In these articles, I talk non-stop about the importance of engaging with your community at scale. This continually, however, seems to be something that gives people pause. They are consistently asking me, “Matt but HOW do I engage with the community meaningfully.” Now first and foremost it is important to remember that this isn’t really easy and it’s not really the sort of thing that is going to always make sense from first blush so don’t expect it too. However, by following through on some of the ideas, the tasks laid out on this article you are going to be able to help your scene push forward in a meaningful way. By giving without expectation of something in return you will be able to reach that critical next juncture for your band. If you want more contacts, friends or people to generally work with as you try and expand what your band is all about then there is basically nothing you can do that will be more impactful than engaging deeply.
Before we dig into this, I want to point this out for the umpteenth time – people are NOT going to find you, nor are they ever going to give a shit about you if there is no personal connection, especially not early on. People aren’t going to dig up your random fucking Bandcamp page just because the music is good and you make some good tags. I mean, yes there are exceptions to everything but you shouldn’t be relying on this. You shouldn’t be expecting people to be putting you in touch with labels randomly and you shouldn’t think that you are going to get a ton of fans out of the blue. That’s not how the world works. If you aren’t working on making the one to many platforms of the internet feel like they are one to one and giving people what feels like a personal experience then you are not going to succeed. Ever. Simple as that.
Now, of course, the central thesis to so much of what I do is to go to shows. And not just some shows sometimes. I’m saying you need to go to a lot of shows constantly. Literally, one of the keys to my success in the music industry was moving to New York City and then going to Saint Vitus Bar three to five times a week for two years and gradually meeting more and more people. It was huge. I know a ton of relevant people in the industry, be they on the business side or the creative side who did the same. They went to shows, they made friends and this turned into something cool. They did it enough too that people remembered them. Going to a single show isn’t enough to make shit happen, you need to keep going. Obviously, this isn’t possible for everyone but this is the most tried and true way of finding music success, so I had to list it from the first.
So if you can’t go to a hundred or more shows a year, what do you do? Well, you comment on peoples Instagrams and other social media. There are a ton of people out there who are just very active on socials and that is enough to maintain their profile, get people excited to find out about them and wanting to work with them. Again, it’s all about showing people that you are a real motherfucker. So often people get numb to this. There is an insane power to social media. When people can get a visual on who you are you become real to them. When you become real to them you start to have some real opportunities going on. Literally what you need to do is comment on as many relevant social media posts as you can, every single day. One strategy to do this that paid off dividends for me was finding ten relevant hashtags (So in my case, #Musicbusiness, #doommetal, #DIYmusic, etc) and then looking at the recent posts in that hashtag. I would drop comments on 10 relevant ones. Every day. It blew up my page.
I’m going to end with a good one whose phrasing I stole from my friend and occasional podcast co-host Scotty Heath – “get a side hustle to your side hustle”. What this means is that yes, your band should be your side hustle. Cool. Well, find another way to give to your scene on top of that. In Scotty’s case, it was printing buttons – he got a ton of traction through it. In other peoples cases, it might be printing shirts or doing free flyers, or just something that you can do to connect with people in the scene for free. That’s really the key, is the side hustle to your side hustle is not focused on making money (usually) it is instead focused on connecting with as many people as possible and bringing as many people as possible value. A lot of you might be saying that you don’t have time for that – well guess what – if you don’t have time to give to your scene to get more people to connect to your creative projects you’re already fucked.
DIY music isn’t a very easy game nor is it one that is going to have consistent, easy returns. Instead what it is, is a perpetual struggle to get attention, share the love and be able to create a meaningful sense of community. What it is is, is figuring out how do you, in particular, bring value. It’s not because you have a unique set of skills or passions, by the way. It’s simply looking at the world around you and asking, ‘What is missing here that I could help with?’ and that can be on a global scale or on a local scale. Both are going to be very helpful for you, in the long run, Reach out to the other nerds in your community, everyone wants to grow and it is grand.
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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