicians how to grow their fanbase from 0-10k fans, and this is Museformation.

Ok, so some of you may not know this, but this is part 2 in a series where I’m discussing some of the most important work you could be doing to build a fanbase, which is finding and building your community. If you’re wondering how you find these communities or what in the hell I’m talking about when I mention the spreadsheet of all your targets, you should probably go backwards to the first video in this series, and that video is linked on the screen now or in the description below.

But we should talk about how we make this work effective. Ok, let’s do some quick theory, and if you’re one of those viewers who’s tired of my theory, this video has chapters, so just click past this section.

If you’re new here, you probably don’t know that I think Facebook ads are the biggest con musicians who don’t yet have a huge fanbase fall for. Since tons of con artist YouTubers selling their services or, even worse, courses with tons of obvious information pretend this is a musician’s only hope for building a fanbase since they’ve never actually built one.

But one of the many reasons I tell musicians to never use Facebook ads is they never grow you within your community. They target music fans who are gullible enough to take recommendations from an ad on the most cursed boomer playground on the internet. In contrast, this work finds the tastemakers, the movers and shakers in your community who are connected to people who can open gates for you, and people you have things in common with that you can grow your relationships with for your entire life.

Now that that’s out of the way, I feel the need to remind you of a few social graces of the internet since I see so many of you breaking them all the time. Remember, what you’re trying to do here is make a lifelong friend in your community that you have things in common with and will enjoy the company of as you do cool things with them for years to come. If you think a person sucks or really don’t like them and force it, you’re going to waste your time. When the vibe is off, it’s going nowhere.

That’s not to say you don’t always click with someone at first, but if you interact with someone regularly and they’re not making you feel good, you don’t have to force it. Go into each of these interactions trying to build a friendship with them that will last for decades and run like hell if the red flags start waving, since in my experience, you never regret running from giant waving red flags.

Most of all, be yourself. What makes genuine connections with people is not faking your interests and who you are. Ask people questions you’re generally interested in the answer to and hope for the best. If the vibe doesn’t happen, that’s how it goes and it may happen one day. I’ve started conversations with people that didn’t work out, and three years later, we meet again and become lifelong friends.

Let’s also remember a relationship is an ongoing thing. Far too many of you try to get married before you’ve even gotten past the first date. Your pitches to collab, trade shows, etc., will go way better if you’ve bonded and had casual conversations with these people first.

Also, if you’re approaching a musician who isn’t in a huge band, doing DM slides is totally cool. If you’re approaching industry professionals, or what I like to loosely call adults since I kinda consider myself one of these, a DM slide can be super unprofessional. I hate Facebook and Instagram messages from strangers to a degree that’s probably irrational and make my assistants answer them. When I go out with my very important music business friends, they say the same thing. Whenever possible, if you’re trying to approach a professional in the business, do it over email or that cursed LinkedIn site.

Some of the most crucial work of finding and building your community is reaching out to other like-minded musicians of a similar size to you, particularly those who have about the same size fanbase or a little bigger than you. Let’s say you’ve established some targets and have researched them enough that you can do a DM slide or an email and are ready to reach out. I’d simply start with a genuine compliment.

I know for many of you, you don’t find the music these people make to be anything to write home about, but finding something nice to say, as it shows vulnerability, will go really far. The only way we ever connect with people is through vulnerability, but I don’t want to get too self-help here, so let’s keep moving past this.

After you’ve been nice to them and said who you are, let’s strike up some back-and-forth conversations before you give the ask. That could be that you’d love them to write a song with you, do a feature on your song, or trade shows in each other’s cities. You could also go a much more casual route of asking them about their music. If you like their mix, ask who did it. If you like a synth patch or a vocal effect, ask about that. Maybe you ask them where they buy their gear. You could even hip them to this super helpful YouTube channel you’ve been watching.

Point being, start connecting and remember people not replying is to be expected from time to time. This work works when you do it consistently.

But so we’re also talking about how you get your first fans in addition to how you connect with other musicians and some of the ways you get those fans is by making these musicians a part of your community by being supportive of them. After you connect with them, do what I suggest doing in your consistent sustained promotion where I suggest you make Spotify music and talk DJ sets and include them in it and tag them on social media as well as adding them to your Spotify artist playlist and tagging them there. I talk about this in my 60-day plan for promoting your song if you want to go deeper that’s linked in the description.

And if they drop a new song, you could also support them by retweeting them or sharing their story on Instagram. Hopefully, they’ll reciprocate the support but what I often suggest to artists if they have supported that artist is to just ask for some support when you have a big event like a new single or a music video. If you have 10 artists who will do this for you that are similar to you in sound you’ll be well on your way to getting early fans to start to spread the word about you.

And here’s a pro tip for you if you want this to go even better. Two years ago I made a video about this but as you get a bigger community a low-key way to drive streams and get the word out is to on your release day or week depending on how big your community is, make a spreadsheet of all your contacts in your community who you’ve established a relationship with. Go through this list and just start off asking that person you’re hitting up what they’ve been up to and check in.

And if they aren’t a self-absorbed main character syndrome-having sociopath, they will inevitably ask you what you’ve been up to and you can go “we just dropped our new banger dabbing on the way to death” and then you just drop that YouTube link in the chat. If they have any social graces they will get the hint to listen and share it. If you’re making great music you’ve just incepted being top of mind to this person for when they are talking to someone else about an opener for a show, a collab, feature, etc. If you’re dropping music every two months doing this check-in will reinforce these relationships and show people you’re taking music seriously and they should recommend you for things.

As well, if when they put out new songs you add them to your r/s playlists of your community and then link that on Twitter and Instagram, tagging them, you give them the hint that they should make some of these playlists and do the same with you which will help you grow and rank higher for editorial playlist consideration on Spotify.

But let’s talk about online communities next since so many of you asked me about them. You’ve hopefully typed all of your targets and microgenre names into Facebook group search, Discord search, and Reddit search and joined some communities. So the first bit of advice I have here is super crucial. Let’s say you join one of those communities, I implore you instead of going in and swinging your knowledge and cool personality around and talking like you’re the big boss who knows everything. Read the room. Watch the way people interact. Is it jokey or serious? Is there a ton of self-promotion? Are people laughing at all the clowns who say all you need is good songs and your music will promote itself? Because I sure do.

Instead of jumping right in really sit back and take in the vibe. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be yourself and show off your own unique personality but to say we can all be ourselves more in some places than others and some places are just not appropriate for our whole selves. But what this will show you when you read the room is when self-promotion or linking your music is ok. Some of the communities have threads on say Friday where you can post your music and while this isn’t going to get you a thousand listens most likely it will get you listened to by the right people who are really passionate about this genre and spread the word about what they like.

Now after you’ve read the room you’ll notice that there are some threads where you can inception your music into that thread. For example, these communities don’t need to just be your microgenre or a subreddit of a band you sound similar to they can even be communities you feel kinship with in your other hobbies or interests. One of my good friends was in this crazy cult growing up and she’s written some songs about how it messed her up. So someone in her recovery group will say something on a thread and she will be like “you know I was there I actually wrote a song and it really helped me heal” and she’ll drop the link.

Other times dorks will sit around talking about their favorite guitar pedals and you can be like “oh hell yeah I use the hell dog snarl sound on this solo peep my track.” Other times someone will post that they need an opener and to drop YouTube links. I see this particularly in local music communities on Facebook groups like for example a Brooklyn indie musicians group or something like that. Other groups won’t allow that self-promotion though. Like for example the Facebook group I keep for this channel I reject a lot of posts since there are 100 other music promotion communities littered with trash and I try to keep mine as junk-free as possible. Yet again, read the room.

And if you’ve read the room for a while and you’re clever enough you can inception yourself into conversations by starting a conversation you know will lead the way to getting your music posted. Particularly, there’s one technique I love where if you have a friend in this community you can have them do a thread like “post the best song about getting your heart ripped out” and they’ll post yours and then the next week you’ll post a thread that says “post the best songs about your dog running away” and then you’ll post their song in return. You hopefully get the point.

But these communities are also where you will collect a ton of leads for your spreadsheet. They’re not just for self-promotion all the time and so many people make that mistake. Trust me as people hear your music at some point someone is going to tell you it sounds like an artist you’ve never heard of who may end up being one of your new favorite artists and give you a lot of targets and leads but they’re also going to show you places you can promote your music. Just the other day I was hanging out on Discord and found one of those YouTube channels with a big community that does one of those streams where they listen to their community songs live on a stream and rate them and trash them or compliment them. I passed it on to a musician friend and he got his music listened to on the stream and an artist with 200,000 monthly listens reached out to him with 200 monthly listens and asked him to send her beats.

Other times I find new playlists to follow or someone who does a podcast I think I’d be a good guest on and then I send a pitch. That’s a lot of the effective work that happens here and I know you all want to drop your music in a comment but these are the real leads you find and it’s really a lot of the more important work than just dropping your music in the community. But the real work here is this: if you interact and are a good member of the community people are going to message you to chat and build buzz. This is how you find the artist to collab with or trade shows with or whatever. A friend in these communities can do so much as both of you have your journey in music.

Ok, but let’s talk about doing this on Twitter as well as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok comments and DMs. And now you’ve found all your targets and some of the people you’ve seen in your research that they work with that are on their team right? Since you looked around their profiles and saw their booking agent and manager’s email and then you found their name and searched them out on social media right? Well that’s the smart thing to do if you’re just following the editor of rap caviar or the biggest ANR you’re missing it. The smaller players are where this is at. The manager of a tiny artist with 30-100k monthly listeners is how you build up and get up to those other people.

Ok so the first part of this is really simple and you should probably know this. Going in the comments of your targets and being supportive, funny, or just adding interesting comments can go way far. The most obsessive fans aka the ones who are most likely to check you out if they see you in the comments and recognize your name are the ones reading these comments and I know for those of us with lives the idea of expanding a TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube comment thread is something we’ve never done one time in our lives. But that means you’re probably not the obsessive music fan who the only thing that makes their life good is their fandom and they are looking for the next artist to stand that makes them happy and getting in those comments especially on TikTok does so much work of sending you to new people who really are likely to be susceptible to liking your music. I can’t emphasize enough that this is a new potential fan so giving that heart or reply in a prompt manner is often the start of a relationship that gives you a new fan. This work isn’t the type of thing that shows results doing it once a month but a little each day will go miles in about nine months.

But let’s talk Twitter. For people who aren’t naturally drawn into Twitter you know, unlike me who has had an addiction for 12 years and counting. Twitter is most effectively used by following all of your targets as well as some of your most adamant fans and the adamant fans of the targets most similar to you.

When you can support your community with a retweet of their new song or tour announcement, do it. Hopefully, they will do the same for you and help you grow your early fans. Twitter is a phenomenal place to build commonality and relationships but also show you’re a member of the community by supporting your community. This means when one of those targets you’ve had some interactions with puts out a new song, doing a quote retweet of “yo this song goes” or whatever your vibe is. I mean, personally, I miss the days when we called things extremely my shit, but whatever you would naturally say is more than enough.

This can go real far for future bonding, and if they retweet you, their fans see your name and you continue chipping away at the stone of people recognizing your name enough to check you out. So while this sounds dumb and subtle, this is how music discovery works early on before you have tons of fans spreading the word about you. This is particularly true in front of the eyes of people who love artists who sound like you and are most susceptible to liking you early on.

For all three of these platforms, the crucial thing to do is after you’ve had an interaction or two with someone on socials, side in the DMs and strike up a conversation. But I want to caution you just because your DM sides go nowhere sometimes, that doesn’t make you an idiot; it makes you someone doing the right work. For example, I don’t have my DM notifications on for Twitter since I work in politics and don’t want to read someone calling me a baby-eating libtard every hour on the hour. So I miss things that I would love to reply to from time to time, and people have plenty of reasons to miss DMs; it’s part of the game. The game, though, is that your failure is part of the bricks that build your path to success.

I have to yet again tell you that doing all this is an exercise in finding more community. For example, I love Hyperpop, and while Hyperpop’s biggest influencers are like 2-3 playlists on Spotify and oddly enough, 2 YouTube channels which do a lot of tastemaking, there are also Instagram pages that post even better recommendations. I discovered those as smaller artists tweet them and post them on their Instagram stories. Being in your community like this will show you who to follow and who to submit to that will get you your early fans.

And guess what, if they have an Instagram that’s doing tastemaking, they probably have a Spotify playlist which will help build you up as well. You may be saying, “what about Facebook Jesse?” Dog, unless your fans are older than 30, please stay off the anti-vaxxer boomer meme playground and devote your time to something effective. The only place on Facebook I would concentrate on is which groups you can join and participate in. The cheat code here is that you can sign in under your music page so people see your identity as your music’s name while you’re commenting, so you can keep building it up so people start to recognize your name.

But let’s talk about the real world. I’m gonna drop something crazy on you. You can even do community work in the real world. I know as someone who regularly wears a shirt that says always online never outside I may not be the best person to talk to on this, but let’s get into this. The first place and best place to do this work is at your concerts, and I went kind of long on this in one of my videos on live shows, so I want to point you there if you want to learn more; it’s linked in the description.

But there’s more than that. As you do community work, inevitably the artists you target will come to your town and play shows. Seriously prioritize going and bonding with them and supporting them by bringing out every friend you can. Even help promote their show, even if you’re not playing on your socials, and be hospitable to them. If they need a place to stay and you can do it, be sure to offer the help. If you know they are broke and hungry and you can buy them food or lend them an instrument, just be helpful in any way you can since people feel the need to pay that back. This all gets paid tenfold if they continue to grow and build you up with them.

But also going to their shows doesn’t need to be all altruistic towards them. If you’ve never gotten booked out of a venue, hanging backstage with your friend from the band is the number one way to change that by learning who books there and bonding with them. As well, if you have an upcoming show, bringing flyers and handing them to the audience is the best way to get a packed show in the future. I know we have all gotten real comfortable staying home and binging mediocre TV shows, but getting out in the real world takes this work to the next level, and hanging in real life takes online relationships to a much more real and coveted place. It took me years to accept this since I’m a real sitting-at-home-studying type of guy.

So you may be thinking, what in the hell Jesse, you told us you were going to tell us how to interact with our community but you didn’t mention playlisters or all those writers of articles you told us to put in the spreadsheet. You’re right because that’s not interacting as much as pitching and that’s a whole other video in this series and discussion. I promise you in the coming weeks that will be on your screen, so all the more reason you should make sure you’re subscribed and getting notifications when I post a video. I answer every comment down below, so let me know your questions below, and if you want to go deeper right now, you can click on the first video in this series or the ones that are coming after, as well I have a playlist on how to go from 0 to 10,000 fans.

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