How to Make Fans Faster

post by Derek Miller

How To Make Fans Faster

The band you crave, the music you listen to when you’re having a bad day or feeling amazing, your idols… How did this happen? How did you find them? Think for a moment.

I heard Radiohead’s Kid A by picking it up because it had cool artwork and I’d sorta heard about them. I hadn’t listened to the CD yet so I brought it on a CD player to a friend’s house in high school. After one minute everyone in the room was noticeably not enjoying it, “What is this weird stuff?!? Turn it off!”

I loved the band instantly.

I heard about Kaki King through my mom’s recommendation. I was dreading the listen as her musical taste and mine intersect once every thousand years, however this time, Mom was right. I LOVE Kaki King.

I had never heard of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears before, but after seeing them live at Bonnaroo at a friend’s suggestion I was immediately hooked. Their live show’s energy and style reminded me of The Blues Brothers. Groovy.

So what’s the common thread?

(dramatic pause)

(go get a cup of coffee or something, so it’s like a biiiiiig pause)


Music is not experienced in a vacuum, it’s a social art form. Not only do we go to shows with friends to see the actual band, we judge music based on the social cues we receive. We expect to see world-renowned concert violinists playing in carnage hall. We expect to see mediocre violinists in the subway. Guess what happens when world-renowned concert violinist Joshua Bell plays in the subway? No one paid attention.

Does he look world famous to you?

There are effectively an infinite number of bands out there today. It’s impossible to weed through every boring or mediocre band, there’s too many. So we look to our guidance from friends, family, reviewers, bloggers, bands, anyone to find out what’s worth listening to.

Even more so, we want to be able to connect with people. When someone says to you, “Hey have you heard the new ____ album?” you want to be able to go, “YES! That album was amazing!” Music, like TV, news, gossip, art and history is cultural currency.

If you want your art to support you, you must realize this and use it to your advantange. Social Proof is powerful.

People can recommend music explicitly by playing a show or wearing a shirt, or they can recommend implicitly by simply being a member of the crowd for a street performer. The more people present, the better the social proof of the artist’s talent.

Which do you think would be better in the long run: Selling 100 tickets to a 200 capacity room or selling out a 50 capacity room?

You will have to fight for your first fans. If you’re smart, it won’t be long before your fans fight for you.


Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at


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