How do you develop a fan base that will support you?
Do you protest for the old days of record labels acting as gatekeepers, looking to sign the next big thing and when they do, the labels will employ a scorched earth marketing policy to move a million units, give you a platinum record and in the process you think you become a star albeit with a large debt to the label. And you still don’t know who your fan base is.
Do you complain about streaming and comparing the payments of streams to sales? Streaming tells you if you have fans who are listening, in which cities and what songs are being listened to. And if you know how to use this data, you can place options to buy physical items like T-shirt’s, lyric sheets, music books, LPs and other items to those fans who are high streamers.
And if you have the means to do it, you can organize shows in those cities. At its simplicity, music is a connection between the artist and the audience. The record labels fear this, hence they use their power to get legislation passed to protect their business models and their marketing teams make it out that the label is there working for the artist.
But if an artist connects with their audience, they can keep and grow the relationship themselves without the need for a label.
However, artists fear going it alone as the buck stops with them.
But artists are capable. It’s uncomfortable, and there’s no safety net, but you are showing you have the capacity to lead and people like to follow in the footsteps of leaders. And all leaders have people who hate them. Don’t worry about the haters, move on and understand you can’t be liked by everyone.
But if you go it alone, without help, you may feel overwhelmed and give up. Remember, music is a lifers game. If you are not in it for life, you will not be able to build a fan base.
But if your dream is global stardom, then maybe you need the support of a label. But global stardom today is not the same as it was in a monoculture. We used to know who was massive but today, artists are massive in their niche and people who are not part of the niche wouldn’t know any different.
Artists don’t even need the press. They can control their own narrative via their social media accounts. It makes sense to me. Why rely on others to control your story when you can do it all yourself?
And remember music is a connection between artists and their audience. And artists need to do it because their heart is in it. Don’t worry about money. Build a fan base first and the rest will take care of itself.
It takes time to get recognition in this modern world. Bon Scott knew the truth, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll. And he is someone who had been doing the rounds for years with pub bands before he even got the AC/DC gig and he did it again with AC/DC as they built their audience, town by town.
And sometimes you might be a bit too different and it takes time for the audience to catch up with you. Hell, you can became famous by covering a song.
Quiet Riot made bank with “Cum On Feel The Noize” as it pushed a mediocre album to number 1 on the Charts and platinum plus in sales. Joe Cocker took an okay Beatles song and made it his, with a little help of some friends. Jimi Hendrix made a Dylan song a staple of his live show. Motley Crue told everyone to smoke in the boys room, while the Van Halen version of “You Really Got Me” became the official version.
Unique pricing options or fan funded packages would surprise your audience and work only once. Don’t expect the same interest the second time around.
Protest The Hero did Indiegogo for the “Volition” album, then a few years later they did a 6 month subscription model with Bandcamp for a song a month project called “Pacific Myth”. Radiohead named their own price. Other artists used Pledge for presale offers but Pledge doesn’t always pay and in same cases never pays. Which shows again how people who contribute nothing to culture, RIP off artists who do. Especially the artists who have the guts to go it alone.
It’s not easy to build a fan base and it’s uncomfortable. Even more so if you are a band as not all members have the same patience and staying power. In addition, not all members are in it for the right reasons. As a solo artist, you will have a higher chance to build a base, because it’s you making the connections.
But it takes time, sometimes a lot of time.