TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

Modern problems require modern solutions. In today’s age, consuming music is easy with the different platforms available. Yet, people still play the same music, lowering the demand for fresh releases. So how can you stand out? Our guest, John Gold, has a strategy for building your fan base using a software he developed. Hypeddit helps artists of all genres and career stages get more fans for their music. People can also leverage producing lyrics, music videos, and beats to provide content. So immerse yourself in the music world and learn how to build your fan base!

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Hypeddit: An Automation Tool For Your Fan Base Building Strategy With John Gold

I am here with John Gold from Hypeddit. He is an independent artist. What I love about what he has done with Hypeddit is he created something out of his own need. As he had that need, many of you will have the same need and what he has got is going to be helpful for you in building your fan base. Before we get into everything that Hypeddit does and how it can help you, John, I’d love to know a little bit about your background, how you got into music, what you have done in music, and how you ended up starting a whole new company with Hypeddit.

Thank you so much for having me. This is awesome. I’m excited to talk to you and tell my story. I have been a musician for as long as I can think pretty much. I started learning the piano and then later the drums. More in the piano because my parents wanted it, drums because I wanted it. Now I make all piano house music. I brought together the rhythmic elements from the drums with the piano that was initially forced on me and something I fell in love with. I have been releasing music since my high school days. I got lucky early on. One of my first tracks that finally had reached a level of quality where you could put it out was picked up by a record label in Germany.

It became a little bit of a club hit and that caught the attention of other record labels. It became pretty easy to release music. I was eventually signed to Warner. I made music exclusively for them for a few years. That was the time when you have all these electronic dance music compilations. They were looking for a lot of content and compilations to put out because people were still buying a lot of these compilation CDs. That was fun as long as it lasted because it didn’t last very long. When my contract came up for renewal, they called me in, sit me down, and told me that they were going to drop me from the roster. It was a shock. I didn’t know where it was coming from.

I had always focused on making high-quality music. I had built up my studio, created better music, and put more energy and time into music. I thought I was on the right track to building myself as a music artist, but it turned out that what they were looking for at the time was what I was looking for. I had invested all my time and energy into making better music. What they were looking for at the time were artists who had invested in their fan base so they had something to monetize. The business model in the music industry changed. It initially was all touring and playing for little money or for free to promote your music and your CD so people would hear it in a show, and then they would go out and buy your music.

That was the revenue model. Now it’s flipped upside down. Your music is pretty much free. It is all about selling experiences like a show or other things that you can offer to your audiences. There was a period in between where neither of these worked. That was a little challenging. For me, this was a wake-up call. The record labels don’t want just quality music. They want you to have a fan base. That is part of the business model of being successful as a musician. I had done none of this and I needed to start to do that. This is what set me up on the journey that eventually became Hypeddit, and how I am building my music business. I’m sure we are going to dive a little bit deeper into this but in a nutshell, that was the starting point.

What happened in that in-between period? Was that when people were selling downloads for $0.99 where you weren’t making a ton of money on the music. They weren’t monetizing experiences yet?

It was a time when the venues had not figured out how to monetize yet. Napster had MP3s readily available for you online. That was a little rough period. Luckily, I was still a student at the time, so I didn’t depend on music for income. The industry had to reorganize itself as they go through these couple of years.

When you first started embarking on trying to build your fan base, what did you first try? What did you find to be the most difficult part of it or the obstacles that you’ve experienced?

TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

Fan Base Building Strategy: The business model and the music industry changed.

 

There are two things that guide a lot of the stuff that I do. One is I look at what everybody else is doing. Oftentimes I ask myself, “Is that the right way to do it?” Just because everybody else does it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to do it. It’s the best way to blend in if you do what everybody else does, but blending in might not always be what gets you the best result. The other thing is I put myself in the shoes of a fan. If you can put yourself in the shoes of a fan and look at it from their perspective, you can deliver better experiences to your fans, which also helps you with your results. I was looking at a marketplace or in an industry where there were millions of independent music artists. Everybody is fighting for attention online. Everybody is trying to get fans.

They all did it the same way. They posted their music and they would blast social media and emails. It was all, “My new track is out. Click here. My new album is out. Click here. Listen to it.” Everybody is trying to get the click over to their music. Fans don’t need that much new music as it is being released. It is a sad truth from my perspective, but there are more independent music artists fighting for attention online than are fans out there trying to discover new music. You will see that a lot of people who consume music have a couple of favorites, playlists or music that they stream over and over again. With a million new songs on Spotify every month, there isn’t that much demand for new music from a wide audience.

It is all a game for attention. If everybody is waving their hands saying, “My music is out, come here and click,” how can you do better than that? This is when I thought, “I don’t want to do the same thing. What can I do to stand out and offer fans something that maybe has them opt into my music as opposed to somebody else? Instead of screaming the loudest, how can I make them a better offer?” My initial idea was, “I’m trying to grow a fan base.” A fan base can mean followers or email addresses because it’s a fan base where you control the communication, which I think is important. What if I invite somebody to come into my world and the first thing I do is offer them a little gift?

In my case, initially, that was a download of my music. I went on SoundCloud. I posted a new song and instead of blasting all over the place, “Come over and play this,” I put into the title and description of the track that if somebody engaged with the track, reposted or followed me, I would DM them on SoundCloud and send them a free download of the track. It was my way of saying, “If you engage with my music, there is instant gratification for you instead of just the music. I will send you something. I will give you a gift. I’ll offer you something special.”

To my surprise, that was pretty successful. A lot of people came over, engaged with the music, and reposted it on SoundCloud. That was super valuable because the repost would put that same offer in front of more fans who then also saw it. It helped the virality and spread of the track. Eventually, the challenge that I faced is that I had so many people engaging with this that it took me an hour at night to just DM everybody and send out these downloads links.

That’s a good problem to have. I always tell my students, “Let’s come up with something that is going to be exciting to people. Let’s make it unscalable at first.” You are only getting 1 or 2 new people a day or a few new people a week. Eventually, when you get to the point where it’s not scalable to do it anymore, then we will come up with something else. At first, you can dazzle people by even sending them a personalized video or something like that. Let’s put this into context. This SoundCloud experiment that you did, what year was this?

It was 2014.

Back then, giving away a free song worked. I feel like it doesn’t work nearly as well in 2022. I was having this conversation with my students and we were brainstorming other things that you could give to get people excited to join your email list or share. What do you think? What has been the evolution of that free gift thing over the years?

With a million new songs every month on Spotify, there isn't that much demand for new music from a wide audience. Click To Tweet

To wrap up 2014, the fact that I ran into this problem of having to manually DM hundreds of people and it was taking away time that I wanted to spend making music and coming up with new marketing ideas, that’s what sparked the development of Hypeddit. I figured there must be a better way or tool to do this. I searched and I couldn’t find a tool that did that. This is when I went out and started to develop this piece of software that did just that, rewarding fans with an instant download for the engagement that they would share with the music.

That’s where the platform was born. Over time, music downloads have lost some of their value, at least to a broader audience. Download is still extremely valuable. Anything in the electronic music space where you have a lot of DJs collecting music, downloads are still top of the game because everybody wants them for their DJ sets. There are two things that happened. First of all, the idea behind it is as valid now as it was in 2014. It’s not about the download of the music. The idea is to allow a fan to experience that instant gratification or a little bit of an extra when they join your world for the first time.

That is a good point of saying, “Just because music downloads don’t necessarily work in particular genres anymore, it doesn’t mean that this whole framework isn’t valid.”

The question then is, what is that exclusive gift or that can’t-say-no offer that you can make a fan to come into your world? What is that in your particular music genre? For somebody, it might be a music download. For somebody else, it could be something related to the lyrics of the song, maybe a lyrics booklet that’s beautifully visualized. For somebody else, it might be the beats out of which the song was built for somebody else to jam on. It could be exclusive access to an unreleased music video. This is where the technology evolved where it’s not just about adding music to it. You can add any piece of content to one of those tools. It doesn’t even have to be downloadable content. It can be exclusive access to content like an unreleased music video.

This is where art and science meet a little bit. The science part is if you make a better offer, you know it’s a great way to attract fans and attention for your music, to get them to engage and come into your world, even share an email address so you can build that relationship. The art piece is, what is that thing that your audience or fans in your genre can’t resist? When they see that you are offering this, they want to engage and have it. For some artists, that might be music download. For somebody else, it could be something completely different. That is how you have the pulse on your audience or genre. You can see what is out there and what others are doing. Survey your audience, ask questions on social media and test.

Testing is so easy. You can create one of those gates in a couple of minutes and put it online. If people don’t engage, maybe that wasn’t the right thing that you offer and then try something else and see what works. As with all marketing, it’s an iterative process where you test things and some things work well and some others don’t. You keep doing more of the things that work well and you stopped doing some of the things that don’t work so well, and that progresses.

Sometimes we feel like we failed if we put something out there and it didn’t go over as we wanted. We just figured out that wasn’t the thing that they wanted. They want something else. Even some ideas came to me, maybe you did a private live stream once a month for the people that join your list or do what you want them to do. Maybe you give them the sheet music to one of your songs or you give them a backing track if it’s in your genre. I know the Christian genre, a lot of people want to sing these songs at events or at home. They could have a backing track for it. It’s about getting creative and brainstorming.

There is one user free download that is still valuable universally across genres. This is around pre-saves. Pre-save is something that grew in popularity over the last few years. If you think about most of the standard pre-saves, I look at them almost like calendar invites. A fan clicks a couple of buttons. They have to authorize access to Spotify. Once they execute the pre-save on the pre-save page, they don’t get anything out of it. For the fan, all the reward is in the future, if you even can call that a reward. You are able to put your song into their liked songs playlist on Spotify. I wouldn’t even call that a reward to the fan because if they are tuned in to you, they know on release that you are going to send another email to them with the link to Spotify.

TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

Fan Base Building Strategy: Musicians don’t just want quality music; they want you to have a fan base. That’s part of the business model of being successful as a musician.

 

There is very little reason for a fan to pre-save your song because there is so little value in it for them. The value is all for you as an artist, but not for the fan. Using a gate that has music attached to it to do a pre-save, rather than a smart link pre-save, is a whole game-changer. Now, you can go out to your audience and say, “You can enjoy this track four weeks before anybody else can. Here is the pre-save.” What happens is you get the same pre-save but the fan gets the song right away. They can enjoy this early before anybody else. The benefit here is about this exclusive access. It’s still not necessarily about owning music. They don’t need to own MP3, but the fact that they can enjoy your song four weeks before the rest of the world can have some real value. This is a great incentive and a great way to use music as an incentive to get fans to engage with you on a pre-save.

Most artists don’t think about it in that you are asking them a pretty big favor to do a pre-save for you because it’s all about what you are getting out of it. They are not getting much. If they follow you on Spotify anyway, they will probably see it on the release radar. If they are on your email list, if you are doing a good job with your marketing, you are going to send it out on its release day. How do they get delivery of the song four weeks in advance? Do they get access to stream it or are they downloading it?

They are downloading. That is what the Hypeddit platform does instantly. It creates a little mini page for you where the fan blocks in. It’s the same authentication process with Spotify that you have on a regular pre-save. On the regular pre-save page, the last page would say, “Thank you for pre-saving it.” There wouldn’t be anything else for the fan to do other than close the browser window and leave. In this particular case, the fan gets the download of the song so they can start playing it. Oftentimes I get this question, “If I give away that download four weeks before the release, am I still going to get streams? I’m cannibalizing the streams on Spotify.” From what I see, you don’t. Just because somebody has an MP3 doesn’t mean that they change up their music listening habits.

It is not convenient. If you are a listener on Spotify and the song comes out, you are going to put it in your playlist so you can listen to it easily wherever you want. I am a Spotify consumer and I wouldn’t be like, “I have this on my phone somewhere. I’m not going to add it to my playlist.”

That is where this makes so much sense because you are getting a lot higher conversion on pre-saves. When I come up with ideas like this, I usually put them to the test. In this particular case, when I first started toying around with this, I ran a campaign for a cold audience that was using Facebook and Instagram ads. A campaign for the same song at the same time for the same budget, one ad driving the traffic to a regular pre-save like the ones we have all seen, which is a smart link in a pre-saved state. The other one is to a gate that has the pre-save built-in but rewards the fan with the download. On the same budget, I got twice the number of pre-saves by offering the music as an instant reward. That shows you the power of that additional incentive that you are putting out there.

If you are sending that to a cold audience that doesn’t know you yet, what are you saying to get them excited enough about it to opt in?

You want to let them know that there is early access to an unreleased song that they can get. In this case, the ad has to describe the benefits so that they already know what is in it for them by going to the page. The ad would say something along the lines of, “My new piano house track drops in four weeks. Here are exclusive downloads available. I’m going to take it down on release date.” I add some scarcity to it to let people know that this is only available up until the release date, then they can check it out on Spotify if they like. In the ad, I’ll refine the language a little bit. It’s something along those lines.

The ad will have a video that is a 30-second preview of the song. The video is going to be the cover art of the song. I don’t do music videos for these ads. It is going to play a 30-second preview of the song. The text in the ad will describe that the song that isn’t live yet is exclusive and available for download. It’s an instant consumption and this whole thing will go away at a specific date.

Focus on making high-quality music. Click To Tweet

It is smart to have a sample of the song because a lot of times, I see artists putting out an image. They don’t know what the song sounds like until they go to the page, and what’s going to make them click off of Facebook or Instagram and go to that page. It needs to be super compelling. If this is cold traffic, they don’t know you. You are targeting people that already like house music or electronic music. That is important, but are you giving them any context as far as my music sounds similar to this person or this person, or are you assuming that they are going to click the play button and listen for themselves?

The context happens through Facebook and Instagram targeting. I might use sounded-like artists or niche genre interests for the targeting. I won’t describe more of that in the ad itself. The preview is so readily available because Facebook displays that video with a big play button. Before somebody has read any of that description, they will have already played the video. That is usually how the browsing experience works on the device. People scroll through it, they see an image or video that looks interesting and they play it. If that resonates with them, they are like, “Let me see the description. Let me dive a little bit deeper.”

Somebody will always listen to the preview first which will make them decide, “I like that or I don’t like it.” If they didn’t like it, the description is not going to change their mind because they have already browsed it. The text will only increase their desire after they have already listened to it. This is what I am doing in the description by letting them know, “You liked this song. Did you know that was exclusive and you can only get it now? This whole thing will go away at a certain point in time.” That is how psychology plays out.

Let me play devil’s advocate. How is this better than just making a landing page using your email software or something? You can certainly deliver a free download that way as well. What does Hypeddit have that is focused on the musician market?

If your goal is to capture an email address, technically, you could do this with an email client, but you wouldn’t get a pre-save out of this. The way Hypeddit works is it allows you to build these gate pages that are made specifically for music. Hypeddit has no other purpose than helping music artists. There is a permanent display of the cover art. There is a play button on the cover art that allows visitors to play a preview of the song. You decide what benefits you are asking from a fan to access and unlock whatever gift, reward or exclusive access that you have.

This is when you can pick email capture as one, but you can pick anything related to Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. There is a long list of platforms that we integrate with. If you want to grow YouTube subscribers, you set it up like that. If you want to grow a Spotify pre-save, you implement that. If you want to get SoundCloud repost, you do that. The tool is versatile and you customize it to whatever you want to get in return for sharing whatever it is that you are sharing with your audience.

It is always easier to use something that is designed for what you want to do, instead of trying to cobble together something that is way more general like a landing page where you have to build everything out. It is so much easier to have it all there, click a few buttons, upload a few things and you’re all good. I love that you can get YouTube subscribers, shares and all those things. These are great use cases. Let me ask you another thing. I have mentioned Show.co on the show in the past. How is that similar or different from what Hypeddit does?

I believe Show.co is just a smart link.

TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

Fan Base Building Strategy: If you can put yourself in the shoes of a fan and look at it from their perspective, you can deliver better experiences to them, which also helps with your results.

 

You can do some of the things that you are mentioning. What does a smart link mean?

The smart link are these mini distribution pages that you see where an artist will share a link to their music, but instead of getting you directly to the song, it will land you on a page that says, “Stream this on Spotify or Apple Music.”

It gives them the choices of where they want to go.

It has a list of different music services that you want to show. Hypeddit has smart links as well. Hypeddit is a toolbox. We have talked a lot about gates, but there are more tools under the hood. Gates are one of the primary tools and where it’s all started, but smart links, regular pre-saves, all of those tools are also available on the platform. The way this usually works is that you have to have one source URL for your song and then it automatically goes out and finds your music on all these other platforms and builds one of these mini landing pages for you automatically.

I don’t have to go find my Apple link and all the links.

Most of these smart links services work that way. Hypeddit works that way, but I’m sure Show.co does it the same way and there are others. There isn’t that much difference between these different platforms. Where Hypeddit is different a little bit based on its origins is I’m a music artist and most of the members of our team are music artists. What we do often comes out of our own needs. For example, when we had Hypeddit collecting all these fan email addresses, one of the pain points became, “We want to send emails out of Mailchimp, Sendinblue, and all of these other platforms. How are we syncing this up?” We are like, “We build tools that sync it up automatically. When a fan leaves an email address on your gate to unlock any of your rewards, that email address automatically flows through into your email marketing software.”

Is that a direct integration or do you have to use something like Zapier?

We support Zapier, If This Then That, and one other platform. It uses one of these automation tools. A lot of musicians have started to experiment with Instagram ads, Facebook ads, and Google ads on YouTube. We developed all these pixel integrations and custom events that are being sent in the background between these platforms. When Facebook did the iOS 14 update, we implemented the conversion API into Hypeddit. I run ads for my music. Whenever there is something that I need and other artists on our team needs, that is an indicator that the broader community needs the same tools as well. We then build it. It all comes very much out of the experience of music marketing because of our backgrounds.

Just because everybody else does, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way to do it. Click To Tweet

I love that you are testing everything. You are seeing what works, where the holes are, and the gaps that you can fill. That is very valuable. I love working with music companies that are comprised of a bunch of musicians that know exactly the pain points of musicians.

We are the guinea pigs and the end-users at the same time.

Are there tools that we didn’t cover in the toolbox that you want to highlight?

Hypeddit is versatile. Sometimes I get this question, “What is the best way to use Hypeddit?” I wish there was a 30-second elevator pitch answer that I had, but there isn’t. Everybody has a different goal and outcome. Usually when somebody asks me, “What is the best way to use Hypeddit?” I asked them a question back which is, “What are you trying to get out of it? What is the next goal that you are trying to accomplish? Let’s say somebody has a new release. Are you trying to maximize pre-saves, listeners, streams or the list of the growth of your email list? What is the number one goal that you have for this particular release?”

When that happens, you would say, “I’m happy that was successful.” Sometimes you have musicians say, “My goal is I want this release to blow up or become popular.” Those are hard goals to take any action on because you can’t measure them. They can’t be quantified. If you can’t measure, quantify or define it better, it is very hard to even come up with a strategy to get to that goal. The moment you make that mental switch and like, “I know exactly what I want. The first week, I want to hit 10,000 streams on that release.” That is a goal we can work with because we can measure it. We know exactly what metric you are trying to drive.

If you say, “On this release, I want to at least add 1,000 fans to my email list,” we can take action on that. Once you have that decided, it’s very easy to go into Hypeddit and set up the software to work in your favor. For example, if it’s all about emails, you build a gate and you focus everything on that email capture step. If you want to get a different result, you focus anything on that step. I and our support team are always available every day to help with questions like that. We love getting those emails. If somebody is like, “I have a new release coming up in two weeks. I’m trying to do this and that. How would you do it?”

We are music artists ourselves and we work with all these tools. The way we want to help the community is not just by saying, “If you want to update your credit card information, I can help you with that, but I can help you with marketing.” We want to help you get to those musical goals. That is going to be the first level of discussion that we want to have. It is the same mentality and passion that has driven me to develop other training programs and things that have grown out of Hypeddit to help music artists build their campaigns to specific goals.

I love that perspective because a lot of times they say, “I want it to blow up.” There is nothing measurable that they are going for or they want to do all the things. “I want to grow my email list, my YouTube subscribers, my Instagram and all the things, and get pre-saves.” You cannot successfully do all of those things at once. A very good point that you are making in that is like, “What is the goal of this release?” Usually, you want one major goal or you could have two if you want pre-saves first and then once it is released, you wanted something else. It is getting people to focus and go all-in in one direction, which is what I find to be the hardest thing to get musicians to do.

TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

Fan Base Building Strategy: If you grow your email subscribers, you have the ability to communicate with your audience.

 

I can appreciate this mindset of, “I want it to happen all at the same time.” We are so passionate about our music. Whenever I have a new song out, that is one of the greatest songs at that moment in time. I’m sure it’s the same for everybody. You are so passionate about it. You want it to be heard and experienced on all these different platforms. There is a little mini strategy that I use to grow everywhere. It is not everywhere at the same time, but it allows you to grow everywhere and it is really simple. It starts by saying, “If I want to grow everywhere, the number one metric that I want to watch is the email subscribers that I have.” If you grow your email subscribers, you have the ability to communicate with your audience whenever you want or whenever you have new music out and other stories to share. You can always link this to other platforms.

Let’s say you have 12 releases coming out over the next 12 months. That’s a song a month and you want to do a pre-save for each of those songs where it’s the gate, the song, exclusive access maybe 2 or 3 weeks early. That is twelve emails that you can send to your audience over the next year. That is twelve gates that you can send to that audience. On any of those emails, it does not need that fan email capture step because you already have them on your email address. You can swap that with anything else. I would do Spotify pre-save and then you could add a YouTube subscriber to one of them. You could add an Instagram follow to the next one.

You decide what you want but at that moment, you have the ability to communicate with your audience over and over again by using tools that help fans to easily connect with you on different platforms. If your mindset is, “I’m going to give them something for that or I come up with these ideas of giving them early access to my music or a music video,” whatever best resonates with your audience, you can connect them to all these places. You will see all of those places grow at the same time. Oftentimes, email doesn’t sound sexy. People are like, “I want a million streams, listeners and followers on Instagram.” I have hardly heard anybody say, “I want a million email addresses.”

I want it because I understand the power of it.

It is so powerful because it helps you to push that growth into any other platform that you want. Do you want to grow a playlist on Spotify? Promote it to your email list. Do you want to grow listeners and streams on Spotify? Your email list is the launch for every new release to push the first couple of hundred or thousand fans over there. Even though it’s not sexy, it is powerful.

When you said if an artist had a goal of 10,000 streams on Spotify, I was feeling like, “I would never choose that one.” I want a way to continue to be connected to them and listen on Spotify. Maybe they will show them some of your new or older releases inside of their Discover Weekly or Release Radar but they might not. If you are connected through email specifically and secondarily through things like YouTube or other social media, at least you are going to be able to continue to communicate with them. I’m glad that we had that conversation because I am a huge proponent of email and it is not dead. It’s alive and well.

It is one of the easiest ways for us to build revenue streams as well, whether it is selling merchandise, trying to grow on Patreon or selling tickets to shows. The email address and list are always the foundation for all of these activities. I’m a big email fan.

How would they get started with Hypeddit? Do you have different levels of pricing?

Millions of independent music and artists are fighting for attention online. Click To Tweet

It is very simple. It is $9 a month on our pro membership. There is a free way to try out Hypeddit to feel it out. To unlock all the features, it’s a simple $9 a month membership. It is very straightforward.

It is very affordable.

That’s from musicians for musicians.

Is there anything else we didn’t cover that you wanted to mention?

We covered a lot of ground and I love it. Our mission is to help other independent music artists because we are all part of that same community. There are a couple of ways to connect. There is a Hypeddit Facebook group. If anyone is an independent music artist, you may have some questions about any of the content that we discussed. That is a great way to post questions and get some answers. We are always a message away. On the Hypeddit homepage, there is a support link that allows you to send any questions to our team and get help with both strategy and technical questions related to Hypeddit. If you have a new release coming up and you want to try one of those pre-saved or anything that we talked about here and to dive deeper, we are always there to help.

You are not just providing the tools. You are helping people to know exactly how to use them. I appreciate what you are doing. Thank you so much. This has been such a great conversation. I know that everything that we discussed is going to be super helpful to our audience.

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About John Gold

TPM 59 | Fan Base Building Strategy

John Gold is an independent music artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He’s also the founder of the global music platform Hypeddit.com, which helps artists of all genres and career stages get more fans for their music.