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February 21, 2013

Step 6: Look to build relationships

Amanda Palmer's Ninja Beach Gathering

(Photo credit: Burns!)

Artists, of all people, understand that the more information we all share,

the better it is for our business and for ourselves.

Janis Ian

Business, and the music business in particular, is built on relationships. To reach your goals you will need to build many relationships with your peers, fans, and then music industry colleagues - in that order. You have to build these relationships by having personal contact with each of these people. You cannot do this by remote control. A million Facebook likes are not nearly as important as 1000 true fans.

You have to gather people's esteem first and foremost (see Step 8). This means you have to give people a reason to think you're great and (revisit "what's remarkable") something to tell their friends about you so they will come to see you next time you play. That starts with your songs and your performances, but it also includes your professionalism, your coolness, and your ability to make them money. Remember: your time can't be copied. If you give it to an interviewer, or a fan, or a peer, you cannot be ripped off and you will be investing in more and stronger relationships.

Your peers - Whether you like it or not, most of the people who hear your music early on will be other musicians. Ask not what they can do for you but what you can do for them (sorry, JFK) - find ways to help them out. Share what you have learned and teach others to do what you do - and what not to do. Look for opportunities to expand your influence by getting involved in music communities - online and offline. You might not feel that you have much to offer, but you will make friends and allies just by sharing. Your peers are the key to getting your music in front of their fans and converting some into being your fans as well. This is NOT a zero-sum game.

Your fans - As your writing and your show improves, you will meet more and more people who are there just for the music. You have to turn these people into fans of your music. This is a strange relationship but ultimately the most important. If you have 1000 true fans - fans who will spend $100 a year on your shows and merch, you have a viable small business. Meet them in person at every opportunity - be cool.

Colleagues - If you get enough of the first two relationships, these people will come looking for you. When they do, don't be a dickhead. Ultimately, these people want a relationship that makes money. They will come to you if you have enough fan relationships. But remember: this industry if full of pretenders - you need a your smoke detector (see intro) at full strength here.

Step 6 Exercises

Write down 10 peers who you hold in high esteem. Ask yourself:

  • What do you like about them?
  • What do they like about you?
  • What can you do to help them?
  • What can they do to help you?

Repeat with your top 10 fans.

Repeat with 10 colleagues.

Some of these people may become partners of the kind mentioned in Step 3. They might become your "true fans" who will promote your stuff to other people, give you feedback on your new ideas, or fund your next fanfunding drive. If you don't cultivate those relationships (see Step 7), they will be lost to you.

Exercise to take home

There's one undeniable truth about this DIY music approach: he who dies with the biggest email database wins. Your first priority has to be to build enough of these fan relationships to reach your goals. Facebook likes are nice and a Twitter following works for Amanda Palmer, but you need to establish a way to regularly, consistently communicate with the hearts and minds of your fans. If they dont like you enough to empower you to contact them like this, then they're not really your fans, they're just  following the crowd in liking you.

  • Check out the possibilities for fan databases (see 'resources' at the end).
  • Think about the points at which you contact your fans
    • At shows?
    • Via articles you write on your blog or other publications?
    • Soundcloud releases?

Wherever you contact fans, think of ways to ask them to put their email address into your database. This might mean working the room after a show, or putting widget on your blog, or leaving a link on your YouTube channel. Build those requests into your work habits. A little effort every week will build a solid list over a short time. But remember: these must be genuine relationships - you can't buy them from a marketing company.

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Posted by DrHuge at February 21, 2013 10:41 AM
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