Grab your local spot and own it
How do you build a fanbase? One fan at a time!
You don’t start out by booking an arena and hoping people will show up. You wouldn’t dream of doing that, praying that by some social media reach, promo package or ad budget that you would reach enough new people that will actually turn up.
As I’ve said before, because there is so much music created and uploaded everyday to Spotify (60,000 songs a day - insane!) you have to find a way for people to know you exist and become YOUR audience. You are not just going to get ‘discovered’ without some effort from your part!
So where do you start?
Starting local is my recommendation. Your potential fanbase is already in the local venues to hear whatever music is available to them. I include the open mics in that too. Each one of these opportunities is a way to get in front of potential new fans. People are very happy to listen to good local artists for low cost / no cost to them.
Should I ever play for exposure alone?
If you get paid is ultimately your choice, and I’m sure some of you will have heard the dreaded phrase “it will be good for your exposure”. If a gig is actually worth playing for exposure (ie: opening for Ed Sheeran) then they can afford to pay you! Get paid to play at every opportunity if you can, but some of these opportunities might not offer that.
Exposure could be worth it when growing a fanbase or performing in a new area, especially when you are starting out. It could be as simple as demonstrating a great working ethic and audience interaction if that’s not clear from your experience. That gives a venue confidence and shows them you are reliable. At that point you definitely need to start charging a fee.
What about open mics?
The open mic circuit is also very useful because it allows you to get to know the other local musicians playing their regular slots. Turn up often, and become a familiar face. Open mics are also great to test out songs live before thinking about recording them. The best thing about them is that people usually listen.
Look at it like this, maybe you dream of headlining at the O2, and maybe someday you will. Right now though that’s not your venue. Maybe your venue is the back bar of the Horse and Hounds in Localville. It’s not grand, but it’s a stage, and it’s got an audience. Start there, learn your trade, learn how to play in front of people, learn how to talk to the audience, and bring them along with your story. It’s your spot; Ed Sheeran isn’t going to turn up and take it off you, and you are probably no threat right now to grabbing his venue! Work your spot, and work on growing the local places where you can be the local headliner, however small that place is.
If you don't grab it because you are looking for a better one, then someone else will. Get known locally, build real life fans and not numbers on a PC screen. Online followers can be transient, and unfortunately you have less control over reaching them, and little control if they will stay loyal. Your local fan base might just return because it’s down the road, they might tell their mates, they might be willing to travel to the next local town, when your gigs get a little bigger. They might like you just because you are from their hometown.
Let’s get back to this real life fan / artist interaction, and stop experiencing life through the lens of social media.
So find your local spot, and grab it!
Today I help singers and songwriters explore their own potential, working alongside them to transform their ideas into fully finished songs they are proud of.
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