How To Get 200 New Fans A Week

July 31st, 2009 by We Are Listening

This is a guest post by Brian Mazzaferri

I Fight Dragons

My name is Brian, I’m in a Nintendo-Pop-Rock band called I Fight Dragons, and we currently get over 200 new fans signing up for our email list every week.

We officially launched just under six months ago, with 0 fans on the list.  As I write this, we have 3656 subscribers.  We didn’t add a single fan ourselves, these are all people that have signed themselves up, that we now know, love, and interact with on a regular basis.  They are our biggest champions and a constant inspiration to us to keep working harder and pushing ourselves.

Note: there has been no label investing in us, no management company pulling the strings, no 800-pound gorilla confusing the issues.  While I appreciate the creativity of endeavors like those of Radiohead and Trent Reznor, let’s be honest; it’s not rocket science to make the internet work for you when you already have legions of fans.  That’s the easy part.  Offer them stuff to buy, and they will buy it.  Tada.

But how does a new band go about getting fans when starting from scratch?  Most advice on the subject is sorely old-hat (just play as many shows as humanly possible and never stop), or hopelessly impersonal (add 500 targeted MySpace friends every day).  The problem is that it all revolves around impressing the industry and getting to the point where someone will drop a big chunk of change to buy you a fanbase.  And there’s the root of the problem, because in the internet age money just can’t do enough.  So unless you get on TV or become famous for some other reason, the key is finding a real way to establish and grow meaningful relationships with an ever-growing number of fans.

So I humbly submit our method, which so far has been going pretty well.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll boil our online strategy to three core steps:

1. Give your music away, but don’t throw it away

We’ve given away a free digital copy of our debut EP to everyone who signs up for our email list.  For people who don’t know us, it’s a free and easy way to learn about our music for free.  And then we’ve got their ear.  Note, this is VERY different to just posting it online for free download.  The price may seem the same, but the result is 100% different, because we now have a foot in the proverbial door.

2. Regularly give away stuff that’s way too good to give away

Next, we send an email to our list every Monday at 11AM (for the most part).  More weeks than not, that email contains free music.  And not just some off-the-cuff track, it’s a track that is up to our personal standards, which I’d like to think are very high.  In holding ourselves to that standard, we give our fans something new that they really want to show their friends.  And when the next new track goes out, the new converts get to become the evangelists.  But they need new music to do that, and not just any new music, YOUR BEST new music.

3. Be real, be available, and be involved

This seems like a no-brainer, but it actually takes a LOT of work.  We’re on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, our Blog, and TheSixtyOne every day, talking with people and being involved in conversations.  I’m NOT talking about one-way, blast-yourself-out-there stuff like MySpace adding.  I’m talking about joining in conversations on Twitter that you have something to add to.  About commenting earnestly on music you like.  About joining a community, not trumpeting your own message.

Of course, you’ve still got to play live (and put on as great a show as you can muster), you’ve still got to have great music and high standards (in whatever context you choose), and you’ve still got to get out there and network, to become a part of the physical community as well as the virtual one.

But ultimately, in the early stages it’s not about the money.  Or I should say, it’s not about the marketing money.  It’s about you, your music, and your willingness to put in the time and energy to develop real, deep, and meaningful connections with fans.


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2 Comments

  1. Eric Daniel Says:

    Great advice…thanks for laying it out so clearly.

    All the best to you,

    E.

  2. Helicopter Says:

    Good ideas. We’re going through the same thing ourselves. Has giving away your music affected cd sales at shows?

    Cheers, Matt