015 – Growing Your Fan Base Through Collaboration

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Podcast

Why is it important for artists to pursue collaborative opportunities? What qualities should they be looking for in collaborators? What benefits can artists expect to enjoy from collaborating?

In this episode of Creativity Excitement Emotion, David shares how you can grow your fan base through collaboration.


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00:17 – Seeking strategic collaborations
00:54 – The importance of starting where you are
01:28 – The illusion of the creator economy
02:21 – Your core audience is usually made up of people you know
03:15 – The passing of the torch
03:55 – Everyone has a platform
04:42 – When you collaborate with others, you attract different fans
05:06 – The right timing for collaboration
05:30 – What makes for a great collaborator?


Moving forward, I’m looking to produce a lot more music, and as a result, I’m also looking for more collaborators to work with.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet quite a few people, whether it’s through the two-year intensive leadership program that I’ve been taking, or in the communities that I interact and engage with.

It’s not necessarily that I need collaborators, more so that I see opportunities. As I look to collaborate with others, I recognize that they might have access to an audience or a fan base that I don’t have.

I am often limited, and artists in general are often limited to their immediate vicinity. Even though we do live in the internet age, or the digital age and you can market to just about anyone across the world, the reality is you’re better off starting where you are and finding your audience there. Because the only people who reliably come to your shows and buy your merch and become long-term fans are the people you’ve met versus those you haven’t met.

The only people who reliably come to your shows and buy your merch and become long-term fans are the people you know. Share on X

Even though we have this illusion in the creator economy, gig economy, YouTuber culture of what’s going on right now. A lot of people are just subscribing for superficial reasons to some of their favorite YouTubers and aren’t necessarily there to buy things from them.

You think about OnlyFans or Patreon or some of these other private subscriptions that have popped up. Yes, there are people who care, but if you dig beneath the surface, you realize quickly that a lot of these subscriptions happen for very superficial reasons, right?

It’s like if there’s a YouTube model, and she’s wearing more revealing outfits in her OnlyFans subscriptions, then people subscribe to that because they want the extra content.

Maybe it’s a cynical point of view but I don’t think it is. I’ve seen this whole thing repeat and play out repeatedly because I’ve been a part of so many communities.

What we’ve primarily seen is you might attract the occasional person who is part of the broader artistic community that pops up at events here and there. But for the most part, the audiences that pack out the events tend to be people that you know or people that are in that extended network.

Maybe, for example, if it’s like the jazz community, then one of your hosts or somebody knows a bunch of musicians in the jazz community that you may not know. They’re naturally drawn to the event because of the other people who are showing up or the performers who are showing up to be a part of the event.

I played in churches years ago and there was sort of a passing of torch. I had Daniel Guy Martin on my first podcast, DAWCast: Music Entrepreneurship, many years back.

He was the one that I saw on stage at that church. He was the lead guitarist and played a pivotal role on the worship team as well.

Well, he passed the torch to me, and he told me – he was clear about this – that I would reach different people than he would be able to reach through that same platform and I think he turned out to be right.

So, when bands or artists collaborate, people aren’t always drawn to the same person. There might be something about the band.

Like in Van Halen, people were naturally drawn towards Eddie Van Halen because of his extraordinary playing as well as his childlike giddiness on stage, unmatched by other guitarists.

People also know David Lee Roth, and they know Sammy Hagar, but outside of that, they might not necessarily be able to name the other band members.

I can, of course, and I would say anyone who likes Van Halen probably can, but I think you get what I’m saying here is that you’re naturally drawn to different personalities and different acts.

People are naturally drawn to different personalities. Share on X

So therein lies one of the benefits of collaboration. You, yourself, are going to attract some people through your platform, but when you’re working with others, especially people who are in distant geographical locations, you’re going to attract, or they’re going to attract, a different audience. And that convergence is where your total audience lives.

So far for me, these collaborations haven’t quite panned out. I think there’s a timing for everything. And the right timing isn’t necessarily the moment you think, “Oh, this would be such a good idea.”

It may not be perfect timing, even if it is for you.

But I would say there are certain commonalities among those who don’t cut it.

I don’t mean to be mean to anyone. Some of the people that I’ve thought about collaborating with were super busy with other projects, so it simply wasn’t the right timing.

Whereas others, the opportunity was right in front of their face, but for some reason, they dropped off the map and weren’t in communication.

I think the mistake that we so often make is that we think it’s going to be our talent. And talent is sort of overrated anyway. I think skill is the right term for most people, but in this example, I’m equating the two.

So many people rely on or think that skill is going to be the thing that’s going to make the difference in whether they’re going to be chosen versus the other people who are perhaps competing for the same position.

And I can tell you categorically that’s not the case. I am looking for people who are already demonstrating some skill. If they’re totally awful singers, why would I collaborate with them? I must wait for them to improve and maybe they’ll never improve to the point of being able to work at this level.

If I’m going to collaborate with another guitarist, they better be phenomenal. I mean, preferably better than I am because then I can learn from them, but they’re sort of a baseline. They better be good enough to be able to work together. But talent or skill alone just isn’t it. I’m not saying it’s not important. Like I said, it does play a role, but it’s not the key factor.

I think the key factor in all this and having a collaboration work is somebody responsible. That’s the big one. If they can show up. If they can stay in communication. If they can commit to some weekly jam or recording session. If they’re able to follow through on what they said they’re going to do.

It’s all about mindset and attitude, isn’t it? If they can do all those things, I can tell with a fair degree of certainty that that collaboration is going to pan out. And especially if there isn’t any major pressure on it.

If we’re just talking about an EP and a few shows, I think anybody with the right attitude is going to pull through.

Meanwhile, someone who maybe has more experience or talent and is demonstrating that side of things, but doesn’t have the right attitude and doesn’t show up, doesn’t stay in communication, and doesn’t follow through… It doesn’t have much of a chance compared to someone ready to get going, who’s hungry for it.

I don’t know. I think it seems obvious, and yet a lot of artists don’t get this. They need to look at themselves, how reliable are they? Can they be counted on? Do they show up early? With what kind of attitude are they ready to start working when they do show up? Or do they go on and on about their day and how bad it was?

It’s a cliché to say you’ve got to be a good hang, but that’s a part of it for sure. So maybe you thought other people were being unfair and passing you up for a gig and never telling you why. Well, this could be it. It could be that you’re not responsible. You’re not reliable. You’re not showing up when you’re expected to show up.

You’re not working when you’re supposed to be working. Skill can be taught. Even if it takes a long time, but the thing that typically can’t be taught is being an adult, being responsible, being reliable, having the right attitude. I can’t sit there and coach anyone to have that, and I think that’s a prerequisite.

I don’t mourn any collaborations that haven’t happened yet because of timing. I assume that at some point they will happen.

But I think in an instance where talent or skill is up against the right attitude, the right attitude is almost going to win every single time. No one wants to work with someone who’s flaky and can’t be counted on.

In an instance where talent or skill is up against the right attitude, the right attitude is almost going to win every single time. Share on X