How Direct-to-Fan Strategies Can Enhance Your Career

ICMP's James Brister gives us his advice on how artists can forge deeper connections with their audiences...


In the digital age, we're all increasingly connected meaning there are more opportunities than ever for aspiring artists to find and develop their audience.

'Direct-to-fan' is a promotional strategy aiming to put artists in front of their fans and dissolve the traditional barriers between them. Whether it be via intimate live streams, subscription models or exclusive content, the aim is to bring artist and audience closer together. 

Here, ICMP's Careers and Industry Hub's James Brister gives us his insight into this concept and how new talent can make it work for them... 

How can aspiring artists utilise a direct-to-fan strategy when they are starting their careers?

Treat every single interaction with the high-value attention it deserves.

At the early stages, fans come slowly - it's a journey to convert audience, to a listener, then to a fan so take time to engage authentically with anyone who might be sharing and commenting. Foster professional relationships with your growing fanbase as it will create a deeper sense of involvement and garner even more support.

When it's then time to start introducing things like merchandise, headline shows and tours, then these well-engaged fans will be first in line and for the right reasons ... because of the relationship you have built with them."

Are there any artists or musicians using these strategies effectively? 

Yungblud is a great example of this; in the early part of his career, he was heavily engaged with early supporters and really cultivated those relationships with them. He grew a core of fans that started doing the work of promoting his music and content for him!

Gracey is another great example of this as she interacts with her growing fanbase in a very personable and authentic manner. 

Our own BA Songwriting alumnus Richard Fairlie is another brilliant example; he was across all of his content and posts in terms of interacting with a growing audience. He presented his personality and character through stories, was supportive of the wider community of similar artists and responded in a very authentic way to his audience.

Have you any advice around new acts using a subscription service such as Patreon

This is all about timing.

Patreon is great and is growing rapidly in terms of facilitating a membership service for fans wanting to engage in different and exclusive ways with artists. However, this should be introduced when there is a fathomable and fairly sizeable fanbase."

We're not talking thousands of fans, but enough that you can ensure they will have a return on their investment, and you will also get that, for the additional time you might put in. However, get this right and it's another level, again, of connection to your fanbase and champions.

The BPI report cites TikTok as a platform which can really bring fans and artists closer together - have you any thoughts on how new talent can use this social media tool authentically? 

Don't 'force it'! Any content that you put on TikTok has to be important/funny/informative to you as the artist! The quickest way to turn off the TikTok audience is to try to create inauthentic content with the intention and objective of getting as many views/shares/comments as possible. The TikTok audience can sniff that out better and quicker than on any other platform!

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by Jim Ottewill
August 17, 2021
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