I feel confident in saying that there are two things musicians always need more of – Time and Money. Sadly, I don’t have any nifty little tricks to make you more money… well at least legally. What I can bring you, today, is a way to help save you some time, which will hopefully make you more money in the long run. How are we going to save time? By focusing on effectively becoming part of an online music community.
What Is An Online Music Community?
Online music communities come in all shapes and sizes. iTunes, Amazon MP3, Last.fm, Bandcamp, Beatport, Spotify, and Reverbnation are all examples. Each one has its own community of users that uses it as its primary method of discovering and purchasing/listening to music. The idea behind each is that music is why people are there, and there is a way for all the users to communicate with one another.
Now I want to make a very important point. Most of the big social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, are NOT music communities. Why, you ask? Because music is not the reason people are there, nor the focus of the website. Now, don’t get me wrong – There ARE music communities that have formed within them. For example, there is a group on Facebook called Los Angeles Metal Underground, a Music section of Reddit, or the Aesthetic Heart Promotions page. All of them are communities that have formed within social networks and have one main goal – a common interest in music.
Why Should I Care About Them?
If you’re asking yourself, “Why should I care about these music communities?” then you’re in for a surprise. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to promote, word of mouth is the single most effective way to develop a following. Just think about your own life. Where do you hear about most of your new music from? Is it MTV? Is it the radio? Probably not. You most likely heard about your new favorite bands from your friends. There’s a really simple reason for this – you already know, trust, and care about what your friends have to say. You probably don’t care about what that ad on the side of your Facebook wall says.
Essentially, these music communities are a gathering of friends. Except instead of just being school mates, co-workers, or that dude at the mall that you see every time you go, it’s a group of people who all share similar interests. When one of them talks about a new band that they’ve found, the community listens. They’ve already had numerous discussions with this person, and as a result they know a good deal about what kind of music they like. As long as they share those interests, they’ll most likely give the new band a listen.
How Do I Use Them?
Let me start of by saying that I don’t actually like the term “use them” in this context. A more proper term would be “join them.” What I’m getting at is that for these to really become effective tools for you to get the word out about your music, you actually need to stop thinking of them as tools. The fact is, these communities exist because people want to have real discussions about the music they love. If you join one, make a post about your new band, and never participate in any other discussion, then you aren’t contributing to the community. And as a result, no one will take the time to listen to your music. On the other hand, if you join the community, enrich it by actually talking about things people care about, then post something about your own band when it’s actually appropriate, the community will listen. Why? Because you’ve become part of the community!
How Does This Save Me Time?
It might not seem like it yet, but this will, in the long run, save you lots of time. As independent musicians, we spend a lot of time promoting. For a lot of us, that means finding websites that focus on “promoting” independent musicians, uploading our songs, hoping it’ll make it us famous, and then moving onto the next one. What you may not have realized yet, is that each one of these websites is a community unto its own. Each one will have at least a handful of active users that actually care about what’s going on there. These are the people that care about you coming and becoming part of the community. These are also the people that will vote in the charts, spread the word about your band, and hopefully even spend some money on you!
In order for you to start saving time, you need to remember a very old and very wise adage – Quality over quantity. It’s more important for you to find communities that actually make sense for you and your music to be part of. Stop worrying about being everywhere. The fact is, if you aren’t putting in the time on each one, then it’s a waste of your time. You’re much better served finding a few communities that are a good fit, and sticking in it for the long run.
Which Communities Should I Join?
By now you should understand how important it is to join some of these music communities. But before you join the first one you see, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Do You Like The Community?
- How Intimate Is The Community?
It’s EXTREMELY important that you actually like what the community has to offer before you join it. If you don’t agree with or care about anything that is being said, you’re going to find it difficult to actually contribute. Although you don’t have to be a yes man, no one wants to talk to the person who always argues with everything that is posted. As a matter of fact, if you come off as a jerk, you might actually do more harm than good. Remember, you are essentially the ambassador of your music. Whatever they think of you will reflect in their thoughts of your music. If they love you, they’ll love your music. If they hate you, they’ll hate your music. Besides, wouldn’t you rather spend time somewhere that you actually enjoy yourself?
As I’ve mentioned before, music communities come in all shapes and sizes. What you need to remember, is that the larger the community, the harder it is for you to become a recognized member. If you’re joining a forum, and there are 10,000 active members, you’re not going to become the go-to guy on anything for quite a while. Chances are, in a community of that size, there isn’t much intimacy as a whole. There might be little factions within it that are fairly close-knit, but it’s hard to keep up on 10,000 people. If you choose to join something like this, you need to realize it will take a lot longer to see any benefit. However, if you become one of the big guns within the community, you’ll have a lot of people who listen to what you have to say.
On the other hand, if you join a community that only has 25 members, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of room to expand. Within your first post, you’ll probably run into nearly every member. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. On such a small scale, things will move much quicker. You’ll become friends fast. But on top of that, they’ll be VERY good friends. The more intimate the connection, the more likely they’ll care what you have to say.
Where To Find Your New Community
Which community you choose to join is entirely up to you. You know yourself better than anyone. Pick communities that make the most sense for who you are. But don’t be afraid to explore. As long as you have the time and the willpower to do it, there’s no limit on how many communities you can become part of. If, however, you are at a loss as to where you should start looking, here are a few simple suggestions:
- Google – Simply search for your particular genre and add the word “forum” at the end. For example, if you search for “progressive rock forum,” the first result is Prog Archives. It just so happens that is one of the biggest communities for progressive music you could possibly find.
- Facebook Groups/Pages – If you use the Facebook search bar and type in a particular genre of music or your hometown plus “music,” you will probably find a group or page that is dedicated to supporting that particular music scene.
- Reddit – If you go to the Reddit music section, you’ll not only find the main page, but also a lot of other sub categories ranging from Dubstep to Radiohead. Take your pick!
- Music Gear Forums – If you’re a gear head, then you might benefit from joining a community that’s based around the gear you use. i.e. Drummers who like to play Pearl can go to the Pearl Forums.
The internet is a very vast place. Use your imagination and you’ll find a community that interests you fairly quickly. Search engines are your friend, don’t be afraid to use them.