According to Music Business Worldwide, over 60,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify in a day. That’s 60,000 choruses, 60,000 hooks and 60,000 connections waiting to happen. In a world flooded with content, gaining traction for your work as an artist can feel like a gamble, but it doesn’t have to.
Music has an incomparable ability to create communities and bring together people across the world. I personally have bonded with some of my best friends over our shared love for the same recording artists, an experience many other fans can also attest to. At its core, the success of some of the most popular artists of today is a testament to the strength of their relationships with their fans, on top of their talent. Let’s take a look at some examples where a strong connection with fans has been a game-changer in an artist’s career.
The success of the Beatles is perhaps one of the most well-known instances of passionate fanbases. But at least in the United States, it didn’t start that way. While the band was dominating Europe in the early 1960s, they did not see that same success translate over in their initial introduction in America, where the group “flopped after several releases on small, regional labels.” All that changed when a 15-year-old girl from Washington DC mailed a request to her local radio station to put the Beatles on the air. In response, DJ Carroll James imported a copy of the Beatles’ newest British single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The song was officially released in the United States on December 26th, 1963. The tune caught on like wildfire, taking the top spot on the Billboard Charts for 10 weeks. Sometimes it just takes that one right person for everything to change.
K-pop boy band BTS is perhaps one of the most influential forces in modern music. In fact, the group was recently invited to the White House to speak in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on the recent uptick in Asian hate crimes. The group began receiving international media recognition after winning the fan-voted Top Social Artist award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. With over 300 million votes, the group’s win ended a six-year winning streak previously held by Justin Bieber. The group has since earned the first top song on the Billboard Hot 100 as an all-South Korean act. Their secret? The ARMY.
Not that kind of army. ARMY is BTS’ devoted fans scattered all across the world. Fans’ shared love of the septet has even led to international followers finding love for Korean culture and even learning the language through translating social media accounts managed by the fans. Even further, ARMY has created a reputation for efficient organization and mobilization. This dedicated community goes above and beyond to support causes that BTS supports, such as matching the group’s $1 million dollar donation to Black Lives Matter. BTS is proof of the good that can come from establishing a solid, dedicated fanbase for both the success of an artist’s career and the safe haven created within the fanbase.
Parasocial Relationships and Social Media
Thanks to platforms like Tik Tok, Twitter and Instagram, fans now have more access to their favorite artists than ever before. Many artists take advantage of this, by promoting upcoming projects and teasing new music. But, it can also be argued that the most successful use of social media is to connect with fans directly in ways that aren’t strictly promoting, but rather, as a way for fans to understand the artist on a personal level and know what they’re about.
Three strong examples of this are Doja Cat, Lil Nas X and Lizzo’s uses of Tik Tok. The three each have over 20 million followers on the platform, and post content largely featuring them answering questions, participating in trends and speaking candidly in addition to music. Fans get a chance to see these artists in a more personal light, giving them a chance for increased support.
While these may be extreme examples, it is clear that fostering a strong fan community can create effects far beyond the music itself. Fans want to feel close to the musicians they support, and with the help of social media, that is becoming more and more attainable and can be implemented at any stage of a musician’s career.
To learn more about how social media can best be used to connect with fans, check out our guide.