The Fanbase Builder Programme

A professional development programme from Help Musicians and Pathways Into Music

Take your music career to the next level and grow your fanbase with the Fanbase Builder Programme from CMU’s Pathways Into Music Foundation and Help Musicians.

This ten-week professional development programme provides early-career artists with a series of practical online and in-person workshops that explain how frontline artists go about building a business around their music-making, with practical advice on how to effectively release tracks and grow a fanbase. Details of what the workshops cover is available below.

Each participating artist also undertakes a fanbase building project during the programme, most likely linked to a new release.

Having been piloted in Northern Ireland in 2021, look out for details of future Fanbase Builder programmes here very soon.


How do you go about building a fanbase and a business around your music-making? In this session we breakdown the career of a frontline artist into ten steps, discovering that the conventional music industry only really gets properly involved around about step four. What do artists need to do to build momentum during the DIY Phase? What tools and programmes offer support? And what are future music industry business partners looking for when seeking new artists in which to invest time and money?

When you write songs and record tracks you create copyrights. Copyright then gives you control over what happens to that music and you can exploit those controls to generate income around your music-making. Copyright control is automatic, but getting it right requires some important conversations and administration. Get to grips with how music copyright works, what you need to do as soon as you start making music, and how your music rights will start to make you money.

For many artists live is traditionally a key revenue stream. For new artists, it is also an important marketing platform. Though, with the live sector pretty much shut down for more than a year by COVID-19, the live side of the music business is very much in flux. However, the fundamentals of putting on shows, going on tour and getting booked to play remain the same. In this session we run through all those fundamentals, plus we put the spotlight on the recent livestreaming boom and how it might fit in to the music industry long-term.

We call the first phase of any artist’s career the DIY Phase. Though that doesn’t really mean ‘do it yourself’. At the outset collaborating with other music-makers and creators is key, as is utilising the various digital tools and platforms that help artists distribute their music, organise their rights, find an audience, and talk to and sell things to the fanbase. Then, as momentum builds, music industry business partners will want to come on board, including a manager, lawyer, agent, label, publisher and more. In this session we discuss what effective collaboration looks like, and run through all the key tools, platforms and partners.

Social media and other digital channels play a key role in the fanbase building process during the DIY Phase, as well as being an important part of any release campaign. But which social media? And what should you be doing with each different platform? This session provides a practical guide to using social media as marketing tools, plus explains how the artist website and mailing list are still an important part of the mix.

This full-day session offers practical advice on the music-making process, including songwriting sessions, recording sessions and music production. What is the respective role of the producer and sound engineer? How can you get the most out of your home recording and production set-up? How can you get the most out of studio sessions? What are your options for mixing and mastering? And what support is available along the way in terms of money, resources, information and wellbeing?

Once you’ve made the record, how do you get it to market? This full-day session talks through how you plan, deliver and evaluate a release campaign. It explains the different ways to get music to market and what services you can expect from a DIY distributor. It looks at the different ways you can go about promoting the release and encouraging people to listen. And it considers what support is available along the way in terms of money, resources, information and wellbeing.

What role do media, playlists and other influencers play in getting your music to an audience and growing your fanbase? And how can you go about influencing these influencers? This session looks at the various steps you can take to get your music in front of relevant journalists, editors, reviewers, DJs, radio programmers and playlist curators, as well as influencers on social media and key decision makers within the music industry.

Music marketing today involves creating and sharing a wide assortment of visual content – artwork, images and videos that populate social media and other digital channels; stand out in the feeds of fans and potential fans; and encourage a reaction and response. But how can you produce great marketing content on a super tight budget? This session looks at content creation, offering practical tips on making great content, preparing it for different social media, and responding to how your fans respond.

As soon as people start interacting with you or your music online, somebody somewhere is gathering data about those people. This fan data will play an important role in growing your artist business, but how do you make sure you have access to it, and in what ways does it add value? This session will look at all the different kinds fan data and explain how each data type can be utilised by artists at each stage of their career.

Financial support is available from a variety of organisations in order to support a range of activities at various points in a musician’s career in the form of grants. In this module, we look at grant funds available to musicians in NI, and the process of application. Additionally, Help Musicians and its partners offer a range of support for a musician’s physical and mental well-being – here we offer some insight into best practice for preserving your health and wellness through the rigours of a career in music.

Artists need to grow their fanbase to drive streams, sell tickets and excite music industry business partners. But the fanbase in itself is a potential revenue stream. You need to work out who your fans are and what they will spend money on, and then work out how to provide those products, services and experiences in a cost effective way. This session will look at the potential of monetising the direct-to-fan relationship.