The Digital Tribe: How Artistes Can Use Discord to Build Their Fanbase
Once upon a time, there was a music platform where artistes could share new tracks, receive valuable feedback from devoted fans and independent musicians, and even get discovered by a record label and sign a lucrative deal.
To some extent, Soundcloud still is an effective echo chamber that musicians can use to publish their sketches and build a network around their artistry, unbounded by adverts and endlessly-evolving music marketing strategies.
However, along the way, Soundcloud lost momentum, and artistes started looking elsewhere for ways to promote their music and maximise their fanbase.
I was there, dear reader, when the strength of Soundcloud failed.
Until 2016, Soundcloud groups were one of the most effective ways to promote your music as a new artiste, featuring your best tracks in a group of like-minded people who could help you promote your songs and hone your craft.
Sadly, Soundcloud groups were removed and never replaced with anything as “social” as groups were.
Bandcamp is probably one of the most genuine and artiste-focused music platforms online, and I truly hope it’ll last forever, but at its core, it’s always been a music store rather than a tool to build a community around an artiste or music genre.
For a while, artistes looking for an online community to share their music and passion with were left stranded.
Until Discord came, that is.
Despite being originally designed with developers and gamers in mind, Discord quickly became an invaluable tool for music lovers to build a community around certain music genres or fans.
As the line between artistes and fans gets thinner and thinner, Discord allows musicians to engage with their fans in a natural, almost playful way: whereas other social media platforms act as amplifiers, Discord is more about camaraderie and closeness to the artiste we love.
Discord is exactly how the entire internet should be: open, boundless, lawless, and where everyone can create their own little community around an idea, and in this vibrant digital landscape, music thrives.
TO THE TUNE OF AN EXPLOSIVE GROWTH
Credit: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash
Before the pandemic, Discord had 56 million monthly active users worldwide, which has grown to over 150 million since. Today, it has over 300 million registered users.
The reasons for its mind-blowing growth in a time defined by lookdowns and strict regulations shouldn't come as a surprise.
Contrary to most social media, Discord is a platform that promotes creativity and interaction between people: engagement and active involvement are fundamental when it comes to Discord servers.
Scrolling endlessly through channels on Discord, albeit possible, is a labyrinthine and rather unpleasant experience. Through instant voice, video, and typed messages, people can use Discord to create the tribal feeling that Soundcloud and Facebook groups used to have but lost over time.
In a way, thanks to the endless customisation options, Discord servers empower moderators with a personalised channel to gather peers together into a unique social hub.
Almost 80% of active users on Discord use the platform for activities outside of gaming. Non-gaming activities include online collaboration communication and remote learning, and both these activities perfectly fit modern music producers’ needs.
CREATING AN ECOSYSTEM FOR MUSICIANS
FKA twigs at Paradiso, Amsterdam. Credit: Bobo Boom/Wikimedia Commons
If you ask me, artistes today need more than a platform that allows them to store and promote their music: they need an ecosystem, a digital place where they can discuss and share ideas, collaborate, and expand their knowledge.
Over the years, both established and new artistes found new ways to connect with their audience through Discord.
From FKA twigs to Rivers Cuomo, worldwide-famous musicians embraced the way Discord removes the middleman and opens a more open, genuine communication with fans.
The possibility of growing a multi-channel communication server where musicians can communicate with fans, and fans can communicate with each other, brings to life a vibrant hub that acts as an echo chamber for the artiste or music genre the community is interested in.
Discord works incredibly well for new artistes because each server acts as a small amplifier that can make a song go viral.
From Discord servers focused on vaporwave music to hip-hop, you’ll find servers based on dozens of different music genres, and each one of them is populated by people who are there to discover and learn more about their favourite genre.
Can you think of a better platform to promote your music?
SOUNDS LIKE A LESSON
Leaning is a crucial aspect of Discord servers for musicians, and this is also one of the main reasons why aspiring artistes should join the most active music communities on Discord.
Servers like We Are The Music Makers and Music Production offer priceless information on software, hardware, music theory, and more: all for free and with a dedicated music community ready to respond to any questions newbies might have.
These servers offer dedicated channels for learning, sharing music, regular contests, freebies, and anything else you can think of.
In particular, I believe music challenges are vital for new artistes.
Regular contests create the perfect environment to be consistent with one’s craft and build a community of artistes sharing common interests and goals. On the other end, for someone running online music projects, Discord is a fantastic way to create contests accessible to anyone, regardless of the music platform they upload their tracks on.
Given that the platform allows video-sharing and group calls, many music-focused Discord servers also feature artistes showing how they make their songs, offering new artistes a step-by-step guide on how to make their favourite music.
The underground music scene on Discord abounds with artistes live-streaming from their studios on a regular basis.
This is a fantastic way for musicians not only to reward their fans but also to keep active and fine-tune their live sets in between physical events.
A TWO-WAY CHANNEL WITH MUSIC LOVERS
Imogen Heap at the O2 Academy, Liverpool (2010). Credit: Man Alive!/Wikimedia Commons
If you’re an up-and-coming artiste, you should look for ways to open up two-way communication with your fans.
This is what fans want, and this is where the world is heading; if you don’t like it, then you’ll have a hard time keeping up with your audience’s needs.
From selling live-streaming tickets to dropping NFTs and Q&A sessions, the possibilities to interact, expand, and reward an audience are endless on Discord.
For example, Imogen Heap uses her Discord server to host listening sessions, as well as discuss new projects and the music industry with fans.
Artistes like A. G. Cook and Deathpact created virtual reality games within Discord that gave fans access to new music once completed: an engaging and active experience that rewards most loyal fans with unique gifts.
Some artistes give access to their Discord servers only through a subscription, which is a great way to monetise if you’re an upcoming artiste with a fanbase willing to support you. Currently, Discord does not take a fee on servers accessible only through subscriptions.
CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN FANBASE AND ARTISTES
Discord managed to fill the gap between new generations of fans and artistes, offering a communication that goes beyond the artiste-to-fans system that defined all main social media before Discord came to prominence.
Unbounded by algorithms, Discords perfectly combines the best features of music forums and social media platforms, offering fans a way to talk about their favourite music or communicate directly with their favourite artistes.
Musicians, on the other hand, can build their brand by using a fully-customisable platform: all it takes is dedication, creativity, and a genuine desire to close the gap between fanbase and artistes.
Cover Credit: A Paper Creative
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Writer | Marco Sebastiano Alessi
Marco is an Italian music producer, composer and writer. He’s the founder of Naviar Records, a music community and record label exploring the connection between experimental electronic music and traditional Japanese poetry.