How To Build A Fan Base in 2017

Article Written By: Darius Burgan
how to build a fanbase as a rapper in hip hop

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How to build a fanbase as a rapper in hip-hop (part 1)

How to build a fanbase as a rapper in hip-hop (part 2)

How to build a fanbase as a rapper in hip-hop (part 3)

How to build a fanbase as a rapper in hip-hop (part 4)

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Do you know how to build a fan base for your music career?

I’m not talking about getting Twitter followers, SoundCloud plays, YouTube views, Facebook likes, or anything like that.

I’m talking about a fan base of real people that look forward to hearing your music, support you, and will actually spend money on you and your brand.

If your answer is anything except “yes”, you should continue reading, this post is for you.

Most music artists don’t know much about building a fan base. They associate “fan base” with social media metrics like Twitter followers and Soundcloud plays – which holds them back from taking their music career to the next level.

See, gaining fans will usually result in an increase in Twitter followers, SoundCloud plays, and so forth.

But it doesn’t work the same way in reverse.

An increase in Twitter followers, Soundcloud plays, and etc. does not usually result in gaining fans.

Most music artists (especially in hip-hop) are hustling backwards.

So, in this post, I want to help guide you down the correct path for building fans.

But, understand, the tips and advice in this post are not the only ways to build a fan base. The further along you get in your music career – the more you’ll understand what works best for you when it comes to building true fans.

Don’t Ask Them To Listen To Your Music

dont ask them to listen to your music

As much as it may seem that music is the deciding factor between having fans and not having fans, it’s not.

People usually become fans of an artist due to a combination of things they like from that artist. Maybe they like their personality and music, maybe they like their fashion and lifestyle, or maybe they like everything about that artist.

So, why shouldn’t you directly ask strangers to listen to your music? Because you wouldn’t ask them to check out your new clothes or your new car that’s better than everyone else’s.

You (probably) understand that if you’d asked a stranger to check out your new clothes or new car you’d look like you’re trying to brag or show off – making you look “lame”.

Asking someone to listen to your music is very similar. However, in most cases, it’s not bragging – instead, it shows that you can’t get anyone to listen to your music organically and, odds are, you’re struggling.

Instead of directly asking someone to listen to your music, have a genuine conversation with them and relax.

In the beginning, your fanbase will likely be built up of relationships from people that like you as a person. The more they like you, the more support you can expect from them.

Music plays a small role during the early stages of fan building and becomes more valuable as you scale up.

But Darius, how do I promote my music then?

Once you start building relationships and getting noticed, people will look you up. This curiosity is what makes them more likely to listen to your music than if you were to ask them.

And also, if someone asks what you do or where to find your music, feel free to tell them. That’s perfectly fine.

You just want to avoid forcing your music onto them.

Give Them A Reason To Support You

No one will support your music career if there’s nothing to support.

You’re going to have to show your potential audience that you’re putting in the work necessary to become successful.

Every fan you have (or will have) is making an investment in you.

They’re investing their reputation, time, and eventually their money – and It’s your job to make them feel like you’re a good investment.

For example, Machine Gun Kelly has a private Facebook group that only his fans can get into.

In this group:

1. His fans get to connect with each other. This strengthens their fan loyalty to him because this allows them to build relationships with one mutual interest: him.

2. He occasionally posts in the facebook group from his personal Facebook account and gives an update on what’s going on with his career, his feelings, and whatever else. This further increases his fan loyalty because now, they’re not only getting a personal update from the man himself but sometimes they’re also getting exclusive information before it’s released to the public (if ever).

You don’t have to do the exact same thing, but you still need to build a community.

A community can be built on social media, your music website, forums, in-person, and more.

Support Others

In addition to giving people something to support, you need to support others.

This goes back to building relationships.

By showing support to others, you build relationships and make other people want to support you as well in return.

You can choose to support someone in several different ways but, to help you get started, I’m going to give you a few strategies:

  • Attending their events
  • Purchasing their items (music, merch, etc.)
  • Promoting a song, video, and etc. online with a comment showing love
  • Telling them directly
  • Offering help/volunteering

Be Active & Be Seen

In today’s world, the internet is a big part of any music career. It’s free and you can reach a massive amount of people with relatively little work.

However, it does not replace face to face interactions.

Being active on the scene when events are happening is a great way to get noticed – especially when you have little to no connections in your local area.

Just getting noticed may not seem like a big deal but, the more you’re seen, the more people will start to wonder who you are – leading to conversations, them possibly looking you up online, and finding your music organically.

Eventually, you’ll start building relationships with people and getting attention.

The more quality relationships you have, the more credibility you’ll gain – which leads to building more relationships and becoming “cool by association”.

This marketing technique is one you’ll see heavily used when companies introduce new products.

They’ll package th new product with something you already know and love. This creates the idea that the new product is of equal value and quality as the product you already love.

Make Sure Your Content Is High Quality

When I mention “high-quality content”, artists usually think I’m referring to their music – but that’s not the case.

“Content” refers to all the material that’s released of you to the public. It’s a fairly broad category but it includes your music, photos, videos, social media posts, and more.

High-quality content is your secret weapon as an upcoming music artist.

High-quality content, especially as a relatively unknown music artist, will make you look more important than you currently are.

A good way to gauge the quality of your content is to compare it to popular music artists both locally and nationally.

While you should never compare your life and music career to other’s, it’s extremely helpful to see how you stack up to artists who are successfully where you’d like to take your music career. If the quality of your content can match or even exceed theirs, there’s a good chance you will be able to reach the same level and surpass it.

Clarify What “A Fan” Means

Clarifying what being a “fan” means to you is a very important step for building your fan base.

How do I be a fan of you? Like, what does that actually mean?

Does that mean I follow you on Twitter or I follow you on Facebook?

Does that mean I share your music online?

In order to be able to clarify what a “fan” means to you, you’re going to need to have goals for your music career.

Your goals will dictate what you need out of your fans in order to reach your goals. Once you know what you need from them – make that clear to your current fans and those supporting you.

If you have little-to-no fans, make sure to let your first few fans know exactly how they can help you.

Transparency is not only good because the music industry is filled with shady motives, but because when your fans know why you need them do something – once you achieve that goal – they can have a sense of achievement and success as well.

As your fan base increase, your newer fans will no longer need you to let them know how they can help (although it helps when your goals change). They’re going to follow what your current fans are doing right now.

If your current fans are sharing on Twitter and talking highly of you, that’s what your new fans are going to do.

If your current fans are requesting your music on the radio, your new fans will do the same.

Get where I’m going with this?

Build A Community

Going back to the tip of “Give Them A Reason To Support You”, having a community that they can be apart of is a good reason to support you.

They should receive perks and benefits by being in your community.

Here are a few examples of perks that can be included in your community:

  • Access to unreleased content
  • Exclusive information such as when new material is releasing, when new merch should be in-stock, and etc..
  • Free items and events

Now, being a community is not easy and takes a lot of work. But once you have an active community built, as long as you don’t do anything too crazy, it’s hard to lose it.

Here are a few examples of things that can help you build your community:

  • Having something unique about you. This can include your hairstyles, fashion choices, favorite emoji, hobbies, and etc..
  • Using a membership platform like Facebook Groups to directly talk with your community instead of simply blasting information out on your social media.
  • Being relatable to your target audience. Maybe this means you have to be arrogant, or maybe humble, or maybe have an out-going personality. Regardless of what it is, just make it relatable to your target audience.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable

Being vulnerable is a topic you rarely hear talked about in the music industry. I’m not sure why, but I assume it’s just not understood as well by most people in the industry.

Being vulnerable is a good way to build trust with your fans. It’s a way for you to be transparent and honest with them, and have them accept you exactly for you.

Majority of upcoming music artists don’t show any vulnerabilities. They like to act like they have it all figured out (especially in hip-hop).

There’s a time and a place for “fake it ’til you make it” – but it’s not when you’re building relationships.

When building relationships, you should balance being vulnerable enough where you can let your fans know how you feel or when you fail at something, but not vulnerable enough where your entire personal life is on display.

Have Fan-Only Events

Having fan-only events is one of my favorite ways to help with building a fan base.

When I tell artists about having fan-only events, they usually think I’m only referring to live-shows or meet and greets – but I’m talking about so much more.

I’m talking about real events that you’d attend with your close friends. These events aren’t usually centered around you, they’re centered around the experience.

Here are a few examples of fan-only events that you can have to help build your fan base:

  • The movies
  • Private dinner
  • Bowling
  • Paintball shooting
  • Gokart racing

And the list goes on.

These events are going to cost you money but will help you build a much strong relationship with the fans you invite. Which makes having fan-only events look less like an expense, and more like an investment.

Focus Your Efforts

This is an area that I wish I didn’t need to mention, but I know I do. You have to focus on your goals and do what it takes to achieve them.

And guess what? You won’t always know exactly what it takes to achieve them – but that’s Ok.

As long as you think your goals through and make it a plan, regardless if you fail or succeed – it becomes easier the next time you do it.

If you already have your goals and have started working towards them, make sure to track how you’re doing and adjust accordingly.

Use your analytics and data to identify what areas are working for you and which ones are not.

The data might show you that you’re popular in Houston, Texas – but not your own hometown. This would let you know that you should be visiting Houston and trying to take advantage of more opportunities in that area.

If Twitter is your best performing social media platform, focus on Twitter. Yes, you will need to use other social platforms as well – but use Twitter to its full potential before splitting your time on another social network.

The benefits you get by focusing your effort will make diversifying your efforts easier down the line – especially once you have a decent sized audience that can help you grow in other areas.

Take Care Of Your Image

Your image is one of the most important areas of your music career. The way you look will affect the opportunities you get, as well as influence your relationship with your fans.

Here are a few examples of what things are a part of your image:

  • Your haircut/hairstyle
  • Your clothes
  • Your teeth
  • Your accessories/jewelry
  • Your muscles
  • Your logo
  • Your website

All of those things (and more) are a part of your image.

Your goal should be to have the best image you can possibly have. The better your image, the more attention you will attract. This applies to both the music industry and regular life.

As a music artist, you should look like a music artist. Obviously, this “look” will be different based on the type of music you make, your personality, and build. Regardless, you shouldn’t look like an aspiring music artist.

Why?

Because your (potential) fans want to support an artist – not someone who’s trying to be an artist.

There are tons of people trying to be music artists. They’re typically the people mentioning you on social media telling you to check out their music. You don’t want to be that, nor associated with that.

Building A Fanbase Takes Time

“It’s not about who did it first, it’s about who did it right”

This is a game built on longevity. Take your time, make sure your fans are happy, and make sure you’re happy with the direction your music career is going in.

Make sure that you’re strengthening that bond between you and your fans and you won’t need a lot of loyal fans to build a career out of making music.

And last, but not least, don’t focus on numbers, focus on quality. 100,000 SoundCloud plays or YouTube views may sound nice, but if they didn’t bring in any new connections or fans, then those plays don’t matter.

Focus on people, not numbers.

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2 comments

  • Mickey
    July 12, 2017 Reply

    This article is really opening my mind..thank you

  • Hossein
    December 20, 2016 Reply

    - Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was waiting looking for such an article for a long time. I am not a rapper, but I think your advice with some deal of modification can work for a good variety of people ... Maybe you are not the right person to ask this, but I would like to hear your opinion: Beside the current state of pop culture, I am looking for the most valuable interactions between fans and an artist/builder. Because what I/we are doing is more oriented towards shifting the society, having impact on people and so on ... what should be the best things that our fans are going for? Personally, I dislike autographs and all other stuff that are usually the means of engagements of fans. How can these means be meaningful? Instead of inviting fans to buy a T-shirt with our brand what would you suggest? What could be the means to practice loyalty in a way that benefits the fans? Or in case you think those stuff are beneficial to fans and it is just that I don't get it, I would be glad to hear your description, like what an autograph of mine is for a fan? Thanks Hossein