Note from Jon: Bands and bloggers have more in common than you might think. We’re searching for an audience, struggling to find our voice, and trying to commercialize our art without “selling out.”
If you’re serious about your craft, it’s worth taking the time to study the rise of popular bands, and who better to help you draw connections than Mark Hermann? In addition to being a talented blogger in his own right, he’s lived and breathed rock and roll for much of his career. Let’s see what he has to say…
When I say the word Metallica do you…
- Immediately shudder, wrinkle your nose and think, “Ummm… No? I am SO not into heavy metal music. I was never one of those people”? or…
- Immediately pump your heavy metal horns into the air and start playing serious air guitar while humming the riff to “Sad But True”?
It’s fairly polarizing, right? You either get heavy metal or you DO NOT get it. Kind of like this blogging thing. Only with blogging it’s a lot more lopsided.
On one extreme you have the 1%. They’re the tiny island of the fortunate few who’ve solved the great blogging mystery and have magically built a thriving online community.
Then there’s the other 99%.
That’s you, right? Flailing away in that vast global arena of digital noise, struggling to find your voice and build an audience. But sadly no matter how loud you shout “I’m over here!” the only thing growing is the sound of crickets.
Conventional wisdom would suggest it’s obvious why the 1% sit on their exalted thrones.
Conventional wisdom would say they obviously studied their asses off researching the mechanics of blogging. Worked even harder to apply that wisdom and they won, right? The other 99%? Well, they didn’t do the work. Plain and simple.
But conventional wisdom isn’t always right.
The Unconventional Path from Total Obscurity to World Domination
In the early Eighties, Metallica was an unknown metal band, wrestling to find their audience. How they rose from indie obscurity to world domination and built an audience large enough to apply for international sovereignty is a case study in defying conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom could never have predicted their rise. Yet time and again they proved that the road less travelled can lead to unmined riches.
Want to stop playing to empty rooms (and vacant comment sections)? Give the finger to convention and learn how to start a rebellion.
1. Be The Hero of the Unwashed, The Unpopular and the Uncool
Every rebel needs a cause and every cause needs a charismatic leader.
The Cuban Revolution had Che Guevara. The Sixties had Jimi Hendrix.
Each was a hero to the underdog.
And in the early Eighties, Metallica led their own rebellion.
It was a backlash to the mainstream MTV pop culture of the day that embraced all the shiny new coiffed and styled video pop stars like Duran Duran, Men At Work and the Human League.
While their pop counterparts wore eyeliner and Spandex, Metallica wore dirty jeans, T-shirts and biker boots. They were the anti-pop stars. Rather than the pop confection songs that ruled those MTV playlists, Metallica’s music spoke about alienation and raging against the machine. It resonated with a huge mostly young adult male audience hanging out on the fringes that reviled pop culture, and were desperate to vent their teenage angst toward authority.
In Metallica these troubled souls found a fearless leader who fought for their unpopular cause through their music. And those fans in turn enlisted their diehard loyalty in droves.
As a writer, defying conventional wisdom and taking the contrarian view can reap huge benefits. Look at Jon Stewart’s career. Or The Onion. Or the recent knighting of Twitter’s first major social media success story, Kelly Oxford, who now has a massive Twitter following, a book deal, a movie deal and two TV pilots in the works.
You think Kelly Oxford ever took some generic “How to Promote Yourself on Twitter” online course? No, she just did her own thing, chipping away in obscurity for years. Tweeting her snarky take on this crazy world from the perspective of a single Canadian mom raising her children in it.
Want to stand out from the deafening noise of “Me Too” bloggers?
Be different. But do it with attitude. You’ll need that to sway the masses away from the status quo.
2. Play It Like You Mean It (Even If You’re Not Sure How The Song Goes Yet)
Long before they were officially a band, Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich already knew he had something special brewing, after guitarists Kirk Hammett and Dave Mustaine answered his newspaper ad seeking heavy metal musicians to jam with.
They gave him the confidence to approach the biggest heavy metal label at the time, Metalblade Records, and convince them to let his “band” record a song to be included on their upcoming album sampler. That gutsy move gave Metallica huge exposure and the needed impetus to come together officially as a band.
So what did Lars have that you need? ATTITUDE.
You have to BELIEVE in your work. If you don’t, who will?
If you want to become a thought leader presiding over a massive tribe, you first have to learn how to LEAD. Plant your flag in the ground, claim your sovereignty and shout to the world, “THIS is where it’s at!” And then prove it with your work.
But what are you to do as a blogger when you’re still trying to discover exactly what you stand for?
Do what Lars did. It’s called Ready Fire Aim.
In other words, just go for it!
Got something to say? Then say it already.
Want to start a dream blog and write some epic shit that you know will totally blow the audience’s mind and make it impossible for that blogger to say no to you.
But you’ve got to have the goods. And they have to be remarkable. And that part’s on you.
You build an army by creating remarkable work that is simply impossible to ignore. Work that is so magnetic, people can’t help but be drawn to you.
Remember, Metallica played stadiums before they even had a record deal.
They had total conviction and a take-no-prisoners attitude. But attitude alone isn’t enough.
3. You Must Rock With Total Sincerity
Why did Metallica’s music ring so true with their fans?
Empathy, Passion and Awesomeness.
The members of Metallica were born from the same fringe culture as their fans. They could relate to their fans’ struggles because they were their fans (empathy). They weren’t trying to emulate all those hot new MTV bands. They were total originals who all shared a deep affinity for heavy metal music (passion). And they were totally dedicated to their art, rehearsing constantly and honing their songwriting to perfection (awesomeness).
In short, they lived, ate and slept heavy metal music. They were the real genie. Are you?
If you want to grow an army, you’ve got to show them you’ve been through the same battles and slept in the same foxholes. You show them your strengths by allowing them to see your vulnerabilities. Then, through your awesome work, they will see themselves and the way out of their own painful situations with you leading the way.
It’s not just about identifying and then solving the problems that keep your audience up at night. That’s nice and helpful. You need to pick up that flag with their cause and go charging up the hill like Braveheart. Leave them speechless with your insights where they can’t help but think, “Whoa, this person really GETS me!”
And something else that Metallica “got” turned out to be one of the key ingredients that led to their meteoric rise to fame and fortune.
4. Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
Back when they were still burbling away in the indie band primordial ooze, Metallica gave away free tapes of their first demo to their fans and encouraged them to trade them freely. They even encouraged fans to record their live shows and trade them in an active underground network.
But why on Earth would Metallica just give away the one commodity that could possibly earn some or make more money?
Well, imagine you’re way into heavy metal and someone hands you this unmarked tape. You put it on and it totally blows your mind. What happens next?
You HAVE to share it! It’s what we humans do when we’re excited about something. We can’t help ourselves.
So what about that eBook you’ve been slaving away on forever? You know, the one that’s going to take the self-publishing world by storm, land you a book deal and allow you to finally quit your day job?
Well, what if you just gave it away instead?
Yes I’m talking about that same masterpiece you were so sure would blow people’s minds that they would happily pay for it?
Imagine instead if you just offered it to your fans as a thank you for their support. Think they might feel indebted to you to spread the word for just giving away such pure awesomeness?
It’s called the law of reciprocity. One of the most basic and deeply embedded human instincts. When you give someone something, the recipient NEEDS to repay that gratitude in some way.
5. Don’t Let Just Anyone Backstage
In the pre-Internet era, this underground network of diehard metal fans and tapers were trading in secret, corresponding via classified ads in the backs of obscure heavy metal music magazines.
It was a closed network. Not everyone was allowed in. In fact, casual fans wouldn’t even know it existed.
But those who found out about it wanted in.
Exclusivity. Another deeply embedded behavioral human trait.
It all goes back to the tree house when you were a kid and making up that secret handshake with your closest friends. Nobody else was allowed in without it, right? Only club members were privy to those important club secrets. And those other friends you excluded? They wanted in because you had something they didn’t have.
Take this blog for example. It’s chock-full of cool ideas to help you grow and expand your blogging talents. And it’s all free.
But it’s not how Mr. Morrow butters his daily bread.
No, that happens behind closed doors.
Like his Guest Blogging course, an exclusive (paid) membership site where a limited number of students are allowed in now and again to learn the secret backroom details of successful blogging that could make the difference between blogging obscurity and a thriving blog.
Or his Blog Launch Formula program, where a small group of hand-picked bloggers are mentored directly by Jon Morrow himself.
But alas, you can’t see any of this. It’s for members only.
Get the picture?
Are you thinking about your own membership site yet? Full of juicy deep dive content to overwhelm your audience with awesome insider secrets? You should be.
6. Drive Your Fans Crazy With Anticipation
Can you imagine wanting something so badly and having to wait for days, weeks or even months until you get your hands on it? It’s difficult to conceive in today’s 24/7 ‘I need it NOW!’ on-demand world.
But back at the start of Metallica’s meteoric rise, in those pre-cyber days, all you had as a fan were those tapes to listen to over and over again. And friends to share the experience with you while daydreaming about the next concert that you bought tickets for months in advance.
That’s it. No band newsletters. Or fans Tweeting fabulous news from the tour. No Instagram tour bus shots. Nothing, save for the odd article in Kerrang or one of the other heavy metal rags.
That time spent waiting in anticipation made those fans’ hearts grow fonder. They had plenty of time in that analog world to percolate over the next delicious taste of news or new music or concert they could only hope to experience soon.
Contrast that with the instant gratification of today’s all-digital culture. Where anything you could possibly want to know or consume is one click or search away. How do you create a sense of anticipation when everyone expects everything now?
You take your finest evergreen content, break it into delicious bite-sized pieces and…
Feed it to your audience…slowly.
(That also happens to be how you build an army. Slowly – one fan at a time.)
Legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson once sang, “You can’t give your sweet woman everything she wants at one time.”
Same goes for your audience. You don’t start the show with your biggest hit. You save it for the closer. I know, that goes against conventional wisdom, right? You’re supposed to produce epic shit every post you publish, right? Yeah, good luck with that.
Take your audience on a journey that inspires and empowers them to the point where they have to return to taste that experience again and again.
It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Want to Rock and Roll
You might be wondering if I’ve oversimplified the process by which Metallica built up a huge global following. You might think I’ve glossed over a few important details in suggesting that you can replicate this in the blogging world.
And the truth is yeah, I have.
Because if you’re not totally committed to becoming the best at whatever it is you do, then nothing you’ve read in this post can help you.
The harsh truth is that Metallica was (and still is) an amazing heavy metal band dedicated to being the best. Period.
They worked incessantly on their craft over years and years, living in their rehearsal space for long periods, honing their songwriting and their live show to the level of perfection. They ran their organization like an elite Special Forces operation. And only the best get to be Special Forces.
That’s the part nobody wants to talk about. What it REALLY takes to become that important to other human beings as to become essential in their lives. It involves serious effort, commitment and passion.
It all boils down to this.
How badly do you want to change the world?
How hard are you willing to work at this thing? How serious are you about being insanely useful to others? Or outrageously entertaining or inspiring to the point where people simply cannot ignore what you have to say anymore? And then doing it in a way no one’s quite done before?
That’s how you build an army of ravenous fans.
You don’t need a wall of Marshall amplifiers and an arena-sized PA system to be heard. You don’t have to write epic 5,000-word posts or be controversial just for the pure shock value and you don’t have to produce a series of adorable kitten videos to get people to pay attention either.
It can be as simple as being brutally honest and showing your humanity in a way that inspires others, just as Lori Deschene has over at Tiny Buddha to build a massive following over a million strong.
Or professing your undying love for gadgetry and building a geek squad the size of the Roman Empire as they’ve done over at Gizmodo or GigaOM.
Or even gushing your profound knowledge of a wide array of obscure subjects – such as the behavioral patterns of mole rats – like Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone.
But whatever flag it is that you’re waving, you’ve got to be willing to carry it to the top of the mountain, slaying all obstacles in your way, avoiding the pitfalls of obscurity and apathy until you can finally plant it at the summit and say to your people and the world…
This is for YOU.
And so now I must ask you the sacred question:
Are you ready to rock the world?
64 thoughts on “The Metallica Guide to Building a Global Audience of Ravenous Fans”
Hah! Nice post…I think the trouble that many of us writers have is that once we try to step outside of the standard convention, there’s always more than a handful of people ready to tell you why it’s not going to work and why what you’re doing is wrong.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the angle of this post…it’s tough to stand up against the backlash…maybe that’s an idea for a future post?
I hear you, Dan. It’s never been easy to stand up against the status quo. You’re always going to get blowback from those who like things “as they know it to be true”. But when I watch guys like Jon Stewart work their magic you know he’s been through a lot to get to the point where he’s now considered big time mainstream “alt” comedy. It takes courage to be different. But the rewards can be great
Mark: You had me at *Sad but True* ( my Metallica favorite). And kudos on the Chili Pepper and AC/DC subheads. Very nice.
These are all great tips – but I think my favorite is #1. It’s a solid business principle and a lesson on how to build your own marketplace: Target the underserved. No matter what your market or niche – those folks exist.
An excellent post and a great read, Mark. Another BBT entry in my Evernote. Thanks!
Totally agree, Gary. There are underserved in every niche out there. I can’t overstate the obvious prejudice against the crowd who ultimately flocked to sign up to Metallica’s legion of diehard fans. Conventional wisdom wouldn’t see them as an obvious market. But 30 years later, Metallica is quite rich because of them. Glad you dug it.
Mark, this is a creative, unique, and compelling post. Thanks. Ride the lightning, man, just ride the lightning.
Glad you dug it, Marcus. That’s how I roll, man!
Hi Mark, and Jon!
As an “old” fan of Metallica (I was at the end of the eighties), I enjoyed a lot reading this post, and understand the vocabulary here!
I exactly know the feeling of “inner circle” you are talking about, I have never been a groupie (in the sense of the girl who want s*x with the musicians) but have often been backstage with albums to get autographs, and share a beer with my “idols”. Ok it was not with Metallica, but becoming friends with some of my fav musicians was something great to live!
And as says Jon in the intro, there is a lot of common points between musicians and bloggers, and as an example to meet Corbett Barr was about the same feeling for me as to meet Mikael Åkerfeldt 😉
All the Best to you Mark, and thanks again
Thanks Patricia. Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between the two worlds. And certainly there are a handful of bloggers out there who have achieved rock star status from putting out epic work that resonates with a huge audience. That’s why I enjoy bridging the two ideas.
Love it, Mark – and love Metallica! Nothing better to get major housecleaning accomplished, and nothing like seeing them in the 80’s – early 90’s in an arena where everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – in the sold out show was synchronized headbanging, hair flying everywhere. I remember my neck was sore for a few days afterwards…. 😉
They are definitely masters of the craft and something we can all aspire to be.
Great post, congrats!
And you are absolutely right – there are tons of parallels between music and blogging. Glad that others are seeing it too!
Thanks Leanne. Yeah, I was definitely the guy who would have answered B. at the top of this post. When it rocks you it moves you. Sitting (or should I say, standing) and watching AC/DC work their magic in an arena, there’s something magical that happens when you’re in sync with your audience. You can do no wring and everyone flies high together on the journey.
As a Metallica fan, I appreciated this post! 😀
I would add that Metallica has evolved throughout the years. They’ve come a long way since the 1980s. Just look at the Black album (one of my favorite albums). They received a lot of flak from die-hard fans who thought the album wasn’t hard enough. But Metallica stuck to their guns, and the Black album became one of their best-selling albums. Lesson: don’t be afraid to do something new. Stir the pot and see what you get.
Don’t become a “Master of Puppets.” Find your voice and be your own blogger.
Thanks Amandah and great points too. I thought that Metallica’s early career moves held the most relevance for bloggers looking for support to know that it’s not only OK to be different and stick to your guns but it can pay huge dividends if you have you have the goods to go with the attitude. I’m happily surprised to see so many Metallica fans chiming in here 🙂
I am no metallica fan but I understand I love your concept of trying to be unique in our own way. With the internet filled up with good content, there is need to distinguish ourselves something have not yet been able to concretize. Doing this is the number one thing that will rocket our blogging growth.
This I did learn from Peter Shandeen. According to him, it is important you understand your unique selling point. When you find this then you are close to becoming the Next Hot cake.
And not only that when we get there it’s important the fame don’t get over our head that mediocre content begins to sip like deadly mumps that send us to the fetid journey of blogging death.
Glad you caught the vibe even if you’re not a Metallica fan, Peter. That’s what I was getting at with the whole thing about avoiding the “Me Too” death by obscurity. In the end, you end up sounding like a bad cover band that just makes the reader want to return to the original source you ripped off all the more.
Yep! Metallica is and will always be one of my favorite bands. Even though they suffered bumps and bruises, i.e., the death of Cliff Burton, they made it to the top. 🙂
You know, it’s funny. In Japan in 1984, I was the classic Journey, Foreigner, Def Lepard etc., fan. All in.
And then one-day a guy named Mike from California knocked on my door and handed me a vinyl copy of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. “Here, put this on”!
For Whom the Bell Tolls ripped into my inner Heavy Metal closet space from which I was forever outed.
But not just that. Mike personified the fan you describe. And he influenced me. Metallica believers begat Metallica believers.
Yeah Rick, everyone has their Mike from California to push them out of some closet. But that’s the thing about heavy metal (and bloggers with a totally unique take on things). You don’t waffle about it. You either GET IT or you DO NOT GET IT. And if you’re in, you’re all the way in. Glad you dug it. Rock on yourself!
Hi Mark. I got nothing clever or witty to say. But I really liked your post!
That’s OK Mark. Glad you liked it. You make up for it by having a great name 🙂
Great post. I can’t relate to Metallica. However, I hear what you are saying. Do you have some similar comments about the Stones or CCR for us grey beards?
Thanks, Merl. Yeah, I have a few others along these lines. I can’t post links here but you might enjoy a pretty epic post I wrote for Copyblogger last year called 20 Content Marketing Lessons From The Immortal Jimi Hendrix. Look it up. Jon would approve. He helped me get the guest post afterall 🙂
Love love love this emotional, passionate post. I absolutely am infatuated with blogging and struggle with putting my truth on the line. This helped me tremendously.
Thanks Esther. As they say, No pain No gain. It’s all about taking chances. When in doubt I always go to the greats. FDR said it best, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Go for it!
Metallica may not be my band of choice, but I get what you’re saying. Now…just to find that edge of your seat content to rock the world in my niche of cooking. LOL I know there’s a way to grab people’s attention, just have to find my way.
Thanks for the great info.
You just got to add a little spice and turn it up as Emril would say…BAM!
Excellent post. Very inspiring. Some interesting facts I didn’t know about metallica in that post.
How long have you been playing the guitar? I started learning the guitar at 33 and played for a couple of years. I can play open chords very comfortably and am working on learning to play notes on the fret board which is considerably harder.
Finding the time to practise everyday is very challenging. Practising scales can be quite boring too :-/
I even wrote a post called “The Top 10 secrets to becoming a good lead guitarist” about 3 weeks ago. 🙂
Thanks for sharing an excellent post.
Been playing more than 30 years, Ash. What’s the #1 secret to becoming a great guitarist? Practice. What’s #2? See item #1 again and so on. That’s the unglamorous part about becoming great at anything. It takes a hell of a lot of practice. That’s why Metallica rules the world right now. That, along with passion and commitment. Rock on!
Hello; Thanks for this excellent post. I grew up in a family of carnival owners. So, while working fairs and festivals; I’ve heard lots of bands that never made it. Some of them just played other people’s music, and some wrote and performed their own works. I can’t honestly say I remember any of them ever making it. And now I know why. for bloggers or bands you have to live eat sleep dream breath and sweat your blog. I guess I am lucky that my site and the related blog have become my passion. They are the last thing i think about before going to bed and the first thing i think of when i get up in the morning. I’m always trying to think of ways to improve and generate better results for the people who entrust their amusement equipment to my site. Recently, i met up with a blogger named ashley faulkes who has helped improve my website’s appearance. would appreciate your opinion of my site. I want to rock the world. I want to be financially successful in addition to being proud of my work and accomplishments to date. Thanks again for your post and take care, max
Metallica and a RHCP reference? Sold! I particularly liked the “Play it like you mean it” section. When I first started blogging I felt like I was peeking over an endless chasm- it’s one thing to submit your writing to a professor but quite another to leave it out on the web for the whole world to see. That’s why I agree you have to get over your fears and commit to the mission that prompted your blog in the first place.
Plus you’ve given me some great playlist ideas I can listen to when writing my next post. Thanks!
You’re welcome, Max. It helps to find people to build your team and do the things you’re not so good at (like helping spruce up your blog design). Gives you more time to focus on your passion. Keep pushing!
That’s the hardest part, Will. Hitting that Publish button. It’s a bit like walking out onstage as a solo performer and playing your first gig. You feel naked. But just like a gig, whether you’re responding to a bunch of comments on your post or an empty comment section, you put your all into every post because you never know when someone is going to discover your work. That’s where the metaphor diverges. The gig ends but the content lives on. But yeah, a great playlist will certainly motivate you to rock out on your next post. Write on!
I read one of the lines in your post as ‘How BOLDLY do you want to change the world?’
And that’s what I think of when I think of my most favourite bloggers – they’re changing the world, and making it bold.
The fact that there is a cause to stand up for, and the fact that standing up for it is scary, is the VERY reason to do it. This has given me the push I need to really start writing about what I want to stand up for, Mark. LOVE IT !
I never listen to heavy metal but i am going to use every advice you dished out in this post. Also, the article is long and i don’t know who on earth is Metallica but i read it from beginning to end. It’s real, practical and helpful. Many thanks.
Awesome, Razwana! Yeah, that part about do the thing that scares you most? It sounds good in words but can be frightening as hell. People like to wax poetic about Mother Theresa. But actually spending all your time with the poorest of the poor and unfortunate probably isn’t too glamorous. That’s true courage in the face of adversity. Kudos for going for it!
Sorry Emelia and Razwana. Please read each other’s response. I hit the wrong Reply button.
Anyway, Emelia. I’m glad you managed to read to the end about a band you know nothing about. I’ll take that as a compliment. Glad to help.
What an awesome post – thank you for sharing!
But now I really want to see a whole bunch of marketing guides from bands…
“The Led Zeppelin Guide to Writing Epic Blog Titles” maybe? (Just become so awesome you don’t even need to bother titling them….) 😉
Hi Jo, well it just so happens I have been known to do just such things, pairing famous rock and roll bands with blogging on my website. If you visit there you will see one titled “When Rock and Roll Was King: The Awesomeness of Led Zeppelin” And another titled “The Zen of Pink Floyd (or Why Messages Spread)” Right up your alley. Cheers!
Great article, and some great principles you touch on here. Though my wife is a bigger Metallica fan then I am I still enjoy listen to their Music. #2 Attitude is a main principle that I focus on with my blog.
Ready Fire Aim is a principle I think I once picked up through Tony Robbins. My favorite Metallica song is Whiskey in the jar. Which actually is old irish song. But was made famous by Thin Lizzy. And one principle Tony often talks about is to model other peoples success (NOT COPY).
A lot of great principles to pick up on here. Rock On!!
Glad you dug it, Are. You bring up some interesting influencers. I thought triangulating Metallica, Jon Stewart and Kelly Oxford was a lot but adding Thin Lizzy and Tony Robbins to the mix for inspiration, I like that!
Definitely right up my street Mark, thank you.
I do something similar on my own site, but pairing bands with the process of drawing and creating images (I’m an illustrator), so love the connections you make in your own writing.
Will definitely check out your site, and look forward to reading more of your articles 🙂
I really enjoyed this post, Mark! I used to be heavy into hard rock (pardon the pun) at the time of the “black” album and enjoyed Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc. These past 10 years I have completely switched to mainstream jazz(!), but I can still relate. I especially liked their acoustic ballads, which no genre of music can do as well as a heavy metal band, simply because of all the raw power bubbling and brewing under the surface, threatening to burst forth but never doing so. So I guess I have to turn my hand to blogging now? Lol
Btw, just read your Jimi Hendrix piece on CopyBlogger. Mind-blowing, man! I still think “Axis Bold As Love” is his best recording…
Thanks, man RE: the Copyblogger article. Can’t argue with you on Axis Bold As Love. My fave too! BTW regarding that Copyblogger piece, tomorrow is Jimi’s birthday and if you visit my blog you’ll find a really cool little gift for all from me. But it’s really super secret. Don’t tell anyone 🙂
Hey Les, maybe you don’t HAVE to start blogging but with those influences and now mainstream jazz it just might give you the foundation to build up an army and do some free improvisation along the way when it comes to blog topics. Just saying… 😉
You know it’s sad but true… Metallica (my all time favorite band) started out giving aways tapes and encouraging free sharing then slammed the hammer down on Napster. Let’s remember to remain true to our fans, especially the early ones, and always embrace how they helped us get our start.
Great points, Gina. I have a definite opinion about Metallica’s stance with Napster but it wasn’t appropriate for this particular post. But being true to your fans is crucial to building that army. Well said.
You had me hooked in the teaser Mark, and it’s a great post too. Yes, the parallels between blogging and rock stardom are so similar, although somewhere in there perhaps is the X ingredient or the Lucky Break (both of which are only possible after years of hard slog and dedication). I saw Metallica in Cape Town, for the first time with my teenage children. I wasn’t blogging at the time, but I became a fan straight away – their army of raging fans intrigued me too 🙂 And now nearly 10 years later I’m slowly building my following … of much older women!
Loved this post. It’s funny how I marginally liked Metallica in the 80s and how nostalgic I feel about them now, but that’s besides the point. I love this post because it reiterates what my husband said about indie band and indie authors and how similar they are. And you nailed it on the head and more. Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂
Have to agree with you, Tam. I wasn’t really into Metallica when they first started out but when the Black album came out I was hooked. Yeah, music, writing and that thing about breaking through and resonating with an audience where your work starts to spread organically, there’s a lot of correlation. As someone who does both (music and writing) it’s a subject that’s very close to home. Glad you dug it!
Thanks Johanna. Regarding that lucky break, I prefer the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Very much applies here when we’re talking about world domination.
Great idea! I am huge Metallica fan and I really liked your post 🙂
Are you kidding me? Metallica as a good example of audience building? They have fought their fans in court for years because they shared their music! Also Metallica is the only band that not only did not condemn using their music for torture but were proud of it! I liked their first album. Everything after that was commercial “buy me” crap.
Remember, Tad this wasn’t a gushing fan letter to Metallica. It was about how they built a massive audience, which is what this blog focuses on: boosting your traffic. And since they were playing stadiums before they had a record deal I felt they had a lot to offer others trying to build their audience. Yeah, we could go on about favorite/least favorite albums, etc. but that’s for another time and place. Rock on!
[ Smiles ] Using Metallica’s success as an analogy for blogging is brilliant!
I found your article to be inspirational. Bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart. Great job, my friend.
Thanks Kapil! Then I did my job 🙂
I feel like a little out-numbered here! (And my thoughts on Metallica aside) …
Confidence plays a big part. Is it confidence or ego? I’m not sure. Probably both. And special rocket fuel.
I think it’s important to raise the issue of confidence and the part in plays in what people set out to do, the possibilities they achieve and their ingenuity and tenacity. And what they think is possible. Sometimes, it’s just about having the confidence to blast your own path through the norm.
This confidence part is often overlooked. Sometimes people have to work on their confidence before they can do epic shit.
As for creating raving fans I think it’s all about finding the people who are bored, dissatisfied, who just know there is something better but can’t find it; people searching for a leader, and reaching out and leading them.
It’s about understanding that people want to belong. To be appreciated and included.
And it’s also a little bit about training people to become members of your audience. To know what their role is in the bigger group because often they feel that they haven’t got a role; that they don’t belong, no one wants them.
Then being confident enough to believe you can lead them, letting all your frailties hang out.
All good points, Tom. Sometimes ego and confidence go hand in hand. The ego works to push your work out there because Damnit! you need to say what you’ve got to say to the world.
You have to have that confidence in this game because wallflowers just aren’t going to get heard in this vast sea of noise. There can be a lot of lonely time where you could second guess your work trying to build that audience, which is why in the end that confidence only works if you’ve really got the killer goods (like Mettalica) to back it up so that your work can eventually be found and spread by (hopefully) a raving audience.
And yeah, people do need to feel they belong to a community. I think you train that audience through your engagement with them and how you direct them to interact with your work and the community.
But the message has to be bigger than the messenger (to quote Seth Godin) in order for them to want to stick around and passionately consume and spread your work to others. Well said and much to consider.
Good stuff. Metallica is a great example of what happens when you fly your own flag. They didn’t try to change for radio or MTV (until later in their career) and it worked. And an example of what not to do by changing what works — when they started to change, it worked for a little while, but they isolated some of their biggest fans. And an example that there is always another opportunity since now it seems they’re back on track.
Regardless of how you feel about them, you have to give them respect for putting their kind of music (and variations of it) on the map.
Thanks for reminding me about the importance of being larger than life in the eyes of our audience, Mark. We’ve got to be heard above the noise and sell the dream. And we’ve got to keep at it, adapting to our audience’s changing desires (that change we first inspired). Or else, they’ll quickly find someone else to lead the way.
You make a very good point here! The comparison between musicians and bloggers is right on the mark. I happen to be a fan of Metallica from their early days when I was a teenager and still am. Even though almost everyone else around me turned their noses up at the mention of heavy metal or Metallica, I didn’t care. It’s what spoke to me and made me motivated.
I find bands such as Metallica and a few others inspiring to keep on doing what you believe in no matter what most others think about it. For every 10 people that don’t like it, there is probably that one person out there that does get it.
The bands that do succeed are the ones that go out there and find those people that can relate to them and love what they do. I certainly see how this can relate to bloggers too, in a big way.
Thank you for sharing this Mark. Your post has greatly inspired and reminded me that even those, like Metallica, started out somewhere as nothing and look where they are now!
Metallica is a great example on how to work with the audience – even after 13 years of providing crap they sell millions of cds.
This post is amazing. Thanks for the advice, analogy, inspiration…. It boils down to passion again and again. I linked over here from another amazing post.