In this day and age, pretty much everything is based online. The days of sending letters and waiting weeks for a reply, or going to your local record store to buy music, are over. This is a shame in some ways but not others. I mean, it’s great to be able to send and receive things instantly with very little waiting time in between, but I actually really loved the days of walking around a record store, like HMV, and listening to music, looking at the artwork, scanning the barcodes on the CD cases that would allow you to listen to 30 seconds of each track before you made a purchase, followed by the exciting feeling of buying it and rushing home to listen to it on repeat for the rest of the week. (Take me back to the good old days.)
The internet has become so powerful that it has radically changed the way we do things on a day-to-day basis. It has also changed the way we consume music or find out about it. In today’s world, the fastest way people find out about new music (or anything for that matter) is… Social media, Google/YouTube and other search engines and streaming platforms.
There are so many outlets, so many social media sites on offer now to musicians and bands, that you really are spoilt for choice. And the real beauty of it is, they don’t cost anything! (Unless, of course, you are paying for advertising, boosting posts or paying for premium features on your chosen platform.)
Probably the biggest reason it is so very vital to build up your social media channels is because it is now the way record labels and industry professionals find you. I have read lots of articles about successful musicians and producers who got their big break from a social media following. Justin Beiber was found on YouTube. Calvin Harris was discovered on Myspace.
Recently, a good friend of mine (who was the lead singer of a very popular local band) was talking to me about wanting to get the band off the ground and move on to bigger and better things. I was able to put him in contact with a very well-known music manager and promoter who instantly loved the band’s material and organized a meeting with Universal Music.
A little while afterward, I saw my friend at a show in London and asked him how things went with the meeting. He told me that as much as the record label loved the music and live performances, they weren’t impressed with the social media numbers and wouldn’t be willing to do anything more until the band had reached a certain number of followers and upped the engagement level.
It’s sad, but true. The record labels of today don’t want to put in massive amounts of time and money into a band with little-to-no fanbase (or customer-base, as they see it). They want you as the artist to promote and build this yourself. Then you’re a safe investment for them. If you already have a large following, then there is very little for them to do in order to recoup their investment and begin making money from the band with touring, album sales, etc.
This is why social media is such an important part of your career. Good songs and a good number of engaging fans/followers is the foundation of any good band or solo artist. Below, I have listed the some of the best social media platforms I use and why I think you should be using them too. Remember, the more tools you have in your toolbox, the easier the job will become.
This platform doesn’t need much explanation. It’s a platform that nearly everyone uses, and is a great way to tap into a lot of potential fans. Start by creating a music page and start adding all of your friends to that page. If you are a band, add the rest of the band members to the page as admins, and get them to do the same thing. You will very quickly have a great starting point to build upon. Ask your fans, friends and family to share the page as much as possible and also run competitions for free merchandise or music. Ask people to share the page, like the page and tag two friends in the post, and then randomly do a draw when you hit the number of followers you are looking to hit. You can create some brilliant facebook campaigns for very little money and choose to whom and where you want the adds to go. This can really create a buzz and also help you to gain thousands of fans and followers in a very short period of time.
SoundCloud is one of my favorite platforms, because not only can you upload your music, but you can add things like pictures, a bio, contact information and more. It is like a free online platform for everything in your press and promo packs. You can also boost songs so more people get to hear your material, and allowing you to gain valuable feedback within the comment section on each track you upload. SoundCloud is a lot like Myspace in the fact that it is music-based and somewhere you can really network, find people to collaborate with, work with like-minded musicians, songwriters, producers etc., as well as being able to pick up and build a serious fanbase.
Up until recently, there wasn’t any real point in using Instagram for emerging bands/songwriters/artists, who were trying to build a following or create a buzz around their music, because all you could do was post pictures and use hashtags with very little engagement. (Unless you were posting pictures of beautiful women, cute animals or fast cars, then the engagement just wasn’t there.) Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is great fun, but not so good when it comes to building a fan base or boosting engagement. Not a productive business strategy.
My thoughts on the platform have recently changed because of the new “Instagram stories” feature they have added. This new feature really does open things up for musicians, writers, bands, and performers, because you can now use Instagram in a totally different way. Now you can add snippets of yourself in the studio, setting up for gigs, sound-checks, playing live or other behind-the-scenes stuff. Now you can let your audience in and take them along for the ride, make them feel like they’re really a part of your life. You can also do up to 1-minute videos in your regular feed now, which gives your fans better promos to upcoming materials, and really lets you build the hype around your new releases, because of the newer “share” functions.
When using Instagram, be sure to do some hashtag research to see what hashtags are performing and pulling in the audiences for your specific style; folk, pop, rock, whatever. Have a look at what other artists in your genre are doing to promote themselves and what hashtags they are using.
And, more importantly, don’t always run to the hashtags with the largest numbers of engagement. These can be over-saturated and you will quickly fall to the bottom of the pile. Have a look around and use the smaller-to-medium hashtags. That way you will stay at the top of that hashtag for a lot longer and see more engagement with the audience that you are attempting to tap into.
Streaming has taken over the way a lot of us consume music and, again, is another great way for a new artist to get discovered. It is also a brilliant platform for networking. Once you start to build relationships with other users on the platform, you could try and collaborate, ask them politely if they would be interested in adding your music to their playlists and vice-versa. I have found that when you ask the question, you initially get a lot of people saying, “no,” or even ignoring you. But don’t let that put you off because most successful business is based on mutually beneficial relationships. Those people that take you up on the offer can be amazingly helpful; they remember how hard it was when they first started. And if they enjoy your music they may want to push it out to their audience, which can give you a real jump start on the platform.
When it comes to search engines, we all think of Google and for good reason: it’s awesome, and there’s not much you can’t find there. However, we are consuming more and more videos these days, instead of reading books and articles. YouTube is one of the top information and How-To hubs on the internet, and I think this also makes it the number one platform on which to build an audience and potentially get discovered.
Post videos regularly; covers, originals, writing sessions, collaborations, studio sessions, and live performances. If you really get into it, the following will come naturally. Engage with everyone that comments, ask people to make requests and give the fans what they want. I have a few examples of people who have done exactly this and are now making an amazing living from youtube and the online world of music. Check out “Frog Leap Studios” and “only1noah”. These channels show just how big things can get, quickly, if you put in the work in and focus on your goals.
My Final Thoughts
There are so many great platforms to choose from that will really help you build an audience. I recommend starting sooner rather than later, get your name and music out there and in people’s heads. It really is a great feeling when you see your audience and fanbase starting to grow, along with the comments and likes.
The one caveat I will mention is: don’t let the negative comments get to you. There will always be trolls looking to cause trouble. Sift through them. Pay them no heed. Constructive criticism is a great thing and can really help you to craft better songs and give the fans what they want. But don’t take any criticism to heart. Thank them, use it if you can, and keep moving forward.