What’s my Band’s Niche?

As a musician Identifying your niche is not always an easy thing to do.  Sometimes you pick your own niche.  Sometimes a niche picks you.  One thing that was a clear consensus in yesterday’s Future of Music (www.futureofmusic.org) seminar was that you need to (1) Identify your niche as an artist and then (2) sell your music to that niche.  Great advice.  But what’s a niche and how can your band identify its niche?

A niche is often defined as “a position exactly suitable for the person occupying it”.  But in music, its a little different.  In music, a band’s niche’s may be in the genre of music that it generally is grouped into by Itunes or Best Buy or by the type of radio station that plays its music.  Oftentimes, the best way to find your niche as a musician is to identify where your fans are coming from. 

For example, Jimmy Buffet has a very particular niche.  A follower of his music even has a descriptive name:  Parrothead.  Parrotheads have a dedicated page on Jimmy’s highly successful (and highly commercialized) web page, Margaritaville.com.  Fans can post their pictures from the latest show they attended, keep up to date on Jimmy’s newest business venture and feel a sense of community with other like minded Cheeseburger in Paradise eaters. 

The Elusive Parrothead Niche

The Elusive Parrothead Niche

A remarkable businessman, Jimmy Buffet has done so well in identifying his niche that he has been able to sell not just his music to his niche fan base, but also beer, hot sauce, a successful restaurant chain, and even numerous Buffet penned novels.  He has identified his fan base and has capitalized on his discovery in a big way.

Some bands will have it easier than others.  If your band models itself after the Ramones or The Kinks, it is clearly going for the punk niche.  If you have two synthesizers and a drummer, you are trying to capitalize on the rising Electro scene (MGMT, Cut Copy).  For genre specific bands, your target niche and consequently your target market is easier to identify.  You will find it easier to book your band at certain clubs and you will be able to sell your merch at specific stores.  Capitalize on that.  Post your flyers, whether paper or electronic, at sites where your target fan base frequents.  Create a community site profile and invite the friends that you already have as well as the other similar bands, clubs and radio station sites that already exist.  Cultivate your niche and watch it grow. 

Uber successful artists are able to cross the lines and appeal to fans of different genres.  Think about the Beastie Boys, Justin Timberlake, or even Lil Wayne.  These artists have been able to go beyond their obvious fan base and “cross over” into new populations thereby increasing the worth of their entire brand.  They have become mainstays on the iPods of 13 year old suburban mall rats, college hipsters and even thirty something professional types.  Their collective niches seem to have no boundaries.

So what about a new band? How does it identify its niche?  What about a band who’s music is not on the radio and who hasn’t uploaded their music to a Itunes, eMusic or Amazon?  Your band may think that it is alt-rock, but maybe your fans are coming from the emo/teen angst scene.  Community websites (a favorite tool of this writer) is a perfect way of determining where and to whom your band should be marketing.  Just look at where your fan base is coming from; what other bands are they into; what type of scene (fashion or otherwise) are they into, etc.  Are your fans blogging about websites like Friends or Enemies or are they more likely to spend time following the happenings on Fake Shore Drive?  Follow the path that is paved by your fan base and you will have an easier time discovering your target audience and therefore your niche.  Once you find it, focus on it and make it your friend.

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