Finding New Fans Can Backfire

I read an article today on a music marketing website that had to do with finding new fans online.  It basically said not to wait for fans to find you, but to seek them out by looking for similar artists to yourself on websites that you have your music on, like Reverbnation or MySpace.  The author said to “reach out” to these other artists’ fans.

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While I see the importance of marketing yourself and your music when you’re a performing artist or in a band, I do think that some of this can backfire on you if you don’t know how to go about it or when to stop.  As an example, I had a songwriter who emailed me a month or so ago about a song that he had placed in some kind of online contest.  He wanted votes for his song.  Now, first of all think of this:  if you are trying to get people who don’t know you to vote for your song, what if they don’t like it?  I mean, that is a possibility!  They might end up voting for someone else.   There’s a backfire right there.  So solicit people that you already know like your music.  That’s the first step.

I did not go to the site to listen to his song because I basically didn’t have time at that point.  So I pretty much ignored his email, which was generic in nature anyway.  In other words, mine was in a long list of emails, he didn’t email me specifically.   But even after I ignored it, he didn’t stop at that.  He emailed again, presumably to the same number of email addresses saying that he had reached a semi-final with his song and he needed votes again.  And then I got a third email, as he was still looking for votes.  So this time, I politely emailed for him to please remove me from his email list.

Now I have had people ask me to remove them from my email list before.  Not often, but it has happened.  It smarts, of course, to have someone ask you not to communicate any more, but I will always do what they request, and I will send one last email letting them know that they have been removed and never bother them again.

This fellow, however, decided to tell me how hurt he was and how wrong I was to not want his solicitations, and he didn’t say anything about removing me from his list.  I could have let it go, but I didn’t;   I replied that I had no idea who he was, and had no interest in his music, so please stop.  This continued on for another email exchange, whereupon I just gave up and didn’t even read his last reply.

My mistake was to engage him, but I guess I was annoyed that he would continue to come after me.

It wasn’t until I did a little digging that I realized where he got my name from.  He had emailed me in response to an article I’d written maybe a month before.  I get lots of emails from people regarding my articles, so it’s almost impossible for me to remember them all by name.  But it made me sad to think that an otherwise positive connection had turned into this.

So what is the lesson in all of this?  Certainly, it’s important to find fans and the internet is a great way of connecting with potential ones.  But as enthusiastic as you are about your songs, your CDs or performances, you also need to know the don’ts as well as the do’s.

If you have a list of people who have already signed up as a fan on one of your websites, then certainly keep them on your mailing list.  If you can manage to keep track of everyone who buys your CD (that is not always so easy these days, but you can sometimes find that out), then certainly email them when you are releasing another, or performing near by.   But don’t simply fire off emails to every email address you can get your hands on, trying to solicit sales or votes or attendance!  This is called “spam”, don’t you remember?  Don’t you hate getting tons of unwanted email in your inbox?  Do you even bother reading them?

If you must email someone who has never heard of you, do it only once.  If they are interested, you’ll hear back.

If you use a Twitter account, don’t say anything you’ll regret!  You’ve already heard stories of famous people getting themselves into trouble for tweeting something stupid.  Employers often look on line to check up on their potential employees.  Think of your fans as employers…they pay you for your CDs or concert tickets so you depend on them for your income!  If you want to build a fan base, Twitter is a great way to keep in touch.  But why not keep it positive?

The same goes for Facebook.  Use your Facebook page to post your gigs and music, of course, but also use it to post interesting tidbits, ideas,  nice messages.  Don’t ever let an angry or bitter thought show up on your Facebook account where someone can change their minds about what a great artist you are!

In the end, the article that I read about finding new fans was a way for the marketer himself to get more business.  “I can help you, we can discuss your needs.” it said.  Well, that’s fair.  But here’s what I think you should keep in mind:  if you were to physically go door-to-door in your neighbourhood with your guitar and sing to people when they answered, you might get a myriad of responses.  Some might be amused, or pleased, some might buy your CD.  But others might close the door on your face, or even politely said “no thank you”.  If their response was negative, you wouldn’t go there and bang on their door again, would you?  You are dealing with real people, not just email addresses.

Marketing is good.  Intelligent, thoughtful marketing is even better!


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