As an upcoming musician/performing artist, building an audience can surely be challenging. Undoubtedly, there’s an ever-shifting world of technology — we see online ads promoting new apps everyday and there’s an urge to update/upgrade to newer software (or else you’ll be left behind). The very same shift changed the face of Journalism globally and in relation to music, artists and their stables (earlier) relied heavily on traditional media — radio, television, magazine, newspaper — for promotion and reaching new audiences.
On the contrary, new technology, especially social media, changed the whole game and “everyone” (including artists/musicians) is now a content provider; a writer/blogger of some sort — musicians can now interact with audiences/fans directly.
However, one would appreciate our Google world whereby it’s easy to find any “how-to-do” online; meaning research and DIY-tutorials are at our very disposal. Therefore, in this age (with all these technologies and platforms available), as an upcoming artist/musician you religiously need to be on social media, primarily Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — “everybody” is on social media and you need new followers/fans for your music. The other reason, plainly, is that these social media platforms have created and designed features that can actually aid musicians and artists in general. While we normally argue about almost anything on social media — from sports, social justice, geopolitics — you should remember social media is also for business.
The reality of ever-shifting paradigms, however, doesn’t mean “old things” are no longer cool — our new world is much noisier (due to globalisation, I guess) and many other people still prefer to read a newspaper, a paper-back edition, and listen a good radio program so traditional media is not to be ignored. In fact, vintage has become the new “cool” and vinyls are collectibles. A print magazine feature is still relevant in helping grow your audience — there’s also a sense of authority in traditional media. Many art professionals could still be reading the Mail & Guardian art section religiously and that is how you can get gigs in corporate or academia, for instance.
While feeding your blogs/social media pages with relevant content, specifically designed for your targeted audience, please bear in mind: consistency is everything. Truth is, you’ll surely begin with fewer followers but once you’re consistent with your content, numbers will add up organically. This means you should develop some form of a house-style; how you write/phrase and issues that you address. With our page Morena Leraba, for instance, we’ve been growing our audience consistently and we still haven’t released our solo project (apart from features by other musicians). This is because we’ve been consistent with our content, which comes from our collaborations, gigs, residencies and addressing social issues. Our audiences are now (subconsciously) aware of our flow of information.
Social media is a sea of all creatures and people generally don’t have the patience — posts, retweets, shares, memes, and many people (or robots) decoding tarot card meanings and a million invitations to join cults — hence, one should really be crafty with how they design their social media messages. As a new artist in the field, you’ll need content, images, videos, or art generally, that will capture “scrolling” audiences at once — something that could make a reader/consumer stop for a moment to go through your post.
If you’re consistent, you’re also bold and people subconsciously bow down to authority or something that has authenticity in its nature. Even if you don’t have many followers in the beginning, authority and quality of your social media content will automatically make your targeted audiences follow and bow down. Today, you cannot simply sell music — there are many other aesthetics in the world of art — you’ll perhaps need fashion or painting/illustration or really good (or dope) photography and your audiences will never scroll and ignore those enchanting images. It is true. In your attempt to incline to a more niche space while creating a bold brand, you’ll realize audiences will also grow organically.
Even with established artists with more than a million followers on social media, the congregation is always aware if there’s a change in messaging. When there’s a need for a more professional PR message, the audiences will always be aware. They’ll say on Twitter (for instance): “Ahhh, Big Much, this is not your English…”, hence, it is really important that you’re consistent as a new musician.
Social media algorithms? In order to grow your audience, you can use many tools on social media, such as (literally) inviting audiences to follow you/your page. Again, feeds from algorithms actually do function. As Morena Leraba, we’ve been fortunate to get international gigs, especially in Europe where people go to festivals religiously, and we’ve been using these insights from social media. Also, for sharing links, we customize them via Bitly.com and this gives you the best results and you can see how many people from France, Spain, blah-blah. While organic is cool, it is also a good strategy to “pay” for some ads or messages. If we’re in Berlin doing a show, our posts can literally target people who reside in Berlin — this is functional as well.
Additionally, in order to grow your audience, you need to have a model. While established artists have huge social media and marketing teams behind them, there’s no shame in “copying” them. I’m from Design as well (visual communication) and as a beginner, you might be assigned to cope up with a new magazine cover and in class, students who didn’t copy (or get inspiration) from established world-class magazines would produce really horrid designs with bad layouts. Copying is not a sin, therefore, model your brand (musician/band) with another established brand that gives you inspiration. However, this doesn’t call for “pomposity” — many established musicians may disseminate such tones but you don’t have to be “rock-n-roller pompous” here.
Or late, it’s pretty easy to switch between your personal FB profile and your artist/band page and this has increased our audiences due to easy interactions online. When reacting, commenting and sharing posts from other artists (or simply replying with a message of encouragement or recognition), other audiences will see your activity and follow if interested in your brand. Therefore, don’t just wait to share serious information only — interact with other artists and their audiences.
In a nutshell, while we may argue there’s no established method when it comes to building your audience, at least some approaches have been tested and proved to dish out good results for marketers; hence coming up with better projections.
Article by Teboho Mochaoa