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How to Find Your Niche in Music as an Independent Artist

  • 29 February 2024, Thursday
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As music production evolves, more and more artists gravitate towards establishing themselves within a music niche. While many continue pursuing mainstream success (and there is nothing wrong with that), others feel more drawn to subgenres and smaller communities. In this article, we explain how independent artists can discover their niche and build close relationships with their audience.

What is a niche within music?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a niche is an “area or position that is exactly suitable for a small group of the same type.” It is a place or environment that attracts certain types of people who resonate with each other on one or several levels. Within music, the term is often synonymous with subcultures that form around a (sub)genre, sound, or specific lifestyle that defines the scene.

Musicians operating within a niche often create music that appeals to a particular group – listeners with similar tastes, interests, values, or cultural backgrounds. Many prefer establishing themselves within a niche over pursuing mainstream success, as it allows them to build a community in an intimate setting. Additionally, they do not have to compromise their creativity and self-expression by adhering to mainstream standards and music trends.

While staying within a niche can make earning money from music more challenging, it can be much more fulfilling than adhering to industry trends and expectations. So, how can you, as an independent artist, establish yourself within a niche?

How can independent artists find their niche

Establishing yourself within a niche begins with wrapping your mind around the nature of your environment and the characteristics of your potential audience. A good start is to examine what (sub)genres your music falls into to understand the broader context of your art and environment. For example, while you may primarily identify with hip-hop, you may also feel strongly connected to techno music. Such insight will allow you to specify where you find yourself at the intersection of different genres, which may be exactly where your niche lies.

Next, take some time to look inward and identify the characteristics, preferences, and values you consider essential to yourself and your art. Acknowledging these traits will help you understand how your music reflects you as a person or what aspects of your personality you would like it to reflect. This can include underlying themes, the ambiance of your music, or the topics, emotions, and messages it addresses. Wrapping your mind around what makes you “you” will make identifying environments and people you resonate with significantly easier. It will also allow you to understand what sets you apart from other artists who operate in a similar music space.

Understanding your potential fanbase

The next step is to identify your fanbase. You can begin with a simple question: "Who would potentially gravitate toward my music, and why would they do so?" A useful approach is creating detailed personas – fictional representations of potential fans – which will ideally provide a clear understanding of their preferences, behaviors, struggles, and motivations. Some key aspects to look at are:

  • Demographics, including location and age

  • Lifestyle choices, including interests and hobbies

  • Values, beliefs, and personality traits

  • Media consumption habits and proficiency with technology

  • Goals, aspirations, and motivations

  • Challenges and frustrations

  • Communication Preferences

  • Brand Preferences, such as which artists they listen to

  • Social circles and communities

In this context, it is especially important to define what exactly your fans get from listening to your music. Understanding your music's emotional and intellectual value will help you paint a picture of who would most likely be your target audience. For example, one person might listen to an artist who talks openly about their feelings to connect more with themselves and feel validated in their emotions. Meanwhile, another person might enjoy fun and entertainment and, as a result, gravitate towards artists with unserious, funny lyrics.

Finding your target audience

Once you've wrapped your mind around who to look for, you will need to figure out where to find your audience. Your personas will help you with the process. Utilize them as "roadmaps" to explore online platforms and physical spaces relevant to your potential fans. Another approach is examining the online presence of similar artists to gain insight into what platforms they favor and how they use them to connect with their audience. For those who live in cities with active music scenes, it makes much sense to network locally and build a community in real life.

Furthermore, consider collaborating with artists who share similar aesthetics or attract a comparable audience. This will broaden your exposure and introduce your music to listeners with shared tastes. Such collaborations create mutually beneficial relationships, enhancing your visibility and credibility within your niche. You can also explore the potential of partnering with smaller brands that align with your values and resonate with your audience. For instance, if your music and artistic persona are closely connected to fashion, you could try collaborating with clothing brands that match your aesthetic.

Connecting with your niche audience

The last step involves establishing sustainable connections with your audience and finding ways to engage with your fans. You can cultivate a sense of community through social media interactions, live Q&A sessions, or thoughtful responses to their comments and DM’s. In a real-life setting, you can host smaller shows and social gatherings instead of large performances to create a more community-oriented experience. If you do not consider yourself an extrovert, you can learn more about how to market yourself as an introverted artist.

Remember that keeping up with your fans can become challenging once you’ve significantly grown your audience. At this point, you might have to think about other ways to foster a sense of community. For example, you could create RSVP links to smaller events or live streams that your fans can join online or offline on a first-come, first-serve basis. Similarly, while it might not be possible for you to respond to all comments, you should continue replying occasionally to actively show interest in your fans.

With that being said, make sure your music is easily accessible to your fans and available on the most common streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer.

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Conclusion: finding and fostering a niche in music

Finding your niche as an independent artist is a step-by-step process that requires a profound understanding of yourself and your environment. By specifying what genres your music falls into, developing an artist identity, exploring online and physical spaces, and connecting with people who could become your fans, you can get closer to discovering and establishing yourself within a niche.

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Get tips on How to Succeed as an Artist, receive Music Distribution Discounts, and get the latest iMusician news sent straight to your inbox! Everything you need to grow your music career.

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