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  • Ryan Sullivan

How can I build a small/underground fan base in music over time?

How can I build a small/underground fan base in music over time? Music is honestly all I can see myself doing, but I still am fairly new to making music. If anyone out there is doing well with there music can I get some advice please?


That is a question I saw on Quora and decided to respond to as I walk clients through this process regularly. The following is my response.

You need to create a system that is within your control and run it like you would any other business. Set goals and objectives that play into your grand plan and then decide on what actions you need to take each day to reach and achieve those goals.


Yes playing your music and posting things online is a part of it but only a tiny part, artists who stop there hardly get anywhere because it’s the bare minimum and simply hoping for a lucky break which is a gamble, like hoping to win the lottery.


Rather, figure out who your ideal fans are and get them to take action. What do they like? Who’s music do they listen to, what podcasts, sports, video games, clothing, accessories, hobbies, colours, designs do they like? Hint, they’re the same ones that you like.


Once you have that, figure out where they hang out, in real life and online so that you can reach those people and engage with them. Digital marketing strategies and platforms like Facebook Ads Manager can help massively and speed the process up drastically.


Once you’re in front of those people, give them a variety of experiences, start conversations, discuss things of interest, share other cool things you’ve come across with them, make friends and allow them to get to know you better while you get to know more about them.


Between all of that, share your music, it could be live sets, dj sets, original songs, remixes, whatever, just share your world with them. Offer them more value all the time and they will go from knowing you to trusting you and will eventually be happy to reciprocate.


Then, make those people an offer they can’t refuse (free album download, free concert, cool experience of some sort) in exchange for joining your fanbase. Now they’ve graduated to actual fans and you can get them to affirm their fandom by making a sales offer.


Those who buy something (your music, merch, show tickets etc) graduate to becoming bigger fans or customers who you can sell bigger items to next time (bundles of merch and music, hand-painted art, custom musical instruments/synths, etc). All the while, sourcing new fans and nurturing current fans.


Keep this cycle going and create new products using your music and anything related to it, forming your own tribe with its own culture.


The key to success for any business is a great customer base. It’s the same in music, we just call the customers fans. With a large audience who will follow you wherever you go and preach about everything you do and purchase everything you create, you have power (and responsibility!). That’s when big brands will pay big money for you to direct your fans to buy their products and services but then why would you if they’re already buying your products which are more profitable for you? So the big bidding and negotiation starts where the big brand does whatever it takes to make it worth your while by adding extra zeros to their offer :D


TLDR: Identify ideal fans, build a fanbase and sell things to them.

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