Being an independent artists means you also have to manage the other aspects of your artistic career. Not only are you the creator, you are also the marketing team, the customer service representative, and the financial director.
This can be a lot to deal with. A lot of us would just like to make the art and be done with it. Unless we are creating as a hobby for ourselves, we have to be our own advocate.
The landscape of being an artist has changed over the past decades. Before the internet was booming, artists had to get the attention of a promotion company or label. This was extremely hard to do as the ratio of promoters to artists was way off. A big company could only sign so many artists per year.
Artistic promotion is much different in modern times. The internet has allowed people to be their own promotional team. While big companies can provide more resources for promotion, there is still enough room for independent artists to blossom.
Today I want to talk about a few basic strategies for audience growth. It is very difficult to learn how to build an audience. However, if you follow these steps, you will see your audience growing in no time!
Have a Person-Centered Approach
While we will hit Dunbar’s number pretty fast, it is important to think of your audience as people. They have their love lives, interests, friends and families.
While this may seem like common sense, it can slip our minds in this technology-driven world. We have great tools at our disposal that will break down our friends and fans into a plethora of numbers and metrics.
Don’t get me wrong, these tools are very useful, but context is important. When I look at my traffic for the month, don’t see an increasing or decreasing number. I see a group of people that found away to interact with me, and that is very special.
Next time you plan out a marketing strategy, or post on social media, think about the real people that you are doing this for. If you focus on them then your numbers will go up naturally.
I know we have discussed this before. My friend Alex Schumacher wrote me an incredible piece on this topic. However, it cannot be overstated. It it extremely important that you be yourself.
Social media has given everyone a voice. It is also given us avenues to show off different aspects of our personalities. We may feel pressure to weigh in on the political arguments of the day. It can sometimes feel like we need to be the person that we think our audience wants.
If you take one thing away from this article it should be this: Your audience wants you for you. Yes, this sounds cliche and sappy, but it is true.
Your artwork and creativity is an extension of your personality. The people that choose to interact with you want just that. Give it to them!
Put yourself out there
You can’t expect your audience to gather around your work when you don’t show them anything! I see this problem with artists more frequently than I would like. I want everyone to feel comfortable with their work. However, this is just not the case for everyone, including myself.
This is a hard one, especially for us introverts. It can feel meaningless to try to put ourselves out there. There is the fear of rejection, and our own self esteem issues. Some of us fear redicule and rejection. While we often see these fears validated on social media, I assure you it is not as bad as it seems.
This is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to start my own website. I was certain that the moment I posted anything online it would be instantly bombarded with negative hate-fueled comments. To this day I have had very few hateful comments. Most of the negative comments I received turned into good conversations.
Many of us have done this in the past: We post a snippet or portion of our work with a caption like “I hate it but here you go”.
When I say “be positive”, I don’t mean this in the “let’s all be happy all of the time” kind of way. That is impossible to do. We are humans and have a full range of emotional expressions.
However, it is important that we are portraying our work in a positive light. Asking for help/criticism is one thing, but we we should not be letting our feelings add a negative spin to our self promotion.
This is no different than telling a potential employer about how bad you are. You work for your fans, both literally and figuratively.
Stay Away From “Get Famous Quick” Schemes
It is very tempting to give in to businesses, apps, and people that promise an increase in popularity for a price.
It is true that many of these services will grow your audience. However, the people interacting with you will either be fake or unrelated to what you do.
Do you really want your social media feeds clogged up with strangers who don’t care about your work? You wouldn’t invite a group of people you don’t know to your birthday. We’ll, you might. There’s always that one coworker that wants to bring extra friends, but that is besides the point.
While it can be argued that increased social media numbers can increase feelings of legitimacy, the pros often do not outweigh the cons. Artificially inflated numbers may look nice, but they just add more clutter between yourself and those who legitimately love your art.
Talk To Your Audience
This is one that took me a long time to learn. I figured that people would see my website, love me, and we would be friends. That was very silly of me.
A lot of my early social media posts were generic promotional items. It did not show off my personality or my creativity. Since I changed that approach, I have seen an increase in the amount of social interactions I have online.
People like to feel close to the artwork they love. We feel like our favorite musicians, writers, and painters understand us on a certain level. This is part of why podcasts are so popular. We spend hours getting to know our favorite people.
Reach out and have conversations with the people who like your art. You may be surprised at what they have to say. Since starting Effective Nerd, I have made so many great friends online.
What Do You Think?
What are your preferred strategies for how to build an audience? Are there any that I missed?
Let me know on social media!