The music industry can be complicated and therefore hard to explain, but one thing has always been and will always be true: the single most important thing for any artist and their business teams to do is to build a loyal fanbase of advocates that take action. Fans want more access to artists, and they want to hold a meaningful connection with who they choose to listen to. In today’s ecosystem, there are more ways than ever for artists to reach their core fans and potential fans directly to start that conversation. Be it YouTube, Instagram, streaming services, etc. Ironically, this can make reaching audiences more difficult.

So how do you instigate fans to take notice and form a bond with an emerging artist?

Affinity data.

Before diving into this concept, let’s take a step back and understand how the music industry has evolved, and how audiences interact within its competitive ecosystem today.

More music is consumed right now than when we started typing this blog post – it’s true! From the early days of sheet music, vinyl, cassettes, and 8-tracks, to the introduction of digital distribution, the iPod, social media, and the streaming businesses, the way consumers access music has drastically evolved. All of these events have shaped consumer consumption behaviours. For example, album sales are no longer the most important metric. And when digital downloads took off, the industry reverted to a single’s business (like in the 60’s). The latest event that has influenced a consumption change? The debut and acceptance of streaming services. Thanks to the rise of streaming, our access to music is greater than ever before.

Consumers are exposed to a wealth of new songs, artists, and styles at their immediate disposal and discovery. In fact, as shared by The Telegraph, Spotify, Apple Music, and the other on demand services have over 30 million tracks for users to explore. What’s even more interesting is both emerging artists, as well as established musicians, are now fighting in the same distribution space. That’s a lot of music and a lot of noise.

So many options, so little time.

With no shortage of preferences and choices, it becomes essential for emerging artists (and the teams representing them) to cut through the noise and connect first with high-value audiences to build a fruitful, long-lasting career.

According to IFPI, radio promotion and other marketing costs are the largest upfront investments that business teams bear on emerging artists. Like with any investment, the teams representing artists (whether it be labels, music management companies, or streaming services) want to increase their odds of success, provide value for their roster artists, and make back their money (and more!).

The teams representing artists want to raise their batting average on signing profitable talent. Therefore, it is critical that business teams curate well, and then utilize their marketing and promotion budget and promote emerging artists to a high-value audience where they will resonate. Because the truth is, unless you find the right audience for your music and build an emotional connection with that audience, new revenue opportunities will not walk through the door, despite how talented the artist is or how much money is spent promoting them.

“The single most important thing for any artist is to create an emotional bond with your fanbase.”

Jon Vanhala, Managing Partner/Founder of Crossfade Partners

Using audience intelligence and affinity data, artists and their teams can mitigate the risk born on their investments, collect them back at a faster rate, and identify the high-value audiences already engaged with an emerging artist. The individuals initially attracted to an artist have built an early emotional connection to them. Again, the single most important thing for any artist and their business teams to do is to build a loyal fanbase of advocates that take action.

Through the identification of those initially drawn to an artist, teams can leverage this data to find more individuals like them. By using data to build an army of loyal, high-value listeners, business teams solidify an artist’s stake in the market and open the door for new revenue opportunities, stretching beyond the music.

Does this sound like music to your ears?

Let’s take a look at this use of data and explore how to identify high-value communities that already exist in an artist’s audience.

I was recently introduced to the Toronto-based electronic pop band, Southern Shores, who just released a new album under the independent label Cascine (you can check out their sounds here). The duo has under 1,000 Twitter followers, so for example sake, we will group this band under the emerging artist umbrella. Using Affinio, the marketing intelligence platform, I ran an interest-based segmentation analysis on anyone following the Toronto-duo on Twitter (@SouthernShrs). The Affinio algorithm then compiled all of the unique people following the duo and began to analyze each of their following patterns. The algorithm then matched people with similar interests and grouped them into interest-based clusters.

Here’s what this looks like:

Above is an audience visualization of the individuals following Southern Shores. As you can see, there are two Canadian location-based clusters: the Toronto and Halifax music scene. These two followings are not surprising considering the band members are from Halifax and now live in Toronto. There are also communities of Media/Labels and Electronic Pop Fans within the audience. All of the communities found within the audience were attracted to the band for a reason, and are indicators of the types of communities Southern Shores should be reaching out to as part of their growth strategy.

For this example, we will focus on one community in particular – the healthy following of “Electronic Pop” fans. These are the early adopters (fans) of Southern Shores’ music, and by looking at the audience visualization, we can see that this is a dense, flourishing community. When a cluster is dense like this Electronic Pop community, it means these are a group of highly interconnected people who have a high degree of shared interests (and likely know each other). Attracting a highly dense community is the perfect foundation for building a high-value audience or fandom.

We can dive deeper and hone in on specific clusters to find out what makes them tick—or—who and what matters most to them and why. By understanding the fans you are trying to connect with on an intimate level, business teams can better position their artists and get them in front of the right eyes, or ears. Let’s take a look at a few of the insights extracted.

Looking at the interests (tiled below) of this Electronic Pop community, we can see who else they are interested in (music and otherwise).

Top interests include other electronic pop artists such as Neon Indian, Washed Out, and Teen Daze. Does the artist you are representing align with these sounds? Is there an opportunity to tour with any of these acts and expose your artist to their audiences?

Music publications such as Pitchfork, XLR8R, Rolling Stone, and FACT, as well as streaming platforms, such as Spotify, are also already resonating. Has your artist been covered by or featured on any of these platforms?

What about the media they share and content they connect to? Music snippets are amongst the most liked and retweeted pieces of content shared by members of the audience. Is your artist producing and sharing content like this?

What about where they are located? The audience is mostly located on both coasts of Canada and the US, as well as the UK. Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and London over-index. Is there an opportunity to play or tour in these areas?

How can we reach more people like them? Using Affinio’s look-a-like modelling, business teams can find that more individuals with the closest affinity to the ones in Electronic Pop cluster, and run ads targeted to them. By pulling from the insights shared above, teams can ensure their ads use familiar creative, terminology, and are non-intrusive. By understanding the interests and passions of the high-value Electronic Pop fan (and Southern Shores fan), teams can create content that resonates.

Audience insights empower artists

With no shortage of preferences and choices, it becomes essential for emerging artists (and the teams representing them) to cut through the noise and connect with high-value audiences that are likely to become loyal fans. In other words, artists and their teams must leverage their initial audience and the insights that can be drawn from them — learn from them, get to know them, know where they are, what they care about, and then find more people like them.

Audience insights empower artists and their teams to take a data-driven approach to grow their audience in a strategic way. Again, consumers want to form a bond with the artists they choose to listen to. They want to be understood. By identifying the high-value audience segments that are likely to have high affinity to an artist, business teams can uncover their interests and passions, utilize their marketing budget, and develop meaningful strategies that break an artist through the noise.

I’ll leave you a quote from an article written by Derek Kortepeter, Ethnomusicologist,

“There will be fans who are there waiting for you – but it all starts with knowing who they are and where to find them.”

Originally posted on the Affinio blog, “Developing Audiences for Emerging Artists: A Music Industry Primer Using Affinio Data