Build Your Tribe

Are you spending more money making music than you make FROM music? Do you invest your heart, soul and hard-earned dollars just to watch it all slide down the drain? You’re not alone. It’s the classic musician’s challenge.  We know how to make great music, but how do we make money from it once it’s made? There are lots of answers to this question, but today we’re going to focus on one: Build Your Tribe.  People talk all day about creating an audience.  About getting your stuff out there and pulling in new listeners. But if that audience doesn’t attend your shows, buy your merchandise & CD’s, or in other words, GIVE YOU MONEY for what you’ve created, you are no closer to a successful career.  What we are talking about is one step deeper. We talking about your TRIBE. 

Definitions: Market vs. Audience vs. Tribe

So what is the difference between an audience and a tribe?  And how does that fit in with “the market” people are always yacking about?

In a nutshell:

Your Market is the total number of people in your general area and within your genre that COULD be fans. 

Your Audience is the total number of people that actually come into contact with your music. Whether it be at a concert, on Youtube or through a FB post, these folks have had a chance to interact with your music. 

Your Tribe is the total number of your invested fans.  These are the people that sing your praises, forward your email, go to your gigs, and BUY your music.  Did you see the key word there? These fans are INVESTED. They have made the effort to buy tickets. To buy your music. To subscribe to your email list.  These are the people who make your career possible.  

So let’s back up.  The goal is to start building your tribe, but the first step is to find them. That’s where your market and your audience come in.  Your market is pretty easy to identify. Listen to the radio. Is that station playing your kind of music? Then their listeners are your market.  Unfortunately, audience gets a little more difficult. There are two things you need to do to find your audience: Look at the fans you already have and look at the fans of groups or musicians like you.  

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What’s the Female : Male ratio?
  • What other types of music do they listen to?
    • Genre
    • Specific Artists
  • What kind of clothes do they wear?
  • What non-music activities do they participate in?
  • What’s their ethnic breakdown?
  • What social media platform(s) do they use?
  • Where do they go to hear music?
  • What motivates them to buy music?
  • What motivates them to recommend music to a friend?

For a more detailed info, please reference our next chapter on ‘Finding Your Tribe’.

So Why is this information valuable?  Well – it’s important to clearly understand how you and your music inspire your audience – to understand how you ‘speak’ to them.  That’s going to determine the tone of your emails, newsletters, social media posts, etc.  Understanding these things helps you to motivate the portion of your audience who will be your tribe!

So – how do you answer these questions about your audience without doing something as lame as a survey?  Well – it’s basically called a marketing funnel. You’ll use consistent communication (and this funnel) to find and mobilize your tribe…

First up, let’s get the tools in place that you need to mobilize this army.

Sorcery Tools

I mentioned consistent communication above.  In this day and age, consistent communication happens online. Yes, that means FB, Twitter, snapchat, but amazingly, the most powerful of these is still your website.  Social media is merely a tool to drive people to a clear call to action ON YOUR WEBSITE. And what is that first, crucial call to action? “Give me your e-mail!” 

Once you have that email you can begin the real conversation. In marketing terms, this is called transactional email. 

I’ve done A LOT of research about how to  guarantee email delivery to large mailing lists and how to manage those lists.  You may not have a large list yet, but since that is the goal, start this right. And start it right now! I recommend that you create a free account at to manage your email list once you get it going, then use Amazon SES to do the actual ‘sending’ of your email.

Either way, do the following in this order:

  • Sign-up for’s free tier
  • Sign-up for Amazon SES
  • Update your website DNS to make Amazon an authoritative sender
  • Verify the email you want to send from with Amazon SES
  • Upload your existing opt-in email list into Mautic

That’s it!  We’re telling you how to run your e-mail list, but it’s going to be MORE than your e-mail list. For now, just do this!

  • BTW — use Bulk Email Checker for email verification.  This will help to lower your bounce rate.

*Why Mautic? Until February 2016, MailChimp and Mandrill (same company) were considered decent transactional email services.  Mandrill basically shut down, drastically changed their pricing, and is honestly not the best option on the market these days.  I’ll let you do your own research – but I’d suggest starting with reading this article

Cool email editor to check out:

How to Find Your Audience

Who do you make music for?  Is it just for yourself? I’m sure you’re actually looking for an audience to enjoy your music.  All creatives want to be known for their art. Revenue is directly proportionate to audience – So if you want to make money as an artist, you need to think about WHO your music is for.

Unfortunately, this is something most independent artists don’t consider.

We make music for art’s sake (arting vs eating).

Who Are Your Fans?

The best way to this is to create a fan profile. The goal of the profile is to uncover what your fans have in common and why they care about or identify with with what you do.

Fan Profile Basics:

Survey your audience

Collect Basic Facts and Interests


  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location

This kind of information doesn’t tell you that much – BUT – it’s useful in the long-term and you need to know this.

Next, start to ask your fans about their interests:

  • What bands do you like? Locally, Regionally, Nationally?
  • What is your favorite magazine?
  • What are your favorite movies? 
  • What sports (and sports teams) do you like? 
  • What’s your fashion style?  Where do you buy clothing?
  • Do you have tats?
  • etc…

When you survey your audience, make sure to ask questions over and above music.  You’re asking questions about them – and it has to be personal and not cheesy contrived shit.

By understanding all interests of your fans, you have a better understanding of them – and also create a great method to reaching or communicating with your audience. This is about connections and relationship building with your fans.  Keep in mind – they are also looking to you for fashion, sports, musical taste, etc. Think about this as a discussion starter. In fact – translate the word ‘survey’ with ‘start the discussion’.

The result of this exercise is an inspirational thought starter around creating engaging content for your audience…

When you’re looking at your results, think about – What Do They Really Want?  Why do they care about these things? With your survey results in hand, here’s your homework — answer this: 

  • How does your audience view themselves?
  • How does your audience want to be perceived?
  • How did your audience grow up?
  • What does your audience believe about the world?
  • What is your audience’s attitude towards…
  • What does your audience want to achieve?

Here’s a comment from Iggy Azalea’s YouTube channel:

“Who cares if this song sucks, it’s message is inspiring! She moved to the other side of the world, had no money, she knew no one, and she made a fucking career from nothing”

To turn casual listeners into loyal supporters, figure out what it is they really want. And then engage them with an inspiring story that taps into their beliefs and aspirations.

But how do you answer all of these questions?

While some of your answers might very well be intuitive – or come from simply asking your existing fans – I suggest you do some research, too.

Here are my favorite tools:

1. Facebook Graph Search

Facebook is a powerful research tool to discover your fans’ shared interests. Check it out – type something like this into your Facebook search bar:

  • “Pages liked by fans of Machine Gun Kelly who live in San Diego”
  • “Movies liked by fans of Umphrey’s McGee”
  • “Favorite interests of fans of Bora York”
  • “Websites liked by fans of Haim”

2. Twitter Search And YouTube Comments

Read through the Tweets and comments and notice how fans talk about their most loved – or most hated – artists.

What makes the world go around – our differences in tastes, opinions, beliefs, skills etc.

So don’t make music for just “anyone who wants to listen”. Take the time to describe who your music is for.

Build Your Tribe – “Get on the List!”

Now that we have a method for collecting email and for emailing your audience, let’s work on a strategy around this whole thing.  It’s important to remember that good communication with your tribe isn’t about spamming them — it’s about having a dialogue, creating intrigue, telling your story – and giving your audience what they want.

Basically, you’re going to create a cool, high impact page on your site. It needs three things: a clear call to action, an incentive and a Mautic form at the bottom.   Here are some examples:

  • “Sign-up to my email list and get a Free download of a new track from my upcoming album!”
    • The visitor fills out the form then gets an email to a link with their free download

  • “Sign up of for my email list to be a VIP at my next show!”
    • The visitor fills out the form (include City) then gets an email confirmation that they’re a VIP and what that entails (early entry to the gig; drinks with the band before or after; reserved seats, etc…) 
    • Hand select your winners and email them — get firm confirmations that they’re going
  • “Sign up and get a chance for free tickets to my next show!”

The visitor fills out the form (include City) then gets an email confirmation that 

they’re automatically a  VIP for signing up.

Email them that you’ll be picking out 5 lucky ticket winners in the next few days.

Hand select winners

Email everyone else to let them know they are still VIPs and what that entails.

  • “Sign-up to get early notification of our crowdfunding campaign!”

We’ll go into more details on this in a later installment, but you can use this call to action in lots of great ways, so keep it in mind.

Remember: there’s no reason to stick with only one way of engaging your audience.  In fact, a really powerful way to engage them is to ask them for something besides their email: 

Ask them for their opinion.  Ask them for what city they’d like to see you expand to next, what cover they like best for your next album, what poster they think you should use for your tour.  People love to weigh in on stuff, especially if their vote will actually affect the outcome. And they’ll gladly give their email to get that chance.

The examples above require different fields for your form.  So, this WILL take some planning. And some practice. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get. And the better you get, the more ways you’ll find to use this system. 

In marketing we typically do what’s called A/B testing to help us test ‘theories’ and determine best ways to message our audience. So play around- try different things.  Come up with some theories and get creative!  

Oh!  And you should be getting people on your email list at your gigs, also!  You can easily create a generic email list form in Mautic. Start with some of your audience survey questions, then continue with name, email, phone, and city.  Walking around the club with an iPad asking people to fill out the form not only gets you information, but gives people an excuse to approach you. It’s cool to have one at the merch table also, but people love that face to face interaction. It gets them invested, so take the time to work the room!

Let’s pull the trigger and get things going.  Email your friends, family, and existing email list.  Trust me, JUST DO THIS! Post to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Update your Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn links. 

By the way –  If you missed the first in this series, “Build Your Tribe”, it’s easy to catch up! Just go to  You can also  receive these posts weekly! Just… yep…sign up to be on our email list! (Bet you saw that coming!

  • Contribute to your crowdfunding campaign
    Create an incentive (free download) for people that refer X number of friends to your Crowdfunding campaign (or the list related to the campaign).  Ask your visitor to submit both email and social media handle in your form. You can then watch Hashtags on social media to validate.
    Send a Twitter message using hashtag #bandname to get a free download and to be notified early about Crowdfunding campaign…. 
  • Consistent Content — audio/video podcasts
  • The easiest way to get free transcription is to simply upload to YouTube and let them do the work for you.  If you only have an mp3, use TunesToTube to convert and upload for you.
  • Alternatively, you can use to process your audio.  They also have a speech to text feature that uses Google services.  

Bounce handling

Build Your Tribe – Get them invested

So we talked about getting people on your email list. Now let’s get them invested.  

Great!  What does that mean? Bastardized from, the definition of “invested” is: “to devote time, talent or money for a purpose or to achieve something.”

Here’s why this is important to you: A person who has devoted “time, talent or money” for your music or for things that represent your music (t-shirts, bandanas, etc…) now feels they have a stake in your success. So your success becomes intertwined with their success!  

Invested fans are more likely to rally around your next project, spread the word about your gigs, and engage new listeners. In other words, invested fans are more likely to evangelize for you! But the first step to creating evangelizers is getting them to buy your music and wear your T-shirt.

So how do you do that?

Here’s where that e-mail list comes in: 

First, plan out a gift-based marketing funnel — a series of communications that allow you to do two things: first, tell a little about what’s going on with your current project or next gig, and second, give your new email enrollees something for free. Here’s an example: 

  • Week 1 — send a link to a 2nd free download track
  • Week 2 — send a high-resolution original artwork from an album or an upcoming project (something that can be used as desktop wallpaper)
  • Week 3 — send an unfinished track that has yet to be released 
  • Week 4 — send a 3rd free download track

By sharing stories and giving gifts, you create a relationship where your fans come to trust you. They have had four positive experiences of you giving to them and asking nothing in return.  So now it’s time to offer these folks a chance to give back to you. This next email offers them the opportunity to BUY your music, but at a discount because they are on your list.  This should only be for a limited time, and remember: this should be exclusive to your email list.

  • “For the next 72 hours, you get 50% off the new album”. 
  • “We only have 1,000 copies of the album for 50% off”.

If they’ve come this far with you, then give them a chance to go all in.  

They’ve bought your album, now offer them a chance to buy ALL of your albums. Make the price something ridiculous, like $20.  About 50% of them will take you up on that offer.
YES!  You have now successfully moved these folks from “interested” to INVESTED! 

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