There are LOTS of music genres around these days: a bewildering number in fact, with sometimes pretty complicated names. It’s easy to be cynical about some genre descriptions…but genres ARE actually very important. Here’s why. We find ourselves in a post-post-modern era where there are an increasing number of independent bands who:
combine ideas from an ever-lengthening music history
inject and combine them into songs using an ever-increasing amount of audio equipment (new and old)
present the results to an online sea of music listeners who, thanks to the the above, plus the disruptive nature of the internet, no longer really have particularly homogenous tastes in music.
In other words… …What you end up with is niches. And with niches comes opportunity. Now, your niche might not be huge: maybe there are 500 people worldwide who understand the particular genre you’re operating in. But if you as an artist know how to find this audience, and how to speak to it, then you open up the possibility to do two things:
Generate an income from this niche: in my experience, people with minority interests tend to have less opportunity to indulge them — and so splash out more willingly when the opportunity to indulge arises. So even if the audience you are targeting is really small, it may be more financially valuable to you than say, trying to convince a multitude of Coldplay fans to buy some music.
Develop a fanbase that will be far more passionate advocates of your act than the average joe (thus, hopefully, helping you to eventually gain popularity outside it).
But how do you find and speak to your niche audience? Here’s some tips. 1. Find out what your niche actually is Now, you may think you’re a breakbeat hardcore act. But actually, you sound more like a darkcore act. And If that’s the micro-genre you fit into, it’s the darkcore crowd you’re looking for. In other words, before you start promoting your music, gauge opinion on it – not in terms of quality, but in terms of who people think it sounds like and what genre it belongs to. This will help you identify the precise audience you need to speak to. 2. Find out where your niche lives Once you’ve actually decided you are a darkcore act, it’s time to find the darkcore fans. The internet offers you two main ways to do this: push and pull. You could push darkcore on the world in a couple of ways: first, through social advertising tactics that allow you to display ads to fans of a very specific list of artists - i.e., fans of artists that you sound a bit like. So with darkcore, you might end up paying Facebook to show your videos to 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse fans. Second, you can try to identify fan groups and forums dedicated to your micro-genre and SENSITIVELY present your work. Time to politely introduce yourself to the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse fan club, in other words. In terms of pull, we’re generally talking about SEO and blogging here. If you make the effort to ensure your site is optimised to appear in searches for darkcore, and regularly blog about key darkcore artists, you may well find that your audience, seemingly by magic – but actually because of algorithms – starts coming to you. (If blogging’s not for you, podcasts and Youtube videos are other options for generating search-friendly content). 3. Find advocates of the niche You will find that every niche genre comes with passionate advocates of that niche genre: bloggers, journalists, rock critics and DJs who simply love it. Particularly if you are dealing with something rather niche like darkcore, you may find that there are less artists operating in the genre to pester these poor souls for coverage and airplay, meaning YOU get more opportunities to get publicised (to a smaller — but as mentioned above — more dedicated audience). Being aware of your niche also comes in very handy when it comes to hiring music PR agencies, radio pluggers and so on — if you hire an agency or a plugger that is really into your niche genre, they are more likely to be experts in it and more keen to work hard for you as a representative of that genre. Crucially, they'll know what your niche audience reads or listens to and will pitch you for those papers / shows. Conversely, if you hire an agency or plugger that says 'yes' to every project irrespective of niche or genre, you may find yourself without publicity quite quickly, or with a feature in Take a Break when really you should be being plugged on Noisey (or vice versa). 4. Talk to your niche in the right way Once you’ve realised that you are a darkcore band and found the online audience for and the media champions of this type of music music, it’s time to ‘talk’ to them in the right way. Obviously, the most basic way of doing this is to present them with music that they like. But it’s also important to meet their expectations in other ways. Do you look like a darkcore artist? Do you talk like one? Do you dress like one? Do you dance like one? People have very specific expectations when it comes to micro-micro-genres, and are extremely particular about how they should operate and who should operate in them. So it’s important to enthuse your niche audience as much as possible and you won’t do this by confusing them. You don’t necessarily have to conform completely to your audience’s expectations, but – initially at least – you do need to meet them to some degree or you won’t be recognised and loved as the darkcore act that you know you really are. Basically, all this seems cynical and formulaic and frankly, it is. But on another level, it’s just how record labels have made bands popular since time immemorial: find out who likes a certain sort of music and sell that sort of music to them. And it actually kind of makes sense. It’s just that these days, it’s not just big record labels that have the opportunity to be cynical and formulaic. Thanks to cheap recording gear, access to every other band in history's music for free online, iTunes and Mark Zuckerberg, you do as well. If you fully understand the power of all of these tools and crucially, you’re actually making some really great music, who knows how you might fare. And, if you do find that niche audience, they might get a kick out of being found too.