Trick or Tribe?

Everyone wants to belong to something from the time we’re very little till the time we die. It’s part of how we cope with life. Its also important that we decide what we don’t want to belong to -though I think a lot of times that’s decided for us.

I grew up feeling like an outcast till I went to an arts high school and found myself in a group of outcasts just like me. I think a lot of artists and entrapaneurs can relate to feeling like they didn’t belong. Can you blame us? We’re usually the people that shake up social norms. Asking “Why?” constantly and challenging the world around us like it’s in the job description -it is. We should constantly be looking for a better way to write a song, tune a guitar or grow our fan base.

I’m going to talk about Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, which you might have caught on has to do with a tight knit community that is really excited about a cause, product, artist or anything really that matters a lot to them and the reasons, benefits and necessity for the tribe. The book was full of great content that a lot of artists can apply directly to building a group of not only fans but empowered allies that are within themselves incredibly connected to each other self motivated people to your mission as an artist. I realize that last sentence may have been a little dense but bear with me.

When you are a part of something, when you love a product, artist, movie, city… what do you want to do? Connect with other people who also love it. And if you can connect with those people you are persuaded that since you are both onto something it couldn’t just be a fluke. You can’t be crazy thinking that Patty Griffin (she’s my fave!) is the best singer/songwriter or that Columbus, OH is a surprisingly cool little city if you find other people who feel the same way.

Once you decide you know what you know, and your passionate about it, you’re going to tell as many people as you can. I know I have personally told at least 25 people how much each of those things are awesome and should be checked out.

So what does this have to do with you and your fans?

You have an opportunity as an artist or band to be the leader of your own tribe. I realize that can sound very daunting and like it’s a lot of work but if you have been getting your music out there performing live, releasing albums and getting involved with social media you have probably already established a small tribe without even realizing it. Quite often if I go back to a certain town to perform there is a small but definite group of people there I can not only count on to show up and make me feel like driving for 10 hours to perform for 1 or 2 was absolutely worth it. They are the people I think about when I book shows and look forward to seeing again and sharing new songs with.

The truth is that I have not been so great at actually leading them and I think they would feel a lot more appreciated if I got my act together and set up even more of a community for us. Seth Godin says in Tribes that one of the most important things to empower your tribe is to give them the tools to contribute, track the tribes progress publicly and above all be transparent. I titled this blog Trick or Tribe as a reminder of that last point. If you are trying to trick your fans and tribe or even yourself people will know and it just wont work. People wont respond to what you're doing because they can sense the fact that you're not being honest with yourself.

In the next few weeks I’m going to work to change that. I have been thinking about putting together a street team or exclusive fan group for some time. I’ve toyed with the idea of sending out a special email with exclusive news and I might still do that. It might also be great to start a forum and special section on my website that gives my tribe the tools to share my music and provides a home base for us to communicate as a group and gain some momentum. Like I said before, once the ball starts rolling, once I realized that other people thought Patty Griffin was –the best ever- I wanted to share it more and invite people to belong in my tribe.

I don’t think tribes are just for fans either. As a musician I know a lot of other independent artists that I regularly set up lunches and coffee meetings with to swap ideas and encourage each other. I think it has made a big difference in how my career has advanced and has helped the people I connected with because I shared as much as I could with them. I also took note of things they were interested in and try to regularly stay in touch and send a message if I see something they should check out.

Leading a tribe of your peers including not only musicians and artists but also business and entrepreneurial types can be extremely beneficial. Besides realizing how much you have to share with each other you will also find yourself lifting each other up as your careers progress. Reach out and surround yourself with people that are passionate about what they do.

Start your tribe, and then start a few more tribes. Make them as exclusive or inclusive as you want – there yours. Have fun.

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