One of the most powerful things you can do to help grow your fanbase is to build a collaborative network.
I’m not joking when I say this is game changing.
This is a strategy that I’ve seen implemented effectively across many different industries, and it works especially well when it comes to music.
It’s also future proof – no matter what changes happen to the platforms and algorithms, this strategy can support you long term as you grow as an artist.
Why is collaboration so effective?
Collaborating on a song with a similar artist in your genre is one of the most impactful ways of reaching new and relevant listeners.
When you collaborate with another artist your profile is displayed on the track across the DPSs as you can see in the track below:
This means every time a listener sees the track on your collaborators profile or in any algorithmic playlists, there is also a link to click through to your profile.
Not only does it help put you in front of a large number of listeners relatively quickly compared to other approaches, but these listeners are much more likely to turn into fans due to their similar taste in music and familiarity with the other artist.
In addition to this there is the algorithmic benefit of being associated with acts within your genre – further increasing your exposure in the ‘similar artists’ section.
You also benefit from the synergy of combined input. If both artists bring a project each to collaborate on, the output is two completed tracks per artist instead of just the one each.
The advantages also extend to social media, where your network can help increase your exposure as well as providing additional interaction on your posts.
What is a collaborative artist network?
Your network is a group of people linked by the common goal of sharing music and supporting each other to grow an audience.
When you think about getting signed to a label, one of the major benefits that comes from it is a sort of defacto inauguration into a collaborative network – you all of a sudden have much easier access to similar artists in your sphere, as well as a support network to help promote your content.
But that doesn’t mean you need to get signed to be in this position.
In fact, it’s arguably even better to build your network from the ground up and forge stronger connections that aren’t based on label affiliations.
Your collaborative network doesn’t have to be limited to just other artists either. Curators and influencers are great inclusions into your network.
Think of playlist owners in your genre, YouTube channels that create mixes of your style of music, blog editors, social media influencers – all these people are open to collaboration.
How does a network work?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to building a network. Think of it as more of a guiding principle. You want to surround yourself with a network of people who can come together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Most networks exist organically without ever setting out with the intention of building one – they are just like minded people who want to spread good music with the world.
But even so, there are some general guidelines that most successful networks will follow:
Social interaction and support
You and your network should be actively supporting each other on social media. Liking posts, commenting, and tagging where relevant. Not only does this help expose you to each other’s fanbases, but it also helps you use your social media in a more natural way – engaging with your genre and the culture surrounding it while getting some extra likes along the way.
Let’s face it, coming up with content for socials can be time consuming, so anything that can smooth the process along is extremely useful.
There are also lots of other places where you can support each other, with artists playlists on Spotify being a great example, as well as mentions in interviews and other press.
Actively work on collaborations
Be actively mindful of collaboration opportunities when creating your music. If you know another artist that could bring a certain flair to something you’re working on, then you should be sending it over to get their thoughts.
Always be on the look out for collaboration opportunities.
You will need to reach out
If you’re not signed to a label, the chances are you aren’t going to have someone pitching you collaboration opportunities on a regular basis.
Don’t expect collaborations to just happen, you’ll have to reach out to people.
This may seem daunting. You’ll probably think of lots of reasons why not to do it (“they are too big an artist, they won’t like my music, it seems presumptuous” etc), but the reality is that you will need to get comfortable reaching out to people.
It should be reciprocal
For a network to work effectively it needs to be reciprocal. If you find yourself consistently supporting artists without receiving support back you’ll need to question how much time you want to keep investing in that relationship.
It’s important to be aware that everyone will put a different level of investment into their music – people have other commitments, family, jobs, etc. Over time you will find which relationships work and which ones don’t.
How do you build your network?
It’s never been easier to build a network than today.
Years ago you would be far more reliant on traditional networking approaches – attending live events, physical meetups, even moving to a different city to get more involved in your scene.
But today most networking will happen online (at least initially) – over social media, subreddits and discord servers.
In many ways this approach uses similar techniques as mentioned in the similar artists section in this article – but you don’t want to be overreaching when you look to connect.
When it comes to your network you need to be more realistic about who you approach – you’re not going to be able to jump on a collab with Adele straight out of the gate.
Look at the relevant hashtags for your genre, dive into playlists, search new music posts on subreddits. You’re looking to find the artists that you resonate with, who also seem to be at a similar stage in their career.
You’re looking to team up with people where you can both bring value to the table.
Make a list of these artists, and find ways to interact with them. Like their stuff on socials, start striking up a conversation, and when the time is right you can float the idea of a collaboration.
If you reach out with the intention of forming a beneficial relationship as opposed to just trying to spam your music, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
The more time you invest in connection with your scene, the more naturally you will find these conversations emerge.
Start Building Relationships
I can’t stress enough how much this approach will help you to build a fanbase.
Ironically most artists are far too focused on how they can build relationships with their fans, that they neglect the value that comes from having a strong artist network.
So keep this in mind when it comes to your marketing. Always be on the lookout for potential collaborations and opportunities to interact with the artists and influencers in your genre.
You can all help shape the culture together.