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Building Your Fanbase - Attention, Engagement and Buzz


Musicians Don't Make Great Fans


It's interesting. It's pretty easy to add other musicians to your mailing list/followers, but they don't tend to make good fans. Mostly because:

  • For many, they were not out looking for new music
  • They follow you so you follow them. There is an implied follow-back.
  • Once on mailing lists most will never open a single email from you.
  • They don't follow you because they like your music. In fact, on my sites like ReverbNation they probably didn't even listen to your songs.
  • Often they are focused on boasting about having a large numbers of followers, but privately moan at the lack of response of their large following. (I see this frequently amongst musicians on Twitter with large followings that generate pitifully few plays/downloads and they wonder why!)
  • For every actual fan you find, there are probably 100 follow exchanges.

Such arrangements can be beneficial when it comes to contacts for collaborating, but it sucks when it comes to building a proper, responsive fanbase.


Facing The Truth


The truth most indies have to face up to is that:


  • Friends and family don't tend to be fans of your music, they are fans of YOU (at best ;) )
  • Other musicians are too transactional, support you as a friend (if you know them) or more likely pay lip-service
    • At some point (sooner the better) you need to find and encourage actual fans, who don't know you, but simply like your music


This is why musicians can spend a lifetime gigging but not getting anywhere... they neglected to build an actual fanbase. The clues are there when:

  • Your audience is so small that you notice Doug and his friends were no-shows.
  • That you have to phone round friends to drum up an audience for your set
  • You are playing the same venues as you were 3 years ago
  • You don't actually sell tickets to your gigs


Of course, now we have a post Covid-19 music landscape to contemplate.




That said, the same two constants are there:


  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling records
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling downloads
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling tickets for gigs
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling records
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling merch
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from live-stream donations
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from selling live-stream tickets
  • It doesn't matter if you make money from getting plays


  1. The first constant? To do any of these successfully you need a healthy, engaged fanbase.
  2. The second constant? To keep doing any of these, you need to keep adding to your fanbase.


The Steps To Take


In all scenarios, your chances improve when you make good, appealing music. You having good music and striving to make better music, is a given.


  1. GETTING ATTENTION is an essential part to starting your fanbase and to growing your fanbase
  2. KEEPING ATTENTION is an essential part to retaining your fanbase
  3. Getting attention and keeping it are cornerstones of ENGAGEMENT
  4. Engagement is essential if you want to BUILD BUZZ and MOTIVATE YOUR FANBASE


Moving forward has to start somewhere. There is a chain of events that lead you towards success with your music. It started a while ago when you started learning instruments, learning to read and write, learning to write music, to record to produce... but if you put all your effort in to building one leg, and forget about the other, you will only run in circles.


To use another analogy, you have spent all your time building a beautiful shiny motorcycle. All your money goes on that. The truth is, you would love to go out on a sunny day and ride around. After all, the bike is awesome. The trouble is, to ride your bike you need oil, gas, air in your tyres, a license, insurance. You accept all these less than glamorous expenses are necessary to ride that bike... so why can't you accept that your music career needs a lot of less glamorous parts to make it happen?


Do yourself a favor. Take the next step.

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