Niche Markets in Music
Why and How to Find Your Space in the World of Music
I’m sure many music artists dream of being beloved by millions of adored fans or becoming a household name like Madonna or Drake. But the truth is that very few if any normal people will ever experience this acclaim and success. In fact, many of the top-billed singers and musicians in Hollywood were pruned and primed for the entertainment industry since childhood with longstanding family connections to producers.
But that does not mean music is a dead art. Far from it. Artists still make money, build fanbases, and gain attention with their music without being a major label darling or a Billboard starlet. The trick is that those artists are not trying to win every heart, they instead use the not-so-secret secret of niche markets to grow a focused but dedicated fan community.
Today, I want to explain how finding your music niche can help you find success.
- Niche Markets in Music
- What is a Niche Market?
- What Do Niches Have to Do With Music?
- Why Should I Pick a Niche?
- The Benefits of Having A Music Niche
- How Do I Find A Niche?
- Examples of Successful Niche Musicians
- Other Resources
What is a Niche Market?
Niche is a buzzword topic for entrepreneurs and it comes with some baggage. But, at it’s core, niches really are a viable model of business building. And you can use them for your music business as well.
A niche market is simply a smaller slice of the overall market that focuses on, and caters to, a certain demographic group and their interests. That is opposed to mass market, which tries to appeal to anyone and everyone. Anytime a product or service is marketed to a specific group of people it can be thought of as reaching a niche market.
Niches can be about any topic, interest, or shared trait among the target demographic. Here are a few examples so you can get the idea:
- Selling cat-themed clothes and jewelry to young women who really love their cats,
- Drawing courses made specifically for people who want to draw retro 90s-style Anime,
- Courses and supplies for people who make their own soap,
- A YouTube channel all about peanut butter and what you can cook with it
You should get the idea by now.
What Do Niches Have to Do With Music?
Music too has built-in niche markets. We usually call them subgenres. There are likely thousands of different genres, and genres within genres, and genres within genres within genres!
And the best way to build a fan community for your music is by focusing on one of these subgenres. One of the biggest marketing mistakes an artist can make is trying to appeal to the mass market. Unless you are a multimillionaire already, it’s statistically unlikely you’ll have the means to gain widespread recognition like that. Brand awareness campaigns for mass market products cost millions of dollars and require massive takeover advertising.
Record labels have the money, expertise, time, and even the social media bots necessary to spam their new up-and-coming artist all over every website and onto every magazine. You don’t. Trying to be the next number one bestselling hit-maker is like a computer programmer who thinks he’ll be the next Steve Jobs. So save yourself some heartache and don’t try competing with the big players; it will leave you wrecked.
Instead, you can spend way less money and energy by finding a sub-genre (i.e. a niche) that you enjoy and joining their community as a music creator.
Why Should I Pick a Niche?
I know some artists are temperamental about being labeled with a specific type of genre. But having a label on your music is beneficial to it’s marketing. Knowing how to correctly categorize and tag your music will make it easier for fans of specific styles to organically find you and share your work with other like-minded people; and by “organically” I mean for free, without you paying for any ad copy.
The Benefits of Having A Music Niche
There are a few key points I want to iterate here on how niching down your music will help you:
- Niche communities are more close-knit and loyal (in comparison to a mass market, whose overall sentiment changes with the fads). Fans are more willing to spend money on product and services made within and for the niche community because they feel a personal connection to the group.
- Niche communities will outlive the fads. Even when the “tourists” have moved on to the next popular genre, the “true fans” of your music niche will still be there for the long haul. And while those fans may be smaller in number than the fad-jumpers, they will likely have a greater lifetime customer value. In business speak, lifetime customer value (LCV) means how much money a person will spend on your products over the course of their relationship with you. For music, the LCV is how much a single fan will spend on all your merch, downloads, etc. during the course of their fan status or your career.
- Targeted marketing is a lot cheaper than mass awareness campaigns. If you know the exact demographics of the people who listen to your genre of music, you can spend less money on advertising because you’re skipping right over the people who will skip over you.
- Your organic search traffic will improve. If a person is looking for a specific style of music—that you happen to make—and you tag your content appropriately, it will be much easier for potential fans to find your music through keyword searches. This again reduces the amount of money you’ll need to spend on discovery ads and awareness campaigns.
- Niche genre fans are more receptive to newcomers. I mean no disrespect, but mainstream Top 40 music listeners are passive consumers. They are unlikely to seek out new music on their own but rather expect others (like record labels and playlist promoters) to pick their music for them. Genre-specific fans, on the other hand, are far more likely to be active listeners. They want to find their own favorites styles, artists, and songs; they will put in time, effort, and money to seek out interesting tunes and get satisfaction from discovering new content. These active listeners are exactly the kind of people you want to connect with, because they have lower barriers of acceptance for new artists.
- Subgenre Fans could jumpstart a viral moment. There’s no guarantee that one of your songs will go viral and hit the mainstream and you should not rely on that as a music business strategy, but having a dedicated group of fans within your subgenre’s niche could be a catalyst for one of your tracks hitting the algorithm. It takes momentum to go viral, and that means you need listeners to hit up your song at once; if a large number of fans in your genre all jump on your newest single at the same time, then it could send a good signal to your given platform’s algorithm and give you an organic boost towards the trending tab.
How Do I Find A Niche?
Finding your niche shouldn’t be too hard. What specific styles of music do you love? What kind are you good at making? Start there. Pick whatever style of music you enjoy that you are comfortable sticking with on a long-term timeframe. Fans and attention does not happen overnight.
This is perhaps the most important sidenote to the niche music industry (actually every niche industry) that people don’t understand: success takes years, not months or days. You must be willing to continue working on your music niche for years without turning a profit. The same can be said for most specialty businesses: the first few years are rarely profitable, because you have to build trust. Not only trust with your fans/customers, but with the YouTube/Google algorithms. So, again, pick a style of music you are willing to stick with consistently.
Once you’ve picked a subgenre, go scope out it’s online presence. Specifically, look at:
- Artists in that genre. See what kind of numbers they have (YouTube views, Spotify plays, subscriber counts, etc).
- Fan communities. Searchfor subreddits, Facebook groups, and YouTube channels that cater to that niche of music and check their numbers as well.
- Activity Levels. How recently have these artists and communities been updated? Are they still active or have the interactions dried up to a trickle? Don’t pick a genre that looks like it’s drying up. Contractions are normal if a genre recently had a mainstream breakthrough, but if it’s been months since someone posted anything on the largest fan pages or released a new track…that scene may be dying.
You just want to roughly quantify how many people listen to that kind of music to make sure there is actually a market. If you pick a super-specific style of music that only 100 people listen to, then it’s far less likely you will gain any significant traction or plays.
Examples of Successful Niche Musicians
Lastly, I want to provide some concrete examples of artists who have succeeded in building a fanbase in specific subgenres. These musicians did not go for mass market appeal to the lowest common denominator, but instead carved out a space for themselves in a smaller but approachable genre. A few of these niche musicians include:
Adrian von Ziegler
|Niche:||Dark Ambient / Celtic Ambient / World Music|
|Social Media Following:||1.08 million on YouTube, 157K on Facebook|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||245,072|
|Time Active:||12 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/AdrianvonZiegler|
|Niche:||Dark Synth / Darkwave|
|Social Media Following:||70.4K on YouTube, 102K on Facebook|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||666,948|
|Time Active:||10 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/Perturbatormusic|
Hildegard von Blingin’
|Social Media Following:||845K on YouTube|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||10,686|
|Time Active:||2 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/Hildegardvonblingin/featured|
|Niche:||Indie Pop / Bedroom Pop|
|Social Media Following:||524K on YouTube, 282K on Instagram|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||8,221,729|
|Time Active:||3 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/Dayglowband/featured|
|Notes:||One of his songs going viral lead to a massive spike in attention for him, but his career appears to have started completely grassroots like most artists on this list)|
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)
|Niche:||Midwest Emo Revival|
|Social Media Following:||41K on Facebook, 1.1K on YouTube (topic channel)|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||31,104|
|Time Active:||8 years (2006-2014)|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://empireempire.bandcamp.com/|
YouTube Topic Channel
|Notes:||While the band is not making music anymore, the man behind the band (Keith Latinen) still runs his own record label and produces/releases music for similar artists in the same subgenre.|
Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq.
|Social Media Following:||189K on YouTube, 14.6K on Instagram, 119K on Facebook|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||113,277|
|Time Active:||6 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/ThomasBenjaminWildEsqMusic|
Derek & Brandon Fiechter
|Niche:||Fantasy / World Ambient|
|Social Media Following:||670K on YouTube|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||418,056 (Brandon) and 490,453 (Derek)|
|Time Active:||7 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||https://www.youtube.com/c/DerekBrandonFiechter|
|Niche:||Lo-Fi / Dream Pop|
|Social Media Following:||98.9K on YouTube, 121K on Instagram|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||1,683,029|
|Time Active:||8 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||Alvvays YouTube Channel|
|Niche:||Lo-Fi / Bedroom Pop|
|Social Media Following:||12K on YouTube, 10K on Facebook, 10K on Instagram|
|Spotify Monthly Listeners:||796,589|
|Time Active:||7 Years|
|Website / Social Media Link:||Castlebeat’s own YouTube channel|
His label’s channel (Spirit Goth Records)
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