5 Sure Fire Ways To Kill Your Fan Base (You’ve Probably Used)

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Oct. 24th, 2018 by Circa

Ever seen a post like this? I’m willing to bet you have…

In fact, I’m willing to bet that, if you’re a musician, you see about 8 posts per day that look like this.

Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feed is probably littered with this, the social media equivalent of hot garbage – so much so that you’ve stopped paying attention to certain people online…

…and it’s a big problem. Not just for you, but for indie music as a whole. It’s a problem that artists think to market themselves like this; not just because it’s ineffective, not just because it’s a waste of time, but because it is an assault on the music-listening public.

And, I should know. As a lifelong indie musician, I spent many years posting on social media in ways that were often worse than the example you see above.

But, over the last 5 years, I’ve managed to improve my music marketing skills dramatically. And, as CEO of Indepreneur, I help artists effectively market their music, grow their fan base, and sell more merchandise and music every single day. So, I know a thing or two about the right and wrong ways to promote yourself on social media.

In this article, I’m going to break down for you the 5 most common mistakes that artists make on social media. I’ll also tell you why these mistakes are troublesome from a psychological perspective, and I’ll give you some ideas about what to do instead.

Sound good?

1. Tagging Everybody (and Their Mother)

You haven’t heard from Greg in almost 6 months – not since you saw him at that pub gig.

Then, out of the blue, your phone kicks up with a sturdy buzz and, as your eyes focus onto the bright screen, you see a small red bubble. It’s a Facebook notification; Greg tagged you in a video!

Could he have been in the crowd during your gig last night? Is he reminiscing on some old memories of you two jamming together in the garage? Is he sharing a public outpouring of affection for your tight friendship?

No, no, and nope. Because, Greg didn’t JUST tag you – he tagged EVERYONE in your entire music scene.

Yep, you’re just one of 88 notable people that Greg figured he would spam with his band’s latest release.

If you are part of a music community and have many musician friends on social media, you have no doubt been the victim of this strategy.

Why do musicians do this? Well, speaking from experience working with 100s of musicians who have all perpetrated the same crime, I’d say that it makes sense on paper.

You’ve got a thriving social network of people who all love and respect each other. Surely, if you could get all of their hands on deck to promote your new single, it would go viral almost instantly…


Well, yes and no. When you tag 80 people in your video premiere, it does dramatically increase the short-term reach of your post. The problem is that Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter grade social content in context. A post that reaches 1000 but engages 100 will get far less reach and distribution in Facebook than a post that reaches 100 but engages 50.

That’s because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are really good at showing people content they may actually like. Artificially inflating your reach through tag spamming will invariably piss your loved ones off. It will also make social networks think that your content is crap and shouldn’t get any algorithmic love.

Changing your reach from 1000 to 10,000 is all fine and well if the extra impressions you pick up are the right people. But, not even your family and friends are the right people to show your music to. They have the unfortunate bias of loving you. So, of course, they will support your little release post.

Unfortunately, social media algorithms are not fooled by the love your friends and family have for you.

So, instead of tagging dozens of your friends and family on your latest release, reach out to them personally instead. You know, like an individual you care about?

Ask them to leave a comment tagging someone they think would like it. Ask them to share it. But, don’t require them to. And don’t piggy back off of their reach without even asking them.

2. Asking For Sex On The First Date

Marketing anything – especially music – is a process, not an event.

Just like romancing a love interest, you’ll have more success marketing if you don’t rush things and play it cool.

That’s why so many unsuccessful musicians have trouble; they’re typically committing the marketing equivalent of assault on their audience.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t want to “get it now”. I don’t want to “stream it on Spotify”. I don’t want to “buy it on iTunes”. Because – and don’t take this personally…

…I don’t know you. We’ve barely met.

I have trouble mustering the loyalty to give my best friends 5 minutes of my free time to talk about something serious. Not because I’m some special kind of asshole, but because I’m human. And, as a human being, I’m driven primarily by self interest and survival.

And, if you’re not willing to put in the time to get to know me – step by step – I’m certainly not going to part with my dollars or time to help you out, either.

If you are trying to market your music online, you need to avoid being pushy and start pulling people. Display attractive qualities like creating and sharing content regularly. Play it cool, and don’t come on too strong.

Because, with social media platforms like Facebook, you can create specific marketing audiences of people who have already engaged with your content. And, instead of trying to sell something to new listeners on the first interaction, you can play the long game.

Don’t worry – the people who see your posts aren’t going anywhere. If you don’t turn them off by jumping the gun, they’ll check out your content. And, if they check out your content, there are ways to reach back out to them afterwards.

Don’t ask for sex on the first date, build a relationship first!

3. Trying To “Game The Algorithm”

Since the beginning of online marketing, their have two camps. Two teams. Two factions.

The light side of the Force, known as “white hat” marketers, focus on playing by the rules. Providing engaging content, doing the hard work, and following the guidelines of social and search platforms in order to get top rankings, generous reach, and a massive audience.

Then there’s the dark side.

Lurking in sketchy internet forums and scouring dark web channels for the latest and greatest in scams, spam, and affiliate marketing schemes that pay huge commissions. These marketers are looking for any advantage they can find, and they’ll cut corners or cheat the rules in order to get what they’re after.

These are the “black hat” marketers.

At first, these marketers sought to outsmart Google’s Search Ranking algorithm, getting #1 positions for some of the most Googled terms on the internet. Many fortunes were made overnight when some rogue cowboy would find “one random trick that gets top rankings every time”.

But, as the internet evolved, these masters of the dark arts started to get taken out one by one.

In mainstream marketing, black hat tactics are shunned. Not because they’re dirty, but because they often result in the banning of users, shutting down of accounts, and erasing of months of hard work.

Let’s look at this logically: Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and yes, even Spotify…

These are multi-billion dollar companies with really, really smart developers working around the clock. As an average user, you have almost no chance of outsmarting them over the long term. They want to provide the best user experience possible, and trying to “game the algorithm” is almost always synonymous with “fucking up the user experience”.

So, all those black hat marketers that got to #1 in the Search Rankings? Their empires were wiped out overnight with a massive update to Google’s Search algorithm in the late 2000s. All of a sudden, Search became about – wait for it – helping people find what they’re looking for!

And that’s the main takeaway – these tech platforms want to connect users to what is relevant. And, they do it using the help of some very powerful algorithms.

So, trust me when I tell you: some random sketchy black hat guru will not be teaching you how to “game the algorithm”. Mainly because Facebook and Google’s best developers couldn’t game the algorithms they helped build.

If someone tells you they can help you “get an edge on”, “game”, or “beat” the algorithm – whether its for Instagram, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube, or ANY major tech platform – run far far away from that person.

4. The Paradox of Choice

I want to tell you about a little girl named Tiara. She lives in a small village in a third-world country, and she doesn’t get enough food every day to keep her body growing. She’s only 6 years old. At this rate, she’ll be critically emaciated by the time she is 7, and is not expected to live past the age of 8.

That’s really sad right?

Now, let me tell you about her brother. His name is Timothy. Just like his sister, he doesn’t have enough food to live. And, recently, he’s fallen ill.

Now, let me tell you about her other brother, Joseph. He, too, doesn’t have enough food to live. Neither does Tiara’s mother or father, or any of the other members of their village. In fact, there’s millions just like Tiara all over the world…

Did you notice? If you’re like most people, you probably cared a lot more about Tiara before you heard about her two brothers, mother and father, the other members of her village, and the millions worldwide who are starving.

That’s a phenomenon called “Psychic Numbing”. As the victims, tragedy, and devastation grows in size and number, your capacity to care about it deeply approaches zero.

But, this phenomenon is only one small expression of a much larger cognitive bias called “The Paradox of Choice”.

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman once proposed two systems of thinking that occur in the human brain. System 1, “automatic thinking”, is the type of thinking necessary to drive a car, do the dishes, or work out. It is perfunctory – we could easily hold a conversation while doing it. This type of brain processing seems to not require the whole brain in order to work without a hitch.

Then, there is System 2, or “critical thinking”. This is the type of brain processing necessary for answering a question that isn’t yes/no, reading a book, solving a math problem, or taking a left turn into oncoming traffic. We need the entirety of our brain to perform it, and we can’t do other things while we’re doing it.

The main difference between System 1 and System 2 thinking is convenience. We don’t like being forced into System 2 thinking because it occupies our bodies entirely, and it requires us to burn calories.

Simply put: the human brain doesn’t like to burn calories.

So, while you may think that customers want to be able to buy your shirt in red, blue, orange, white, and all the other colors of the rainbow, you are most likely mistaken.

Choose a color? No thanks, man. I don’t have the calories to spare.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “research now shows that there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection.”

So, when you offer your customers the option to stream your song on iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and Amazon Music…

…you’re not really doing them any favors. In fact, you’re probably ensuring that they wont be streaming your song on anywhere. Ever.

This extends to almost every interaction you have with your audience. The more choices you give your listeners, the less they will pay attention to you.

That’s why you probably don’t need 4 different styles of your latest tour shirt. You probably don’t need CD, Vinyl, Digital Download, and Cassette. You probably don’t need to accommodate every little preference your fans could potentially hold.

Because, if you try, you’re more likely to end up satisfying zero preferences. At least, that’s what the science says.

5. Cold Calling

Get. Out. Of. My. DMs.


Have you ever gotten a random message from someone you either don’t know or have barely met? Someone who became Facebook friends with you back in 2009…

“Hey, I was hoping you could check out my latest single [insert SoundCloud link here]. It’s fire – and, you gotta support local artists, you know?”

Why is it so offputting when an artist just hops in your DMs like you’re old friends? Well, pay close attention to that sentence…

…”like you’re old friends”. See, you give special social privileges to those who you have formed a tight friendship with. They can come over unannounced, root around in your fridge, and, yes, send you random direct messages at 8pm.

When an artist skips the line and bypasses the effort it takes to form an actual relationship, it invariably pisses people off. They get ignored or, worse, shouted down. And, it makes sense. They are trying to skip steps in the natural sequence a human relationship forms through.

In most cultures, this is consider assault.

So, instead of hitting people up who you barely know and trying to pitch them on sharing your content, consider more high-yield activities. Ad campaigns, better content, contests, and other forms of cold outreach have a far higher success rate than spamming people.

Market to others how you would like to be marketed to – that’s the golden rule.


A crushing majority of independent artists try to grow their fan bases by using methods that require a lot of work and very little reward. Furthermore, us indie artists get a bad rap because of the misguided marketing efforts of these other artists.

So, instead of spending time and effort trying to bypass time and effort, take some time to learn more about relationship-based marketing.

Marketing deserves just as much attention and student mentality as engineering, playing an instrument, writing, and performing live.

And, if you have become great at any of these studies, you can just as easily become a great marketer.

If you’d like to learn more about the human relationship-based marketing model we use to grow powerful fan bases for our agency and portfolio artists, sign up for our free Buddy System workbook (below).

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