Masterclass: How to Build Your Audience
Guest panelists for the event included:
- Matt Fincham (Music Editor at BBC Radio 1)
- Charlie Martin (Former Creative Lead at UNILAD Group + Freelance Online Music & Entertainment Consultant)
- Amy Jayne (Head of Marketing at Shogun Audio)
- Gabrielle Aplin (Singer-songwriter, Independent label owner)
The masterclass, which was hosted by Industry Placements and Careers coordinator Nicky Kingsbury-Williams, featured a conversation between the panelists, each giving examples of how they have each built their audiences within their own professional environments.
Building an audience
As the only performing artist on the panel, Gabrielle’s input was of great interest to many of the performance students in attendance, particularly songwriters. She explained how she built up her audience online during her early career, saying:
“I was slowly building a team, but I didn’t have an aim. I was putting up my videos on YouTube and I actually met my manager through that. I didn’t have a strategy at first. I wasn’t trying to copy anyone. I was experimenting on my own. YouTube has changed a lot since then. Today, everything is about the social media content. If I started now, maybe it wouldn’t work the way it did back then.”
She added how the best ideas on social media content are often the simplest.
“Our attention spans are so small now, that we need to keep everything simple. The reaction grows when I post something very simple and easy to watch. Square video, one camera, close up shot; works great on Instagram. Also, really think about where you’re spending your money in regards to marketing. My best performing ad to-date cost me £6!”
With today’s masterclass having a heavy emphasis on digital marketing, the conversation eventually turned towards the importance of social media data analysis and how we can use it to assess and track a demographic.
Gabrielle detailed a particular instance where interest from foreign fans led to a golden (yet very nearly missed) opportunity.
“I started online, so being able to see data about my fans was incredible. I used to concentrate on geographical demographic rather than an obvious age group. For example, I went to Brazil (funding the trip myself as my label didn’t think it was worth it), because I really saw that the people had been engaging with my songs. The trip resulted in my having a number 1 record there.”
Gabrielle also expressed the advantages of setting yourself apart from the crowd with your release strategies and ensuring the method fits with your brand.
“You can’t use the same formula for each artist when it comes to releasing music. Bruno Major released one song at each full moon – and by the end, he had an album. Marina and the Diamonds released the “Fruit of the Month” from her album ‘Froot’. There’s so many ways to do it, be creative and do what works for you! It’s important to look like what you sound like in terms of your visuals.”
Independent Vs Major labels
Being an independent artist like Gabrielle still means having the right team around you. She explained why.
“The term ‘DIY’ is misleading, I do have a team, I don’t work alone. I have a manager, PR, radio pluggers, etc. But, I am financially and creatively independent. That way, my mistakes are my mistakes, and that’s a good thing. I also get to choose who I work with, which is the best part.”
Host Nicky then posed an interesting question to Gabrielle, which was ‘why did she decide to go back to being a DIY act after being signed to a major label?
“Every creative decision is mine now, but I still have a team.” she answered. “It just felt right at the time – and it still does. I like knowing that I have a loyal audience as well. I can set my own goals and try to reach them. Plus, it’s nice being heard. Oh, and I own my masters!”
Of course, as an artist, your content for your own social media streams can vary. Which is fine, says Gabrielle, so long as you’re comfortable and happy with what you’re posting.
“If you’re not the sort of person who enjoys taking selfies and such, try to get a friend to bring a camera and just plan a fun day out doing things that you would genuinely enjoy doing, and just take pictures all day. Bank them up and use them for keeping up with content.”
Approach to online content
BIMM graduate Charlie Martin, was a key player in the continued success of social media outlet UNILAD. He explained how the group’s approach to content has led them to build an army of online followers.
“UNILAD is using 90% music related content nowadays. The majority of the content that works well is just super simple, usually filmed on a phone. Since Facebook changed their algorithm to favour more people-to-people engagement (rather than brands-to-people), we have been focusing on Instagram a lot more.”
Charlie then advised on how to ensure your online content is as engaging as possible, whatever your brand.
“You need a reason for people to stop scrolling and watch your video, so you need to make sure that the description gets people’s attention. Also, always use subtitles – most people use social media with the sound off.”
He continued. “Learn what to use each social media platform for. Most likely there won’t be any new ones added anytime soon, so just use the existing ones in a clever way. And pick up on the new features that these apps bring out. If you take my advice, jump on hashtags that are going around e.g. #10yearchallenge. Also, ask questions in your captions – you’re starting up a conversation which makes your fans engage more.”
Is it all about socials?
Of course, building an audience today doesn’t necessarily start and end with social media. In fact, if you’re an artist looking to sign with an independent label like Shogun Audio, there’s no need to be acutely concerned about how many followers you have, as their Head Of Marketing, Amy Jayne explained.
“Having a social media presence is not important at all when we’re looking for new artists to work with. We’ve got a team to help them create that. If the music is good, that’s all that matters.”
Once one of their acts has a product, event or record that’s ready to pitch to their adoring public, Shogun have their own methods for reaching the right audience on socials.
“We have the most engagement on Instagram, so we focus on that. You’ve gotta understand your demographic, you have to be strategic and you need to know where to find those people.”
What sets Shogun apart?
Amy went on to explain what makes the label’s approach different to that of a major:
“Shogun as a label is trying to have a conversation with its fans, rather than force down something their throat. It is definitely not all about sell, sell, sell.”
Of course, like any other form of digital marketing, it still pays to be methodical with posts online, as Amy explained.
“Because of the new algorithms, you can’t just not post for a long time and then post something and expect to reach everyone. You have to find the balance, and you have to be consistent with your content.”
She continued. “Millennials are impatient. They see something and they want it straight away. Because of that, we announce new music much closer to the release date. If you’re talking about stuff for too long, people will stop listening. You need to get people to take the call to action straight away.”
Top tips: (for artists)
How does play-listing build audiences?
For original performers, being play-listed on radio is still an incredibly effective way of reaching those all-important new fans; a subject in which Matt Fincham, Radio 1’s Music Editor, is the resident expert.
“On Radio 1, all the music’s play-listed for the whole day (4am-7pm). We work with A, B, C and Introducing lists. Most songs are being added to the C list first, and then if they get a really good reaction, they work their way up to B and maybe even to A.”
He added, “We’re trying to work with specialists on these playlists, because we have to make sure that the artists are being played when it’s best for their career – we could actually damage an artist’s career if we play them when they are not ready yet.”
The influence of DJs
The importance of DJ’s and tastemakers in radio is of course, not to be underestimated either. A high level of influence over the airwave comes with higher levels of responsibility. Such is the case with BBC Radio legend, Steve Lamacq; who played an integral role in introducing BIMM Bristol act and recent Brit nominees IDLES to the masses through his radio show. Matt explained:
“Steve Lamacq is out every night looking for new artists – he is living and breathing the scene. He is a genius in knowing when it is the best time to give a new artist a spot on radio.”
Visuals, branding and personality
Of course, just because you’re working in radio, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of visual mediums too. “Our core demographic is 16-29 year-olds, who spend a lot of time on their phones, so we make sure to film funny moments in the studio and share it on social media. We are concentrating on sharable phone content. It’s all about the “backstage footage” that people are interested in.”
Mike also had a thing or two to say about branding and personality within your online marketing tactics. “Your music will also determine what you’re doing online. If you’re a Drum ‘n’ Bass artist, you can get away with being faceless; the music speaks for itself. You need to know your audience. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s success is partly due to the way Van McCann, their lead singer, is posting online and how his personality shines through that.”
These notes make up for just a fraction of the valuable advice and information our industry guests had to offer during this fantastic masterclass panel. If you’d like to come study at BIMM and gain access to exclusive masterclass events such as this one, why not Apply Now, and start your journey to a life in music?