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Community Is The #1 Key To Ongoing Success

communityWhen you begin something new, you’re always on the lookout for keys to make “the new” work better and grow. That’s inherent to the process of creating and building. Once you’ve been doing something for a while, you amend your processes to be more efficient and operate better. And after building something for a long period of time (let’s say over a decade), you’re able to reflect back and see some of the key elements to what made your work successful.

I’ve been working with musicians for over tenĀ  years (hence the time illustration), particularly through the medium of indie radio. In that time I’ve also built and grown The Appetizer Radio Show to international syndication, been a part of some great concerts, collaborated on music events, and worked closely with artists on establishing their unique brand.

Lindsay Katt and I before our concert at the Paramount Theater in Abilene in 2013

Lindsay Katt and I before our concert at the Paramount Theater in Abilene in 2013

I spent some time this week reflecting on what has made all of these endeavors successful over the years, not just for me as an individual, but also for the artists and bands I’ve been privileged to work with. What I found was what I believe to be the #1 key to ongoing success no matter who you are, where you live, how widespread your platform is, or the size of your following.

 

You know what that key is? It’s a cultivated and enriched community.

Public radio has been a great resource for me, as it has for many individuals both in the arts as well as other business. As a former station manager, I got to experience first hand the dynamic power of community members coming together in support of a platform that brought something powerful to our region every day. The impact that the station had on individuals was supported in immense ways through a group of very dedicated and loyal individuals.

Experiencing how community can come together when it’s responding to a need is what has fueled the rise of crowdfunding and social media. All it takes is having your best message presented clearly to the people who want and need to experience it. This is where the cultivation and enrichment part comes in.

Tools-for-Community-ManagersWe’re no strangers to the concept of community building. We do it everyday on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other online portals. We build community daily with people we have never met in person, nor spoken with on the phone. Our community members share a common passion, interest, belief, or other similarity that binds us together. Cultivating community is a different ballgame than simply being a part of community. Cultivation requires a mixture of listening and sharing, remembering what it is that people confide in you and a commitment to helping out when called upon.

Our social communities can be a great way to engage people. But cultivation is best exhibited when you can meet in person. This is why artists starting out and in the first few years of their careers need to focus on their local community and region. You decide how wide of a spread for your region you want to reach. I encourage musicians to extend their area up to a 50 mile radius if they don’t live close to a high populated area. This gives you more opportunity to grow your network with the right people who will follow and support you.

Cultivating these connections leads to more diverse interaction online through social channels, and makes communication a little easier. Enrichment opportunities happen in live performances where your music is experienced first-hand. House shows are one of the best places to start (and continue in a broader aspect).

Community enrichment comes from both the community you live in geographically, and the sub-community you build with your art. Supporting and collaborating with other artists in your area is one of the best ways to build and nurture these communities. Relationships are what create new opportunities in everything we do. The better you can get at cultivating relationships, the more success and longevity you will find yourself with, and the stronger connection you’ll have to the communities that matter most to you.

Keys To Building A Focused Audience

Image by  Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Image by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Get Insights On Focused Fan Growth: Sign Up For The Free Webinar Here

I wrote previously about the difference between trying to gain 100,000 Twitter followers (or simply a giant group of music fans online) and focusing your time, energy and money on a specific group of people. Numbers are a big sales point that most people are looking to increase, but when your focus is on the wrong number for the wrong reason, you don’t win as much as you want to. Here’s why:

You need to grow your audience to be able to keep making more music. That’s a bottom-line reality every musician and small business faces. And yes, you are a small business once money enters the equation. A focused group of fans is much more powerful than a giant number.

The confusion between real, prosperous success and fame (or what is considered “success” in young markets) is an obsession with the wrong kind of number.

Let’s say you have 10,000 Likes on Facebook. For some artists, that’s a small number, for others it’s a goal they’re still trying to reach. In either case, how would you view a band who has 500 Likes on Facebook or 600 Twitter followers? You might consider them to be rookies, newbies, or not very good musicians because the number of followers is small. But what potency does the 10,000 have that the 500 doesn’t other than sheer volume alone? You don’t know, because all you see is a number of followers.

Image by Dave Catchpole

Image by Dave Catchpole

This obsession with the high number without knowing much about WHO is in either group is what’s wrong with musicians and bands trying only to grow the number-base of their audience without trying to grow a specific group of people who are prime fans for their work.

You can buy Likes and followers on any social platform. You can purchase enough “followers” to make it seem you have a substantial fan base when reality tells a different tale. So how powerful is that giant number now, or better stated how real is it?

What the number metric misses is Potency, or strength. This factor is key to success in the short and long term of your music career. Potency is driven by real connection with a focused group of people who are passionate about the unique aspects of your music. Artists and bands with incredible potency include KISS, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Shins. Their fans go out of their way to showcase how much they love these bands including costumes, fan made documentaries, and traveling large distances to see shows.

Think about it in terms of two very popular and potent brands: Apple and Microsoft. Chances are you are using one of these brands right now in some capacity. Mac users are hardcore, passionate and extremely brand loyal. Most PC (Microsoft) users will go with whatever maker or brand they feel like who runs the software they’re used to, be it HP, Sony, Dell, etc. Yes both are powerful brands. But where Apple’s user base may be smaller in size compared to Microsoft, it’s more than compensated with user (customer) potency.

Can you say the same thing for your fan base?

If 10% of your fan base shares your content with their friends (be it online social posts or old fashioned word of mouth promotion), you have a really strong connection with your fans. That’s a high conversion rate for most bands and small businesses. What if only 1% of your fan base is an evangelist for your music? That’s still a good portion. But when a fraction of a fraction of 1% is talking about you, that big number of your fan base that you brag about isn’t as powerful. Actually, that’s more indicative of what your true fan impact is.

Focus on connecting with a specific group of people, a targeted section of folks who make up your Ideal or Super-Fan group. This is the potent, focused group of fans who will increase your music success a lot more powerfully than an arbitrary number of followers online.

How can you grow your connection with a targeted group of people? The strategies and tactics for doing that are outlined in an upcoming webinar. Sign up here.