Back in June, I wrote a piece for musicians called Your Friends Are Not Your Fans. That’s definitely true. It’s something a friend said to me when I expressed frustration at the routine of emailing / texting / Facebook-inviting everyone I knew to every show I played only to have between zero and three friends show up. My friend laid it on the line for me: your friends are not your fans. “Stop wasting energy trying to get them out” was his message and he was right, absolutely.
It’s hard to let go of that energy, isn’t it? It’s hard to stop telling your friends about your work. You’re afraid if you stop telling the people closest to you about your art, your shows, your recordings, no one will care. That’s heavy. So just between us — the people playing the shows —let’s get this out on the table: it really sucks, doesn’t it? I mean, your friends should be your fans.
I wrote something for the friends of artists too. It was actually a moderately popular piece for musician friends to share when I originally published it on Medium. SongCast republished it recently. Feel free to share it all over again: How to support the artist you know without spending any money.
It’s a simple guide for the friends in your life on how they can support you without spending money or even showing up. The TL;DR is: they should share what you (and their other artist friends) do. Share and Retweet. It should be automatic. It should be unconditional.
Here is something else I believe: our (artists’) support of other artists should be unconditional. That’s a really difficult thing to maintain. I can’t say mine is. But I can tell you that I believe it to be a worthy pursuit. When an artist in your peer group releases a new record, download it as soon as you can. Pay for it. Go to shows whenever you can. Be in the zero to three number.
We have to do this because we know how hard it is. We know that the friends of that person playing the show probably didn’t come out. We’ve literally been there. When you do this, yes, you are showing up for the other artist but you’re also showing up for yourself. You’re proving that people do come out to shows, download music, share news. It just wasn’t your show in that case. But you proved it’s not an absolute that no one comes out.
I can tell you plainly: it doesn’t necessarily come back to you. Forget what people tell you about karma or paying it forward or whatever. Your efforts might be completely ignored. Do it anyway. You cannot support other artists honestly if you have impure intentions. You cannot do it expecting they will do it in return.
You have to support other artists because without you, who will keep unpopular art alive? You have all the more reason if you make unpopular art.
Back in another article, Your Year in Music By the Numbers, I said this:
It’s always been easy to confuse “who cares about my music” with “who cares about me” and take a lack of response personally.
The big problem with trying to convert your friends into your fans is that you might start to resent them for not being fans. Just because they don’t come out to your crappy coffee shop gig or a weeknight dive bar show doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. Don’t get it confused. All that advice I laid out in the original article is important to keep in mind. Being a bitter artist is one thing; being bitter to your friends is not cool.
But I’m just saying — between us — it fucking sucks that your friends are not your fans. Let’s just keep it to ourselves.