Why the time to build your online audience is RIGHT NOW

At some point in the future, I want to create a product/service that helps musicians with their internet presence and marketing needs. As I look around, so many musicians desperately need help with this important element of their professional lives.

Twenty years ago, we all thought, “I need a web site!” So we built one or had one built for us, and there it sat. It was our business card or resume that was accessible by everyone with an onramp to the “information superhighway”. Isn’t this great!!?

You are not alone if you occasionally think about or look at your website and ponder, “I really should do something with it. But what?”

Well, it’s 2020 and an answer exists along with an opportunity that is more relevant than ever. Because of COVID-19, more and more of the world is hunkering down and living online. You can capitalize on that captured audience, and unlike twenty years ago or even five, the means are cheap and readily available.

Let’s assume that the Coronavirus will eventually be conquered and musicians will be back in groups playing for crowds. Take this moment to build your audience. And not just a local following, but a world-wide collection of the fanatics of you and your music.

What you can do with that audience

I’ll talk about HOW you can build your audience in a bit, but let’s consider WHAT to do with them first. Your WHY will determine your HOW. Communication with your fans will depend on your personality, your musical goals, and end game but here are a few possibilities to get you thinking.

  1. Let people know what you are doing these days. Your fans and friends are interested in your thoughts and activities. Tell them what music you are listening to or what you are playing. From an educational standpoint, tell them how you are practicing or recording on your own. Let them peek under the tent.
  2. If you are starting to perform live through streaming or carefully staged performances, tell them where and how they can see/hear you. If you are streaming your music, you have a world-wide audience at your fingertips. I have a friend who is performing live every Sunday night for the world on Twitch. He’s a one-man band with an enthusiastic following.
  3. Do you have things to sell like CDs, t-shirts, books, lessons, or eCourses? If so, building your audience is a corollary to growing your income. Unlike years ago when conducting commerce online was an expensive science project, now just about any respectable website building platform has some sort of built-in plug-and-play e-commerce solution. For just $10/month, I use Shopify to create unlimited products and buttons, with a shopping cart for every product listed on my website. It’s an easy connection to Paypal.

How to build your audience

Have you ever heard the term, “lead magnet”? It’s a marketing phrase that refers to something that is offered in exchange for an email address. The magnet has attracted you when you’ve signed up for a free webinar or a free eBook or a free consultation. Notice that they are all free in exchange for your name, email, and maybe other information they request of you.

Once you signed up with your name and email, you are on a list and will likely be communicated to and perhaps sent offers on other products. In fact, a big reason for my Jazz Master Summit was to attract people with whom I could communicate. That event added 7,000 people to my subscriber base.

Offering a free something will attract and grow your audience. Now, a very common mistake is to put up a form on a website with the heading, “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Sign up for updates”. Ten years ago, newsletters might have been interesting and enough to attract signups, but that ship has sailed. No one is looking for a way to get more email without it giving them specific value.

So, what can you offer people to give you permission to email them? And speaking of permission, just sending strangers unsolicited email is not just another ship gone over the horizon, but it is illegal and can get you into a world of trouble, especially if you live in or send email to Europe. Lead magnets attract people who are giving you permission to send them email.

Back to the question, the free things you trade people for their name and email will depend on your expertise and the types of people you are looking to attract.

  • For building a list of jazz sax players, offer them a few Michael Brecker transcriptions
  • For a list of drummers, offer a short video on your unique brush technique
  • For a list of potential students for private lessons, offer them a short eBook on your best improvisation tip or a how-to video on playing over a tune that your level of students find challenging
  • For a list of potential audience members for your live events, offer then a short video of you and your bandmates rehearsing or talking about a performance. Make it entertaining and package it well. Think like those behind the scenes extras they put with movies. Don’t post it to Youtube or Vimeo. That way, you can offer it as exclusive to subscribers.
  • For a list of potential buyers of your CDs or merchandise, offer a free digital download of one of your songs and/or maybe a discount coupon for their future purchases
  • For a list of potential subscribers to your Twich streams, offer them an exclusive behind the scenes video about your prep for the session and a lite demonstration of your setup. Again, make it entertaining and package it in a way that feels like a cool and exclusive experience.

How to set up your lead magnet

Step one is to sign up for an email service like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber (there are dozens more). At the time of this writing, Mailchimp offers a free service for up to 2,000 emails. Constant Contact and AWeber both have free limited time trials.

Any of these services makes it pretty easy to create a form you can place anywhere on your site that asks for name and email. Then you create what’s called an autoresponder attached to that form that immediately sends an email to the person signing up that contains the link to your magnet (ebook, discount coupon, audio link, etc.)

From there, you can set up a series of pre-written emails or you can write your individual email whenever you wish to send one to your audience. All the email providers allow you to put the recipient’s first name in your email (Dear Bob,) so you no longer send email to yourself with your list of recipients in the BCC field (you know who you are!)

By using an email service, you are now in compliance with the email rules and regulations and are best protected from lawsuits and other nastiness.

And because you are compliant with the rules, subscribers can unsubscribe anytime. Unsubscribes are not a bad thing, by the way. They’re good because they help you clean your list of people who don’t want what you have. Don’t focus on quantity of emails. Obsess instead, on quality. You’re hunting for people who value what you do and offer.

Also, these email services charge you in part by the number of emails you send or have in your database. You don’t want to be paying for 5,000 emails if only a small portion of them want what you have and engage with your outreach.

The end result

Setting all this up doesn’t make you a slave to sending email. Send to your subscribers at your own pace but whenever you do make it relevant and valuable to them. Send short snappy value-rich emails with links that improve the lives of your audience members in some small way.

In the meantime, if your magnet is powerful enough, you will be collecting fans 24/7. These will be people who like what you do and want more of it. As long as your communication focuses on that, you will be building your audience throughout this unprecedented time in preparation to promote your products and performances for a long time to come.

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