I’m just back from the mighty ASCAP Expo in Los Angeles where I spoke on a panel, did a book signing and sponsored.

I learned so much from the hundreds of artists I spoke to over the 3 days there and I boarded the plane with a whole new perspective on just how confronting marketing and social media is to 90% of artists.

You guys REALLY hate this stuff

You hate it so much that I literally felt like I had been beaten up over the concerns, complaints and sheer confusion directed my way.

So I  will kick off with this: Making it in music is HARD

No matter what side of the fence you are on.  My friends who are managers and agents and club owners work just as hard as my artist friends.  And, music industry professionals are getting laid off left and right. This game (if you choose to play it) is not for the meek!

And now you, the artist are required to do a WHOLE LOT MORE than you might have 7, 8, 9 or 10 years ago (if you were lucky enough to have a label).

But here’s the thing:

The basic rules for success are still the same.

They have always been the same and those artists who understand this succeed: To Increase Your Bottom Line (no matter how you define your bottom line) you MUST focus on your fans!

The first step towards this is building rapport with everyone you come into contact with in person, social media and on your email list.

Everyone always references the astonishing Amanda Palmer as the poster child for success in this paradigm – the woman focuses on her fans!

You know how Amanda does this?

She STAYS at the venue after each and every show signing every CD and piece of merch and scrap of paper put in front of her

She STAYS until she has personally touched the last fan.

Then she STAYS in touch with them long after she has left their town with her newsletter, her blog, her Facebook posts and her Twitter stream.

She understands the rules of engagement.

It’s not magic – its just hard work.

You can have what she has too and here is how:

Today we are going back to three very important basics

(I’m not going to focus on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and all the social media that drives you bonkers this time – you can read many articles I wrote about social media on this blog)

  1. Your Newsletter
  2. Your Product Line
  3. Asking Your Fans What They Want

Your Newsletter

I have seen it countless times – artists that misuse their email lists and ONLY reach out to their fans when they have something to SELL them (a show, a new release etc.) but they never reach out to their fans for other reasons: to bond, share a funny story, or invite everyone out to the local bowling alley on a Tuesday night for a hang (I’m serious).

Every study on sales has proven one thing: People hate to be sold to, however people love to buy, and people always love to buy from people whom they like and trust.  People in Amanda’s circle of followers trust her.

Great sales people sell by creating relationships with their customers and knowing how to stay in their customer’s hearts and minds until the customer is ready to buy.

Now you may be freaking out here a bit – your Fans are NOT customers in your mind. Your fans don’t “buy” from you and you do not consider them in that light – I totally understand this but I am asking you to shift from  your artist mind for a moment and get into your business mind.

You (your music and your art) are a brand and if you want to make money you should consider this: Your fans are your customers.

They give you money to support your creative livelihood (if they are not yet, you need to put an action plan into place to make this so)

So there are some things to consider here based on looking at it in this light:

First: Do you have fan base to sell to?

This means:

A) An email list

B) An active Facebook community

C) Twitter Followers

D) Blog readers (and your blog cross posted on other sites such as, Last.fm, Facebook and through Twitter links, etc.)

I consider a real fan base a MINIMUM of 5,000 across your social networks and 1,000 on your email list.

Your Product Line

Second: Do you have a product line?

Do you only sell CDs and MP3s?

Do you have assorted merchandise?

A fan club / monthly offerings?

Do you tell your mailing list you are available to play private events, parties, weddings or BBQs?

If you do not have many things to sell you music begin to think about this.

Third: Do you send well-designed, track able monthly newsletters?

If not you should switch to a service that has helps you create them and tracks how many people open them.




ConvertKit for Musicians

You should also install widgets for mailing list building. I love  these:



Asking Your Fans What They Want

Fourth: Have you asked your fans what they want to buy?

Interview them and ask!

Your fans may want coffee mugs or yoga mats and unless you ask you will never know.

In a Newsletter: Use Survey Monkey

Use the wonderful Survey Monkey http://www.surveymonkey.com/ To run a survey on your newsletter list and ask what your fans may like to buy.

For Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook: In-App

There are now options on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for you to create a poll within a post!

Fifth: Do you have another talent that your fans don’t know about?

Do you paint?

Do you write?

Do you bake?

Is there another way you make money that your fans may want to know about?

You can start a Pledege, Rockethub or Kickstarter campaign and show off your other talents while you raise money for your music allowing your fans to support you even more!

Sixth: Can you create some sort of monthly continuum program that your fans might pay a premium for?

How about a live track of the month club or a special new song you are working on? Would your fans pay $2 a month for that? (If you think so that’s $24 per fan and that adds up. Read all about how artist Matthew Ebel has achieved this here! http://tinyurl.com/1000truefans-ebel

So to recap:

  1. Build your email list!! Every day think about whom you can get on your list.
  1. Communicate regularly and consistently using a real email program.
  1. When your list gets to be at least 1,000 strong ASK them what they may like from you and how much they will pay.
  1. Create products and fan clubs and house concerts to satisfy your fans!
  1. Create a continuum program to get paid consistently or launch a fan-funding project.
  1. Get paid more to do what you love.

I would love to hear any stories you have on these basics!

Please share them here

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