THE DIRECTOR'S PAGE

From time to time, this page will feature an article from Jimi on various topics, usually about the Network, but sometimes we may just let him ramble a bit! Take the time to read this, enjoy, comment, etc. - Thomas, webmaster

Building a Fanbase

By Jimi Yamagishi

Director, TheSongNet.org“Nobody came to my gig!” “No one buys my CDs!” “Nobody cares about ME!”SHUT tha (your favorite word) UP!You need a FANBASE! Stop whining & get to work. Here’s where to start…1) COME TO MY GIG!Everyone has friends & family. If not, the last point is the most important for you. Then come back to this paragraph. How do you make friends? Remember back in grade school? “Hey! That kid has the same lunchbox/jacket/shoes like mine! Kewl!” So, you go make an acquaintance based on an obvious commonality. Simple. Same is true as an adult. I always check out any VW vans I see, & if the owner is around, I’ll strike up a conversation.The other day I had to ride the bus while my van got a new front end. I had a few gig flyers with me, & it went something like this:“Hi! Headed downtown?”“Downey.”“Work?”“Picking up my car.”“Hey! Just dropped mine off! You live ‘round here?”“Covina.”“Cool. Here’s a flyer for a gig I’m playing in El Monte on Saturday.”“Thanks!”(another rider) “What’s that?”“One for you too”…All 18 riders had one in their hands by the time I got to work. 3 came to the gig.One bought a CD.I played a JPF showcase a while ago. It was a full house, because of ONE person.She sings in a large choir, & of course when she mentioned this “little solo showcase”, 17 choir members showed up. Flowers, even. All for her 3 song spot.Then there’s family. If you were at a recent SongNet R&B showcase, you probably met 6 members of someone’s family.I was at Amoeba records the other day, & as I looked thru the R&B discs, a friendly person came up & commented “Hey, you like Old School huh?”, noting the Digital Underground CD in my hand. “Here. Check these guys out!” She gave me a sticker & a flyer. I gave her a SongNet postcard. DOH! No contact info on the flyer OR the sticker! Oh well, if a band named “Ali” comes around, I know where that came from. Just think if it had gig &/or contact info in the flyer. She had a stack (yeah, that too). Maybe they already disbanded.She was still there when I left. & I heard her approach several other shoppers too, same approach .You seeing a pattern here? Your fanbase starts WHERE EVER YOU ARE. At work or running errands, you are sharing space with people. Yeah, you can post a flyer…along with the zillion others already there. But look ‘em in the eye, smile & say hello, & the world becomes a better place. Most people appreciate that & will even take a flyer home if you put it in their hand. Some may even become friends.Now, imagine getting five of your best friends together for lunch, giving ‘em flyers for your gig, sending ‘em five different places & meeting ‘em back someplace for dinner.This is called STREET TEAMING. It can be fun, & hangin’ with friends is always a good thing, right? There are people you always see. The girl @ the drive thru window. The cashier @ the self-serve. Your favorite waitress. Grocery clerks. Give ‘em a flyer!These are people that will appreciate you, at least once, ‘cuz you have something in common. You were close enough to give ‘em a handshake & a smile. You were in the same place, maybe more than once.Notice INTERNET/EMAIL was not at the top of this list. Yes, it’s important & very easy. BUT, you need to make it personal, & brief. Make it a bit of news about yourself.“HI! I just bought a new wallet today, but since it cost me more than I expected, I have nothing to put into it!” Now, tell ‘em about the gig. Quick. Over & out. You have no time to read a whole dissertation about the governor, neither do the people that are reading your email. And if you’re like most people, you get so much email, it’s forgotten & deleted before you can remember what it said anyway. Ya gotta do it at least 3 times. A week before, two days before & the day of the event are usually effective. You know your friends better than anyone else. Email accordingly.2) BUY MY CD! PLEASE!Why do I need your CD more than dinner @ Dennys?Okay, we got ‘em to come. Your performance was great, maybe awesome, even.Now they’re going home. WAIT! Where’s the op to buy the CD?First, make sure it’s AVAILABLE. Don’t hide it in a corner. Make it visible! Try to find a spot where you won’t block the flow of traffic. It’s always a good idea to use one or more of those 5 friends (street team) to help stand by the display & take people’s money for you. Also have a couple of CD opener blades around, & some permanent Sharpies. They’re gonna want a SIGNED one ya know!Announce it from the stage. Point at the display & your friends. Have your friends wear your T-shirts & hats if you have merch. Make some one-offs for them with cafepress.com if you don’t. Free bottle o’water with purchase works great in places where you can do that, & there’s ALWAYS bottled water on sale cheap someplace.Don’t be afraid t’ give a few CDs away too. Be careful if you’re tossin’ ‘em from stage though, they’re pretty lethal! People that made a special effort to come see you should be rewarded. As several of our members will tell you, A CD given to a supportive fan often means 3 or more SALES when they tell friends or buy more to give as gifts.Ever notice a tour is in SUPPORT of a CD? Ya gotta play the songs you’re selling!You may have tons of new stuff, & you’re tired of the songs on the CD ‘cuz you just spent the last few months listening to those songs EVERY DAY…BUT, Your FANS want to take home the experience of the live performance. They want to relive YOU in their car or bedroom. Don’t deny them. Hold the new stuff ‘till later. Most of it.Sell ‘em for even money. 8 bux is nice, but that’s a lot of $1 bills ya gotta carry for change. You only get 20’s from an ATM.Finally,3) Nobody cares about ME! If you’re aloof, unapproachable, self-centered, not around to sign autographs & talk to your fans, if you think you’re too good to promote & if you just don’t care, your fanbase will vanish like your non-existant friends. If you have no friends, now you know why. A-hole.It’s NOT about YOU. Anyone that owns a business knows that they are not “self-employed”. They are employed by everyone that comes in the door. You are entertaining people, making ‘em feel a certain way because of the music you do. As soon as you made a decision to share your music with the world, you became Santa Claus & Mother Theresa all rolled into one. Your songs interpret life for people that can’t do it themselves. Your work gives them a commonality with you. It gives them an emotional high or low. Sometimes it even heals. They want to be your friend. In fact, they want to be YOU. Yeah, you need to take care of yourself, stay healthy, keep the creative juices flowing.Just remember what goes around comes around. The Golden Rule. Karma. Too much narcissism & you’ll lose your fans AND friends. You give love, it returns. Simple.Being an artist is not easy. If you’ve been to any of the seminars you know that. You also know that it’s possible to make a living without being famous, & there are ways to make a career happen if you look at the big picture & follow the rules.Just like in any relationship, you’ll have good times & bad times with your fans, & it takes work to make it work & keep it good. Mariah Carey got paid NOT to sing & it looked like she was done. But her fans forgave her, she “Made it Through the Rain”, & she’s back on the charts. Cher went in & out of style more times than skirt lengths. Now she’s a legend. Fans may not be the heart & soul of your music, but they are ABSOLUTELY are the heart & soul of your CAREER.

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- Jimi