For the importance we place on community, it remains a challenge to define it.
Budding independent artists are told they only need 100 true fans to build a self-sustaining practice (the holy grail of internet fame), but it can be a tough road to climb to even connect with your first few. It’s not terrible advice—it’s just a lot easier said than done!
When I first started releasing music, I quickly learned I had no idea what a true fan might look like. I’d meet plenty of people, in Twitter Spaces or rumbling around in a discord, but they were all there to build their own fan base as well! So, we all did the only thing we really could do: we built friendships rather than the collectorships we’d initially sought.
Those friendships developed into a community—and it’s led me to a deeper understanding of what’s possible when you’re working with others toward a common goal. Without institutional support, independent artists have managed to sell out massive NFT releases, throw IRL music showcases, and build true support systems for one another.
We’re continuing to open doors for ourselves and others, and successes can often develop out of happenstance one-to-one interactions that grow into more. That’s community too—the individual relationships built within the broader network.
Starting out as an artist, I had no idea how to develop my community. I’ve since realized that it’s a practice: the people you meet and connect with daily become your support system, and the most random of connections sometimes have a huge positive impact on your artistic future.
To get to the heart of how these ideas of community play out for real, I reached out to a few leaders for their thoughts.
Jadyn Violet, Carla The Poet, Martin Gerber, and Evaflow Skystarter have each developed a unique approach to growing their following. They have leveraged the tools of the trade—Twitter Spaces, Discord, Instagram, and Tik Tok—to grow their audiences across the internet and IRL. Their artistic journeys have led to different experiences, however, and each has their own take on the opportunities and pitfalls of community building.
First—why is community important to you?
Martin Gerber: Going back to early childhood, I grew up in an area without a neighborhood. It led to lots of isolation, and I remember visiting kids in other neighborhoods with communities and feeling the contrast. It was bittersweet to visit them, and tough to head home afterwards.
Jadyn Violet: Community is something I’ve always wanted, even before making music. It’s one of the most basic human necessities. Living in central New Jersey, there’s not much of that around here. I just wanted to find people to co-create with. It was really difficult to find—even with platforms with as much distribution as Instagram and Tik Tok, it was hard.
Carla The Poet: The ability to connect with other like-minded individuals to create, gather inspiration and support each other is why community is important to me. As artists we can create alone but we wouldn’t truly be able to grow and prosper without the support of others, whether that’s through feedback, or showing up for each other.
Evaflow Skystarter: Community is important when understanding and controlling your reach and the people you want to connect with. Algorithms have a lot of control—being active and intentional about their actions makes a big difference. It’s having someone else that cares about what you have going on, but then also you caring what they have going on.
JV: Community equals sustainability and longevity in any ecosystem—business or otherwise. Web3 showed me the potential of why you want to pursue that. Technology creates the opportunity for people to come together … we see the conversation about community now a lot more than we did the past five years.
MG: There’s so much isolation in general. Online community can be very important to people who suffered from isolation early on in life. The way forward out of that for me is to strengthen and foster community.
ES: Our online relationships elevate social media to a reciprocal thing where we can grow together. It elevates the relationship. It makes us ask: why are we on the internet to begin with?
CTP: Through the connections we develop, we can find out so much more about ourselves and our art that would help us get to places that we wouldn’t have been able to get to alone.
How would you describe your own community?
JV: My community stemmed from me wanting to provide value to people. I started on an individual basis, listening to people on one-on-one calls. It became an endless value chain as I went from person to person, growing what I had to offer others and what they could offer me.
CTP: I would describe my community as collaborative. I personally don’t feel like I contribute to one community but a network of communities that all show up for me the same. Through this network it allows me to branch out, connect, and contribute in places that I may not have been able to from having to dedicate most of my time to one group of people.
MG: It’s a 24/7 party, and a crazy thing to be a part of. Twitter spaces is what enabled it—it changed the nature of online communities and how they tap into web3. And, as things have progressed, spaces allow us to have a broader conversation about which online habits are healthy and which are dangerous.
ES: My community is still defining itself—it’s still in progress. It’s still even taking shape in my mind. I want it to be more than just around me, I want the people surrounding me to help each other as well. A place where people come in and touch base with each other. Being a Skystarter is about tenacity—getting up more times than you fall. Knowing you want to move from where you are at to a better place.
MG: I’d been on Soundcloud and Twitter for a decade or more trying to collaborate and it just never came together. Eight months into the web3 space and I’ve got more collabs than I can keep up with. On an artistic level, the degree of interaction is completely different.
JV: My daily Twitter spaces and the Ultraviolet Rave stem from the same idea: give people contexts to come together. Especially people who have never had that opportunity—maybe they just need someone there to provide it for them.
CTP: I’ve found [building a community network] a lot more beneficial and exciting than building up a community focused around one person, mindset, or idea. This has also allowed me to meet people who have the same mindset towards community building themselves.
MG: There’s still more questions to be answered for me: what about the collector’s journey and meaning of art, and how can we involve more people in that process? This feels urgent to me in a different way than making art does. My reason for building community has shifted—not just online but IRL as well. It feels like uniting all the spirit rivers of a mountain.
ES: It’s a huge question with community: where does it live? Where does it come together? It’s something I’m actively thinking about as a growing concept.
What’s the first thing someone should do if they want to start building community?
CTP: Start reaching out to people.
ES: Find meaning in what you're doing so that even if you post and don't reach anyone, you still find fulfillment.
JV: Go into it not focused on your own product. Off the bat, just learn and listen. You’d be surprised at how many of your questions will be answered.
MG: People should start by joining communities. A lot of people come in talking about what they’re going to do but don’t ask others what they’re working on. They come in and talk about communities but they’re not actually a part of any. They’re poaching!
CTP: If you’re curious about something or like something that someone is doing, tell them or ask them that question. Interact with the people you enjoy publicly; we all appreciate when our supporters love us out loud. Join communities to see what people are getting into and how you can contribute & don’t be afraid to have conversations.
JV: My approach was to join three discords, and then just be super active. I gave a thoughtful response to every single message that came through. If someone shared their music, I’d listen to it and give feedback. From there you can reach out to the people you meet and chat about their journey—then call them one-on-one.
ES: It's tough … you’re going to have to go the extra mile. Algorithms are set up to reward the people who are being present, and it can mess with your mental health a lot. If you’re going to build at your own pace, do so with love. Do it one to one, with zero expectations. If you want to make waves, maybe you have to go all in.
MG: You truly need to get in there to be successful. I immersed myself in communities out of self-need—it was healing for me. And then I started trying to figure out how to give back.
About The Author
Spence the Guru
Spence the Guru is a marketer, copywriter, and musician based out of Brooklyn, NY. He’s primarily interested in developing sustainable networks both URL and IRL and can be found WRLD building at wavWRLD.