Saturday, May 24, 2014

How to Build a Twitter Following as an Indie Band

One of the reasons I wanted to start my band, As the City Rumbles Underneath was to learn more about how bands are supposed to promote their product after they leave my studio.  I've had a lot of great indie projects leave my studio and when I would ask some of them what happened to it months later, the answer was often "not much".  As a producer and music lover I can't tell you how heartbreaking that was to watch projects I put so much effort into fall flat.  I wanted to put myself in the shoes of an unknown act and see what it was like to promote it so that I would be able to offer some insights to the people I work with.

After a lot of work over the last year I've come to realize a lot of opportunities that are available for artists on Twitter and I wanted to share some of my experiences in a blog post.

Building your Twitter following

I've been told by numerous people about the benefits of promoting on twitter but I just didn't believe in it.  I've had a twitter account for my business for years and have used it sporadically but I really didn't see the big deal.  Ironically Twitter is how Cat (my singer/co-writer) and I met but aside from that and a few gigs I didn't really get a lot of benefit from it.

What caused me to change my mind about Twitter was a few simultaneous events.  In February I was sent a bunch of blog/radio contacts by my friend and music promoter Dutch Guy (again someone I met on Twitter) and another music promoter Katie O'Halloran.  While I started contacting everyone on their lists I noticed that everyone I was contacting was letting me know they had featured us via Twitter.  This was great because we could retweet their tweets and promote both of us at the same time.  The only issue was we only had about 350 followers at the time so the message wasn't going out to many people.

Seeing how all the blog and radio stations seemed to regard Twitter as being important, I decided to take it more seriously and build our following up.  This is how I did it:

1. Find a successful artist whose music is similar to yours.  It's important to choose an artist who has a lot of followers because once someone has more than 100k followers they're ALWAYS getting new followers.  This will allow you to cherry pick the top of the list without running the risk of continually adding and deleting the same people.

2. Start adding their fans, preferably no more than a 100 at a time or Twitter will threaten to block you.

3. Every day or two erase the people who didn't end up following you.  Some people choose to erase everyone but aside from being obnoxious it will lead to followers of yours unfollowing which defeats the purpose.  There are some really useful Unfollow apps that you can look in to make this process easier.

Experiment with different artists and see which work best.  I finally found a band that seemed to give us a 20% follow rate and then when I tried a different artist one day I was getting 30-40%.  I'm not sure exactly why there was a difference but it didn't really matter.  What I was interested in was results and getting the most out of my efforts.

Another option that works if you've covered another artist's material is following their followers while you're promoting your cover on Twitter.  We did that with a Depeche Mode cover we did and have been getting a great response that way.

Making Useful Contacts on Twitter

Once you start building your following it's important to pay attention to who is adding you and who may be receptive to your music or helping you promote it.  While adding people to my Twitter account I would pay attention to whether the blogs or radio stations would add us back.  If they did and I saw our music connecting with them I would go to their website and look for a way to submit our music.  When submitting I would always start off by mentioning "thanks for adding us on twitter..." to show that there was already a connection there.  If there was no way to contact them directly I would tweet something like "Hi @XXX thanks for following back.  If you get a chance check out our new single here: ".  You have to be careful not to do that too much, but if you do it sporadically you'd be surprised how many people would respond and be receptive to helping.  Keep in mind that even if they don't initially follow you back it's not a bad idea to contact them anyway.  Sometimes blogs/radio don't follow an artist till they've decided to feature their music.

If someone does play or promote your music it's important to cross promote by retweeting and giving the occasional shout out.  The reality is that the people promoting you have their own "product" they're promoting (show, blog etc...) and they want their support reciprocated.  Trust me, we're all in this together and need to pull each other up!  Promotion in social media is never just a one way street.

In Closing

I began really working our Twitter account seriously in February 2014.  At that time we had about 350 followers and not a whole lot going on.  As of May 2014 we have 2700 + followers and if you look on our account here:

you'll see we have almost daily interactions with fans and people helping us promote our music.  We've also been played/featured on close to 40 blogs/internet radio and podcasts, most of which were ultimately found via Twitter.  Does that mean we're rich and famous with lots of sales?  Hell no, but it's a really good start and that's all we can ask for right now.  Building a band's fan base in todays ADD society is very difficult but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing it.  If you're serious about your music you owe it to spend just as much time and money promoting it as you did creating it.  Just remember it's a building process and it doesn't happen overnight.  Like anything in life, just because something is hard and takes time doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done.

This is the first of many posts I'm going to do to help my clients get further with their music careers.  If you have any questions feel free to hunt down my email on my site and email me.  Also if you get a chance start following my personal and band Twitter accounts here. ;)

Here's links to my site and social media:

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