As we’ve talked about time and time again, touring is the single most important revenue channel for all independent hip-hop artists grinding today.
Take a look at the top indie rappers in the game today – from veterans like Tech N9ne and E-40 to the new school wave Chance The Rapper and Joey Bada$$ – and you’ll see the consistent factor across all of them is that they tour relentlessly.
With money from pure record sales dropping since the mid-2000s, independent rappers have to work hard on creating income channels outside of music sales – setting up a merchandise shop, sponsorship deals with brands, songwriting, touring and plenty more.
The reason touring is so high on the priority list for indie artists is because the rewards from consistently performing live in front of the fans can be super high, while the entry level can be relatively low.
Benefits of building a local fanbase
One of the most challenging aspects for any artist is being able to build up a fanbase outside of your local city and community. People will happily vouch for you locally and give you plenty of chances to move a step further, but what about when you go to a city that nobody knows you in?
You won’t have your mates giving you a good write-up and you won’t have people marketing for you because they know that you’re a good guy or a talented artist. For many artists, then, this becomes a bit of a major issue!
Building up locally is so important to your long-term aims and goals; without a local build-up, you’ll never really make it that far. Building up a strong local following is so important for your hometown, and this becomes even more important as you try and move into new cities and build a reputation there.
Many people don’t think they can move into a new city and force their personality to become successful – that, though, is not the case. With the right mentality you can almost certainly build up a local fanbase in different cities for touring – you just need to know where to begin.
Connect face to face with your audience
If this day of age where artists can reach millions of people from the comforts of their bedroom using social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, it can be easy to forget the most important way to engage with your audience – face to face interaction.
Sure, you can use online promotion and marketing channels to bolster your exposure and increase your brand awareness, but to really engage effectively with your target market and build a local fanbase in another city, people actually need to see you.
One of the hardest things that you will need to understand is that you need to be capable of, and happy to, present yourself to the public. You’ll have to scope out the local areas to find the best bars and venues for playing in, and you also need to mingle and network a lot more with the locals.
Outside of your home patch you won’t have much reputation so you need to build one by being open, honest and engaging with those who are interested in you.
Word of mouth is without a doubt the strongest way to build your brand and your fanbase, both locally and in new cities for potential touring opportunities. And it’s not just about your music – it’s about your personality.
Thinking of trying to get gigs in a new city? Then head out there for some nights out. Hand out free music and promo material to as many venues and managing groups as you can, and get talking with promo companies in the local area.
A local presence is so important in any new city and if you want to present yourself you need to do this – you have to get people interested in who you you’ve never actually met before.
This is a major challenge obviously but if you can get people talking about you on the street as well as on social media your chances of success just shot right through the roof!
Engaging with fans in the street as well as on social media builds a buzz and separates you from the charmless artists who struggle to make a real connection with fans.
If people see you as a genuine sort and someone who they can have fun talking to as well as someone they can enjoy listening to, they’ll be more likely to promote on your behalf.
Don’t rely on your music alone
Some of the best music of every year is never heard because either the artist has no personality or because they struggle to mingle outside of the local area. This is going to suppress your chances of having fun and being a success, for sure.
It’s the music business. Which means creating the actual product is only 50% of the the job done, you still need to distribute, promote and build a fanbase for you to go on tour, sell merchandise, etc. It’s a fundamental yet underrated element to a music career – marketing your music successfully is vital for independent rap success.
Basically you need to concentrate on getting in front of big name players in the local music scenes of cities, that’s your first and major aim. You should get others promoting you because they like both your music and your personality, and this means trying to get as many meetings as possible without having to break the bank. You want to earn a meeting, not buy one.
If you are based in a small area then you have a double-edged sword problem; getting spotted is going to be tough, but competition is less fierce. You can get yourself as the top name in your local city and then move to other nearby local cities, captivating their own style and getting in with the big names in promotion locally.
However, it takes longer to build it up as you’ll need to go to lots of smaller towns and build a reputation there. This takes a lot of time before a big city will hear of you because you’ll need to “make it” in smaller regions, first.
A strong fanbase leads to more fans
It’s certainly not an easy task building a local fanbase in different cities, but the more you do it, the easier it’ll get for you.
When you go to meetings you should be able to send people to your website for samples, your social media to see you are popular, your video and media channels to let them see you in action at a gig and also a sample of what you are thought of locally.
This will do so much for helping you master the local factor whether you are battling for relevance in a new town or a bigger city than before. Take the time to make sure that you come across right online and you’ll find that mingling locally and getting people to market for you is much easier.
People might dig your music and may tell their friends in other cities to look out for you or to come along and see you, but they need to have access to ample media to show off your skills with. Supply this, and you can find that building a nice little army of touring fans in various cities is so much easier moving forward.
Whether you want to get everyone following you across the country from your main city to gigs and marketing for you that way, or you want to have lots of concentrated groups in lots of cities, being local matters so much. Take the time to show your face and get involved, though, and people should have no problems in talking about you.
Word of mouth travels, people will start talking about your previous live shows, your buzz will travel city to city and soon enough, one local fanbase leads to multiple fanbases around the country.