One of the most common early mistakes made by artists is blurring the line between friends and fans. Be sure that you are continuously conscious of the difference between the two, or you may end up losing both of them.
The early stage of an artist’s career is the only period of time where the artist will have more friends than fans. Because of this, many artists make the mistake of marketing their music and shows to friends instead of building a fanbase. Friends may not always love your art, and that is perfectly fine.
While they may not know the words to all of your songs, friends are often be more than willing to help you out if you are respectful and know what to ask. Friends offer great channels to discovering fans, so try asking your friends to share your music rather than consume it (if your friends do like your music they are probably already consuming it) and encourage your friends to bring people that may like your music to your shows. Friends are much more inclined to spread the excitement early on in your career than continuously consume your music.
Do not expect all of your friends to come out to your shows or stream your music; you will find yourself extremely disappointed and discouraged for the wrong reasons. Be happy, your friends still love you for who you are and support what you do. They want you to be successful, but they will not be the source of your success. Even if you have 200 friends that you consistently interact with, it will still not be enough to sustain your career as an artist.
However, keep in mind that it is not a terrible idea to occasionally play a show tailored to your friends. You know your friends better than anybody, so dedicate a special hometown performance to them. Private performances make for great, low-pressure opportunities to gather some fantastic content too, which you can use later in your marketing strategy.
Think of yourself as a business for a second. In order to grow, a business needs to gain customers. Your customers are your fans, those people that come out to your shows and consistently listen to your music. The sooner you grow your fanbase, the quicker you can stop relying on your friends to come out to your shows.
We know that our friends are not always our fans, but keep in mind that it works both ways. While you want to maintain a positive relationship with your fans, be sure to have some boundaries in place. Invite your fans to your shows, not your birthday party.
As you grow in size, so will your fanbase. It can be exhausting trying to become friends with everybody, and by doing so you may accidentally forget about who was there for you at the very beginning: your friends. Additionally, you don’t know your fans, but your fans may know a lot about you through your music and your marketing. While it may seem far-fetched, fans do not always try to befriend you for good intentions.
Do not be the person that burns out your friends by asking them to be your fans. Additionally, do not jeopardize your sanity, safety, or current relationships by befriending all of your friends. Both your friends and your fans will support your career, but in different ways and for different reasons.
Balancing Art & Industry Newsletter
Receive weekly updates on the Balancing Art & Industry blog