So tonight, X-Factor’s down to the top four performers, with plans to cut one more tomorrow before the final round next week. At stake? Not just worldwide popularity and a recording contract, but $5 million! That’s huge! That means you’ve got money in the bank even if your first record tanks! With that much up for grabs, the one thing you need from day one is a fanbase that grows every week; especially since it’s a show that leaves the top spots completely up to the fan vote.
Last week, I was surprised by the two artists who ended up in the bottom of the voting — Marcus and Rachel. I thought their performances the day before were better than two others who went through. But it didn’t work out that way. The fan vote had moved three others forward to the semi-finals, leaving two, both well deserving artists to sing it out in front of the judges. In what became the topic of every major entertainment show and morning news programs, the voting results of the judges during the save-me song, being tied, came down to the fan vote. The person with the lowest amount of fan votes had to go home. Sure, people were upset because Nicole wouldn’t make a decision to send either one of them home, stating instead that she would “leave it up to the fans” (i.e. voting to keep Marcus IN rather than voting to send Rachel HOME, made it a 2 vs 2 tie between the judges, which could only be broken by looking at the total fan votes). But ultimately, she was leaving it back up to the people whose voting (or lack of) had landed them both there to begin with.
Rachel got hysterical when she heard was being sent home; Marcus looked too upset at what was happening to be happy about his save; Nicole cried almost as loudly as the audience booed her; and for a second week in a row, Simon was visibly mad!
To be honest, I thought both Marcus and Rachel gave good performances the night before. But when it came to the save-me song, I actually think for that moment, Rachel performed a better job than Marcus did. What stuck out to me in those moments were the words the host said, “and the person with the least amount of fan votes who’s going home tonight is…”
He’d said those words before; for the past two months to be exact. But what it reminded me of was that no matter how great of a performer you are, if you don’t build a fanbase of people who like you enough to support you, then you’re just another great performer — who heads home early. It happened last season with Pia on American Idol.
So what can the every day, up and coming artist learn from this? The same thing that successful independent artists already know. You have to work at finding, building, and growing your fans. And when you do, they can become the grassroots marketing leverage you need to take you to places you want to go. Not everyone can have 10-15 million viewers watching them perform on a talent competition show like the X Factor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and others. So for those who are starting out with just their circle of family and friends, they have to want it bad enough, to work hard enough, and long enough, and to be smart enough to take their seed (i.e. talent) and do more than just plant it in the soil; but water it, feed it, tend to it, weed it, and help grow it. And they have to never be complacent enough to think that all they need is talent. And that’s where fans come in!
Friends are good to have. They tell you how good you are. Many of them will come to your shows. Some of them will even purchase your CD. And all of that is great. But FANS, they’re the ones who don’t just tell you how great you are, they go out and tell all their friends. Fans don’t just come to your show, they bring friends to your shows. Fans don’t just buy your CD or download your songs, they tell their friends to do it and encourage their friends to share with their other friends. Fans share your facebook page, retweet your messages, and drive up your Youtube hits by making sure their friends are viewing and sharing it. Fans don’t mind spending 5 minutes calling, texting, or emailing their votes for you, not once, or twice, but multiple times, stopping only long enough to text their friends to make sure they remembered to do the same. Fans don’t just want you to succeed; they want to be a part of your success!
That’s why when it comes to trying to make your mark in the music industry, it’s important not just to be a good singer, or performer, but in today’s time, a good self promoter. And the best news about that is most of the promotions are FREE. It takes just seconds to send a tweet; just minutes to update your facebook; and in less than an hour, you can post a video blog talking about your music, playing a few chords, or inviting your fans to a concert or a future online chat. People don’t have any reason to become your fan if you’re not giving them something to grab a hold to. Being a good singer’s not enough; there are more of those out there than we have radio stations to play them, or time in the day to listen. These days, you have to be more and you must DO more!
Ian Rogers from Top Spin Media said in a recent lecture “Build an audience first; sell later.” It makes total sense. Why spend all that money creating music that no one’s interested in buying? How do you try to sell something to fans that you haven’t established yet? And yet, there are those who say they want to “break” into the music industry; and want to be in entertainment, but they think all they need is a good song and the right person to come along. All the while, there’s a bunch of great songs being sung in bedrooms and bars all over this country by people waiting for just the right person to come along.
An industry associate of mine commented to me, after I told her about a girl who moved to Nashville for the summer to see if she wanted to be a singer, that “if you have to come and see if you want to be in the industry, you probably don’t need to be in the industry.” There’s truth to that thought. The music industry isn’t like getting a teaching job. Most people who go to college, study, and graduate four years later expect that they’ll find a teaching job in their field that they’ll likely work for 10, 20 or 30 years! But becoming a singer in this industry has nothing to do with college degrees, and there’s no guaranteed job waiting at the end of graduation.
You are one of many in slots that are few. The question you have to ask yourself is “how much do I want this, and how hard am I willing to work for it?” Because your potential fans are asking the questions, “who are you and why should I care about your music?” The answer today can no longer be, “because I’m good.”
“In a world with unlimited choice, there’s no reward for ‘good,'” Rogers also shared. “Do something small weekly; do something big monthly. Do something that reminds people that you exist.”
If you want to be a part of this music industry, respect it enough to be willing to work hard at it.