Thursday, November 12, 2009

Branding Your Band - How To Build A Fan Base - November 12, 2009


How To Build A Fan Base

Performing artists pursue specific paths through a myriad of creative and entrepreneurial career options in The Music Renaissance. Competing musicians, singers and bands face the same set of obstacles and function within well defined parameters. There are two primary activities to be addressed: Recording & Performing. The skilfull balancing of these functions combined with the business of songwriting and music publishing form the cornerstones of the music industry.

In a reality programming and social networked era of hyper communication, digimodernism is not just about geeks and super tech. There is a prevailing mind set among the cyber-youth as they stream into their futures. They see the powers that control the health of the planet are in conflict with their very survival. It has shaken a generation's survival instinct and inspired an artistic and cultural movement to self preserve. The clearest evidence of that is a core militancy to fix what is broken. Artists seeking to enroll high school and college age fans better have their acts together because they will be required to endure a continuous and unmerciful scrutiny of their chracter.

Considering that I've never met a group that didn't think it was going all the way to The Big Top, I assume that you and your friends believe its time to turn your campus band into a business. You are ready to trade those music lessons, that equipment you hustled out of Mom, and the garage space you converted to a studio, for fame and fortune. You have built a repertoire and performed it extensively in front of live audiences. You've recorded it on your MAC and have CDs for sale.

Your band is your marketing force. The product is the recorded music, and packaging, as well as acceptable merchandise. There is a threshold of dignity attached to what is an appropriate product line for any given artist. Downloads, CDs, T-shirts and caps are more or less acceptable as grass roots marketing and are generally perceived as promotional items. Exploitation into key chains and bobble-dolls is definitely crossing a line. Band jackets and other logo related, insider items and symbols might be leaked to the merch table if there is a demand from the fan base.

The starting point is the Internet and viral marketing. A clear definition of your target audience is imperative. In The Music Renaissance it would be assumed that everyone under thirty has total access to all music ever recorded twenty four seven for free. Because of ubiquitous access the available fan-pool has splintered into a myriad of niche markets. Music fans are free to select a specific color from the rainbow of choices. Focus on the existing audience for your genre or style.

The people who are most likely to focus on you are your peer group. This is an age and culture thing. If you can't make it at home, you can't make it anywhere. If you can make it at home, you can make it everywhere. Start your career in your home town with your friends and school mates. If you become a dominant musical force within a one hundred mile radius of your home you can survive and make a profit. If you can accomplish that a universe of opportunities will follow.

The postmodern record business is in a state of decline for a variety of reason none of which is relevant to branding your band and building your fan base. Forget chasing a record deal. The big four record companies are frozen like dear in the head lights. They aren't going to sign you. The good news is you don't need them. If you are going to survive in the digital music industry you will have to control and nurture all income streams just to pay your bills and keep the band alive.

AM and FM radio are obsolete. Nobody is listening. In the wake of the demise of broadcast radio also expiring is the long playing album as an artistic body of music. The primary distribution mechanism for music on the Intenet is peer-to-peer file sharing. Previously music fans were forced to buy ten songs or more to get the one they wanted. However, when music is free for the taking, with no moral integrity at stake, it beomes a one song at a time business. Nobody steals anything that he doesn't want and every song written is not a crystal tear from the eye of Zeus.

Remember the values and integrity of your core audience and design your music, image and product line to attract their interest. The fan's investment of his emotional identity, entertainment time and disposable income is your life line. Every band has an evolving purity factor that is continuously evaluated by the fan base. Building a following is about inspiring people to enroll their friends in your tribal community. If the band maintains the purity that attracts a fan base in the first place their following will continue to grow. A continuous flow of product is imperative.

A band that can hold its most ardent fans over the long term has the best chance of building a viable personal appearance career. Artistic and personal integrity dictate the effect of the music and the artist's lifestyle on the fan-pool. No two careers endure the same precise circumstances. And, its not so much what you do as how you handle what you get caught doing that holds the affection of your followers. The magnetism is strengthened by constant maintenance of the artist + fan bond. Build an online, interactive relationship with your fans that enlists their support.

An arist's music should be released in a string of individual records that are streamed one at a time into the Internet in a linear fashion. They should be radiated into the web by free downloads and permanently available. Present one song a month and work each as deeply into cyber-space as possible. When you have four songs in play package your first extended play record (EP) and sell it at gigs and online. Feed the next four records into the system in the same manner and add another EP to your catalog. Release a third EP and a compilation album of all three a month later. Offer the EPs at five dollars each and ask fifteen for the compact disc on your own record label.

The skillful marketing of these four products and a T-shirt will create a vital income stream and system for exposing your brand and furthering your enterprise. The primary tool is the live event. This is where the bonding experience is most intense. The energy and excitement of electric instruments and amplification, combined with a party atmosphere, can create a permanent attachment between audience and artist. Fans probably already have your music, or why are they there in the first place? However, they took it from the Internet when they didn't care about you.

Through the live experience the fans fall in love with the act, maybe its the music or the beer, or the one you came with, but it happens. They saw MTV and know that buying your CD and merch keeps you alive. If they love you they'll pay and that is where your business machinery starts to generate a profit. Promoting and marketing your band, gigs and merchandise online puts the responsibility directly on you. Direct your energy at your age group and younger. Offer free downloads for email addresses at your shows. Get them to join your club and treat them well.

1 comment:

David James said...

I enjoyed this article. You made a great point when you wrote, "Remember the values and integrity of your core audience and design your music, image and product line to attract their interest." Band image is important... I was recently researching for a post on my blog that directed me to think about mission statements and vision statements for a band.