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Building a Fan Base - Who needs One and Why

By Ken Klar
© 2002 Ken Klar. All rights reserved

One of the main things to remember as you travel the world of the music business is.


It's not fun, it's not art, it's not personal expression, and it's not sex. It's Business. That's it. And the sooner you come to terms with this fact, the better off both you and your career will be. So before you approach a pro (which is short for "pro-fessional", meaning that they get paid for what they do), take some time to think about what you are bringing to the meeting. If all you are bringing is a sad face and empty hands, you need to reschedule.

Don't meet with an industry professional until you can bring SOMETHING of interest to the meeting. By interest, I don't mean, where you were born and how big a vocal range you have. Bring something to the meeting that will pique their business curiosity.

"But, what can I possibly bring?" , I can hear you asking from here. Well, the truth is that there are a number of things you can do if you prepare properly. But there's one thing that you can bring without having to spend a ton of money developing it: A FANBASE. That's right, it doesn't take a lot of money, but there is a modest amount of effort involved.

What can you do with this fan-base?

* With a good-sized fan-base, you can give a DJ a reason to play your material on the local radio station. Trust me, if you have documented 15,000 fans that will listen to his radio station because you are on it, he will be a lot more interested in playing your music.

* With a good-sized fan-base you can convince a distributor that your CD is something he should be placing in record store across the country.

* With a good-sized fan base you can pack the local coffee shop with coffee drinking consumers every week, which will make the storeowner very happy to see you and eager to book the next gig, and the next, and the next!

* With good-sized fan base you can travel outside of your local area and still have more than a handful of strangers show up at your show.

Of course that's not all you can accomplish, but I think you get the drift. What's more, there's a ton that you can do with a good-sized fan base that is very difficult to do without one. Now that we have established your need for a fan base, lets talk about a few ways you can start, build and maintain one.


Look to your family and friends first. These may very well be the most loyal fans you will ever have, so don't disregard them. Make a list of all the family and friends that you could count on to come out and see you perform. Don't concern yourself with where they live in relationship to you. That's not nearly as important as their attitude toward you and your music.

I'm constantly amazed at the number of artists that don't have or aren't developing a mailing list. No artist should ever play a gig without a mailing list lying around. Don't forget to mention its existence from the stage. How are your new fans supposed to know that you have one unless you tell them? Some performers put little mailing list forms on each table in the audience before the gig and collect them afterward. And these days, having a mailing list form on your website is a MUST. The truth is, it doesn't really matter how you get the names and addresses, but you have to get them.


Once you have this list, however large or small it may be, the next thing you need is a way top get the word out. There are a number of ways. The more conventional approach is through postcards, letters. But the telephone works well. It is critical that you select a way of communicating that is comfortable for you and that makes valuable use of your time.


Newsletters are a terrific way of getting the word out in one shot. With this media you can pour over your communication word by word to make sure it is exactly what you want to send before you send it out. Then, send it to everyone on your list with the simple push of one button. There are number of great services to use for this purpose. The Internet is terrific because
many of them are free! I can personally recommend Yahoo Groups and but I'm sure there are others. The main benefit of using a service like these is that you won't inadvertently share anyone's email address with everyone else in your fan-base. Trust me, there is nothing worse than the dubious distinction of being the single biggest source of junk e-mail for all of your trusted family, friends and loyal fans.


The downside of sending out newsletters is that they can be impersonal. But, that is something that you can easily change by establishing a friendly tone in your newsletter. One of the
things that you should consider is sending out `personal' emails as well. For me this is a `form' email that I customize for each recipient. The good thing about this sort of communication is that it is very personal in nature and allows for your fans to "get to know you" on a much more intimate level than would be possible through a standard newsletter. But, this also takes a lot more time because you will need to edit each communiqué. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong here, it mainly depends on your personal style and the amount of time you are able to invest.


One of the newest phenomena to hit the street is the advent of personal groups of Jr. marketeers called "street teams". These are actual fans that you have cultivated that usually
come in the form of exuberant teens ready and able to do anything you ask of them. So, once you have established you "team" of loyal fans, these are the same people you send all the free promo stuff to and in turn they spread the word. They wear your band t-shirts to school. They give away your Demo CD and hundreds of flyers to your next gig. But wait, here's the best part: THEY DO IT FOR FREE! Why? They do it because they love what you are doing and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They get to go to school and to the movie theater or the mall and feel like a big-shot because they're on YOUR street team. Don't be afraid to use this promotion to affect you current fan-base in a positive way!

Once you have begun cultivating your fanbase, you need to feed it. It's a bit like owning a pet dog, really. You have to establish is a consistent form of communication with those that are most interested in what you are doing musically. But be careful to not overload your fans. In the beginning there can be a temptation to touch base too often, if you overdo it your loyal fans will leave you. Remember this simple rule of thumb: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR FANS MORE THAN ONCE A MONTH.


Having trouble filling the pages? Be short and sincere. A few paragraphs are enough. Just be honest. Let them know who you are, where you are in the artistic process, and what you're thinking, and doing. Your fans simply want to feel like they know you, they want to be part of your journey to stardom. Let them in on it. It's fun having the support of others. Besides, who'll do it if you don't?

Good Luck!!

Ken Klar is a Producer, Songwriter and Managing Director of Must Have Music (BMI)/Must Have More Music (ASCAP), which has spent the last ten years, developing an extensive catalog of top quality original songs ranging from Adult Contemporary, Pop/R&B, Contemporary Christian, Pop-Rock and Country. The current catalog includes more than one hundred songs that have been placed with Independent Artists across the country. For information about this and other music industry related topics, go to

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