How Indie Artists Can Use Data in Their Marketing & Audience Strategy

I’ve done a presentation a few times now on helping artists leverage data for marketing & audience development.

I think people come to the discussion thinking one of these three things:

  1. It’s going to be a dry, boring conversation about streaming numbers
  2. They don’t have enough data because they’re just starting out
  3. Only artists signed to major labels can benefit from using data.

I’m happy to say after I do this talk, every time, artists & their team members are in awe of how much is available to them to actually leverage for decision-making, regardless of the size of the artist.

When it comes down to it, data isn’t just numbers. Data is information. Yes, it can be quantitative such as streaming & charts but it can often be qualitative such as focus groups or even just standing in the back of a music venue and seeing how hyped a crowd is.

So, I wanted to compile a list of my key tips for indie artists to use information to enhance their marketing & audience strategy.

1. Own As Much Audience Data As You Can

  • Maintain an email & phone number list: In order to remain platform agnostic at all times, you should maintain a list of your fans. This helps you worry less about algorithms and what social platform is hot right now.
  • Send out a newsletter & SMS messages: Use a freemium platform like Mailchimp and products like to send regular emails to your fans to let them know about new music & events.
  • Have a website and web store: Have a website where people can buy your music, merch, tickets, etc. You can get fancy and set up Google Analytics on your website for even more stats about your audience.
  • Sell your own tickets & host your own events: If you work with venues that allow artists to have their own allotment of tickets, then sell your own tickets with platforms that provide you with your sales data (have to plug my company Shoobs here!). You can also host events like album release parties, listening parties, etc. where you may be able to sell tickets & collect data directly.
  • Create social media lists: Keep a list of fans that engage most with you on various social media sites.

2. Find (and Reward) Your Biggest Fans

Once you’ve started collecting this audience data, you can start taking action based on this.

  • With the newsletter & web store, you’ll get back metrics (data) like open rates & engagement rates that will help you pinpoint what your fans are interested in by what they click on & open.
  • Combine your email list with your other information & you can figure out who’s engaging with you the most either with time, money or both. These people should be your top priority. Let them hear music first, give them free tickets, give them meet & greets, follow them on socials, and just overall, make them feel special.
  • As you grow your audience, you won’t be able to provide as many personalized interactions but these are also the people that you can have lead your fan clubs, manage your social accounts, join your marketing team, etc. 

You should always have fans on your team.

3. Do Your Own Research

While you’re compiling this list, this is also the opportunity to leverage your fans for research. You can ask them who you should collab with, what singles they like the most, what they’re watching to help with sync pitches, what social media sites they like, or anything else you want to know. This can be informal (such as setting up a WhatsApp group) or more formal like actually creating a Google Form and surveying them. I’d recommend you incentive them in some way for providing their feedback (discount codes, raffles, etc.). If you don’t want to directly ask them, refer to the list of fans you found on social media and see what they’re talking about. This helps you make decisions about strategic partners, marketing initiatives, and more.

You should always have an idea of what your fans are doing when they’re not interacting with you.

4. Find Your Supporters

In addition to your fans, there are plenty of ways to find other people supporting you using data. Log into your DSP portals such as Spotify For Artists and YouTube Analytics. I have plenty more I can discuss around those platforms but one of my favorite features is the ability to know who’s added your tracks to their playlists. 

Many professional & hobbyist playlist creators include their contact information in their playlist descriptions. Keep a list of the people that add you to their playlists. Say thank you to them for the playlist adds and send them a note when you release something new.

YouTube Analytics holds a special place in my heart because they provide info on who has linked to your YouTube channel/videos. This is an easy way to find out press coverage big & small. Just like with the playlist curators, say thank you and inform them of the next releases. If they’re a publication, also pitch for additional coverage, offer them press tickets, send album screeners, etc. Always try to support people that support you.

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(YouTube Analytics External Sources)

5. Verify Your Information & Understand Context to Answer Questions

In addition to all of the above, I’d recommend getting access to Chartmetric to see additional audience, social media, streaming, and playlisting information. There’s a new artist tier that is only $10 a month (and allows you to track a few additional artists for a bit extra).

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(Chartmetric Instagram Audience Insights)

With all of this combined, the best part of all this information is that when you have a question, you have multiple sources for answers. You can use this information for things like seeking sponsors. They may ask for stats about your audience which you can provide from your website insights, social insights, or your audience surveying. Or if you’re looking to tour, you can check out your DSP analytics to see what your most popular streaming regions are, you can ask your top fans where they are, and on top of that, I recommend doing a bit of additional research, for example, compare your listening audience with the overall country population to understand what percentage of your audience is represented.

The more data points you have that complement, correlate or confirm information, the better you can sell yourself.

I’ll caveat all of this by saying, make sure you follow local legislation laws (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) and do not add anyone to any email list that they didn’t explicitly sign up for.

I go into a lot more detail on these things and many more of my favorite data points when I’m working with artists or presenting but I hope this is a good starting point to make data feel manageable, actionable, and less scary. Most importantly, I hope, above all else, it actually helps you build your audience and feel closer to your fans. 💕

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