We’ve all been there, when you start off as an artist, the first people to support your work, check out your stuff, come to your shows are inevitably going to be your inner circle of friends and family. And even when they come back to more shows or check out your next batch, how do you compare those people – your people – to the Average Joe who finds you on the internet? What you have to do is treat your friends (and your friends’ friends) like fans. That doesn’t mean treat ‘em like strangers, but use these steps to help turn your squad into your fan club.
1. Treat them special
How does Taylor Swift treat her biggest fans? By giving them special attention. Whether it’s a retweet or a backstage pass, Taylor is The Queen of engaging her most loyal followers. (Editor’s Note: In all things fan-related, Taylor Swift is the best at it. Don’t shake your head, it’s true. That’s why she’s rich AF.)
At the early stages of your career, you may not have a following like #TaylorNation, but you will have a loyal crew of friends and family who will be the front lines of your marketing assault, so you should absolutely give them the attention they deserve. Treat them special, because they are special! Those friends that come out to shows number 3, 4, and 5, or who keep tweeting about your latest single – do something nice for ‘em, and show them your love. Invite your friends into the recording studio. Invite them backstage. Give them a shoutout on your socials. Give them a first listen to the latest track. They'll repay you in kind, and they'll know more about your life as an artist. And by letting them know how much you appreciate their support, you’ll encourage them to keep climbing the ranks towards #1 Fan status.
2. Bring them into the braintrust
Another great way to engage your squad is to bring them into the fold. Odds are, your smattering of friends are pretty representative of the general public, so when you need to do some market research, you shouldn’t hesitate on where to turn. If you need some opinions on logo designs, or which tune to release as the first single, send that stuff around and ask for responses. At the end of the day, it’s always your call, but getting some help from your homies not only makes those decisions easier, but it makes your homies feel more involved. And when people feel more involved, they get more involved. I know that artists can be insecure folk – fuck man, I’m as crazy as they come – but these are the people you know you can trust, so if there’s anyone to share your works in progress with, it’s them. We all need ambassadors that help spread the word beyond our own network - you don’t have to scour the earth for these people, just look around at who you’re hanging with on a Friday night.
3. Help them help you
Here’s the thing about the music industry, no one knows what works and what doesn’t. And that’s especially true of people who aren’t actually in the industry themselves. So when you’re friends want to help and support you, the best thing to do is to tell them how. Maybe you need more comments on your SoundCloud tracks: tell your friends to comment on your SoundCloud tracks. Maybe it’s followers on Spotify, or names on an email list, or people to yell “one more song” at the end of your set cuz you have an encore planned and you need to make sure you get one. If you need to find a graphic designer, maybe your friends can help refer some graphic designers. These are your people, they want to help – just tell them how.
4. Use the appropriate channels
Now here’s the tricky part. You’ve engaged your biggest fans, brought ‘em into the fold, and gotten them involved in actively helping you further your career...but it’s always hard to tell if they’re just in it for you or if they’re in it for the art you’re making. The best way to help set some boundaries is to use the appropriate channels to communicate at all times.
While they may be your friends, when you’ve got your artist hat on, you have to talk to them like you would anyone else. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a personal touch, but promotional emails should come on the mailing list, Facebook campaigns should hit em through Facebook, and your tone on stage should be one of a professional promoting their brand, not a friend asking for a favor. While it’s important to treat your biggest fans like your biggest fans, that means interacting with them like fans as well.
Feature by David Rothschild
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