As the creator of a website with an intrinsically global identity, growing an overseas fan base is an issue that has plagued me throughout the years. The world is a big place, and how to effectively reach like-minded individuals who will support what you do is a lot harder than it sounds. But attending Singapore: Inside Out’s music panel discussion moderated by journalist Hidzir Junaini and featuring some of the local music scene’s most prominent industry professionals such as Cherry Chan (co-founder of Syndicate), ChaCha (Chinese independent musician), Syaheed (VP of SG MUSO), Lim Teck Kheng (Marketing Director for Universal Music Singapore) and Dean Chew (co-founder of Darker Than Wax) was an eye-opening experience that truly gave me the sense that I was heading in the right direction. I’ve always believed the good things in life should be shared, so feast your eyes on these ten tips I’ve gathered from the discussion and grow your overseas fan base the right way!
Target the right channels and work with the right people
Elementary marketing requires one to understand both their consumers and how supply chains affect the production of goods, and the music industry is no different. Pick the channels and consumers that best suit your community or artist’s personality, be they traditional or social media channels. As Universal’s marketing director Lim Teck Kheng said, there is no point in introducing Justin Bieber’s fans to electronic music!
Touring still has its perks
Although a traditional, old-school style of music promotion, there’s just something about appreciating live performance and getting close to the music and artists that one loves that makes this form of promotion a lucrative one with staying power. Especially for businesses, tours also present valuable networking opportunities that in the long run could find you some powerful allies worldwide who may just willing to help you to expand your overseas fan base.
Go back to basics and make sure your brand has a consistent vision and message
Be it an artist or organisation, consistency in branding-especially that which is unique and different-will make your brand easier to recognise on an international scale. Too many inconsistencies across different promotional channels and platforms (such as different page descriptions or logos on Facebook, Twitter etc.) tend to confuse fans and reduce the effectiveness of your message.
Communicate with audiences in a strong, narrative way
Rather than speaking in passive, impersonal tones, build a unique discourse that fits your brand image, whether it be an enthusiastic one, a cool one, or an eclectic one. But above all, amp up the use of active language in your communications with audiences and urge them to connect and relate with you. Once you’ve got them hooked, they’ll be sure to grow along with you.
Get internet savvy
Dean Chew, the founder of record label Darker Than Wax maintains that all the connections he made were purely through the forging of online relationships. As a person who lives on Perth, one of the most isolated cities in the world, I can assure you that online is most certainly the way to go. Start a conversation with other communities or artists by letting them know of your presence-liking, commenting and sharing is a more powerful tool than one may expect! Strategise and craft your messages in a way that is genuine and unique and you’ll have their attention.
Tread with care
The music industry, along with all the other creative industries are still trying to figure out an equilibrium between economic and artistic success. Don’t force creativity and forsake it too much for commercial reasons, and always foster it with time, love and logic. Audiences are neither deaf nor dumb, so once again being genuine comes into play in all aspects of communications with fan bases; be they social media updates, media appearances, so on and so forth. As always, messages to audiences must be carefully and clearly curated. Know what you want to say and have foresight, as what you say may have serious repercussions for your image.
(This one wasn’t mentioned in the talk, but I think it’s nevertheless relevant)
Following on from the previous tip, its basic marketing 101 that if you make a mistake, you should own up to it rather than try to cover it up. Covering your ass will only make things worse and encourage even more negative attention no matter how fast you react. It’s called the Barbara Streisand effect-look it up to find out more.
Understand your fans and how they differ in different countries
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to promoting an overseas fanbase. With all digital marketing and touring, one needs to understand not only the tastes and preferences of their listeners as a whole group, but also how they differ due to culture. Some things that may be appropriate in some countries may be frowned upon in others, so do your research before touring or interacting with fans in any channel.
Stand out from the crowd
Although you may be unique in your home country, there may be many others like you or your brand in other countries worldwide, which provides one of the most important barriers of entry to other markets. Syaheed, the Vice President of SG MUSO says one must make sure they are unique, different, and amazing enough to be able to grab the attention of overseas audiences. Find out what makes you unique in a global context and spread this message consistently!
Know your goals and strategise when selecting communication methods
Depending on whether you are an indie or mainstream artists, whether you have a large budget or a small out as well as many other contingencies, these may completely change the promotional mix one may have to employ. For indie artists, it may not be completely necessary to reach out to audiences using traditional media methods such as TV ads and such. With lower budgets, social media marketing IS sufficient-when done right-to help expand an overseas fanbase. The importance of public relations as a tool -as emphasised by Syaheed-is not to be overlooked as budget issues can easily be gotten around by making the right connections and generating free publicity, and most importantly by having good content.
Promoting to an overseas fan base may not be as easy as 1 2 3, but who ever said going international was a walk in the park? The end goal may be what you’re working towards, but all the fun’s in the execution. Enjoy the process, but as we Singaporeans say, don’t just play play!