Creating Your “Topic Wheel”
When it comes to marketing music, the rules change a bit compared to other more conventional retail markets. Your product - your music - is in many ways inextricably linked to who you are as a person. For that reason, it can be wise to look at our own interests, history, and traits to see if we can find any clues for how to best position and talk about our music online.
Because your music contains a lot of “you” in it, there is a high chance that the fans you’re generating through your introductory campaigns have a lot in common with you. As a result, we can create our best conversations (which are necessary for turning listeners into real fans) using these potential points of overlap.
Utilizing a Topic Wheel exercise can help to extract these potential conversation topics by looking at your core interests and traits while also consulting your existing fanbase, if any. With these topics, you can ratchet up the effectiveness of the conversations and engagement points you set out to create in your Education phase and do that much more to turn your current listeners into real fans.
The Topic Wheel Exercise
A topic wheel is a curated collection of other topics and interests that relate to you and your artist brand and can help you build a world around your artistry. It’s purpose is to give you a clear idea of where you cultural intersections are with your music so you can curate meaningful connections with your audience. This exercise will help you discover topics that relate to both you and your fans so that you can create intentional conversations that lead to somewhere impactful. Additionally, this exercise will help you to create a “3-dimensional character” that adds depth outside of just your recordings and videos.
Step 1: Consult Your Own Story
“Not knowing what to post” is a classic hangup for anyone taking social media marketing seriously. As musicians, it can feel quite ambiguous - but in actuality, there are a lot of easy answers to that question for musicians specifically.
As stated earlier, a sensible place to start for answering that question is by looking inward. Even if you have no current fanbase, it is more than likely that you and your fans have more than one thing in common. A key place to start is by looking into your own story and finding things that you can talk about from your own life that may resonate with your fans.
The first place to check out for extracting these stories is your upbringing. This is a major point of anyone’s development that often aligns kindred folks. Consider the following in your answers: What generation are you from? What cultural staples do you connect with that your fans may also connect with? What city? State? Wealth? Poor? Important relationships or pivotal moments in your upbringing that shaped who you are?
You can describe your upbringing in whatever format feels natural, but ultimately, you want to pick out small phrases or single words that accurately represent the most palpable parts of your upbringing. For example, in the video version of this lesson, I refer to the following regarding my upbringing:
- Millennial Generation
- Religious Upbringing
- LGBTQ+ Community
Scan through your answer to this first question and come up with a similar set of topics for yourself.
Step 2: Consult Your Existing Data
If you’re new or early in your marketing, you will find quickly that the best marketing you can do is based on what’s worked well before. For creating fan conversations, this principle is no different. It’s possible that even if you’ve got a tiny fanbase that you still have data points you can look at to inform worthwhile fan conversations.
Sift through organic posts you’ve made on your socials and identify top performing posts with regards to reach and engagement levels. You can also analyze your ad campaigns for the same metrics. On a qualitative level, see what is common about these top performers. Are there specific audiences that continue to work well for you in your targeting? What culture do these audiences belong to? Are there specific subjects, common thoughts, sentiments, opinions that these posts and campaigns speak to?
In completing this analysis, write out a list of topics that seem to arise much like you did for the first step of your topic wheel.
Step 3: Consult Fan Conversations
The conversations you’ve already started with fans will obviously serve as a major tell for what future conversations you could try to start. If you’ve managed to stir up enough paid traffic or organic efforts that you’re seeing comments and messages come in, you’re in a position to take note of them to extract more topics like we’ve done in the past 2 steps.
Any back-and-forth with a fan can count as evidence for these new topics. What do you and fans typically talk about? Are they interested in more than just your music? Have they opened up to you about their personal life or interests? Do you notice recurring topics? Do your fans have a particular manner of speech or aesthetic?
Ask yourself those questions - and more if they come to mind - to come up with a third topic list. Keep in mind, if you are starting entirely fresh with your fanbase, this information won’t be available to you (which is okay)!
Step 4: Create Your Topic Wheel
The past three steps of this exercise have effectively built you a list of eligible topics that are verified as being related to your music and relevant to your fans.
In its simplest incarnation, this topic wheel (these interests) can merely act as a directory or glossary for what to post about, what to boost, and what to email about. To take it further, you may have an overwhelmingly large list of topics as a result of the first three steps. In this case, you may find that some of the interests link together naturally - such as hiking, camping, and the outdoors. In this case, you will want to group topics together to create a broader topic (in this case, “outdoors” may act as the main header).
Whether you’ve got a shorter list, a longer list, or an organized list of topics, all of these topics are eligible conversation topics to inject in your post-introductory marketing. In fact, we recommend cycling through this wheel of topics periodically and making note of which ones spur on the most relevant conversations.
The more you put the topics to the test, the more certain you are that you’re resonating with fans. Before long, you can bake in these topics into your marketing on assumption.
Since marketing your music requires that you share a piece of yourself, consulting your own history, traits, and preferences is a sensible first step for figuring out what to say in your marketing.
In knowing this, you can inject meaningful parts of your non-musical self into your content and marketing to better create a “3 dimensional character” of your art.
The Topic Wheel exercise is a perfect way to extract topics for these purposes, and involves consulting your upbringing, your existing data, and existing fan conversations.
Once you’ve discovered your topic wheel, you can begin testing them in your marketing and taking note of which seem to resonate the most amongst current and incoming fans.
If you’ve completed the topic wheel exercise and feel confident about how it may be used in future marketing efforts, you may mark this lesson complete.