Learn to use social media to grow your crowd and connect with fans. Eight pro musicians share their experiences and insight.
The breadth, influence, and power of social media has been snowballing for a decade, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. From poets to politicians, people are developing and using social networks to promote, rally, and inform.
Artists and musicians may be among those with the very most to gain. Social media puts an amazing array of free marketing tools at your fingertips—tools that just a couple decades ago bands would have done almost anything for. Social can help you grow your audience and connect with your fans in amazing new ways. It’s not about to replace your band website or keeping up a steady gigging schedule, but using it like the pros we talked to can help you build a loyal fan base.
Use social media to grow your fan base
Social media is relatively new to the music industry, but marketing is not. The aim is the same: Get your music in front of new listeners. Cutting through the noise and building buzz for your music takes creativity in the way you go about using both traditional and social media.
Adrienne Osborn, bassist and frontwoman of the ‘80s-influenced synth pop-rock trio Adrienne O, has an interesting social media strategy: she promotes other bands.
I try to connect with and promote bands who are like us—who might have a similar demographic in their fan bases. But because I come from an IT background and am not a hipster, I also try to reach outside those "affinity" music groups to connect with people who might just be a good fit personally, like a real-life friend or acquaintance. - Adrienne Osborn (@AdrienneOBand), Adrienne O
There’s an inherent confidence and authenticity in sharing other musicians with your social networks. And in the music business like perhaps no other industry, it’s who you know. Those social media friendships may end up paying you back some day.
The Last Year is an alternative rock band from Baltimore with another creative strategy for growing their audience through the social web.
We've found blogs to be a great way for new people to hear our music. When we first released our new record, I spent hours every day searching The Hype Machine for bloggers who might dig our music. I would look for bloggers who had reviewed music in our genre and then email them. I felt so silly at the time, but it worked! We got some GREAT quotes for our new record, which we included in our promotional flyers that went to radio stations nationwide. When it comes time for us to release our new record in January, we'll already have made those relationships with bloggers, and it makes it easier to get rolling. - Niki Barr (@the_last_year), The Last Year
A lot of music bloggers are building and maintaining their own audiences, and they want to be one of the first to share the next big band or album. It’s a win-win.
Social media can definitely help grow your fan base, but the best way to do it is not the way everyone else is going it. Get creative.
Use social media to connect with your crowd
As you’re connecting with new people, you don’t want to neglect your existing fans. Your fan base won’t actually grow if people are quitting you as fast as they’re joining you. Social media is the perfect tool for keeping your fans connected, you just have to actually use it.
Matt Turk and Kristen Lynn are both talented, eclectic, and experienced musicians. Both have well-established fan bases, but both have found that simple, regular social media updates help them stay connected with their audiences.
I use social media to share events and personal updates on most platforms. I try to keep it plain, real, and down to earth. - Matt Turk (@TurkTunes)
I connect with my audience by posting updates about everything from shows, to rehearsals, to new songs I'm working on. - Kristen Lynn (@KrisLynnMusic)
There are better and best strategies, but the key first step is getting into a regular, reliable pattern of updating your audience through social media.
Social media as a backstage pass
You really start to connect with your fans when you use social media to bring them backstage. As the VP of Online Marketing at Minneapolis public relations firm Karwoski & Courage, David Erickson has helped a lot of musicians get the most out of their social media channels.
One of the primary tactics I advise musicians on is using online communication to lift the curtain, and let your fans see the behind-the-scenes of what it's like to be in a band. If you're on tour, talk about being on tour. If you are creating songs, post some snippets of the song in progress so people can hear how it evolves (which also happens to be a great way to build anticipation for an album release). Take photos of the crowd at your gigs/concerts, and let the audience know you'll post them on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and where to find them. - David Erickson (@KarwoskiCourage), Karwoski & Courage Creative PR
Derek Fawcett has worn a lot of hats in the music industry. He filled vacancies as drummer and booking agent for his band Down The Line, and recently branched out into a solo side project as well. He knows how to connect with a broad fan base.
Being a touring musician, I get to see parts of the world up close that lots of people don't get to see, so I try to share that with my fans as much as possible. Pictures from stage in London posted to Instagram, video of a live performance from Hotel Café in Los Angeles posted to my Facebook artist page, and tweeting my gratitude toward newfound fans in Cape Town are just a few examples. If I do my job right, people who might never even see me perform still feel invested (and interested) in what I'm doing. - Derek Fawcett (@Derek_Fawcett)
Fans like to come backstage because it’s exciting to see what the industry is all about from an insider’s perspective: You can give that to your audience by “lifting the curtain” using social media, that keeps them connected to your band.
Social as an after-party invitation
You will probably have some separate social media accounts—a personal Facebook profile and a page for your music, for example. You might even choose to have a special Twitter or Instagram account for the band, separate from your personal accounts.
Some situations call for separate accounts, but if you go that route, make a point to share some personal info on the band accounts (or open your personal accounts to your fan base). Behind-the-scenes is nice, but you connect even deeper with your audience when they feel they’ve actually get to know you, something singer/songwriter Stephanie K is very good at doing.
I want my audience to feel like they know me on a personal level—not just what they hear in my music. Thus, when using social media, especially Twitter, I try to focus on a multitude of topics, not just my own personal accomplishments. In this day and age, fans want to know more than just your song lyrics. I often talk about sports, current events, and day-to-day errands in, hopefully, an interesting and entertaining manner. I think it is important to not play favorites when it comes to social media; some people love Facebook, while others are obsessed with Instagram, so you must update each mindfully and consistently to keep fans happy and engaged. - Stephanie K (@StephanieKMusic)
Matthew Perryman Jones is another well-established musician who isn’t afraid to get a little personal on social media. Jones has been creating, recording, and performing music longer than social media has been part of the industry, but he hasn’t missed the value of using social to stay connected.
Oddly enough, if I just post a picture I've taken or scribble down something I've read, I get amazing responses. It's good to just share stuff I'm enjoying with no sales pitch attached to it. I think overall that's the value of social media—it allows artists the opportunity to connect with their fans in a more personal way, outside of trying to be a salesman. We sell records and such, which is great—it's our bread and butter—but it's nice to make more immediate connections in creative and meaningful ways. - Matthew Perryman Jones (@MPJMusic)
Connecting with your fan base has always been the secret sauce for a faithful audience. Social media has given musicians new ways to do it, but you still have to be willing to pull back the curtain and invite people into your craziness.
What about my website?
As social media takes up more and more of our time online, some have asked if it will one day replace traditional websites. Should social be your primary focus? What role does a standard website still have?
The website is an important center to engage folks. Journals, music players, news, gigs, photos, videos, and special links are all things that a website offers to engage folks in unique ways. - Matt Turk (@TurkTunes)
It's a great touchstone for everything to be in one place—from photos and videos, to song downloads and social media links. I use Bandzoogle and it's very easy to use. In a world of media overload, it's comforting to be able to give one website that connects it all. - Kristen Lynn (@KrisLynnMusic)
My website is kinda my 'Social Media Grand Central Station': you can find me all over the web, but all of those 'trains' connect at my site. While it doesn't receive nearly as much traffic as any of the major social media sites, it's a place where fans can find links to my iTunes store; Patreon page; a social media ticker; contact info for my attorneys, publicist and radio promoter; and a place where people write more formal inquiries about gigs and other opportunities. - Derek Fawcett (@Derek_Fawcett)
In addition to an online home base, your website can offer more in-depth information than you can reasonably post on social networks. Stephanie K is passionate about letting her fans get to know her, and she uses her website, as well as her social networks, to share the details.
In addition to pages for my music, videos, bio, and photos, my official website includes FAQ and FYI pages which reveal fun and interesting information about myself (favorite athlete, favorite homemade meal, favorite cartoon character—the list goes on) so fans can get even more of a taste of my personality, interests, and more. I want my fans to know me just as my family and friends do; quite frankly, they are equally as important to me. - Stephanie K (@StephanieKMusic)
The official band website might not get as much action as social networks, but it still has tremendous value. It’s your online HQ, and it’s an opportunity to provide details that don’t have a place on social channels. It’s also the place to house your electronic press kit (you do have an EPK, don’t you?).
Social media tips for musicians
As you start experimenting with social media to see what works and what doesn’t for your genre, your crowd, and your fan base, you’ll make some mistakes and figure out some best practices—tips and tricks, dos and don’ts.
Should you schedule?
Some people are planners. Some are more spontaneous. What’s the right approach for social media? All of the above.
I recommend creating a content calendar which then informs when to post content to social media. There are events around which you can plan a content calendar: things like album releases and gig/tour dates. But you also want to use it in an ad hoc fashion to take advantage of things that your followers may be interested in, or comment on things that are currently popular in the culture at large or news headlines people are talking about. - David Erickson (@KarwoskiCourage)
Be free with your social updates, but also create a general schedule for the basic stuff to ensure that you don’t randomly go dark. Adrienne Osborn uses another strategy for their content calendar: using it for the more important (to Adrienne O) networks, and letting the others be a little more casual.
I have channels I check every day such as Twitter and Facebook, and channels I check a few times a week such as LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. But when it comes to creating more involved content, such as YouTube videos, I need a video production and editing schedule so I'm sure have time to put out a new video or two every week. On Tuesdays I edit last week's videos and plan the current week's videos; on Wednesdays I record videos and release the ones I recorded the previous week. - Adrienne Osborn (@AdrienneOBand)
What works best for your audience may be different, but you can start by identifying the important things—whether it’s one social network over the others, or one type of update over another—and planning those posts. Then, let yourself be more spontaneous with the rest.
Do: Interact with people
Social media is “social” first and “media” second. Don’t get so caught up in the media part that you stop being social. People are on social media to interact.
Don't forget that social media is about being social. Don't forget to comment on and share other people's posts as well as putting up your own posts. - Kristen Lynn (@KrisLynnMusic)
Sometimes interacting with your fans means joining their conversations. Sometimes it means starting your own. Even simple status updates that pose easy-to-answer questions can get a lot of play.
I've found that simply posting, "We're going to be playing tonight at [name of venue]!" rarely gets hits. But if we post, "Who wears blue underwear?" we gets hundreds of likes and comments. It's a funny thing, but it's taught us that we're all human and we'd rather engage in something more personally appealing to us than when and where your band is playing next. It's good to post show dates every now and then, but quickly go into something that everyone can relate to. - Niki Barr (@the_last_year)
Just about everyone wears a mask online, so when someone—especially a band or public figure—takes his off and gets authentic, people engage.
Social media is a fun, simple tool to help you promote your music. Don’t let it stress you out, and don’t let it become your priority.
Be a musician, be an artist, be yourself. Don't post like a manager or an agent. Spend much more time working on the craft and content of music, and follow up with social media sharing. - Matt Turk (@TurkTunes)
There are a lot of social media strategists and statistics out there that can tell you what, when, and how to do social media, but if you start hating it, take a step back.
I don't stress too much about it because if I have something I want to share, or a friend I want to promote, I'm going to just do it and not over-think it. For me, the most important thing is to be sustainable with myself about it. It took me years to get pretty comfortable and engaged with social media. I've been on and off because part of me hates it, so I've found recently that the best thing to do is to stay real—connect with people in real ways. That actually makes me enjoy it. Social media becomes something I look forward to, rather than an annoying task because, well, it's actually a social activity. - Adrienne Osborn (@AdrienneOBand)
You don’t have to use every network out there, just pick the ones that you like, that you (or your bandmates) are good at, and that people respond well to. That’s you, and that’s your audience. Done.
Carry over your creativity
Social media is an artist’s marketing dream come true. There are countless ways to grow your following and connect with your fans—although the biggest piece of the pie still goes to the most creative. Do something different with it. Use it to meet your fans where they are, and then use it to bridge the gap to where you are. Make friends and have fun.