Basic Marketing Principles For Artists – Part 1 of 3: Increase Your Fanbase

As many of you know Cyber PR® is a hybrid of Internet Marketing, Social Media and PR. I am an avid Internet Marketing student and I gather the nuggets I learn from my studies for musicians.

For many years, I’ve attended internet marketing retreats and seminars; a favorite of mine was a two-day intensive course run by the incredible marketer, Ali Brown.

The course 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 are 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 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.

So How Do You Increase your number of clients (fans)?

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 Twitter’s terms.

10 Fail-Safe Ways to Increase/ Engage With Your Fan base

Here are 10 fail-safe ways to increase / engage with your fanbase by pulling from fans that you already know and have who trust and like you!

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 Reverbnation Fan Collector or Free Download widgets to deliver it.

TIP: Make sure this download is not available anywhere.  Not streaming on your Facebook page.  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 on Facebook 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 Twitter.

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

Note: you can also use Instagram to take pictures from your iPhone or Android phone, which can then be shared through Facebook and Twitter.

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.

How Do You Build Your Fan Base?

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 in the form of a comment below


Your Three Communities: Connecting with Community #3: Ambient Fans

Global Network of PeopleIn this 3-part series I have been talking about an artists 3 separate communities and the fact that you need to think about how you approach each one differently.

Here’s a quick recap:

Community 1: Are your Super Fans (

These are fans who are primarily Your Live Audience. You know them by name. If you play out live, they attend your shows regularly, and buy many things you offer  (not just music). If you have a street team they are on it and they evangelize strongly on your behalf.

Community 2: Are your Engaged Fans (

These fans are your Active Online Audience. They are newsletter subscribers, , blog readers, video watchers, RSS subscribers, active Social Media engagers who frequently comment & engage with you on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.

This last installment focuses on:

Community 3: Ambient Fans

These fans are your Passive Online Audience and they are your social media friends who are aware of you via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc but don’t actively communicate with you and may not have even heard your music (yet). (more…)


In Defense of 1,000 True Fans – I Fight Dragons: 1 Band, 1 Year, & 10,000 New Fans – Part V

I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at NAMM last week about how to make money in the music business. Normally when I speak on panels it’s me and a few other Social Media,  Marketing, and PR peeps but this panel which was curated by Tony Van Veen of CD Baby / Discmakers was exceptional because it included an artist who is making it right now…  Brian Mazzaferri, the fearles leader of Chicago’s own I Fight Dragons had incredible insights to share about was his band is doing now to make money in the brave new world of “The old model isn’t quite totally dead yet, but the new model isn’t really proven either.”He took some time to really delve into his thoughts on the theroy and I’m delighted that he shared his insight with me and I know you will be too: (more…)

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In Defense Of 1,000 True Fans – Matthew Ebel – Part II

In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in.  Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.

What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.

Imagine what it will be like for him when he gets to 1,000?  The other thing that really stood out for me is the fact that an artist like Matthew (who is totally comfortable with Social Media and extremely Internet savvy) has very little idea what to do with analytics that he is gathering via Google Analytics,, and, as well as email stats via Blue Sky Factory. (more…)

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In Defense of 1,000 True Fans – Mountain Goats – Part I

Since I started my career in this business. I’ve always been working within the 1,000 True Fans model.
Here’s my story: In 1996, I was living in Boulder, CO and I had just started Ariel Publicity, my boutique PR firm.

Acoustic Junction and Zuba two local bands became my first clients. Both had been staples in Boulder for a couple of years, and both made fantastic livings touring and selling their independent releases from coast to coast. They did this with no label, no distribution, and no major marketing budgets: just a manager, a tour manager, and me.

I also represented The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, The Slackers, and Skinnerbox, (and practically everyone touring during the third wave of Ska).

These artists and dozens like them all made full time livings from playing and touring.  They had a core group of fans that supported them by seeing several shows a year, buying merch and buying albums.

Today, it feels revolutionary when we hear about bands that make a living based on their music.

What happened? What changed?

The fact that CD sales are decimated has clearly not helped at all, because a major part of the income for each one of these bands who were road dogs was selling merchandise at shows. To top that off Internet has glutted the playing field.

I refuse to listen to the naysayers who are refuting 1,000 True Fans and I am going to focus on featuring as many artists as I can who are proving the model.

My theory is: Plenty of artists are getting to 1,000 True Fans, but it’s going to take some time for them to prove the model because it takes time to build true fans in today’s two-way conversation economy.

One-on-one fan building using touring and social media can be painful. I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that if playing music full-time is your dream, passion, and calling I believe it’s possible.

Trent Reznor and Radiohead proved 1,000 True Fans practically overnight and they will always remain as the two cornerstones of artists who did it quickly and efficiently for obvious reasons that don’t need to be rehashed here.

On our panel at the New Music Seminar in Chicago this past week Corey Denis presented the first artist I will focus on: The Mountain Goats.

Here is Corey Denis’s full report:

I entered the music business at the exact witching hour when the Internet was born. My career was rarely based on physical marketing and very quickly became focused purely on digital content, online street team/ fan base development & digital marketing for artists & projects ranging in genre from comedy (Stephen Lynch), indie electropop (Figurine), funk (Maceo Parker), folk (David Wilcox), to indie rock (Frank Black, The Slip), Jazz (Charlie Hunter) and Jambands (New Monsoon).

And through all of this work over a 12-year period, I’ve discovered 3 key crucial elements to figuring out the new music industry.

1.    Run your career like a business, but ditch the myths: there is very little money in the music industry, there never was much to begin with and there’s less now. Record labels are not going to rescue you.

2.    Quality Matters.

3.    All careers take time: It takes at least 12 years to “make it” (for this purpose, let’s define “make it” as a television appearance on a #4 Nielsen rated late night show)

The three rules generally work together: Setting appropriate expectations, focusing on your art, and connecting to your fans as you develop over a long period of time. Your career is an investment by you, and anyone who wants to pay you to be you. And for a return on your investment, your goal is to make it a desirable investment to your most beloved fans.  But how do they become true fans?  If you remember the first two rules, the third is up to you. My favorite more recent example is the Mountain Goats. I don’t work with them, but I happen to love the band and know a “superfan” named Matthew. (Superfan: One who spends $100 – $300/ year on a band).

As I interviewed Matthew, he explained how he just purchased a purple vinyl limited edition (only 777 available worldwide) of the new Mountain Goats album; he “couldn’t wait to twitter about it.” He went on to show me that his photo of a rare Mountain Goats collaborative release with Kaki King on swirled vinyl received over 500 unique views – the most views “any photo has ever received on my flickr account.” Matthew beams with pride as he reports spending “at least $400/ year on the Mountain Goats” on items ranging from vinyl (new and rare) to digital EPs and t-shirts. And that is the best-case scenario any artist can hope for – a fan that takes pride in both the full experience and consumption of your art.

Converting pride into a return on investment will take at least ten years.

The reality of 1,000 true fans beyond the joy of garnering fans is knowing what to do once you know you have a fan, while continually growing as an artist.

The Mountain Goats are not just any band making any kind of music. You can bet that their album ‘Sunset Tree’ will end up on multiple “Top 100” albums of the last decade, and the band is regularly revered by music critics worldwide ranging from Pitchfork to

Last week, The Mountain Goats (now on 4ad), promoted their new release by way of a performance on the Colbert Report.  And none of this happened overnight. Not even close. Darnielle has been building relationships with his fans for more than 12 years, and their overt appreciation of his art is the result of a pure connection built on respect. John Darnielle, with more talent in his eyelash than most people have in their entire bodies, respects his fans. Here are 5 ways John Darnielle has built one of the greatest indie success stories of all time, based on talent, fans & genuine connections:

1. Communicate With Fans As If They Are Friends
In the mid-90s, Darnielle played extremely small venues (coffee shops, pizza joints) and stayed after the show to sit with anyone who enjoyed the show. “When a connection was made, he took their address and wrote a letter to every single person,” explains Matthew. He loves this story, and with reason: this is actually how Darnielle met his wife. Matthew knows the story inside-out and continues to tell it with a smile, “her name is Lalitree, and the song about her is called ‘02-75’ because that was her Post Office Box number.”  Darnielle communicates directly with fans electronically today by posting on the popular forum at The Mountain Goats website.  At one point he asked his fans what kind of merchandise they wanted. The forum exploded with fan suggestions and The Mountain Goats delivered: the next tour had a Mountain Goats reusable grocery sack for sale as merchandise. The grocery sack sold out.

2. Make Music Available
The Mountain Goats release an album about every 2 years, but between full album releases, fans are inundated with singles & EPs. John Darnielle has released multiple singles & EPs unexpectedly on the forum, with donations accepted but not required. In addition, Darnielle requests on the forum that fans do not steal. Matthew reports he has “always paid, always. I have to, why wouldn’t I?”

3. Make Limited Edition Physical Product: Take Advantage Of 1K Runs!
Once able, it is wise to invest in physical product to sell on the road and online. The Mountain Goats have released split EPs with Kaki King & John Vanderslice on limited edition vinyl.  A limited vinyl edition of The Mountain Goats album Satanic Messiah was released only at indie retail, with a catch: 666 copies only. The most recent Mountain Goats album, The Life Of The World To Come (released last Tuesday) has a similar limited edition purple vinyl release, this time 777 copies. Matthew owns #740 and explained, “Some people on the forum have 3 copies.” Fans did not know which indie retail store would carry the vinyl, so they had to seek it out. Matthew found his at Rasputin music in downtown San Francisco.

4. Your Fans Are Smart, All 1,000 Of Them
If it’s not you on Twitter, your fans will know. If it’s not you on the forum, your fans will know. If it’s bad music that isn’t finished, your fans will know. If you are writing form letters, your fans will know. To build a connection with fans and harvest a relationship, it is important to remember that your fans are as smart as you, they demand the same quality art that you demand of yourself. They are growing with you, aging as you age, over about 12 years, to enable your career as a full time musician making a decent living.

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