The first problem with growing an audience is finding out:
- Who they are
- Where they hang out
- A way to get them to take the first step to becoming a true fan
Most of us want to start at the very beginning - getting traffic.
The fastest way to do this is to pay for traffic from sites like Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. Smart musicians will send potential fans to a squeeze page where they can opt-in for free music and send a follow up offer to spend some money.
However, I believe that often it make sense to create a system before you ever start paying for traffic.
Having the system in place in advance allows you to:
a) make the most of the traffic you get
b) gather vital information to allow you to make informed choices rather than guessing
c) make more from your organic traffic as well.
I did a presentation on this approach today for my subscribers, I decided to call it the "Unfair Advantage" system.
It's been geared from the ground up to address the deficiencies I've encountered with most bands online; a non-focused approach to grow their audience and sell their music. This happens because:
- They promote social media properties instead of their own website
- They don't have their website setup to gather emails from potential fans
- They don't use email to nurture potential fans through to paying fans
- They don't have multiple touch-points to stay "on the radar" for potential and current audience members
With those issues in mind, I set out to create a system that would give an "Unfair Advantage" for a musician that wanted to make the most of their online promotional efforts - this is what I came up with:
The Online Marketing Leverage System for Musicians
The entire system is for potential fans to be gradually filtered out until they end up as a paid member. They'll likely first view a social media update or perhaps find you via a forum or a search on Google. They'll need to click, land on your website and decide to opt-in for a free music offer.
They'll then need to download and listen to your music. Depending on how well your music is received and whether you can hold onto their attention, you'll have the chance to potentially evolve your relationship beyond someone who likes your music to someone who will pay.
In other words - this is infrastructure.
Would you rather leave your house, walk downtown to the community well, draw up a bucket of water, pour it into a pail and carry it all the way back home, then finally pour yourself a glass of water to drink?
...or simply turn the faucet and have access to 10 times the water in seconds, both hot and cold?
In order to get to the point where you can simply "turn on a faucet", you need to lay the ground work.
Yes, there is work to be done and there is potential for technical issues to slow you down, but assuming you can successfully build the infrastructure - your time will be well spent.
Another great reason for doing all this work up front?
Most other musicians won't be bothered - which means you'll have the "Unfair Advantage" over them.
I don't mean to paint your fellow musicians as competitors in a zero-sum race for the most fans, but there is a limited audience for just about any band out there.
There's so many other bands, businesses and content competing for your potential fan's attention that anything you can do to stand out should be taken if you want to succeed.
Who shouldn't bother with a system like this?
Musicians who don't write their own music and/or don't have any finished music to offer to their potential fans should skip this system as it won't be worth it for them at the moment.
Stage 1 - Traffic
There are many ways to get traffic that are free or paid. In the image above, I'm showing mostly social media websites, but that isn't the only way to get traffic. Also consider using:
- Guest posts
- Popular blogs (comments)
- Offline publicity
If you observe closely, there are blue arrows coming from the bottom and orange arrows coming from the top.
In the big picture, I used the two different colours to indicate using social media to promote content on your website via status updates (blue) vs. profile links that point to your squeeze page (orange).
Technically you can also send traffic from sources like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter using paid ads or promoted content.
Keep in mind, that if you're going to use "free" methods to get traffic to your website, it will cost you time and energy to produce. If you're not going to spend money to promote your music, and you're not going to spend time or energy to create content to use on any of the listed traffic sources above...then you'll always struggle to have people find you...
...sitting around waiting to be 'discovered' just ain't going to cut it.
If that is your preferred strategy, then don't bother reading further as the rest of this system is going to be useless without some traffic coming to your website in the first place.
Why Not Facebook or Youtube?
But you might be saying, "Mike - I have a killer Facebook Fan page - why don't I send people there instead of a website? Websites cost money and are a pain in the ass to manage".
The reason why you always want to send traffic to your website that you own (with your own hosting) is because you own it. You don't own Facebook or Youtube. They can shut you down and separate you from your audience in heartbeat whenever they want.
So don't do it.
Not only that, but Facebook and Youtube are VERY distracting places to be.
You're already competing for the attention of your audience, so take them to your website where you don't' have to also compete against 'caturday' videos.
Get traffic to your website for maximum insurance value and the best opportunity to help move your potential fans to sign up to your list and possibly buy.
Stage 2: Your Platform
The blue square on the left represents your website (note the little house = your home page).
The blue square on the right represents your squeeze page.
Smart marketers like Mr. Music Marketing Manifesto (John Oszjaca) say you should send your paid traffic to a squeeze page instead of your website, and I'm inclined to agree.
So we have the orange arrows from our traffic representing "cold" or "paid" traffic to our squeeze page. You can also send traffic straight from the links in your social profiles to a page like this.
John also recommends having a dedicated domain for just your squeeze page so there are zero potential distractions, they either sign up for your free music offer or leave; again John knows his stuff and I agree 100%.
However, there are also opportunities to get your regular website working for you.
First of all, you're going to be posting content on your site that's interesting and helpful, insightful or entertaining to your audience right?
You're also going to send people to your website from social media, guest posts, forums etc.
So now that they're on your website, you can use a plugin like SumoMe to start collecting emails from your website as well.
Besides building the standard sidebar optin (which tends to not convert all that well), you can configure SumoMe to collect emails via a "smart bar" at the top of your page, a pop up optin lightbox as well as a 'scroll up' optin box.
You can adjust the settings so that they don't all show at the same time, some may show on certain pages of your site etc.
Once this is setup, you'll have the opportunity to grow subscribers from a squeeze page or from the cool content that you're posting on your blog.
Stage 3 - Email Acquisition
So you have them on your list - now what?
Want to know what the two biggest problems musicians have with email are?
- Not collecting emails addresses
- Collecting emails addresses, but not sending emails.
But we know better than that right?
Now I don't have the space to go deeply into email right here, but I have some free training you can check out if you'd like to learn more about how to use it effectively and avoid the common mistakes I see most musicians making.
Email is the first major conversion on the customer journey - the path that your potential fan takes from finding out about you, wanting to learn more, liking your stuff all the way through to buying everything you do and telling everyone they know about you.
In online marketing, email is the base form of currency.
If you have to choose between getting paid today and getting an email...always go for the email. With the right strategy, an email address can mean multiple options to get paid down the road.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
When you have someone's email, you get to learn more about them by seeing what emails they open, what links they click on as well as the possibilities to see what they're up to on your website.
This is particularly useful if they're about to buy from you and abandon the shopping cart; now you can follow up with them to see if they need some help.
- Use email to stay in touch
- Use email to send your list to the cool content on your website (a.k.a. email as another source of traffic for you)
- Use email to make offers to your audience
- Use email to be helpful and cool - so you can warm your audience up into buyers
You can also use email to deliver the free downloads they signed up for and to deliver your new subscribers into your free membership area where they can download your free songs.
Email is the lynch pin that holds this whole system together, so make sure you're giving email the attention it deserves.
Mailchimp has a forever free plan that allows you to have up to 2,500 contacts. It's pretty user friendly but costs money when you want to start creating automated sequences. I highly recommend using Active Campaign instead, it's affordable and nobody can compete with their automation for the price.
Automation helps make this system even more powerful, because you can set parts of it to run by itself without any intervention on your part.
This is the stuff that I really love creating, I geek out on marketing automation for some reason....
Stage 4 - Freemium Membership
Okay, now we're really separating the men from the boys.
Collecting emails from a website with pop ups or with a squeeze page is relatively old school and membership sites are nothing new...
But just like many are guilty of not collecting emails or not emailing the subscribers they have...few have a membership area built into their website.
Even the thought of setting one up is enough to scare off many people. But the good news is that membership sites are getting easier to setup. There are free options that are more than capable for what we need here.
Why have a free membership?
Here are a few of the reasons:
Greater control over your downloads - if you don't want your free downloads shared all over the web, putting them behind a membership firewall helps.
Convenient for those who lose their password, you can use the built-in password reset feature in WordPress to allow them to change their password and still get access to their music.
The fact that they are a 'member' allows you to also send them occasional "transaction" emails - which keeps you well within the confines of some of the more restrictive email marketing laws (like CASL).
This way, making new downloads available to long-time freemium members is a great way to regain their attention without being spammy.
But most importantly, since you control this membership area, you can make additional offers to your freemium members to help nudge them over to becoming a paying customer.
Stage 5 - Paid Membership
Finally, getting paid at long last.
When your prospect follows through the entire process, they're more likely to buy then if you simply hoped and prayed they'd make a purchase.
We'll also need a shopping cart to get paid and unlock access to the music you're selling behind the membership. You lucked out because I found a system that does both for free to start - it's called Zaxaa.
They have a free wordpress plugin called Zaxaa Member that lets you do membership levels and you can assign the cost of the level along to what is accessible on each level.
This allows you to designate one level as a "Freemium" level and others to be paid.
Your membership area is where you can sell your music direct to fan. You can charge a monthly or yearly fee if you want, or you can just set one time fees for each of your products, or bundle everything together for one massive fee that occurs once.
There's a ton of flexibility here, it basically comes down to how much of a back catalog you have as well as how creative you are.
One of the keys to making a system like the 1,000 True Fan Theory work, is that you need to offer multiple items at different price points if you want to hit the $99/year/fan sweet spot to earning a solid six figures per year.
So get creative, you don't need to offer just 99 cent downloads - you can also;
- Make multiple album bundles
- Bundle MP3s + CDs
- Bundle music + merch
- Create an insider membership with closer access to the band members, first listens to new music etc.
- Sell songwriting or how to play [insert instrument here] lessons
- Even sell house concerts directly off your website
The only limit here is your creativity and understanding what your audience values the most.
Having a system in place like this allows you to work smart and not hard.
While at first glance it may look like a lot of work to set up, I would counter that many musicians are already doing many of these steps but are reaping little to no results because they don't have a system like this in place.
Technology has only recently made setting up a system like this affordable for musicians to do, and I hope you can take what you learned here and apply it towards growing your audience and earning more money with you music right away.
But if you need a helping hand on how to get all of these pieces integrated properly, then you owe it yourself to check this out.
I'm offering my services to not only ensure you have the right software to make all of this work, but to show you step by step how to connect it and also my personal help if you get stuck.
All for less than the price of using one popular email service provider.
Want to learn more? Get the full free training here.