1. Facebook Fan Page: Having a social network presence on the web might be an obvious concept for most bands by now, but many artists are still not utilizing the web to its full potential. As of March 2010, Facebook has amassed 41% of all social traffic on the web. This means you should not only be engaging on Myspace, where many bands send their fans to listen to their latest tracks, but also on Facebook where your fans can post, link, and share your content to their own growing network. Imagine if just one of your friends posts a link to your latest video or song; since the average Facebook user has about 130 friends, the connections you can make as an artist are exponential. The more friends a fan of yours has, the greater the potential reach. Now that Facebook has changed their term for pages from “Become a Fan” to “Like”, it will lower the bar for attracting people to interact with your fan page (since many have deemed it less of a commitment to “like” something than to become a full-fledged fan from the get-go). Most of your fans that “like” your fan page will have your posts in their news feed as well.
2. Twitter: Although Facebook attracts the most social traffic compared to any other site on the web, Twitter has its own advantages in spreading your artist “brand” online. Many people on Twitter feel that it is perfectly acceptable to follow a person that they do not know personally—in fact, it is a social norm and is practically encouraged. This lowers the barrier to entry to communicate with strangers. Many people will be more than happy to interact with you as a band/artist or as an individual (or both!). Because the social norms on Twitter are different than on Facebook, an artist can interact with potential fans in ways that might not be as socially acceptable on Facebook or other networks. Another great advantage to Twitter is the constant stream of information and link-sharing. People might find constant updates on Facebook to be clutter on their news feed because they like to preserve that feed for information involving friends and family. On Twitter, tweeting often is the norm and can open you up to a more diverse audience than just “friends” or “friends of friends.”
3. Artist Website: It is not enough to just be on social networks. It is important to be on the social networks because that is where everyone goes to interact frequently, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your own website as well! Having your own website means you are in control of your career and, by default, you will appear more professional. In addition, attracting fans to sign up to an email mailing list or fan club on your own website seems a lot less like spam than if you hassled them on their social networks constantly. On your own website you can clearly lay out the incentives and perks of joining a fan club or signing up for a mailing list (think free downloads, exclusive merch, and meet-and-greets). Since it is your own website, you are not constrained by the limitations of a particular social network.
4. Live Video Streaming: Live video streaming sites such as Ustream have gained massive popularity in the last couple years. Many celebrities, artists, and other online personalities use live video streaming to connect with their fanbase in more intimate ways than Youtube videos or posts on their website. Not only can your fans watch you talk to them or play music live, but they can also interact with you via chat. Fans will get a lot more excited about getting a response to one of their questions in real-time than waiting days for an email or response to a blog post. Interacting with your fans online through video (whether it is performing or just chatting) will help fill the gaps between your live concerts and releasing studio-quality material.
5. MERCH MERCH MERCH!: Money will NOT come from music sales… PERIOD! Mashable posted a very sobering infographic (link and image posted below) about how many plays, downloads, or CD sales an artist needs to make minimum wage (and that’s assuming that the artist is only one person and not a five-piece band!). An artist would need 12,399 iTunes sales per month at $0.99 per track or 4,549,020 plays per month on Spotify to make minimum wage. If you want to sell self-pressed CDs, then you would need to sell 143 CDs per month at $9.99 per album—not an easy feat these days. My recommendation: sell merch at your shows and put a tip jar out (maybe some people who don’t want your merch will chip in for your band because they know they will be downloading your music for free online anyway). Merch is where the money is at these days. Printing out custom shirts for a particular tour or concert date will give your fans something that feels rare and increases their incentive to make a purchase. If you don’t have the money to buy your first bulk supply of merch, then use online services such as CafePress or Printfection. Although they take a large chunk of your profits right off the top, you can make your own custom merch without any of the upfront costs. When you have more funds, then you can start printing your own merch to have online and offline.