By: Ellen Eldridge
Most musicians want more than just to write a ripping solo or the lyrics to a song that will melt a woman’s heart. We want to connect and we want to make such a difference inspiring others that they sing along at our shows, buy our albums and buy our t-shirts and merchandise.
While there’s no single answer to how to quickly build a Facebook following—at least, not one that will generate truly loyal fans, engaging fans from an honest perspective helps.
Patrick Kennison, vocalist and guitarist for Heaven Below, personally submitted his band’s Electronic Press Kit to Target Audience Magazine via Sonicbids on July 26, 2011. The automated response said:
“This is just a form letter confirming your submission. I do personally respond to email replies and assure you as soon as your submission is noted, my staff of freelance writers has a chance to go through and listen to EPKs to see what “grabs” them. For this listing we will all vote to choose the indie artist to feature, but if you wish to contact me I encourage you to do so. My name is Ellen and Target Audience Magazine is my ‘band.’ It is my dream job that I hope will one day be my day job.”
Believe it or not, very few promoters (or representatives from bands) bothered to reply. When someone did take the time to get to know the potential reviewer or in this case the magazine owner, a connection was established. Most reviewers are writers and music lovers who want to be appreciated as much for their talents as those they write about.
Kennison was one of those driven artists who cared enough to go the extra mile and connect. He didn’t write me a three-page email and he didn’t fake flatter the magazine or me. What he did write was short and to the point. It made an impression and caused me to take the time to click over and listen to his band.
“Great to hear from you, even if it is an automated response,” Kennison wrote. “Please make sure you check us out at www.heavenbelow.com. We’ve already received national radio play and are anxiously preparing to release our new album. We just shot a pro music video w/ 2 of Hollywood’s most prestigious directors for a child abuse charity. Please hit me back if you would like to see it and hear more about this charity. Many Established bands are involved w/ it. I’ll spare you the name drops:).
Heaven Below didn’t end up as the featured indie band that summer, but one of the staff writers reviewed the Falling From Zero release a few months later, and Patrick and I became Facebook friends—not the page for Target Audience Magazine and the page for Heaven Below, but Patrick Kennison and I.
And that was that, for a while—years, actually. I did sincerely like the music and I meant to connect on Facebook, but I connect with many bands and many artists without really expecting much to come of it. But, slowly, over the next two to three years, I started noticing Kennison more and more. I would generally scroll through my feed and laugh at an update, occasionally clicking “like.”
I honestly don’t remember how many friends Kennison had on Facebook when we connected, but it was before Falling From Zero was released. Kennison managed to create a connection based on his true personality, without any pretense or purposefully trying to “market” his band.
“I used to be criticized for being so accessible,” Kennison said about everyone from publicity people to exes. “But they’ve changed their tune.”
The way Kennison approaches his social media (on Facebook) involves taking notes from bands like Pantera on how to treat fans. “I take a personal approach,” he said. The balancing act involves getting people genuinely interested in your opinion and who you are as a person. “When you act interested, they will listen to you,” Kennison said relating social media and self-promotion to dating.
Kennison describes himself as one of seven kids who “has no problem conversing,” he said. “I don’t wear sunglasses in the club and I’m not introverted. The truth is, I genuinely want to entertain myself—I get bored and depressed like anyone else. I use comedy to selflessly entertain myself.”
The idea that social media and promotion is more about energy resonates with the nature of the relationship between a band and its fans. We all want the same things and when people connect to the music, they often feel like the connect to the artist as well. Kennison has taken advantage of this relationship by openly being himself on Facebook and generating interest in his band from people who are interested in his posts. And he does this without posting requests for friends to “like” his band Page. In fact, Kennison does not run the page for Heaven Below, which currently has fewer “likes” than Kennison has friends.
The energy and the integrity to keep up as an entertainer drives Kennison, and this energy led him to the projects and people in his life currently. He describes Heaven Below as “four immature guys on stage,” and he found a way to balance the levity with his more introspective album released in August 2013, The Deadlight Sessions. “It made a lot of sense to be able to have a yin and yang,” he said. “This album balances it out like Alice In Chains did with Jar of Flies.”
Kennison’s commitment to connecting, finding inspiration in others and networking from a promotional, as well as personable, perspective led to William Shatner agreeing to appear in a video from Heaven Below. “I do a lot of studio sessions and got asked to play guitar on ‘Seeking Major Tom’ and then was asked to come back and provide backing vocals,” Kennision said about connecting with Shatner. “I just made friends with the guy, and he said if I ever needed anything to let him know.”
When Kennison called Shatner and asked for him to be involved with Heaven Below’s cover of the Rush song “Subdivsions,” Shatner agreed and even tweeted a shout out that earned the video more YouTube hits.
Concerning the idea of growing a fanbase via Facebook or using any social media to engage fans, the trick is to stay sincere. When you know the meaning behind what you created as an artist, you can connect with others and inspire them to interact. Pushing out posts begging your Facebook friends to listen to your band will largely go ignored, but when you take notice of them and engage their energy than you can inspire anyone from your ex-girlfriend to William Shatner.
Kennison says he will maintain his personal Facebook page instead of switching to a page (where an unlimited amount of fans can follow as opposed to the friends limit of 5000 placed on personal accounts).
“I’m at the limit now so I have to clean house,” Kennison said. “But I would rather keep the page. I will never have a celebrity page. I’m gonna keep it real.”
For anyone who hasn’t heard Heaven Below and those in the Anaheim, Calif., area, Heaven Below will play two shows at the NAMM show, one with Queensryche at the House of Blues.