Say the name “Jimmy Buffet” and what comes to mind? Palm trees. Coconuts. White sand beaches. Rum.

Notice that “music” is nowhere in that list. Obviously, Jimmy Buffet is a very talented musician (not to mention a bestselling author… and his restaurants serve a mean cheeseburger). But without the laid-back tropical brand he has spent decades crafting, he might merely have blended in with countless other singer/songwriters on the circuit.

Want your own dedicated troupe of Parrotheads following you from city to city, so excited about your performance that they’re tailgating in the venue’s parking lot 12 hours before you even take the stage? Well, the bad news is, you’re not Jimmy Buffet. The good news is, neither was he at one time; it took him years to build his following. The best news: There are steps you can begin today to help build your fanbase, connect with your fans and grow your brand:

1. Figure Out What Your Brand Is
Before you can promote your brand, you have to determine what it is. Think about some popular comedians. Amy Schumer is known for her self-depreciating shock humor. Jeff Foxworthy built his empire telling redneck jokes. Jerry Seinfeld turned observations about everyday life into a career. How would fans react if Seinfeld took the stage and did five minutes of “You might be a redneck”? They’d probably applaud politely… and wonder what the heck was going on. That’s not his brand, and that’s not what they come to his shows to see. If you’re a rock band, what kind of rock band are you? Hard rock? Metal rock? Country rock? Find a genre and stick to it. Don’t confuse your fans; reward them with what they’ve come to expect from you.

2. Get a Logo
Obviously, most popular bands have logos. But so do symphonies. And dance troupes. Even individual singers. Think Elvis Presley’s first name in block letters outlined by white lights. Michael Jackson had a couple of memorable logos, from his name in script letters to an intersecting “M” and “J” adorned by a crown (after all, he was the King of Pop). And Prince’s ornate logo may have topped them all. Why do you need a logo? Because it makes you memorable. It makes you unique. It gives your fans something tangible to rally around. And it looks darned good on merchandise! The best logos will reflect your brand (e.g., if you’re a country rock artist, fancy script fonts probably aren’t the best way to go). There are lots of freelance designers out there who will do a quality job for $100 or less. If you’re really strapped for cash or not sure where to turn, try an artist marketplace website like Fiverr.com. And then use that logo everywhere! Your website. Your Facebook page. Your email signature. And preferably somewhere fans can see it on stage, such as the front of a drum kit, a large banner or even the T-shirt you wear during your performance.

3. Create a Website
You have a website, right? With high-resolution professional group and head shots? Video from your performances? Samples of your audio recordings? If not, you need to get one ASAP. Include a history of the band or troupe. If you’re a solo act, provide a bio. If you’re a small group, a bio of each member will go a long way toward introducing yourselves to fans and potential fans. If you’re a large group, such as a dance troupe, include a bio of the artistic director at minimum. If writing isn’t your strong suit, farm out the job inexpensively on websites like Fiverr or iwriter.com.

Be sure to include contact information. And not at a Yahoo or Gmail account, either — getting a personalized email (yourname@yourgroupsname.com) is easy, cheap and sometimes included in packages when you pay for your domain registry (that is, the name of your website, www.yourgroupsname.com; search online for “domain registry” if you’re not sure how to do this). If you’re really hurting for startup cash, you can create your own website for free at sites such as WordPress.com or Joomla.com and have your web domain forward to that site (instructions on how to do this should be included when you purchase the domain). However, unless you have a background in web design, chances are it won’t look as professional as you (and those in charge of venue booking) might like. If you can afford it, hire a professional web designer. If you can’t, make that a priority once the cash begins trickling in.

4. Get Social
Chances are you already have a Facebook page. Is your performance page separate from your personal page? If not, it might be a good idea to start a new one just for your artistic endeavors (usually these are called “fan” pages). And realize that, although some of the elements can be similar, a Facebook page is not a substitute for an actual website (see above). Garage bands have Facebook pages. Professionals have their own web domain (along with Facebook pages). One of the great things about Facebook for performers is its ability to connect content across social media. When you post a new video on your YouTube site (you’re going to want one of those, too, if only to serve as a free host for said videos), make sure to announce it on and link it to Facebook.

Set up your Twitter account (yep, you need one of those, as well — your fans will expect it) to automatically repost to your Facebook page — two points of outreach with one effort. For the most part, content on your website will remain static, but you will want to freshen your social media pages at least weekly, if not more. Add a new photo (images typically catch more eyes than words alone). Post a note that you’d really like to play in X-City, if anyone knows a venue. Promote an upcoming show. If you’re active on the blogging site Tumblr, add a link to your latest blog post. And make sure all your social media accounts are linked to your website. All this sounds like a lot of effort, but once you do it a few times, it will come naturally and take hardly any time at all. After all, how hard is it to write a 140-character sentence (the max on Twitter)?

5. Follow Up — Literally
Once you have your social media accounts firmly in place, use them to follow popular and national acts in your genre that you’re already familiar with. Like their pages. Tweet at them. Then visit some of their fans’ pages and like them, too. Internet courtesy dictates that a many will follow you back. Guess what — with each one who does, you’ve reached a new potential fan. Without leaving your own home. Possibly wearing nothing but your underwear. (If that’s the case, it’s probably better not to mention that part to your new fan.) Interact with them. Thank them for their interest. Once you get a few followers on Twitter, implement something like a “fan of the week” promotion and recognize that person with a special tweet. Think they’ll retweet it? You bet they will! And so will their family. And many of their friends. And suddenly new people are hearing about you with absolutely zero new effort on your part.

6. Jump on the Bandwagon
Participating in social media trends can help you earn more followers and fans. Remember planking (that brief but odd period during which people would take pictures of themselves lying on the ground, then post them online)? The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was huge a couple years ago, spreading from the U.S. to the world while raising money for a good cause. Looking at more recent trends, maybe there’s a rare Pokemon hiding somewhere near your next performance venue. It’s simple — and often beneficial — to jump on the bandwagon.

7. Keep Track
It’s easy to see how many likes a particular Facebook post receives or how many people retweet something from your Twitter account… but how do you determine what people are actually looking at on your website? Google Analytics is a good start. And if you’re using a professional web hosting company, it may be able to provide statistics on page views, length of time people are spending on the website and other areas of interest. Learn what types of posts are receiving the most attention across all these platforms… and focus your future posts on those areas! Your fans and followers will tell you what they want; all you have to do is listen — and deliver.

While Jimmy Buffet is performing to millions of fans on his next concert tour, you might be playing to a few dozen in a dark bar. But as long as you build your fanbase, get a fanbase in different cities, connect with your fans and grow your brand, those few dozen people might be as excited to see you as those Parrotheads are when their favorite singer takes the stage. He can keep his coconuts — all you need are your loyal fans.

written by: a71678

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