This article is part of a DIY Advisor Starter Kit series that tackles starting out with no fans and growing it from scratch.
"How do I get started when I don't have any fans yet?" asked a musician at our recent talk at Carnegie Hall for New York Music Month. This was a natural question to ask since much of our making money with music advice were follow-on steps that occur after you had a fanbase underway. But there are ways to build your following from zero followers, the key is to use what's within your arm's reach to begin building momentum.
Nearly all the best ways to get started from nothing use variations of a concept called, "seeding the tip jar" which is, incidentally, one of the best ways to maximize tips. You do this by placing your own money in the tip jar before anyone shows up. Doing so gives the appearance people are already tipping. This is important because it provides social proof. You can use the same concept with building a following using the fans you already have well within reach.
Below is a list of ideas you can use to get started even if no one has heard of you and you're starting from zero:
1. Use friends and family to get your social media started.
Unless you're some friendless orphan there's no reason anyone sees you with zero followers. Your friends and family have to follow you "because they have to" as we explained at our Carnegie Hall talk. Asking them to follow your social media isn't a difficult favor to ask them, especially since it's free to like, subscribe, or follow a page as well as ask their friends to do so. Make it easy for them to promote you by starting out with something fun for them to share -- perhaps your first song, video, or post.
2. Post consistently and entertain your fans.
As we discussed in our previous DIY Advisor article, The Secret To Building A Following On The Internet, posting consistently is the key to building your following. Your feed needs to provide a regular stream of entertaining or interesting things for your followers. The easiest and most natural way to do this is by following a consistent release schedule, where you release something every week or two. It could be a new song, remix, or live version but it also doesn't always need to be music. For example, you can release a video, merch item, or online hangout event. By coming up with a calendar with a steady beat of releases you ensure your future followers have interesting things to discover in your feed when they discover you.
3. Follow fans of similar artists.
On platforms like Twitter, people tend to follow people who have followed them. The only question is where to find your most likely potential fans. Your best bet is to follow fans of artists that are similar to you. Once your social media feed has momentum and has things in your feed that those potential fans can discover and enjoy, follow groups of fans who are already following similar artists. While not every fan will follow you back, a percentage usually does.
4. Add your social media links to all of your online presences.
Make sure you make it easy for people to follow you. Add follow buttons and links all over your online presences. Promote the fact they can interact and contact you there.
Never lose sight of the fact that social media is a promotional tool; it shouldn't be the end goal of your music business. Once you have your social accounts, growing your social media is more of a side-effect of doing things in the world, posting it, and letting people react, share, and talk about it to others. If you keep releasing things your fans like, they're more likely to become followers and share it with their friends. Which reminds us of our interview with Nice Peter, the co-creator of Epic Rap Battles Of History. We asked him how he recommends people make viral videos. His advice was to "create things which make other people look cool for sharing it with others."
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Photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa