Guest post by K. O. Vonn of BandBasher
What do Taylor Swift, BTS, and XXXTentacion have in common? A completely devoted fanbase unafraid to show support—no matter what. Here’s how to build your own.
Last week, XXXTentacion was set to perform in Tampa, FL. Fans eagerly waited outside the venue, shouting “We want X”. Fire officials stopped the show before it could start when the rowdy crowd passed 3,000 in size (the venue capacity: 750). Police had a hard time holding back some unruly fans who showed up to support the Freshman breakout artist.
Many artists struggle to attract a crowd that fills the room, let alone blocks entire roadways and requires the attention of local law enforcement. Yet XXXTentacion managed it (multiple times) on his first nationwide tour, “The Revenge Tour,” before it was cancelled.
Korean pop group, BTS, has a similarly loyal fanbase. Recently, Digital Music News released articles that detailed “illegal marketing” techniques by BTS’s label Big Hit Entertainment, while another was titled “Is BTS Addicted to Plastic Surgery? We Asked a Plastic Surgeon in Beverly Hills”. Usually, you can expect to see a few comments below a DMN tweet (or none if it’s not particularly inflammatory). After calling out BTS, hundreds of comments hit at the media outlet. Most tweets called for true BTS fans (known as ARMY) to report the account, report the article-writers, and report the tweet for bullying, harassment, and libel.
Why did BTS fans think a mass reporting would work? Because it has for other pop artists.
After one @moodforluv tweeted the opinion, “no offense but is Taylor Swift ever gonna grow out of her ‘i [sic] wrote your name in my burn book phase’ she’s a grown ass woman” it was retweeted over 35,000 times and received over 124,000 likes. However, it was un-liked even more by Twitter Swifties. After being mass-reported, the account was permanently suspended by Twitter.
It’s clear that a devoted fanbase can accomplish a lot in their beloved artist’s name. But this proves that an artist in any genre can connect so strongly with an audience through their music, as long as they know how to communicate their image properly (i.e. branding).
So how do you build a fanbase ready to go to war for you?
3 Qualities Your Brand Needs to Build a Loyal Fanbase
First, know that a large, sincerely devoted fanbase doesn’t happen overnight. Swift has been making Billboard Top 100 music for the better part of a decade. XXXTentacion started releasing music with the help of platforms like SoundCloud in 2014, while fan-made, anime lyric videos on YouTube made his fanbase unique in hip-hop. Korean Pop Music, or K-Pop, has never been more popular in America, according to The New York Times, and BTS is happily riding that wave.
But each of these artists, each of these brands have a few things in common: clarity, consistency, and authenticity.
Clarity in branding means the clearness or accuracy in the message for your product (you and your music). You know exactly what you’re getting when you look at a Swift album cover or click on a music video for Nicki Minaj. The idea of who each artist is is crystal clear, and that makes it easy for fans to connect with. Taylor is a girl’s girl who’s had her heart broken (one too) many times. Minaj is an over-the-top rap icon and sex symbol. Their music conveys this, followed by their image and manner of dress.
Rihanna is another perfect example. Her sexuality and no-f**ks-given attitude are big parts of her brand. That message appeals to a broad audience today and the Roc Nation artist benefits enormously from it. The “Needed Me” singer has also been able to bank on this imagery for years because a brand that builds a large following also needs consistency.
If you’re in a rock band, you can’t bounce from eyeliner and dyed, black hair one week, to dressing up in pig masks the next. Consistency in brand comes from knowing yourself and knowing your audience. Knowing your audience is an important part of your branding and social media strategies.
Knowing yourself on the other hand, is an important part of your own music-making ventures. Without really knowing what your story as an artist is, you’re going to lack the third thing you need to build a following: authenticity.
Would Beyonce’s Lemonade have been as ground-breaking if we didn’t believe Bey actually felt so betrayed? If the hot sauce-in-the-purse and braid-wearing came off as fake or forced, the album wouldn’t be the same. And while the Queen probably doesn’t carry around some Tabasco in her Louis Vuitton (she has assistants for that), she seems like the type of woman who might or could have done so. That’s important. It separates her music and brand from artists whose rebranding efforts aren’t as strong—like Katy Perry’s recent transformation in look and sound (“Bon Appetit”).
Learn from mega-successful branded musicians, like Taylor Swift, and those who are just starting but already making waves like Lil Uzi Vert. Research your competition and analyze what works and what could work for you. Authenticity should fuel your creativity, while keeping in mind clarity and consistency when communicating your brand.