I’ve come to realize now that there are two very important things artists need to do to improve their chances of making it in this business.
One of them is creating content consistently, with a focus on quality, that you know your audience resonates with.
The second thing is networking and finding your community. As the saying goes, “your network is your net worth.”
I’ve had the chance to see first hand through some of the artists I work with the value of being community-oriented. Although I’m not an artist myself, I know that being an independent is hard work, especially if you’re trying to tackle it by yourself.
Taking this community approach is about building relationships, expanding your network and access to resources while serving a community or larger cause you care about.
It may seem like an obvious approach for many of us, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who think they can do this alone without much help from others. It’s not impossible, but I think you’re at a big disadvantage with those who know how to leverage the power of the community.
Keep in mind that a community can be online or offline (real life). It could be an online forum or a local music organization in your city. To be clear, an audience or fanbase is NOT a community. It can be if organized and activated a certain way, but in general, your community is often goal-driven people like yourself or other artistic peers.
What is a Community Mindset?
The first step is that you need to have the right mindset. Adopting a community mindset is one of the best ways to give your musical career on the right path. Besides the fact that your music is an expression of your creative self, it is also another pathway for you to create a sense of connection with a larger group of people.
A community by definition is: a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, & goals.
It’s important for you to foster connections with people around you because let’s face it: It’s extremely hard to succeed in the music world alone.
When you are able to expand the number of people you surround yourself with, you also expand potential work opportunities, resources, fan base and network connections to spaces outside of your own personal bubble.
More importantly, having a community that you are close to and can confide in with through struggles is a lifesaver. Creating a career as a musician is tough, so having a good support system through the community can be a great resource in the long term.
Give to the Community First (It’s Not About You)
It’s very important to understand that being community-oriented means you’re not just there to serve yourself and self promote your music. It’s a common mistake musicians have where they are just thinking about themselves. You need to be a supporter and contributor first to build trust and respect within a community.
It’s not about what the community can do for you, but what can you do for the community, to help both sides grow and benefit.
When you can come to the door asking questions like, “how do I provide value to the community as a whole” or “how do I provide value to individuals of the community,” you will start to see a shift. Not only in how you interact and connect within a community, but also a shift in the purpose and momentum of your music’s role within the music industry.
First off, you have to start by joining, participating and contributing to other communities first when you don’t have one. Over time, you can eventually build your own community and audience through your social media following.
Collaboration Over Competition
The fact is we live in a highly competitive world. For artists and musicians, you’re fighting for attention against so many other people, not just in the world of music.
However, sometimes being in a space with someone else who has similarities to you like the same audience or may even have more advanced knowledge than you – could be intimidating.
These other artists should not be viewed as your competition. Instead of looking at people as competition, look at them as possible people to collaborate and connect with. There may be some people who may not think the same way and choose to think of you as competition. Don’t feed into it!
If you are able to switch the competitive mindset into a collaborative mindset, you also have the potential to make a creative outcome exponentially more powerful than you being on your own. There is also potential to expand access to those things mentioned before, like resources, cross-promotion, knowledge, etc.
Now I say “potentially,” because of course, the other person has to also be open to collaborate as well. Being transparent that you are both there to help one another expand is the healthiest way to ensure a collaboration that benefits all participants. Your ability to openly and honestly communicate is essential.
When you learn how to foster genuine conversations and support within a community, the creative action and collaboration after creating those connections are endless. You expand how many areas of your career have the potential to take yourself and anyone you are involved with off to another level.
How to Find the Right Community For You
You can find community around anything! It can be based around singer-songwriters, specific genres, lifestyle choices, goals to understand the music industry, LGBT supportive spaces, social movements or eco-friendly practices; Community can surround almost anything. It would help too if this community is tied to your target audience or niche.
And if you aren’t able to find a community that already exists around that specific interest, you can definitely create a community around it.
Think about what community you want to be a part of based on your geography, what you stand for as a brand, your goals and what makes sense for the type of music you do.
Build yourself in a local community to get support from local artists and fans who will help you. Find a group of people who have similar interests or needs.
Doing something as small as attending an open mic and making an effort to genuinely complement and connect with the participants is a great initial step. There you can learn how to interact and connect similar interests and values through conversation. The more genuine the comments, the more genuine the connection and potential for long-term supportive relationships.
You can also take it a step beyond by talking to the organizers of the communal gathering, expressing your thoughts about the community space/event, as well as thanking them for fostering a space for the community to gather around it.
This can similarly be done in the world of social media, finding a community that surrounds your immediate interests and interacting with people within that community is another good step in networking.
Basic interactions like making comments, creating a conversation about things people post, directly messaging someone within that community and finding a genuine way to express that person’s impact on your thoughts of the subject. The more often you interact within the spaces, the more the people within it will start to recognize your name. It can be a good step to perhaps eventually meeting them in person, or them connecting you to bigger opportunities surrounding your common community interests.
Two of the artists I work with recently moved out to LA to push their music forward. However, for the first few months, they weren’t getting booked for any shows or building a stronger supporter base, mainly because they weren’t making as much an effort to network with the communities there.
Recently, one of the band members decided to start going to some local open mics because she wanted to get better at her songwriting and performance skills by participating and observing other artists. She would see several folks repeatedly at different open mics (as there is a community niche surrounding the open mic world), and she was able to create conversation just by telling these people that she’s seen them before.
Those initial conversations lead her to eventually become a part of the support team of one specific open mic called, Sunday Jump. Fostering relationships within that Sunday Jump community eventually led her band to start getting booked as features in other events and open mic events. Within the 2 months of collaborating with the open mic communities, she was able to go from having zero gigs, to having 1 – 2 gigs a month.
All it took was the initial effort to collaborate with a community for her to move her music career forward.
Tips for Finding Your Community
Now that you have the right mindset, it’s time to find communities that you can belong in. As I had mentioned, it can be in the real world or in the digital online space.
Use Instagram Hashtags: Explore hashtags that are relevant to the community you are looking for. Find people to engage and follow this way. Also, use those hashtags too in your posts.
Twitter Advanced Search: You can search tweets and find people talking about certain topics or interests within a certain geographical location. This could be a good way to find relevant communities and people to connect with.
Follow artists you like (Established and Locals): You should already be doing this, but local artists you like may already be connected to certain communities you may want to be a part of.
Online forums and communities: A simple Google search with the type of community you are looking for.
Reddit: Reddit is a big online community with tons of sub-communities (subreddits) of almost anything you can imagine.
Facebook Groups: Facebook Groups is another way to find relevant online communities.
Local Music / Art Collectives: This is a perfect space to connect with people who are already in the creative mindset. The love of music and art is a great primer for conversation. Do a quick Google search with your city to find nearby collectives so you have easy access to repeat your interaction in this space.
Make friends with other local artists: Networking also means hanging out with other people like normal human beings. Go get coffee together. Go hiking together. When you can make a connection feel fun, easy, and stress-free, there is a higher chance that the relationship will get stronger. Then your access to more opportunities comes with that stronger relationship.
Open Mics: Performance is a huge element of music. People at open mics are often all beginners at connecting and sharing their art in front of people. This is a perfect space to practice your ability to connect, communicate and collaborate. Look into schools, organizations and small businesses.
Find Music Venues: Check free mags in your city, online, for venues of local artists to study band names, who gets booked at what venues, styles, introduce yourself to those artists you genuinely like and praise.
Causes / Nonprofits: Passionate about giving back? Communities that surround a philanthropic cause often are in need of entertainment and creative ways bring more interest to their cause. If it’s something you resonate with, it’s a perfect opportunity to grow with their community.
Ask your friends: It’s obvious, but don’t forget to tap into your own network of friends. There’s a chance that one of your friends may be involved in communities that you want to be a part of.
In my opinion, building a network and growing with a community are two underlooked components for aspiring artists who want to make music a full-time career. Hopefully, this blog has helped bring clarity to why a community-oriented mindset is needed.
Even as a music marketer, I take my own advice that I advocate on this blog. I’ve made it a priority to find the right community for me to grow with. It eventually happened in 2018 when I volunteered for an annual hip hop education conference in the bay area called Rock the School Bells. Someone in my network of close friends introduced me to head organizers and I became a part of their leadership team.
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My first year on the leadership side of @rocktheschoolbells has been completed! Very honored to work along side these amazing people and see the impact all this hard work into these events has on the community. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I remember the first RTSB conference I stopped by at 2 years ago with @astralogik. I thought to myself that what they had going on here was something really special, using hip hop to educate and engage the youth and local community, and I hoped someday I would be a part of it. Now, looking forward to the next one! ✌️