Music Advice: Exposure vs Building a Fanbase

FanbaseI was speaking with one of Pittsburgh’s fast rising hiphop artist today and we were both wondering the answer to one question. That question was which were better, exposure and or building a fanbase? Well, after that conversation I went to one of my favorite music advice site music think tank and found this great article written by Kyle Williams a musician and music marketing educator residing in Long Beach, CA. He runs an independent artist/musician podcast called Seeds of Music.
Money is tight these days, make sure you are spending it correctly and do the one that is best for you.
Exposure vs Building a Fanbase
Getting exposure and building a fan base are not the same thing. Exposure is just the potential beginning of the process of creating a fan. And I do mean “potential”.
Once someone is exposed to your music its the music’s job to establish a connection, rapport, or whatever you prefer to call it. They have to like your music, but unfortunately…
Not everyone likes your music
Music is a universal language, meaning the functional language of music itself—rhythm, melody, tone, articulation, etc.—anyone can learn and communicate by regardless of where they were born.
I can clap out a rhythm to someone from Bangladesh and they can clap along. I can sing a melody in English to someone from Japan and they’ll be able to hum the rest of the melody.
Music truly is a universal language even for whales, however that DOES NOT mean everyone likes your music. Even one of the greatest performing musicians of modern times, Michael Jackson, has people who don’t like his music. For instance…my grandma.
I hate to admit it, but there are quite a few great, popular, successful, and timeless bands that I don’t like. I will never pay to see them. I’ll never buy their music. It’s just not my flavor and there are many other musicians that I would rather spend my time and money on.
The biggest music career mistake is to assume that everyone likes your music, because it will have you focusing on broad exposure to both the right and wrong people instead of just the right people.
Okay…someone is going to have to market you and your music. I’m sorry, but it’s most likely you. So you can’t afford to waste time chasing exposure unless it’s targeted to who your fans really are.
The strategy is all on you
You have to approach exposure as a part of an overall strategy. If your goal is to just play music as a hobby then your strategy should be designed to get as many people to listen over and over to your music.
If your goal is to make a living, your strategy needs both people to listen but also people to pay, or for you to make money in alternate routes.
Some of us musicians think that if we get enough exposure, things will just fall into place. It’s a fantasy that we hold on to because, in my opinion, the idea of only focusing on the music while a label or team handles everything else is just so enticing.
It’s like staring into the mirror of Erised in Harry Potter, we see the reflection of our deepest desires and get lost in it, forgetting the reality of our situation.
For non-nerds — The Mirror of Erised is a mirror which shows the “deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”…The happiest person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were.
Getting exposure in itself is most likely not going to suddenly land you some A&R rep, manager, or rock star discovery fantasy that’s going to solve all your problems (not saying that’s your exact position,). Exposure is unpredictable because humans don’t always react in the way that we wish they would.
Don’t live in fantasy land. Live in reality land.
Focus on your craft. Make the music better and better. Play live. Talk with fans in person. Respond to everyone. Hustle. Don’t be afraid to market and promote. Build an email list of fans. Improve by a little bit every day.
Everything else is BS…mostly

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