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Basic Marketing Principles For Artists - Part 1: Increase Your Fanbase

As many of you know my company Cyber PR specializes in Internet Marketing, Social Media and PR. I am an avid Internet Marketing student and I gather the nuggets I learn from my studies of musicians.

I recently spent two intense days in Los Angeles, where I attended an Internet marketing retreat led by my mentor, Ali Brown. I belong to her mastermind group and participate in her yearlong program.

It was a whirlwind, and the core principles I learned were both basic and critically important.

There are three ways to increase your income:

1. Increase your number of clients (fans).

2. Increase the frequency of purchase, how often your fans buy from you. (and you’d better have more than just music to sell).

3. Increase the amount of money that you charge.

Okay, none of these three things is brain surgery, but from a musician’s perspective, it brings up some interesting points. In my last article about Internet marketing, I point out that music sold online cannot be treated like a diet product.

So, marketing music from a straight-up traditional Internet marketing approach is, in my opinion, not entirely possible. The reason why I think this is: Products that sell very well online tend to solve people’s problems. (Like Losing weight or making more money).

I am captivated by how musicians can use some of these basic principles, to increase their own bottom line in the digital space.

I’m going to break each one of the three principles down from a musician’s perspective, and my next three posts here will focus on each one.

This blog post will focus on

1.Increasing your fanbase.

I am always shocked when musicians I work for at Cyber PR, are desperate to reach more and more potential fans without really focusing on the fans that they already have. These fans don’t need to be found, because they are already your fans.

Studies have proven that it is much harder to make a new client and get them to purchase something than it is to get a client that already knows you and trusts you to purchase from you over and over.

I always suggest that, in measuring fans, the best place to look is at your social networks and at your mailing list.

Your newsletter list is the only place where you can directly engage with your fans on your own terms. Not Facebook’s terms, and not Myspace’s terms, and this is a key cornerstone to what I have been studying with Ali Brown.

10 fail-safe ways to increase / engage with your fanbase by focusing on fans that you already have

1. Get serious about your newsletter. Use or and send your newsletter one time per month. Track your effectiveness by monitoring your open rates.

2. Mine your inbox and outbox for names and addresses to add. Ask all of your friends if it’s OK to add them to your list, otherwise you might be considered a spammer.

3. Bring a clipboard to each and every live appearance. Invite people onto your mailing list with a raffle or giveaway from stage, and collect e-mail addresses. During your performance, hold the CD up on stage and than give it away, you’ve just inserted a full commercial into your set without feeling “salesy” and you’ve excited one of your fans by giving them a gift.

4. Include a special offer on your home page with a free exclusive MP3 or video. Use the Reverb Nation Fan Collector or Free Download widgets to deliver it.

TIP: Make sure this download is not available anywhere. Not streaming on your MySpace page, and nowhere else on your Facebook widgets. Only on your website.

And of course it can also be available for purchase on your CD, but make sure that no one can get it anywhere else online. This will motivate people to sign up to your mailing list!

5. Follow 25 new people a week on Twitter.

6. Send out e-mails to your most engaged fans through MySpace and ask if you can have their e-mail addresses for your newsletter. This is a bit arduous but the results will pay off.

7. Do the same with Facebook.

8. Start a blog and start sharing photos and stories and thoughts.

9. Start a podcast or a vodcast and interview other artists with big followings. Ask them to share your podcast with their fans and followers. It doesn’t have to be a big production. It can be a small, informal video at YouTube. Click here to see mine.

10. Ask your fans to review your music at CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon. Ask them to make iMixes and Amazon Listmania! lists, and include your music on them.

My next blog post will attack principle number two, increasing the frequency of purchase.

In the meantime I would love to hear how you build your fan base.

Reader Comments (16)

Some good ideas here. Some of which I knew already but several I didn't think of, especially #'s 2, 6 and 7. Doh!

However... re: #5 -- follow 1300 new people a year on twitter? Puhleeze! Who do I hire to keep up with that?

Following 25 new people only works if you unfollow 23 from last week. I think any human who values their brain and attention span owes it to themselves to keep Twitter useful.

Then again, for a band-only account, you don't have to log in and actually use it that much. If you're just broadcasting promo messages to as many people as possible, that kind of one-way communication involves paying no attention to your audience beyond head count and occasional @ replies.

Then again, that's exactly the kind of autobot twitter users I'm unfollowing every day.

follow as much as youc an - well i dont know... ;)

@JustinRoland: band-only accs are really rubbish... comon if i want broadcasting promo message i'd haev a look at the band's page... twitter is not for occasional use...

me and my band we made a solution: we have chosen a "tweeter" in the band who writes everything bout the band and tweets with followers... you have to stay in touch with your friends and twitter's the best way...

May 18 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Yo Ariel,

Great post as always. I am still absorbing your post on the "how internet marketers work Vs how musicans work" and implementing some things from it. The biggest shock for me was the fact that it really boils down to creating and then maintaining your fanbase through a great mailing list with purpose, direction and authenticity. In short, it is all about the mailing list, mailing list, mailing list. I have changed my band marketing strategy accordingly:

- A squeeze page on every part of our website (to be extended to Facebook/Myspace and more)
- After a gig, not just talking to new people who liked our music but getting their email address and then corresponding for a bit

Just doing these two things are quite useful, and we are beginning to capture some of our real fans a bit better. Still, plenty more to be done!


May 18 | Unregistered CommenterAtul Rana lets you distribute your music content for free and get you paid through advertising ... take a look

May 18 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I also agree that all are effective but the 25 new twitter follows a week. Twitter seems to be most effective by being selective who you follow and establishing presence with those people. Otherwise, you can't keep track of anyone. You also appear more desirable for others to follow by keeping your following/followers ratio lower. If you inflate who you are following fewer people will follow you back and pay interest to your tweets. Simply supply and demand.

Derek Jordan

Seems to be a lot of resistance about following 25 new people a week because of keeping up with every single Tweet (which after a few dozen people would be mighty hard)

The way I use Twitter is this: I do not focus on following all of the posts of the thousands of people in my Twitter community every day - I tune in when I want and if a tweet catches my eye or links to a post that I find useful then I follow it and most likely will follow that twitter a bit more closely by visiting his stream page. And I have a few people I love to follow (good friends, funny posters who make me smile and colleagues who I respect) so I visit their individual pages to catch up with them from time to time.

Twitter is like going to a large party - you don't go to meet every single person there and have a great in depth conversation with all of them in one night - if you say hi to 15 people meet 7 and connect with 3 or 4 of them then you leave the party saying: wow I had a nice time and I met some really interesting people.

May 26 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

@Atul I am so happy to hear that the newsletter strategy is working for you - I agree it's the most powerful one available!

May 26 | Unregistered CommenterAriel

After reading this blog, I decided to take Ariel's advice and finally "harvest" my myspace friend's list for email addresses. Currently I have 28,000 friends, probably 60-65% of which are standard user profiles and not band pages. It's tedious and takes time, but for about two weeks solid now I've sent a myspace message to each individual friend inviting them to respond with their email address so we can better stay in touch. It makes for around 200 messages total each day. Currently I'm through less than 1/3 of my friends list, and I've already gathered over 200 email addresses that weren't already in my list. At this rate I'll gather between 600 and 800 addresses total. Talk about worth it!

Also, it's had the nice side benefits of spiking my song play counts, reconnecting me with individuals, fellow musicians, labels, and agencies, and in general reminding people that I'm here making great music.

Like I said, it's tedious and takes a lot of time, but completely worth it.

Phil Putnam
Get your Phil on iTunes

June 3 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Putnam


I love that this technique works :)! I have been hearing a LOT of complaints from artists about the ineffectiveness of MySpace for "true" connections these days so it really encourages me to know that you are re-engaging and getting an even bigger benefit (newsletter list building) from this outreach. If just a few people start reading your newsletter and attending your shows or buying music as a result it will turn into a monetary gain! Bravo! Ariel

June 5 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

Phil, great idea. Although we only have about 200 ppl on our Facebook group it is now time to harvest more emails from that. At the end of the day the myspace and facebook notification goes to the inbox of the user anyway. So why not go for the inbox straight off the bat in a directed, measurable and consistent way.

June 6 | Unregistered CommenterAtul Rana

Phil, the idea is great...I'm glad its working for you. I'm thinking about trying that method myself and see how it works for my upcoming projects.


June 9 | Unregistered CommenterShomi

Another helpful post. When considering Twitter, or any social network for that matter, I tell my clients to only sign up if they truly believe they can maintain it, otherwise it's worse than not having one b/c if not maintained the artist looks non-active. As I say, "make sure you always look like you are alive by being active."

With one my artists we appealed for music reviews and received only one, from a list of 1700. We had to ponder this one to understand why. Ultimately we think it was semantics that doomed this effort. Our message asked for "reviews". This is a mistake b/c the minute most people read that they think, "I have no idea how to write a music review." It's an intimidating word. We are going to try again soon, but this time ask for "comments". That's what they are. Comments from the fans, not reviews. We'll see if this works better.

Thanks for the tips,

How do you feel about video marketing? I ask because I am currently using that method and it is working. I am creating short teaser videos to lead viewers to my squeeze page. Then I am posting the videos to not only because it's free. They also help set up a targeted keyword campaign to boost targeted traffic. It seems to be that the music industry is headed towards a heavy independent model in the near future.

July 3 | Unregistered CommenterSeh

Artists need to first see themselves as marketers and not just artists. Once they do this they will open their eyes to all the different marketing and advertising methods out their readily and cheaply available to them both online and off.

August 1 | Unregistered Commentermlgreen8753

I found some real great useful information on this.

This was posted in 2009. Where can you find part 2 to this?

April 6 | Unregistered Commentercherie

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