I see it all the time. Eager artists looking to the major labels to not only define their success, but create it. “But Beyonce did this one thing and it was huge!” they’ll start. Or, “This totally worked for Taylor Swift!” The problem with that logic is that major label artists and independent artists are not the same thing. They don’t have access to the same tools, money, and fanbase. You simply can’t look at the tactics used to excite and rally Beyonce’s fans and think it will work at the ground level. There are a few reasons for this.
You don’t already have a built-in fanbase
The reason why Taylor Swift can pull her music from Spotify and potentially make more money than ever, while at the same time getting her fans to admire the stand she’s making against a major company, is because her fans already exist. And not only do they exist, but they exist in the millions. If she pulls her music from Spotify, her fans will just buy her album elsewhere. At the same time, she’ll generate an even more loyal following for her brave stance against such a major player in the streaming world. It’s a win-win for her.
For an independent artist, pulling your music from Spotify won’t rally anyone behind you, it’ll just make you less visible. It’s important to remember that the reason it seems like every move a major label artist makes brings them more respect from their fans is because their fans are already watching their every move. Without that massive, intense fanbase, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about recreating those tactics, they simply won’t be the same.
You don’t have a label’s money
One major advantage that label artists have is that they usually have a good chunk of money backing their efforts. When money is less of a concern, you can pull off a lot more stunts. Suddenly doing things like an international tour or pouring $10,000 into a video is more viable. You can put out ads or run contests to garner social media fans, get more people out to your shows, and potentially increase sales. You can hire the best photographers to shoot your band photos and throw a secret rooftop party for 25 of your closest friends. But when you’re a DIY artist, you don’t have that kind of money to play around with, and you can’t expect to promote yourself in the same ways. You may not be able to sponsor your Facebook posts for six months straight, and your music probably won’t be chosen for Jennifer Lawrence’s next film. But just because you don’t have the same kind of money that a label artist might doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage, it just means you have to be more careful and creative in your approach. In fact, doing so is actually to your advantage.
Your grassroots efforts are actually your strength
It may not always seem it, but your grassroots DIY approach is actually your biggest strength. You may not have the same reach as a label artist, but what you do have is more time and more ability to get personal with your fans – something major label artists tend to miss out on. And while you’re still growing, your audience will grow with you. The fans you have today will be your most loyal fans throughout your career – so long as you treat them right. Take the time to get to know your fans at shows, through social media, contests, Periscope sessions, etc. Hold contests with a chance to FaceTime the band or have dinner together before a show. These are the things that major label artists don’t typically have the time for, but you do. In this sense, you actually have a huge advantage. Let your fans know how much you appreciate them, and you can be sure that word will get around. You might be surprised to see how your fanbase grows when you start thinking like an independent band.