22 Nov
 - 
Article

How to Grow Your Fanbase as an Artist

How to Grow Your Fanbase as an Artist - Complete Guide

Building and cultivating a dedicated fanbase is essential for any artist, no matter where you are in your career. As an emerging artist just starting out or an established artist playing sold out venues, maintaining a real connection with your fans is key.

In this blog post, we'll use our experience working with artists at all levels and share actionable tips on how to to organically build and grow your fanbase from the ground up.

Defining fans

Let's start at the beginning by asking the question “What is the difference between a fan and a listener?” Simply put, a listener is someone who connects and relates with you and your music. A fan is someone who listens repeatedly, who shares your music with their friends, is subscribed to your newsletter and who proactively engages with you across social media platforms.

As humans we crave a sense of belonging and being surrounded by a community of people who resonate with the same things and interests as we do. Instead of asking yourself "how do I convert listeners into fans?", think "how can I build an authentic relationship with people?".

Creating an emotional connection with someone via music or social media is key to building a fanbase of loyal followers from scratch. 

Ultimately, fans are the people who will buy and stream your music, attend your concerts, buy merch, follow you, like, comment on, and share your posts on social media. But, you’ve got to build an authentic, trusted relationship and keep giving them things to get excited about!

Superfans

Superfans are your most dedicated fans, the ones who closely follow everything you’re doing and are most engaged with your music and socials.

The relationship with your superfans should be carefully fostered and should be  a two-way relationship. Consider giving them access to exclusive content, merch, giveaways, behind-the-scenes footage and more.  All to make sure they feel special and part of your community.

They can become your biggest cheerleaders, spreading the word far and wide and helping to grow your fanbase as an artist.

The Process to building a fanbase as an Artist

Follow these key steps to start the process of building your fanbase:

  1. Define your Identity & Branding
  2. Identify your target audience personas
  3. Build a strategy to connect with your target audience
  4. Post regularly and keep the content engaging
  5. Foster connections through live shows and in real life activities
  6. Don’t be defined by numbers - they aren't everything!

Let's break it down...

1. Define your identity / branding

You’ve created some great music but now what?  The first thing to do should be to spend time thinking about your identity, working out who and what you want your public persona to be.

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • What is my artist proposition?
  • Who are you as an artist?
  • What story do you want to tell?
  • What makes you unique and stand out?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your aesthetic?
  • How do you want to be seen in the world?
  • What messages do you want to portray?
  • Which parts of you and your personality do you want to be in the public realm?

Write down answers to all of these questions and then fine tune these notes into a more actionable plan. Everything you do, say, post and present to the world is an opportunity to tell people who you are. But remember being authentic is key.

We will be doing a deeper dive in how to build your brand as an artist so check back soon!

Some great examples of artists who have nailed their identity and branding are Paramore, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, The 1975, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat and of course, Taylor Swift.  By researching their strategies and analysing other artists within your genre, you’ll start to understand what works and what doesn’t from a strategic standpoint.

2. Identify your target audience 

Before jumping into promotion and showing who you are to the world, it is important to understand who you think you and your music is likely to resonate with. 

Start by clearly defining your target fan persona based on demographics like age, location, gender as well as interests, values and personality. 

Note: It’s important to get specific to create a clear picture of your ideal fan, but don’t let this consume you. You’ll naturally attract fans from other demographic groups and traits - your ideal fan should be your priority focus to begin with. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Analyse your musical style/genre and ask yourself who is usually drawn to this type of music? 
  • Are they youth, early teens, college students or adults? 
  • What are their interests outside of music? 
  • What websites are they reading?  What radio stations are they listening to?

Look at the artists you admire or have been inspired by and take inspiration from them and study what their fan bases typically look like. 

You can also gain useful perspective by looking at where and how people are finding and listening to music right now when you are first starting out. What streaming platforms, playlists, radio stations, or other platforms is similar music being consumed on? Use data tools like Chartmetric and unhurd to study the demographics of listeners of playlists or artists with a similar style to help influence your own target audience.

Taking the time upfront to understand your ideal listener allows you to further tailor your brand, messaging and content strategy specifically to resonate with people most likely to connect with your music.

3. Build a strategy to connect with your target audience

After you have established who your audience is, you have to find them. The key here is to strategically place yourself in the platforms and communities where your ideal fans are engaging with content related to your musical style and genre.

Research

Research relevant hashtags and communities on social channels like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Discord, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc. related to your musical genre/style and engage in those spaces.

Track Growth

Use music marketing tools like unhurd or Spotify For Artists to help keep track of growth and playlisting and to check your listener demographics. 

Owned Website

Also be sure to create a website as your online hub and include smart links to all your social profiles to drive traffic. As you grow you’ll have more fans searching for you on Google as well as socials, so having a website gives you a more natively branded centralised location that can be found easily.

Online Communities

Explore online forums, blogs or communities focused on your particular musical niche and engage with users there. They are likely your target audience. For example, as a hip hop artist, a quick search on Reddit found r/hiphop101 with 923K members. Subreddits like r/WeAreTheMusicMakers, r/ThisIsOurMusic, r/RateMyAudio are good for getting feedback on your music. For pop artists, Popheads is very active in discussing pop music and stan culture with over 300K members.

Aside from Reddit, the Songwriters Guild Community provides education and connections for songwriters trying to break into the industry.

Search Terms

Also, search relevant keywords on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok etc. and engage with users who frequently post about those topics and hashtags. The key is to provide value to your community.

Ask Them

As your fan base starts to grow, reach out and ask them how they found you and where they engage with similar music online. They can provide invaluable insider information! You could ask them directly on Instagram, or create a two-way channel on WhatsApp or Discord. 

In Person Networking

Finally, look for opportunities to network in person at concerts, conferences or events related to your genre. Interacting face-to-face with your audience and peers can accelerate your fan growth.

4. Post regularly and keep the content engaging

We understand it's often difficult to find time to post regularly on social media! But consistency does not mean overpowering your socials daily, it means being consistent with what you are doing on your socials. Always post with purpose and meaning to maximise impact.

Build generating content into your weekly schedule - If you set aside 1-2 hours a week for just content creation and plan out the next few months with releases, photoshoots, behind-the-scenes videos, collaborations, partnership deals, tutorials etc, you will find yourself with lots of good quality content that will take the pressure off having to constantly think about new content to post. 

Ultimately, you want to make sure you are generating content that resonates with your audience, so test different ideas and formats to figure out what works for you and your fanbase. Also, you don’t have to be constantly active on every social platform, two is enough - there isn’t time to do more successfully - TikTok and IG are the safest bets but once you understand your fans more, other platforms might be better suited.. 

The positive effect of consistency is that it keeps you fresh in your followers' minds and keeps them coming back to see what's new. Out of sight means out of mind.  It also means being out of algorithms!

Posting can increase discoverability or unknown audiences but interaction with your current followers is important to foster loyalty.

Try this as a technique  - Put yourself in your fans' shoes and post content you'd genuinely want to see, while following accounts, brands and artists you enjoy.

A great artist example of building engagement and a loyal fan base through posts, pop ups and real life fan moments is flowerovlove -  see here!

5. Foster connections through live and in real life activities

A live performance is a unique experience that cannot be truly replicated through recordings or digital platforms. The power of live extends far beyond gigs, as they can captivate audiences and build a dedicated fanbase. Here are some tips on how you can do that to help build memorable bonds, inspire loyalty and word-of-mouth support early on in your career.

  • Host meet and greets before or after shows to interact with fans face-to-face. Sign autographs, take photos and answer questions.
  • Share behind-the-scenes moments on social media – soundchecks, green room, tour bus activities etc. to display the transparency between you and your fans and help them feel special and part of the journey.
  • Learn your fans’ names and details during interactions so you can reference them next time as recognition makes a big impression!
  • Between shows, chat with your audience online and in real life about your creative process, influences etc. so they feel they are getting to know the real you in real time - a good example of an emerging artist using live strategies is Isaac Anderson - see here!
  • Offer VIP experiences with exclusive merchandise, early entry, tours etc. as an incentive for superfans.
  • Connections don’t have to just be at shows.  Create happenings or situations to interact more with your fans - you could set up a trip to the pub or the cinema with your 10 closest fans for example.  Or set up an acoustic performance in one lucky fan’s sitting room.  Fun ideas like this can go a long way!
  • Follow up with fans online after shows – share photos, inside jokes, thanks etc. to keep momentum going. You can even ask them to influence artwork, lyrics etc.

6. Don’t be defined by numbers - they aren't everything

Of course it's natural to want to see all your numbers going up straight away as it's a strong indicator that your music is connecting and you’re building a fanbase.  But it's important not to get too hung up on your data and let it impact your confidence.  Instead make sure you’re looking at the right metrics at the right time:

  • Focus on engagement. 100 engaged fans are better than 10,000 passive followers who never interact or listen regularly.
  • Don't be disheartened by slow growth. Organic growth through quality content lasts longer.
  • Make sure you concentrate on metrics that reflect your fanbase when you are in the early stages of your career rather than streaming numbers.  When you have an audience, the streaming numbers will come!

And remember, your fans are people, not just numbers!:

  • Seek feedback and constructive criticism from fans rather than just likes and shares as this will help you to improve!
  • Prioritise connection over algorithms. Being human is what will help you relate to your audience. 
  • Not all fans will interact regularly, and that's okay. As long as some engage, you're doing well. Think about how many you follow…do you like and comment on every account?
  • Every fan matters, no matter how many. Be grateful for each one who connects with your music.

It’s clear that building a fanbase takes time and requires consistent effort.. If you focus on quality over quantity, value real connections, define your target audience, engage them regularly online and in-person, and provide value through genuine interactions, you should see your audience starting to grow over time.Trust your instincts and your fans, and don’t forget “Rome wasn't built in a day”, building a fanbase takes time, dedication and patience!

If you're wondering how to grow your fanbase as an artist and get discovered, join unhurd today! unhurd demystifies your data and empowers artists at any level by giving you the tools to build a meaningful fanbase.