Resist the temptation to reach out to lots of people

Level meter

Don’t grow.


It’s easy to start chasing growth. It’s easy to get caught up in chasing numbers – whether it be Facebook likes, YouTube plays, CDs sold, audiences at each gig, number of gigs each month… These kinds of numbers are easy to measure and easy to compare with other artists and bands. Furthermore, we’re still living in the shadow of mass music and the major record labels. For mass music, success looks like millions of likes and plays online. It looks like endless world tours. It looks like six-figure sales and sold out stadiums. And so it’s easy to get discouraged and desperate when you’re playing to fifty people in a bar and most of them are your friends and family. It’s easy to frame the problem as one of numbers, and to focus on putting your music in front of as many people as possible.

And it’s equally easy to justify. Who doesn’t want more fans?

The problem is that growth is expensive. It comes at the cost of time, money, focus and social capital. To grow beyond word of mouth requires publicity, advertising, endorsements, etc. And there’s a significant opportunity cost – the resources it takes to spread the word come at the expense of the resources you could otherwise put toward making your existing audience fall deeper in love with you.

Take the money you’d spend on advertising or publicity. What if instead you put that money toward hosting the greatest party/gig your audience has ever been to? Take the time you’d spend promoting your new song to the hundreds of bloggers and media outlets out there. What if you spent that time talking with your audience to find out what they’d really love to hear from you? Take the weeks or months you’d spend on tour playing to empty pubs. What if you spent that effort doing a tour of your best fans’ living rooms? Take the time and money you’d spend assembling press releases and mailing your latest CD to interstate radio stations. What if you spent that time and money making beautiful thank-you notes and mailing hand-made CD packages to the people who already love you?

Don’t worry – your audience will get bigger. But they have to care first. They have to love you.