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How should musicians and bands reach Gen Z listeners?

Young artists looking to make a splash in the music industry have their work cut out for them. In a hyper competitive, video centric market, it can be difficult to gain traction with Gen Z audiences.

Trying to create buzz or hype around a musical act in 2022 is a far harder feat than it was for the rockstars of yesteryear, and even then it was never easy to begin with.

If you’re looking to gain a following and make a career in music it may be hard to know where to start. With so many acts in every genre chasing the same dream, the industry is a saturated cluster of noise and chaos. What can you do to truly standout or, at the very least, find a dedicated fan base that appreciates your niche?

While no strategy guarantees success, there are a few approaches that can maximise the likelihood of keeping the dream alive for the long haul. Think social media, careful marketing, and consistent content.

Need tips to get on the right course? Let’s jump into it. These pointers can direct you to where you want to go – though as mentioned we can’t guarantee anything! Every strategy in the world still need a little luck, after all.

Think visual alongside audio

Let’s get the most glaring point out the way first. TikTok is the bread and butter of modern creator marketing and you’ll miss out on a huge chunk of potential listeners without it.

Many artists prefer not to use it as a promotional tool. This is understandable, especially when first starting out. There are tons of cringey sketch-like TikToks that use humour to showcase songs, and the idea of being a makeshift comedian in order to sell a serious work of art can be off-putting.

The platform is very versatile, however, and the way music is presented can vary wildly from one act to another.

Perhaps consider simply making an animated graphic design mood board, using snippets of an already created music video, or stitching together behind-the-scenes footage. Follow hashtags appropriate for your style and see what others in the same lane are creating. Get a sense of community vibes and opinions and understand the discourse around the type of music you’re producing.

You don’t have to turn songs into skits and can retain artistic integrity if you approach TikTok in a way that suits you.

Ultimately, visuals are now just as important as the music itself to draw in new listeners. We’re all looking for an aesthetic, perspective, style, or approach that we can relate to, and the gift of social media allows anyone on any budget to get involved.

Check out a few more ideas below on how to use TikTok as an effective advertising device.

Market yourself everywhere you can

TikTok isn’t the only place you should be posting content, mind. Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and SoundCloud are all important platforms to engage with.

That may seem like a difficult amount of places to juggle content, but keep in mind that you can repurpose and cut down larger videos to make tens or hundreds of shorter clips to post daily on each channel. This tactic can give a steady, consistent stream of work for audiences to pick up on and find.

They’ll feel more connected to you as a result and are more likely to leave comments and engage with your work.

To that end, you’ll want to keep audiences in touch with what’s happening music wise regularly. Tease song snippets, promote pre-save links, ask for feedback on song writing and production. Get a sense of what people think, learn how to improve, and make listeners as big a part of the creative process as any instrument or software.

Sure, some of the mystique and artistic ambiguity might be lost but unless you’re a juggernaut heavyweight band, it’s almost impossible to find success by being completely obtuse in 2022. Connection is the name of the game.

Curate your profile on audio streaming platforms

We probably don’t need to tell you to create a Spotify artist account, or to publish work on SoundCloud.

What is worth paying attention too though is the details of said account. Consider the aesthetic you show off on your personal page. This includes album cover artwork, descriptions, photos of you performing, event details, etc. There’s such a thing as too much of course, but allowing people to see who you are and what you’re about can help to form a connection with listeners.

Certain genres will follow specific formats, too. This could be song titles all in lower case, or with symbols peppered throughout, or a unique colour scheme. Bands such as The 1975, for example, make a habit of writing titles // L I K E T H I S // for promotional content.

It’s a good idea to ensure a deliberate aesthetic is consistent across your videos, art, TikToks, etc. It helps to identify what you’re all about and which listeners you’re hoping to draw in.

We’re not suggesting being totally derivative and copying everyone else! Originality is important too, as is authentic style and genuine belief in the art you’re making. Descriptions and well designed artwork shows that you’re serious though, and you’ll likely find platforms are more eager to include songs in larger, genre specific playlists. Curated song collections are all about style and aesthetic and there’s nothing wrong with leaning into this approach.

It’ll help to bring in new ears immensely.

Connect with early fans of your music

Started to gain a small following? Whether ten or one hundred people listen, there’ll come a time when private messages and comments start coming in. Engage with them!

People love to say they’re into a band their friends have never heard of. Communicating with those who’ve found your music is a great way to retain interest and generate a buzz through word-of-mouth. Indie acts are far more likely to get their work shared via DMs or in-person listening sessions compared to big acts.

There’s a societal ‘edge’ to being in-the-know about an underground artist and it’s a good idea to take advantage.

One positive of being a little known musician is that excitement and community goodwill is easier to authentically generate. If you’ve ever had a mate tell you about a sick gig in Brixton for a hip psychedelic seventies inspired act, you’ll know what we mean. It’s cool to be into the indie scene.

Someone hits up the DMs to say they’re into your new single that dropped last week? Show them love, maybe repost their message. Taking an active role in the conversation with people who’ve found your music is a no brainer.

It’s a good idea to engage in TikTok or Instagram lives too. Provide easy to understand ways for fans to chat to you and build connections. Write questions in post captions, ask for recommendations, etc. It’s all about back and forth, baby.

Don’t compromise or pander your sound and style

Okay, so admittedly we’ve suggested a lot of different things that may seem like you’d need to compensate on your own style or identity, but it’s important that you don’t.

While it’s a good idea to find your niche, work on an aesthetic, and push visual content alongside music, it should all be done in a genuine way that feels right for you. Trying to deliberately orchestrate sounds and grooves to go viral or create a trend will come across as pandering – Gen Z are exceptional at ratting out inauthentic content. Avoid this!

Pushing a false narrative around your sound or tracks can lead to an opposite reaction. There have been artists on TikTok who’ve become the subject of widespread ridicule for creating sob stories in order to gain sympathy. It’s so obvious when this happens, especially if it’s the doing of label executives.

In short, don’t pander or dilute yourself to fit a certain mould that doesn’t work. Even if you do find success this way it’s likely to be short lived and unsustainable. A career can be made and broken swiftly if it’s built on fleeting styles and trends.