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How To Build A Larger Audience/Fanbase For Your Christian Music - Part 1

Are you a Christian music artist? Do you want to build a larger audience for your music? In this 5 part series, we will explain our music marketing strategy for exponentially expanding your fanbase.

Today, in part 1, we focus on the foundation needed to build a larger audience/fanbase, where to focus, and your place in a bigger picture.

Next week, in part 2, we will focus on your online hub, ways to attract more visitors to your online hub, and being more than a musician.

Why do some Christian artists have millions of monthly streams on the streaming platforms, while other great artists struggle to get more than a few thousand monthly streams?

Many Christian Artists struggle to reach new listeners. Marketing music was never easy, but quite a few artists (and even agents/distributors) are not using all of the possibilities that are already available. What saddens me is that many Christian artists only scratch the surface of their music marketing possibilities. DIY-platforms, such as Distrokid, have also contributed to poor marketing of music. It just isn't enough to release a great song, if nobody/hardly anyone is going to listen to it.

These days, there are so many different ways to market your music online that it’s tough to even know where to start. Technology is rapidly changing everything we know about music marketing and fan engagement. So what is worth your time, energy, and money? What isn’t? How many social media platforms do you need to be active on? Do email lists still matter?

Just to give you an impression of the challenge that you are facing when marketing your music. There are over 40,000 tracks are being uploaded to the Spotify platform each day! That's the equivalent of 280.000 songs per week, or around 1.2 million tracks per calendar month. Only a small portion of these tracks are Christian. 

Energy, time and money is wasted if you created music with a purpose, and that purpose is somehow not being met (or exceeded). That is why it is important to create a strategy to reach your potential listeners/fans.

We have documented a number of elements that we believe should be considered in every healthy music marketing strategy. We will point out a number of options and provide insights that will help you decide on the best approach for each aspect of your music marketing.

Online music marketing = fan engagement

The key to effective online marketing is engaging fans. Online music marketing revolves around 2 important factors:
  • how well can you/your music be found?
  • how well do you engage with your fans?
Your main goals should be to make it easy for new listeners to find you/your music, keep listeners/fans aware of you, solidify the relationship, and create superfans who will support you throughout your career.

Why are superfans so important? These fans are the ones that go the extra mile to come to your concerts (often also bringing friends along). Superfans buy merchandise and anything else you offer. It's the superfans that promote you/your music through word of mouth, write reviews, reach out to broadcasters (e.g. radio stations, playlist curators)  with song requests, etc.. You need superfans to grow. Word-of-mouth referrals (by friends, colleagues, radio stations, etc.) are still the most effective channel for music discovery. It is the superfans that attended the online concerts during the pandemic when artists faced a global shortage of live performances and epic concerts.

Every serious artist now needs to focus on going all-in on their digital experience, while keeping their options open for physical concerts/shows. The future of music is hybrid... it is about both the digital and the physical experience that you provide your listeners/fans. As an artist, you are extremely vulnerable if you don't cover both areas. Your income can dry up almost overnight, and you can fully lose touch with your fanbase within a few months.

When promoting music and working to build a killer artist brand in this brave new world, there are a few different core problems that we’re usually working to solve. They can include:
  • How do we digitally reach new fans and continuously build our fan base?
  • How do we create a unique brand that stands out in competitive streaming platforms and social media platforms?
  • How do we engage current fans and build deeper connections with them?
  • How do we turn fans into a megaphone for our brand?
  • How do we monetize a fan base while remaining authentic?
  • How can we use algorithms to our advantage?
The biggest difference between winning campaigns and wimpy campaigns largely revolves around engagement, or getting someone's attention and then doing something with it.

Before we dive into the specifics of how to market your music online, let’s quickly touch on the three pillars of fan engagement:
  1. Consistency. In order to truly rise above the noise of the internet, you have to be consistent in your music marketing, in terms of both quantity and quality.
  2. Authenticity. Communication with your fans must come from you, the artist, in your voice. You want them to feel like they’re along for the ride on your music career journey.
  3. Sustainability. There’s no shortcut or quick fix for building up a solid fanbase — you simply have to show up and do the work every day to sustain fan engagement.
As long as those three things remain at the core of your strategy, the online marketing tools you use will work together as part of a cohesive plan, and they’ll be much more effective at driving awareness and engagement for your music.

You need to strategize beyond "this year" or "this release"

In the short term, using one approach isn't going to be your silver bullet – there's never a quick fix for building an authentic connection with fans or making your music more visible. It is hard work, and you need to set goals. Without goals, your activities will be less effective. Everything you do needs to contribute to your goals... goals that you would like to reach in 1-2 years from now.    

Market Yourself As A Business To Business Musician

Instead of focusing all of your efforts on reaching out to all your fans individually, focus a lot more of your efforts on building up good relationships with other businesses! What I mean is that you should spend a good portion of your time contacting event organizers, radio stations, websites & playlist curators that cover your genre of music in some way, TV channels, DJs, musicians who are more established than you, and the like. What do all of these have in common? They have a much bigger audience than you, and within their audiences are people who will fit into your ideal fan base!

While a lot of musicians spend lots of time grinding it out trying to make new fans one by one, more successful and full-time musicians often spend more time building up relationships with people who can get their music out there better than they can. The thing is, if you get in good with bigger companies and they recommend you to their audience, you’ll get a lot more exposure from that one article/event/show/interview than you would from spending a month on Facebook and Twitter trying to get new fans from scratch. That’s why it’s worth investing time and effort into forming these kinds of relationships.

Now I’m not saying don’t market to fans individually. You should, but only once they’re already on your social sites and mailing list. In terms of actually getting people to hear you the first time around, getting other established businesses to promote you is one of the best ways to go about doing this. So switch your target audience and start focusing more of your efforts on other businesses. And remember, as a musician, you are a business!

Focus A Good Portion Of Your Time On Gigging

Gigging is one of those golden activities every musician should be doing! Not only can it be great for raising awareness of your brand, but it can also be monetized in multiple ways, and help you build a strong relationship with your core audience. Now playing gigs isn’t anything new or ‘out there’. That said, it’s something that works, and works well.

In terms of promotion, some of the best gigs you can do are events that have other acts in your genre also playing at the event. This will mean the audience will contain one or two types of people who you’ll want to target:
  1. Fans of other musicians in your genre, or
  2. Fans of your genre in general.
For gaining NEW fans, this is the kind of audience you want! While for increased revenue you’d want to put on your own gigs and make it all about you, you won’t get very many people first discovering your music at these kinds of gigs. Because of this, they won’t do much in terms of increasing your fanbase. When playing at shows with multiple artists, however, you have a good chance to get your music in front of new targeted music fans. Gigging is great for both gaining new fans and making money from the music industry, so be sure to get your gigging game on!

That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed part 1. Next week, in part 2, we will focus on your online hub, ways to attract more visitors to your online hub, and being more than a musician.

Have a great week!