25 Ways To Earn Your Audience

Chuck Wendig is one of the best Author/Blogger/Tweeters out there.  If you haven't read his excellent novel Blackbirds, I suggest you pick yourself up a copy posthaste.

Recently, Chuck wrote a piece called 25 Ways To Earn Your Audience.  Go and read that right now.

Usually, this type of thing is referred to as audience building.  What do you build an audience out of anyway?  Brick?  Stucco?  Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails?

The answer is that you don't build an audience at all... You earn it.  One person at a time.

This piece really resonated with me.  So much so, that I decided to go through all 25 ways and put my own spin on them as a musician/songwriter who's trying to earn an audience.

1.  It's All About The Song

As a denizen of the internet, it's easy to get lost in Twitter or blogging or podcasting or finding your niche in the over saturated field of fly-fishing/pastry chef/backgammon playing songwriters.  However, none of that matters if your songs are crap.  Spend time making your thing great.  I spent two months recording the Steampunk Girl song.  Some would say that's too much time to spend on anything, but people have short attention spans.  You've got to grab their attention and the best way to do that is with something undeniably great. 

2.  Swift Cellular Division

Bands used to put out albums once every three or four years.  Those days are over.   While you need to make great things, you also need to make a lot of things.  I realized that spending two months recording each song is only going to produce 6 songs a year.  That is simply not enough.  My solution has been to record some new songs as simple acoustic cuts.  While I wouldn't want to record every song this way, it's a nice change of pace, people seem to dig em' and they only take a few hours to record as opposed to a few months.  

3.  Painting With Shotguns

Chuck states: “One book is less likely to find an audience than two books, a comic, a blog, a short story collection, a porn movie, various napkin doodles, a celebrity chef trading card set, and hip anonymous graffiti.” As a musician, there are lots of ways to find an audience by being creatively diverse.  Release live recordings, remix albums and acoustic singles. Most musicians already have the recording gear, why not host a weekly podcast?  People like to consume things in all sorts of media.  Appear in their preferred form.  Unless that preferred form is a bucket of water carried by Gleek the space monkey.  That's just weird... and you need to be an alien with a twin sister to pull that one off. 

4.  Sharing Is Caring, Or Some Bullshit Like That

Make your music easy to share.  This is why I love bandcamp.com  When someone goes to my website (which is powered by Bandcamp), it's super easy to listen to and download the music.  Bandcamp also makes it dead obvious how to share a song or album on Twitter, Facebook or a blog.  In fact, if you just paste a song's web address into your Facebook status update, a player automatically appears in the stream.

Bonus Tip for authors: You guys really need to start using bandcamp to share audio versions of your novels and short stories.  Why not give away an audio short story for a reader's e-mail address?  Bandcamp makes that really easy to do.

5.  Value At Multiple Tiers

Give away singles for free.  Put out E.P.'s for a dollar or two.   Make super-deluxe versions of albums that include lots of bonus tracks, liner notes, artwork and sheet music for a higher price.

6.  Build The Sandbox

There are lots of creative folks out there who not only want to listen to your shit, they want to make shit with you too.  (ewwwwww!)  As a musician, there are lots of ways to do this.  Put the separate tracks of your recordings out there so people can create their own remixes.  (ccMixter.org is a great place to do this).  Make sure all of your songs are published under a creative commons license so people can make music videos out of them too.

7.  Sometimes It's Just About Not Discouraging 

If you aren't completely flattered by someone covering one of your songs or using one of your songs in a podcast, then you are an idiot.

8.  Be You

While I wouldn't recommend sharing every sordid detail of your personal life, people really seem to respond to personal things in your life.  If my wife says something funny or my son farts, I'll often tweet or facebook it.  Why?  Because it proves that I'm a human being with an actual life.  Plus, my wife is really funny and my son farts a lot. 

9.  Unless "You" Are A "Total Dick"

I'm not a dick!  I'm not a total dick at least.  I'm 35% dick at most.  (BTW, "35% Dick" is the name of my Richard Marx cover band)

10.  Be A Fountain, Not a Drain

There are lots of negative people on the internet.  Don't be one of them.  This is pretty easy for me.  I'm a pretty positive person and a titanic music fan.  Half of my blogging and Twitter stream goes on and on about all of the music that I love.  You know what? This is what people respond to the most.  We become 14 year old metal heads who plead with each other to check out some hot new band.  There's nothing wrong with acting like a 14 year old metal head when you're 38...  right?

11.  Have Opinions

This is one that I really need to work on.  I have some pretty strong opinions, but I often don't share them because I'm afraid of insulting someone.  I'm going to fix this right now.  Here goes: Winger is the greatest band of the 20th century.  Take that Beatles fans!

12.  The Passion Of The Musician

Making music is an inspiring, joyous process.  Share that joy with the world.  We can all use more of it. 

13.  Engagement And Interaction

I've met so many great folks through Twitter and Facebook.  The key to getting the most out of social media is to relax and enjoy all of the people there.  Don't just pimp your own crap, link to interesting stories and projects by creators that you admire.  Crack a joke.  Listen to other people and chime in about their lives and projects.

14.  Heads Up: Social Media Is Not Your Priority

See number 1.  Most of your time should be spent creating your things.  I like to use the buffer app so I can be on social media while I'm working on my creative projects.  It's like cloning yourself!

15.  Fuck The Numbers

Lots of us have fallen into the trap of trying to amass a huge number of Twitter followers.  A big number doesn't mean squat if you don't know the people that are behind those avatars.  Quality over quantity.

16.  Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

I've got a wonderful group of people on my e-mail list.  When I release a new song, I give it away for free and ask the folks on my mailing list to share it with their friends on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  People are usually happy to share and it's been the single most effective strategy for earning my audience.  

17.  Share Knowledge

They say that the best way to learn about something is to teach it to someone else.  I didn't feel truly confident as a musician until I was in my 10th year as a music teacher.  If you know how to do something, write up a tutorial or record a video.  Lots of people will appreciate it and it will make you a better musician as well. 

18.  Shake Hands, Kiss Babies

As great as social media is, it pales in comparison to meeting and interacting with folks in real life.  I've gained so much from the conventions that I've attended and the gigs that I've played.  Don't be a shut-in.  Get out into the real world.

19.  Embrace Feedback

Don't be afraid to listen to what people have to say about you.  In my experience, most of it is positive.  When it's negative, it's usually pretty hilarious.  I'm not sure why people hate my mom so much.

20.   Do Set Boundaries

Sometimes we have to ignore that feedback though.  It's easy for an audience to pigeon hole your art.  If you are known for your little acoustic ditties, but long to record a country/punk/rock opera, then follow your muse.  Some of your audience may be disappointed, but I guarantee that a lot of people will be delighted.  Plus, you'll feel better and that counts for a lot.

21.  Be Generous With Time And Tale

If someone asks you for a guest post or an interview, do it!  If they ask you to be on there podcast, you better show up!  These folks are your greatest allies.  They are introducing you to their audience and that's the most generous thing that a creator can do for you.  Don't be a dick or hermit or a dick-hermit or a dick-hermit-crab.  Public safety tip: Dick-hermit-crabs are extremely contagious, so be careful out there. 

22:  Foster Other Creative Types

This just feels good.  I've gotten so much out of co-hosting The Functional Nerds Podcast.  I get to bat around creative ideas with lots of cool Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors every week.  And it just feels good to turn our audience on to their great books.  Encourage other people.  You won't regret it. 

23.  Don't Wrassle If You're Not A Good Gator Wrassler

There are an endless amount of things that we can do to earn an audience.  If you aren't comfortable or excited about doing something, don't do it!  BTW, I happen to be a champion Gator Wrassler.  

24.  Take Your Time

I've been writing and recording my Sci-Fi Songs for 5 years now.  I feel like I have something cool going on and there are a bunch of folks who seem to dig what I do.  But 5 years ago, I started with nothing.  This shit takes time.  You've got to stick with it. 

25.  Have Fun, For Fuck's Sake

If you're not having fun with your art, then do something else!  Geez, our day jobs are shitty enough.  We don't need to have shitty artistic endeavors too.  Unless you're the singer in a 90's grunge band.  Then you aren't supposed to have any fun.


  1. Thanks, John.

    #25 is the killer app of them all. If you aren't having fun--why are you doing it?

    There is a RPG paradigm called "Fun Now". It's an idea in reaction to having weak characters now, with the promise they will "one day" be awesome.

    To heck with that, the Fun Now people say. Play games that are fun now, not "maybe fun later".

    1. Thanks Paul.

      I hear far too much complaining about creating stuff. Yes, it's a struggle, but in the end, it should always be fun.

  2. Question about "You guys really need to start using bandcamp to share audio versions of your novels and short stories."

    If I'm already podcasting is there an advantage to this? Should I basically put the individual episodes up there as "songs" under an album like an anthology and drop the intro/outro banter?

    1. Good question Scott. The nice thing about bandcamp is that you can set it so people need to join your mailing list in order to download the audio. It's a different beast then podcasting. I think it would work better for self contained short stories, rather then chapters of a novel.