The 7 Tools Insiders Use For Die-Hard Fan Growth
PLUS: What I Used To Generate 1024 New Fans In <7 Days
You've seen tons of artists blow up out of nowhere...
It seems like they have some kind of secret, right? Something they won't reveal in interviews? Don't you feel like they're not telling you something?
Well, you're not alone, and you don't have to keep wondering...
Over the past three years, I have helped hundreds of artists create successful brands, singles, projects, and release campaigns as Vice President of Studio 18.
Even though I've achieved massive results and helped launch a few careers, I spent my first two years working way too hard. I didn't understand the way that online marketing really works and I didn't understand how to use the tools of the trade.
I wasn't generating sustainable growth...
Now, I am able to leverage a handful of powerful, reliable tools to create widely publicized music release campaigns that generate enormous audiences of directly engaged fans... and this is all based on one fundamental, easy to understand, well-hidden secret:
"Successful artists make and maintain profitable, human relationships
with large groups of like minded individuals"
Sounds simple right? Maybe even a little generic? Sometimes, the best advice is...
It's simple because it serves as an effective guide to understanding how to find your audience.
Knowing this fundamental principle, you only need a few tools - most of which can be quickly mastered - to begin building enormous success as an indie artist.
Here's what you need, why you need it, and what I personally use to achieve epic results:
1. A Content Management System (website builder)
Chances are if you have been an indie artist for a while you have gotten familiar with one or more of these platforms.
Being a working musician is difficult enough - do you have time learn three programming languages to code your own website?
Me 'neither. This is where Content Management Systems (CMS) step in.
A CMS platform allows you to build your website without knowing how to code. CMS platforms range from stupid simple (Squarespace is a drag-and-drop visual platform) to incredibly frustrating (Wordpress will steal your soul). You will need to be at least a little web savvy to get one of these things working...
I see a lot of independent artists building out huge websites, in fact I used to professionally recommend that they do so. Now, I'm walking that recommendation back a few yards...
No matter how die-hard your fan is, they're probably not going to spend their days clicking around your website. Fans go to websites for a specific action and once they take it, they BOUNCE.
This is why most artist websites have a lot of traffic going to 1 of up to 8 pages and then immediately exiting the website. If enough users bounce off of your page without exploring, Google will begin to think you are hiding something...
This is why I recommend going for a bang-for-your-buck approach. Instead of building 8 pages at once and launching a website, I highly recommend building one page at a time based on need; that's why...
WE USE: ClickFunnels
ClickFunnels and LeadPages are two CMS platforms dedicated to landing pages. These companies sit squarely in the digital marketing industry, and if you want to be a successful independent artist you should too.
Ever seen an ad on Facebook or some blog that offered you something extremely cool and useful in a FREE INSTANT download? I know I have...
Within seconds I'm on some website I've never seen before entering my personal information for the "9 Most Clickable Headline Formulas In Copy Writing"...
This isn't a mistake and it's not some scam - it's a landing page. Landing pages take viewers from a specific traffic source to a dedicated web page that is meant to do one thing - convert.
Some landing pages get your e-mail, some landing pages sell you a product, and some landing pages just get you to read a blog post...
ClickFunnels allows you to rapidly develop good-looking landing pages that can be instantly integrated with every other fan-building tool you use. If you can master it, you'll be able to run traffic campaigns like a Music Marketing Jedi and convert tons of supporting fans.
ClickFunnels is also packed with templates for "conversion funnels", which are sequences of landing pages that take potential fans through a series of actions or steps. Here is an example of a registration funnel I built for my client Nino Bless.
ClickFunnels is free to try for a 14-day trial - click here to sign up and build your first fan-conversion funnel!
2. An Auto-Responder
If you're not already involved in email marketing, it may come as a surprise to you that email marketing is still the number one most profitable form of marketing for most businesses (QuickSprout).
As an independent artist, you run a small business. So, as an entrepreneur, you NEED to be thinking about a return on your investment...
If you're like a large majority of successful small business owners, you can understand why e-mail marketing is INCREDIBLY valuable. While you can use the same tools you use to send regular old emails, you'll have a lot of difficulty getting good analytics and automation going with a platform like Gmail...
For e-mail campaigns, business owners use an entirely different type of platform called an "autoresponder".
Autoresponders are tools like MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, and many many more that perform a number of important email marketing taks.
You can create email lists and connect them to forms on your website for automatic sign-up, you can store critical data about people on your list like their phone number, age, favorite food, or any other question you can get them to answer.
But what is MOST important...
Autoresponders give you data based on your email campaigns. When you send an email through an autoresponder platform, the software will tell you how many people opened your message, clicked links in your message, unsubscribed from your list, etc. Most autoresponders will even tell you WHICH people opened/clicked and which didn't. This allows you to create powerful sub-sections of your list that group subscribers based on how likely they are to respond or click.
Autoresponders are incredibly important for building warm audiences and raving fans. You can easily send out daily or weekly emails and monitor the success of your campaigns. You can even split test different headlines, images, or messages to see what works.
Another important feature of autoresponders is the auto... as in "automation". Most autoresponders allow you to automatically send emails or multi-message sequences based on certain triggers...
For instance, anyone who takes our Fan Builder survey is automatically added to our Fan Builder List in our autoresponder. Any new subscribers to that list are automatically emailed our Fan Builder Training Series in a 6-day sequence. When subscribers to our Fan Builder List don't open or play one of the training videos, they are sent a reminder to take the next training before they can continue in the sequence.
Isn't that crazy?
You can use this feature of autoresponders to stay current with your fan base and react to their level of activity. If you don't want dead weight on your list, you can even automatically send messages to subscribers who haven't opened any of your recent campaigns warning them that they will be taken off the list.
There are a shitload of autoresponders out there, but...
WE USE: MailChimp
MailChimp allows you to send up to 12,000 messages to up to 2,000 subscribers for FREE.
When an autoresponder service starts off with a free platform of that caliber, you've got to assume they're putting their money where their mouth is.
Upgrading to a paid account will get you features like automation, enhanced analytics, and a virtually unlimited amount of subscribers and messages...
That last feature is due to the fact that MailChimp institutes a very sensible pay-as-you-go policy that scales your costs with the size of your campaigns. You only pay for what you need as opposed to a tiered system.
MailChimp also boasts built-in integration for tons of other applications, and most CMS platforms have built-in integration for MailChimp.
If you want to get a free MailChimp account, click here.
3. Graphics Software
There are many reasons why you should be posting images every time you post text to social media...
You will probably, at some point or another, need graphic design. Does that sound like a budget item you can afford on top of everything else?
Yeah, me neither...
That's why I fulfill most of my graphic design needs myself. There are tons of articles on the web that can teach you to create effective designs for your brand.
So whether you need to add an image to a Facebook Ad, create a thumbnail for your YouTube video, or design a cover for your upcoming single, you need to have a design tool that makes creation super simple.
Photoshop has been my personal go-to for many, many years. I also use Illustrator, although some of my friends make me feel like I suck at it. Some people use smartphone apps to make their designs.
The point is, there are a million different tools you can use to fulfill your graphic needs, but as an independent artist you have a million and one jobs. You don't need to be fucking your flow up with professional-grade tools that are difficult to learn, difficult to navigate, and expensive to own.
WE USE: Canva
Didn't you just say you were a Photoshop guy?
Yes, I did. And I was...
That is, until I began working with 25 different brands at once (sometimes 30+). Ease of use, speed, and effectiveness became influential factors very quickly.
As an independent artist, you only have 1 brand to manage...
But, it's a brand of 1. You have to handle everything from accounting to equipment budgeting to booking to merchandise management...
It's best to go with a tool that can be opened quickly with tons of grab-and-go templates for social media designs.
Canva has templates for pretty much every purpose, including Facebook and Twitter banners and Social Media Graphics. These templates come to you out-the-box with proper dimensions and graphic and typography elements.
It's pretty hard to screw up when creating a quick, captivating graphic with Canva.
When I need to create proprietary logos or my own font/wordmarks, I open up Photoshop. For 90% of my graphic needs, Canva suffices - small hinges swing big doors.
4. Record Storage
MailChimp has a record of everyone on your e-mail list. Your phone has a record of all your important industry contacts. Google Analytics has a record of your web visitors and where they came from...
But you ain't got shit!
Yes, for most independent artists, managing your data is a struggle. Actually, let me rephrase that: for most independent artists, managing data isn't even something you think about. But it is INCREDIBLY important...
There are multiple applications and enterprise-level platforms that will pull your data from Facebook, Google, your autoresponder, your phone, and anywhere else you may have important information. Applications like Klipfolio and Grow offer the convenience of one single dashboard for all of your important metrics.
However, these services can be difficult to learn, navigate, set up, configure, and then hook up to all of your other analytics tools. They can also leave a lot of important fan information behind.
WE USE: Google Sheets (and G Suite)
Not only do we route all of our domain email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) to G Suite (mainly because we love Gmail so much!), we also house all of our important documents and spreadsheets in our G Suite account.
Google Sheets is what we use to store data. Isn't that really time consuming? Yes, at first, it's a major pain in the ass. But something miraculous happens when you begin creating your own data spreadsheets...
You get better at it. Actually, you get pretty freakin' sick at it.
When you start managing your own data and creating your own custom sheets, you become very quick at importing data, understanding it, and using it for actual business purposes.
That's why we import every single data point into spreadsheet templates we've built for independent artists. We create custom dashboards that display everything from email addresses to marketing campaign activity to advertising ROI and income.
I'm not saying that everyone is cut out for (or even has time for) capitalizing on their own data. However, if you are the kind of artist/entrepreneur that NEEDS to optimize your career to the fullest, Google Sheets and G Suite (basically Excel) is a must have.
SIDE NOTE: Google Sheets is completely free =)
5. Social Opt-In Solution
So, you've got a website up and running. You're gathering fans on your Facebook page. You're getting people to sign up for your email list. You're marketing to them effectively. But somethings missing...
You aren't growing exponentially. Growth is steady, but it's depressingly linear. You feel like you're stuck in a grind...
You need to start putting your fan base to work for you. If only you could somehow get them to reliably share your content and follow your social media campaigns...
If this is you, you are advanced enough to need social opt-ins. Unlike the opt-ins that get you subscribers on your email list, social opt-ins get people to perform specific social media actions in return for exclusive content (a song download, a free ticket, a t-shirt, etc.)...
There are probably a million different ways to create one of these kinds of widgets yourself and display it right there on your website or landing page. Unfortunately, they all require a little bit of coding and technical know-how.
As we stated before, you've got enough on your plate. That's why...
WE USE: Toneden.io
Toneden is a revolutionary new website that bunches a lot of the tools on this list into one dedicated platform. You can build your email list, create one-off landing pages, you can even run Facebook Ad campaigns right in the Toneden web app.
Personally, I would never use Toneden to build my landing page or run a Facebook Ad campaign. I need a little more custom and a lot less stock when performing those kinds of brand-heavy tasks...
But for Social Opt-Ins, Toneden is a champion.
Toneden allows you to create simple widgets called "Lassos" that you can plug-in to your website or post on social media. Using these Lassos, you can make your fans perform specific social actions ("Like" your page or post, Share or Tweet your page, etc.) in return for your latest single (or whatever you're offering).
Toneden is just scratching the surface of what we teach to our Blueprint clients and they are covering a lot of ground in doing so...
I still rely on them solely for these Lassos. Creating my own coded plug-in for social opt-ins would be far too time consuming when I can create a Lasso in seconds.
There are tons of artists using Toneden to generate social opt-ins (and regular old email opt-ins) right now. Just this morning I ended up on a Toneden landing page via Mayer Hawthorne's Facebook post. If you have a website up and running, creating some Lassos can definitely help you build social proof around your brand.
6. Paid Traffic Platform
There are tons of ways to get your music in more ears. I'm not going to list them all for you here; that is for another article on another day.
I am here to stake my professional reputation on the idea that the number one way to generate new fans from cold, unaware audiences is paid traffic.
Because paid traffic is targeted traffic - as opposed to getting placed on a blog, which is very untargeted.
"A source of new listeners is only as effective as the amount of new fans it leads to."
When you get your song placed on a blog, you are putting your message and brand in front of a large audience (hopefully). This audience:
- isn't targeted to your brand characteristics.
- isn't guaranteed to like artists that have a similar sound.
- isn't being directed to your opt-ins or encouraged to follow you on social media.
- won't see who else has interacted with your content (unless you have a lot of SoundCloud comments, or whatever).
Do traffic sources like blog placements work?
Yes, they work very well... for a very small group of people. Paid traffic works for everyone.
Regardless of what your brand is, regardless of the kind of music you make - if you are talented, your audience is out there somewhere.
You can go find them one by one, or you can realize that existing paid traffic platforms can find your audience so effectively that they make all other methods seem... stupid.
WE USE: Facebook Ads
For everything? Yes. For everything.
72% of adult internet users are on Facebook. One in every five website views in the U.S. are on Facebook. Facebook has 1.79 BILLION active monthly users.
There is no platform that has more content-seeking eyeballs on it than Facebook. Content is the number one reason that we use Facebook in the first place. If you need to get your content in front of a new audience, Facebook is the single most effective place to do so by a gigantic margin in every single category.
So how do other platforms stack up to Facebook?
You could use Google AdWords, but you'd be targeting based on keyword searches, and people who are entering high volume keywords into Google aren't looking for you. Your music is an annoyance that precedes the thing they were actually looking for. You might as well make your album cover a dual nude of the 2016 Presidential candidates.
You could use YouTube, but then you'd really be hitting people where they don't give a shit.
You could use Twitter, but it seems like Twitter Ads is just a copycat of Facebook with 1/4th the users, and Twitter has very few data points on you...
Facebook, however, knows everything about you. Facebook knows your interests, your income, your online activity, your spending habits, your sexual activity...
And Facebook knows how likely you are to respond to an advertisement. So, when you run ad campaigns for paid traffic on Facebook, Facebook makes its ads cheaper over time by targeting only the types of users who would most likely interact with your ad...
Think about that. Facebook becomes more effective and cheaper as you run your campaign. It gets better for you...
I could write an entire book on why Facebook is the single greatest customer and fan finding platform that the free market has ever encountered...
My general point is that Facebook is the only paid traffic solution you really need.
7. Press Distribution
For most independent artists, getting on blogs has become the all consuming goal of their career. You would think that getting placed on blogs comes with some sort of cash prize...
Well, it doesn't. In fact, getting on blogs can cost you a lot of money.
There is an ocean of digital publicist firms out there that promise to help you get your music on the right press outlets. According to publicity expert Dylan Rehmer of Filter PR, that ocean is "infested with sharks".
Scammers with little to no connections are rampant on the internet and you can easily end up paying $1000 for a publicity campaign that gets you zero results. That's why, for our clients, we use a trusted publicist with years of experience in the industry and the strongest local track record.
Digital PR campaigns can only be as effective as the brand that they promote, so you should be well familiar with all the tools listed here BEFORE you start thinking about blog coverage.
But, once you're there, is your only option really shelling out $500-$1000 bucks to get your song placed on a few well-circulated blogs?
No. There's alternatives.
WE USE: SubmitHub
SubmitHub started as a side-project by IndieShuffle creator Jason Grishkoff...
Seeing a hole in the "blog submission" market (and being a savvy entrepreneur), Jason started SubmitHub as a way for independent artists to reliably submit their music for review to top music blogs.
No more submitting to thousands of blogs without even being sure if the email is right. No more waiting days on end for an unhelpful response - or worse, no response at all...
SubmitHub has signed up with most of the major blogs and indie labels on the internet. You can go here to see a complete list of them. SubmitHub allows you to submit a given track to any of these blogs or labels in exchange for "credits".
Just for signing up to SubmitHub, you will be given 2 credits for general blog submission. These credits are nearly useless - the true value of SubmitHub lies in premium credits...
Premium credits cost $5 for a pack of 5, $9 for 10, $25 for 30, or $40 for 50. You can submit to any blog or label for 1 premium credit. When you use a premium credit, the blog or label has to listen to at least 20 seconds of your song within 48 hours. If they choose not to cover the song, they have to tell you why.
We ran a stress test of SubmitHub to see how it works. I posted my song "Long Lost Brother" on SoundCloud and made sure not to post it anywhere but SubmitHub. Then, I purchased 30 premium credits and submitted to as many blogs as I could.
Out of 26 blogs that responded, 5 covered the single, and 16 gave specific, informative reasons why they did not want to cover the song.
Some of them even gave an alternate submission address to see if their other writers might want to cover it. In one week, we gained 5 Google-indexed song reviews with roughly 3.5k plays solely from that traffic.
SubmitHub is a great way to earn some coverage in lieu of a dedicated publicity campaign. If your material is good, SubmitHub will save you a lot of money getting on some top-tier blogs and will give you direct access to their opinion...
This is CRUCIAL. If you can improve upon your sound, your mix, or your writing because of this feedback, you will place more blogs than you did before. It's a simple reality. This service can help you prepare your sound for major markets.
Some groups use SubmitHub in place of a digital publicist...
I do not recommend this! Choosing the right digital publicist when the time is right can help you bridge the gap between popular blog and major media outlet.
What's most important is not what method or app or product you employ to get these things done - you just need to get them done...
Regardless of what products you use, you need these tools in your arsenal in order to generate a profitable fan base. I've seen many different artists use many different tools that they have experience with - it's just about finding a comfortable platform and using it consistently.
What are you guys using to build your fan base?