This week at MusicIsMyDayJob, we are looking at ways to determine who your audience is and how best to reach that audience, even when starting from scratch. Don’t miss our other articles in this series, and check back later in the week for articles on using more traditional techniques to reach an audience and using Twitter and YouTube to connect with new fans.

Back in 2002, some friends and I launched TheBendies.com, something that we described as a, “music-based, personality-driven website,” where we posted music reviews and whatever else came to mind.  Yes, today you would call it a music blog, but at the time, as blogging was still a relatively fringe activity, we thought of ourselves as innovative and different, and, visiting the archives today, I can honestly say that, in many ways, we were. Throughout the site’s brief life, we were quite successful, even if families and jobs eventually brought things to a premature end.  You can still find some of the key contributors doing similar things here, here, here and here.

When we launched TheBendies.com, we wanted people to actually see what we were doing, so we sent out various targeted emails to fans of the music artists we were covering. How did we find these fans? Besides targeting friends, family and other people who we actually knew, we went one-by-one through the user profiles on MakeOutClub (the original social network everyone seems to forget about, pre-Friendster, pre-MySpace) and emailed those who we thought may care about the same music we did.  To our surprise and delight, many did.

Today, finding people who care about what you do is not nearly as labor intensive–especially for musicians–thanks to the prominence of social media, but that does not mean you can take it for granted that your ideal audience will find you. In fact, there may be too many tools available that will allow you to search for your audience. Here are some of our recommendations for using social media to find your audience, especially if you are just beginning or starting from scratch.

MySpace

Maybe the most obvious, but also one of the most essential.  Even if it may feel like the world has moved onto Facebook.  MySpace still has more than 58 Million Unique Visitors each month, and many of those are there looking for music.

You really have no excuse for not knowing how to set up a profile, but just to make sure we are on the same page, here are a few Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do register as a musician (not a normal member–otherwise, you can not post your music to your profile page)
  • Do list who your influences are, but only include three to five bands. We know you like many artists and want their fans to like you, but your priority should be to make it easy for your ideal audience to find you. Besides, do you really sound like Pantera and Simon & Garfunkel and Kanye West? Probably not, even if you do enjoy music from all of them.
  • Do be specific in your genre description–your ideal audience is looking for something specific, so don’t make them dig through hundreds of other “Alternative” acts to find you.
  • Don’t decorate your page with a lot of bells and whistles.  Focus on your music and who you are–if your ideal audience can’t tell within 10 seconds of landing on your page whether or not you are what they are looking for, they will go somewhere else.
  • Do make it easy for people to contact you. Make sure the links for your official website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook Fan Page and similar links are prominent and obvious.

Once you get things set up, it is up to you to bring your potential fans to your page.  Regarding that, let’s get this one issue out in the open: posting incessant messages telling people they should check out your new single is not only less-effective–it’s obnoxious and turns off many potential fans.  Our suggestion? After choosing which three to five artists you are going to list as an influence, visit those artists’ MySpace pages and determine which people are leaders among their fans–look at who the artists have featured in their “Top 24″ and skim through the artists’ comments for those fans who have several postings to find these leaders. Then, add those people as friends and wait. That’s it. Let people come to you and let these initial contacts feel like they are discovering something.  Reply to their messages, send them MP3 links and other exclusives when they add you as a friend, and make them feel that you are their artist, and then watch the word spread to their other friends about you.

Music-Based Social Networks

Last.fm, imeem, iLike, The Filter and MOG are all examples of music-based social networks.

Not only do these networks offer radio-quality streams of thousands of songs, but also opportunities for fans of similar artists and genres to interact and share the music that they love.  For many hard-core music fans, these sites have become key music discovery tools, yet relatively few independent musicians actually use them to spread the word about their music, preferring to focus on MySpace and Facebook.

If you take one thing away from this article, make it this: use these music-based social networks to find your ideal audience. Nothing will be more effective or efficient.

People are on these sites specifically because they love music, so why not go and preach to the converted music fans rather than abusing Facebook friends or spamming random bloggers with review requests?

While the specifics may differ, each of these sites allows you to share your music with the community, and most even allow you to provide MP3s as free downloads to community members if you so choose.  But once your music is up there, how to you find potential fans? With these networks, finding the ideal fans is the easy part, for these networks track what its members are listening to, so you can actually go in and see which members have listened the most to similar artists (and then contact them using the suggestions from theMySpace section).  This music-based social networks also make recommendations based on listening habits.

For example, on Last.fm, if I choose to listen to my customized radio station, I hear artists and songs who are similar to those I have listened to in the past who are not already have in my library, and it is surprisingly accurate.  Additionally, since other members can see what I have listened to, I regularly receive recommendations from both fans and artists of new music I should check out.  I always listen to these recommendations, because they are generally targeted recommendations from people whose taste I trust, and besides that, discovering new music is why I participate in these communities in the first place.

Before uploading your music, we recommend that you play with each of the sites–while they are similar, each has its strong points and unique community dynamic. Don’t just read the F.A.Q. or take the virtual tour, but create an account and start interacting with people (as a fan, not an artist), and look at what other artists are doing (if anything) to connect with their fans through these sites.  Once you do begin to reach out to fans, again, don’t spam everyone with incessant messages about your new single–let them know that it is there, and let them discover it and tell others.  Most of these sites also allow you to create specific groups, so once you have some fans who are actively telling others about your music, you can set up a place where they can connect with one another, as well as learn about tour dates and more.

LinkedIn – The Dark Horse

Yes, that LinkedIn.  Sure, LinkedIn is great for connecting with coworkers and business networking, but for finding music fans? You bet. You may not be able to post your music and have people declare themselves your fan, but there are other ways to find fans.

One of the most amazing things about LinkedIn is the fact that you can connect with people from more than one-hundred different industries, including some of the most brilliant and experienced executives from the fields of marketing, sales, new media and, indeed the music industry.

Even better than this, these executives are very generous, sharing their expertise in forums and responding to questions ranging from the speculative (What should the music industry accomplish digitally in 2009? ) to the complex (Marketing Your Way Through the Recession).  With this generosity, why not go to them with your marketing and sales questions and see what they suggest? Not only will you find solutions to your challenges, but you will also access a whole new demographic who is not hanging out on MySpace but still loves music.

Of course, there is certain etiquette to posting questions in business-focused forums. Post a question that says, “Hey, this is my new single. What do you think?” and watch them ban you forever while demanding your head on a silver platter.  But maybe you are trying to determine which CD printing plant to use; or maybe you are looking for the most effective ways to connect with tour promoters in distant markets; or maybe you need help determining where you should spend your limited marketing budget; these are all valid business questions, so why not ask the people who know? You will not only benefit from their experience and ideas, but you may find some influential new champions of your art in the process.

Coda

Social Networks should be a key part of finding your ideal audience.  With simple courtesy and authentic actions, they can help you to find the people who want to hear your music, and perhaps more importantly, those who will want to tell others about it.

How have you used social networks to discover fans? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for more in our continuing series on Finding Your Audience.  Too much trouble to remember? Subscribe to MusicIsMyDayJob via RSS or email and let us remember for you.

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