Deciding to pursue a career in music requires a massive leap of faith, and success is hardly a guarantee. In the end, what will make or break your career is whether or not you have a committed fan base at your back.
Choosing to take the leap and dive into a career as a musician isn’t always an easy decision. Understandably, many artists are hesitant to make music their full time occupation as there is certainly no guarantee for success.
It is very easy to see other successful artists and think—that’s what I want, but do you ever stop and wonder how they got there?
Music may be your dream, but it’s not like choosing to be a doctor and knowing it’s going to be a tough academic learning curve, but if you do X, Y and Z you’ll make it in your career. Some say breaking through as an artist has the same odds as winning the lottery. In addition, even if your music hits big, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to earn a decent and sustainable living. Many artists think they’ll make enough money simply from streaming, but the reality is (for most of us) you’ll need a lot more than just streaming success to take off.
The need to generate income from touring and merchandising applies to artists of all sizes. For instance, U2, which made $54.4 million and was the highest-paid musical act of 2017, made the majority of their money from touring, according to Billboard’s Annual Money Makers report. Of their total earnings, about 95 percent came from touring, while less than 4 percent came from streaming and album sales.
Becoming a profitable artist takes a lot of dedication and can be expensive when starting out, but the music world is constantly evolving. Now, there are more paths being developed to help musicians flourish. Ultimately, the most important thing that a musician needs to do, even more so than produce global hit singles, is to discover, build and engage with fans of their music. The aim is to nurture an audience of “super fans” – those who are proactively asking where and when the next gig will be, where they can buy your tickets and the newest hoodie.
Today’s user-generated media market combined with technology such as machine learning and AI can make discovering and nurturing the right audience more achievable than one might think.
There are many ways to start to find the right audience for your music. Today, you can use technology to hyper-target those fans across the entire social media spectrum and tune into the particular demographics, personalities and affinities that match your music genre.
Streaming services already use AI to automate options and deliver recommendations to listeners based on what they’ve listened to in the past. This helps lesser known artists connect with their ideal fan base. Having technology that helps you follow the data allows artists to do a better of job of marketing to the right listeners and avoid wasting tons of ad dollars. But once you build up the audience, you need to start engaging with them.
In order to build a relationship with your audience, you need to understand them and provide the right content. Our data shows us that a simple home-made phone video can be so much more engaging at the beginning of a fan relationship than an expensively produced music video. By committing to your fans, you can start ensuring ticket sales and income. Take for instance my business partner’s band Brother Strut. Of course, on day one, nobody knew who they were, but they didn’t want to use the usual manufactured way of gaining fame. They felt as though there were people out there that would love their music, they just had to find each other. With a budget of just £2,500, Steve applied data science techniques on social media sites to directly target fans with likeminded interests. By building, understanding, and connecting with their audience the band has sold out many venues, including Scala, Ronnie Scott’s, and Camden Jazz Café. In fact, Brother Strut became the first band to sell out the renowned venue, KOKO (London), without a record label or promoter.
Promotion is the key element in getting noticed as the next “it” musician. Musicians need to be extremely aggressive and dedicated when it comes to publicizing themselves, to the right audience of course. Now that we live in a digital world, social media holds a ton of power. Today’s technology can help make it less complicated and more affordable for upcoming artists to get themselves out there. Musicians have the ability to be in touch with their fans in “real time” and create a close community with them. New advancements in technology are dramatically changing the music industry and allowing artists that have the talent and passion a chance to become who they’ve always wanted to be. Although it is not easy, every day there are new artists taking a stab at this career. Will you be next?