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Collaborative Hustling for Musicians in the Social Media Age

by Brooklyn Doran | 31.08.2015
Photo by Nicholas Posthumus of Current Sessions Productions.

Photo by Nicholas Posthumus.

The original version of this post was originally published on Sonicbids in 2014.
Brooklyn Doran is a digital executive at Tug Agency and a folk-musician based in Toronto, Ontario whose music is available worldwide via

Let’s face it. We All know the hustle. Sometimes we find ourselves trying to market our music more than we actually have the opportunity to play it! If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If we shout into the Twitter void, does anyone see it if we don’t have followers?

Social Media is becoming one of the leading platforms for fans to engage with artists, and because of our ability to directly connect with fans and other artists, tools like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have become important vehicles to launch emerging artists and be able to reach people beyond our immediate social networks.

With tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram becoming more and more integrated into the fabric of society, as musicians, we are able to use these tools to promote our music- not only locally, but also on a global scale- making it easier and easier to get our tracks listened to. We create a direct link into our lives as artists, to see what we are working on, and to be kept up to date on their touring, recorded work etc.

However, we are also in the age of “ME” in which News Feeds are saturated by bands all doing the same thing. “Come see my show!” “Look at my new video!” “Check us out on Bandcamp!” So… how do we make this work? How do we fight Facebook algorithms and trending hashtags to be seen by our intended audiences but while also not taking away from the work of our fellow artists?


What is that? It involves teaming up with other musicians and artists to not only promote your work but the work of others in the music community. The more creative you are in using these platforms, the more attention you will garner!

It’s simple. Band A shouts out Band B. Band B shouts out Band A. Both band A and B reach a larger market by hyping each other instead of just themselves.

Think about it! If we team together, all of our News Feeds will be filled with more love for bands and less “Look at me! Come to my show!” How refreshing is that?

Photo by Erik Lindemann.



Do you want more “Likes”, more download of your album, more views to your website, or more people coming out to your shows? You can definitely achieve ALL of these things through social media promotion and collaborative hustling, but identifying the one you want most, will help you think of the most creative ideas to achieve your goals.
Identify what artists are similar to you. Make sure the musicians and bands you have decided to work with have a similar ideology about music and the world. Once you start working with someone, you become associated with them- and therefore if they get into trouble, it reflects poorly on you.
People you’ve shared the stage with, people who’ve commented on your Soundcloud links, artists who’ve been reviewed alongside you on blogs. Try to extend your reach beyond your current social networks and find yourself with fans from all over the place, geographically!
Holding contests over Facebook, Instagram or Twitter- is an exceptional way to get organic “likes”. I know that most of us musicians are too poor to target paid likes through Facebook- and nowadays without “Boosting” your posts, it seems like some of your posts won’t even reach a fraction of your fanbase!

Teaming up with artists for a contest is a great way to achieve likes organically, because what you are doing is creating a larger network of fans by pooling all of your online reach. It all results in more clicks, which means more views.

In order to make it as a musician, there are a lot of people and organizations that are eager to lend a hand to show you support. I’ve had web-series and theatre companies willing to use my music, session musicians and producers willing to record for free, and filmmakers and local businesses sponsoring my video. I am absolutely floored by the kindness of people!
If you are offering something special or unique to businesses, artists, filmmakers etc. they are more likely to shout you out, or help you out later. What is important is creating a partnership as opposed to just asking for favors. A partnership could involve you posting about that local business, fashion line etc. online and using their hashtags without there being any direct return from those posts. The name of the game is, be a nice person, and experience those people’s niceness back. I am an avid supporter of local business, and because I’ve bought their products in the past, and they’ve seen my face, they are more likely to donate time in their venues, clothing, jewelry etc. to my shows and videos because they feel comfortable and know that I will promote them back, use their logo etc.
I know that as a musician, I tend to surround myself with other musicians almost exclusively. However, the people who are really going to do something for you is non-musicians. People who rarely post about music or shows get more attention when they do, because they haven’t oversaturated people with invites, recommendations etc. Playing shows in non-traditional spaces, like office buildings, retail establishments etc. is a great way or organically target people who you might not necessarily find in the “music scene” or at all of the regular haunts you may be playing!

Offering discounts to Arts workers, childcare workers, volunteer firefighters,  etc. and creating a theme that supports these people and shouts out what they do makes these people feel great about themselves, and in turn they’ll be more receptive to your music. (Just make sure to pick a theme that gels well with your music).

Recently a good friend of mine held a “Twin Peaks” themed show that invited audience members to dress up “Twin Peaks” style and had a successful event because they pulled in not only their own fans, but fans of that show.
In the end, creating an online community for your work is pivotal for creating grassroots momentum around your work. You’ll feel good that you’re helping out others AND you’ll feel good because more people will be listening to your tunes. And isn’t that the point, after all?