STOP Making Music for Radio: 4 Ways to Start Making Music for the Weirdos


Mass marketing has long provided the possibility of getting rich quick. Catering to the masses of people that inhabit the earth was once a successful strategy. With the internet booming even larger as the days go on – it’s harder to be seen amongst the noise that’s generated online trying to grab everyone’s attention. If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s a poor strategy for success.

Upon finishing the book, We Are All Weird by Seth Godin, I got a good understanding of the death of mass marketing and that we need to begin focusing on niche markets – or as Godin calls them: Tribes. It’s a big ol’ world out there and because of the internet we now have easier access to our fellow weirdos out there. The more specific you can get the better, kinda. It all begins with finding your inner weird and start sharing that online via your posts and brand. You’ll begin to see a fanbase forming around this and reflecting your value of strange.

A great example of flaunting your own style of weirdo is Lizzo’s movement last year. By sharing her weirdness other people resonated with that style and in a very short space of time had a herd of loyal fans eating it up. If you remember The $100 Mixtape I wrote about recently, I discussed how Nipsey Hussle made an exclusive community of fans and made 1000 copies of his mixtape and successfully flogged it to them. 

How can you start doing this? Get to know your first 100 fans by personality traits. What are their interests? What other artists are they listening to? Start creating a character of your typical fan and expand on it – keep attention on it and change it where necessary. What clothes do they wear? What topics are of interest to them? The more specific, the better. Niches aren’t as small as they once were and there’s a sub-niche for every sub-genre of every topic matter! Your first fans connect with you and every thing that you do – values, interests, beliefs, music, lyrics. If you’re able to communicate these different areas of yourself then it’ll become easier for the other weirdos to find and connect with you. Let your weird light shine bright!

On asking musicians the question “who are your typical audience/fans?” I get so many random and general answers!  “It’s for everyone”, “anyone from the age 18-40”, “people who like hip hop”, “rappers and singers”. Know your niche, people.

Artists who understand the concept of not making music for the radio are people like J. Cole. Forrest Hills became number 1 without any features, no hits for the radio, nobody else carrying the weight of the project. How can this album become number 1? With a strong and loyal fanbase. J. Cole gets it, you could essentially call this a tribe because if you ever come across his fans online they’re defending him to the fullest and aren’t afraid to get vocal.

J. Cole’s approach to success was the harder option but he chose to focus on creating quality music and engaging with his fans to really build a fanbase. Rather than blowing up with a one hit radio single and struggling to keep up the momentum he chose to build organic fans and connecting with them. Most artists prefer to take this route because honestly, it’s less work.

So let’s take a look at a few methods J. Cole has used to engage and grow his fanbase, the harder but effective way:

  1. Touring

Meeting your fans in person has become very underrated recently. It doesn’t matter if it’s a show for 10 or 10,000 – playing gigs is a necessity to building a fanbase. If you’re not out there getting yourself seen and connecting with your fans it’s not going to be easy getting loyalty from them. Trying to get the energy and connections with fans in real life during a show just isn’t doable online with the same level of effectiveness.

Even producers with the strongest fanbase’s tour. Just look at Metro Boomin, he actually goes out on tour and his fanbase is one of the strongest out there. If you’re a producer you should be at offline events networking. Don’t just rely on the internet.

J Cole is very creative with his shows. Doing anything from pop-up shows, $1 shows, surprise shows and student shows – I mean he was touring all the time building his fanbase personally from one city to another. It’s no wonder Forrest Hills sold so well. He had personally met all of his fans throughout the years prior through gigging. Building connections and loyal fans.

2. Engage Online

I recently came across an old Reddit thread that had been started by J. Cole and was super impressed with how well he understands his audience. They’re educated people who like to learn and are also very active online. So by using Reddit as a channel to engage is just a well-thought out move on his part to show he gets his people. And of course he’s used his other standard channels to engage as well, but in addition to this, found specific channels that are relevant to his tribe/niche. Finding channels, groups and forums where your fellow freaks congregate is the way forward right now. Engaging in niche groups and farming your fans there is so effective.

3. Interviews

Using the method of intense and lengthy interviews was another J. Cole win while building up his fanbase. By doing so he shared his personality, his story, his message and could open up himself to the world. Anybody that watched the entirety of the interviews became instant superfans. Sparking that connection that allows fans to relate to the artist, which is what music is all about. A lot of artists just give out surface information and hold back which is too little to build that relatability. What J. Cole did was to give out so much content through lots of mediums that was further developing that fan to artist connection. Interviews are effective but you must be authentic in your approach.

As a musician you should start forming a compelling story to pitch to different news outlets (start niche) and then work out what you are with the practise of doing this. No news outlets will approach you during the start of your career so reach out to them – work with a publicist who can pitch for you. A lengthy, in-depth interview where your story and purpose comes out will create a quality, deeper fanbase than just spouting commercialised, generalised nothingness.

4. Be Authentic

See how he’s just sat with a black hoodie and headphones… This is relatable, this is his audience. This is like his fanbase. 

Remaining authentic while you go about your business online is imperative to allowing potential fans to connect with you. Keeping your values true to yourself and outlining what it is that makes you, you. Fans need something to like that sets you apart from the mainstream madness that’s overthrown the market. Be weird, be you, be a success.

Rebecca Smart Bakken

Rebecca Smart Bakken

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About Me


Hi there! I’m Rebecca, a world citizen and digital marketing nomad.

Some of you may have also seen me on HGTV´s show “Beach Around the World”.

Over the years, I’ve made a name for myself in the tech/ startup industry by helping 250+ startups scale with growth hacking strategies.

Now I want to help musicians and artists to promote their music and engage better with fans on social media.

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