Why You Should Channel the Underground Rock Community For Better Marketing

Like many people, I’ve always been a fan of a good underdog story. There’s just something so satisfying about the classic David and Goliath story playing out over and over again, which is why movies like Rocky and Rudy are so popular.

We love to see someone triumph over adversity, especially when the stakes seem unbelievably high and the odds are stacked against them.

That’s one of the reasons I love running Monster Riff, an online music blog, to support the underground rock scene.

Here, you’ll find thousands of talented bands and musicians who are actively marketing their brands while learning on the fly, channeling their scrappy attitude and grit to reach a wider audience.

And that element of scrappiness is what’s really powerful. Because with the right strategy and insights, you don’t need huge marketing budgets to be successful.

Today, let’s explore some strategies from the underground music scene—those rock and metal bands who often don’t have a label, but manage to find their niche and develop deep ties with the community.

Lessons Worth Stealing From Underground Rock and Metal

Here are a few marketing strategies worth taking from the music world:

1. Work to build a community around your brand.

One of the biggest mistakes I see new and small businesses make is prioritizing the product or service over the consumer. In some cases, they’ll spend weeks or even months perfecting their product or course or branding, and only then will they take it to the market, seemingly out of the blue to their followers.

This rarely works. If you don’t have an active community eagerly invested in your offering, you’ll have an extremely difficult time making sales.

But the smartest bands in the underground rock and metal communities actively connect with their fans on social media over their mutual love of music. They’ll talk about their favorite bands, they’ll debate over classic albums, and they’ll hype up their friends in the community.

And when they have news to share—like a new band member or an upcoming album or EP—they’ll share the news with vigor. And because they’ve already invested so much time building goodwill with the community, their fans are excited on their behalf, actively amplifying their messaging by engaging with their posts.

The Lesson: When marketing, put your community before your brand. Once you show you genuinely care for them, they’ll actively care for you.

2. Find a niche and drill down.

The music scene is filled with niches. Although I’m using the term “underground rock” in this article, this is a niche packed with other niches. From “underground rock,” we could talk about indie rock or desert rock, which we could then drill down into psych rock or stoner rock—and we could potentially dice those up even further.

Whether they realize it or not, most bands apply this idea of leveraging a niche in their marketing.

The acronym “FFO” is used quite often in band Instagram profiles, and it’s a quick letter combination that stands for “for fans of.” In practice, you might see something along the lines of: “We are Black Sabbath. FFO: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Judas Priest.” Those three letters help to explain what a band sounds like, which inevitably draws some people in and alienates others.

But the simple act of comparing one band to another helps the band drill further down into its niche, appealing even more to the people who matter most of all—the people who will genuinely care.

This is also a classic sales technique. When we admit something we’re offering isn’t for everyone, we close the door to its availability ever so slightly, and that helps spark additional desire among curious prospects.

When you niche down, you become more valuable. By cutting away the fluff, you can hone your products and services to be exemplary in your field. Over time, you and your brand become the go-to resource for your offering.

The Lesson: Be focused in your products and services, and be clear in who and what you stand for. The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to tap into the right communities.

3. Be Good to Your Partners—And Share Followers.

Remember when we talked about building a community a moment ago? Bands and musicians often do this by collaborating together.

The split EP or album, when two artists or bands contribute songs to a single product, is especially popular in the underground scene because it’s the perfect avenue for exposing your sound to another band’s fanbase.

At the same time, these bands actively support and rally around each other.

Truly and selflessly hyping up your partners is important for two reasons:

  1. It builds that relationship even further.
  2. It compels the partner to hype you up even further—which can help you tap into their followers and community.

You don’t necessarily need to copy the split EP/album strategy and create a new product or service with your partners (though there is a time and place for doing so), but you should be actively invested in each other’s success.

The Lesson: Your partners are more than just referral sources and a means to an end. Build those relationships to build up each business in the process.

4. Be Consistent In Your Marketing.

I reviewed nearly 50 albums and EPs through Monster Riff in 2021. Some of the best were from bands who are regularly inconsistent or even non-existent in their marketing.

So, while it’s great that they received public praise from a third-party, most people will never hear about them or their work because:

  1. They didn’t amplify that praise in their own marketing.
  2. They haven’t built up a fanbase of dedicated listeners passionate about their success.

Success comes from repeatedly taking the right steps in our marketing, and we can’t expect business to meaningfully improve over time if we’re not taking active steps to improve it.

The Lesson: If you use social media, use social media consistently. If you use email marketing, use email consistently. If you blog, use blogging consistently. Whatever you do, be consistent for long-term success.

Channeling Your Inner Rock Star

Within the rock genre, there’s a certain level of respect and admiration for the DIY musician—a musician who’s willing to run everything by themselves, without the financial backing or support of a label.

But DIY doesn’t need to mean uninformed or low quality.

By adopting some of the practices we listed above, you can enhance the quality of your marketing and see better overall results from your campaigns.