So the question you need to ask yourself as you navigate through the industry is do you try and stick with one genre, or do you touch on many? Do you become hyper knowledgeable of one specific part of the music world, or do you try and engage with as many people as possible? While on the one hand niche marketing certainly is the future, there is definitely something to be said for bands who are able to reach beyond that niche and work their way into other ones. If nothing else, you learn a lot. I think it’s definitely worth spending a little bit of time on both, you look at what works for people across the music industry and then try and take advantage of various sides of it. Realize that maybe your niche doesn’t have the most money involved but don’t sell out, instead realize how other niches could be turned towards you – let me explain.
Many of the most successful bands I work with or observe, don’t really fit into any one specific niche because they are able to create their own void and thus attract the interest of multiple. For example, Mothership, a hard hitting rock and roll band have been able to use their reputation as a great live act to attract straight death metal fans in addition to more mainstream rock fans who might never have been interested in what they had to offer. The band gleefully has a ‘the more the merrier’ type of mentality and uses that to cater to all different sorts of fans. Obviously they are a bit more mainstream than your typical heavy act, but the point stands. If you want a heavier band who were able to cross over without making compromises just look at someone like Nomadic Folk Metallers Tengger Cavalry – they have managed to attract a more mainstream audience because they are just so fucking weird. Who wouldn’t want to listen to heavy metal influenced by Central Asian music? The bands narrative generates intrigue.
Of course – being weird or mainstream isn’t the only way to get fans from other genres to come over into what you are doing. If the music and message is powerful enough then you are always going to be able to find new fans who want to buy into your narrative. That’s how pop punkers Neck Deep have been able to figure out how to appeal to countless hardcore kids and pop fans with a sound that probably wouldn’t normally appeal to either category. Obviously their music is very very good but their ability to show off punk roots with a pop facade that has brought folks into the band. Trash Talk are perhaps an even better example of this, a hardcore band who blew up on the strength of support from rappers. On top of crossing over they were able to bring hardcore marketing techniques into the rap world and learned rap marketing techniques for the hardcore world. That might seem like an unlikely crossover but the artists involved all seem to realize that they hold the same values, and while they might express themselves differently the are angry for the same reasons.
That’s what’s really going to give you staying power by the way – making it clear that everyone is welcome. Sure you could say, “Oh well I only want to work with the most evil black metal fans who only listen to Darkthrone in their basements” and that’s fine I guess, but that puts a glass ceiling on what you are going to do. Even Darkthrone don’t do that! Instead, they say, “Hey, we play crust punk but with a touch of Motorhead” then suddenly you find crusties and metalheads falling in love with your sound. (For those taking notes at home, that seems to be the entire ethos behind Panzerbastard) Obviously I come from the metal world which tends to be very insular, but a lot of bands I see really love it when people from outside of the metal realm express interest in what pop and country people have to say about their music, and oftentimes metal dudes are more interested in that music then you might initially think.
Keep in mind, going too far outside your niche or changing your sound can be disastrous. Sure it might work for a band like Metallica, whose Black Album still outsells pretty much all of their peers on the weekly charts, but can you really argue that even that went that well in the long run? The Black Album led to Load and Reload and eventually made Metallica a laughingstock. People see through bullshit, as much as you might try to confusticate it. I know that’s not always the easiest thing to accept or something that you want to be a part of all the time, but that’s just how it goes. Historically bands who try to move away from their old sound to sell more copies end up doing worse or losing their credibility. Sure you and I maybe involved in this for different reasons, but I think we all just want to be real motherfuckers and get some long term appreciation for our work. The options are in front of you and it’s up to you to decide what to do.
As for now though don’t be afraid to reach out. Play a cross genre show, suggest a band outside of your genre to your fans. Hell – even Fallout Boy is doing it, with their drummer reviving his long dormant hardcore band this year. If a marketing strategy is good enough for Fallout Boy then you should probably take a long hard look at it. Odds are you are into music outside of just your genre, and not just obvious acts like The Beatles. Instead take a look at what you might be interested in working with over the long term and try to piece together a way to showcase your taste far outside the conventional limitations of your genre.