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  • Writer's pictureKate Brunotts

17 Artists Who Built Cult Followings By Creating Experiences Around Their Music

Music isn’t the only thing that sells music. In fact, there have been a number of artists who have greatly enhanced their audiences or cultivated a following simply by creating unique experiences or technology around their music.

Here are just a few of those artists and the lessons we can learn from their marketing and creation strategies.

17 Artists Who Built A Following Through Creating An Experience Around Their Music

Here are some artists we can learn from who built or enhanced their following by creating experiences outside of their discography alone. These takeaways certainly translate to artists of any stature, so be sure to read through these stand-out stories!

1.Dr. Dre: Build A Business

2.Radiohead: Know Your Audience

3.Dev Lemons: Educate & Entertain

4.Conan Gray: Your Artistry Is More Than Your Music

5.The Weeknd: Create Mystery

6.Gwen Stefani: Find Your Fashion Style

7.Teejayx6: Speak to A Niche Community

8.Courtney Barnett: Build A Music Tech Pioneer

9.Poppy: Play A Character

10.Oliver Tree: Leverage Comedy

11.Gorillaz: Make A Statement

12.Imogen Heap: Make Your Own Instrument

13. FKA Twigs: Know The Industry To Be The Industry

14.Lil Nas X: Dancing To The Top of The Charts

15. Olivia Rodrigo: A Powerful Love Triangle

16. Brian Eno: Creating A Sonic Watermark

17. Amanda Palmer: Creative Crowdfunding

1. Dr. Dre: Build A Business

There's no denying that Dr. Dre was widely successful even before he established Beats in 2006. That being said, he skyrocketed in profitable producer stardom by identifying a market hole in the world of audio: The included earbuds with Apple iPods simply wasn't cutting it for the average music listener.

Fast forward to 2014, Dre sold to Apple for a record-breaking 3 billion dollars. Even so, the brand still includes his name, undoubtedly leading listeners to his extensive catalog of music. Creating a business isn't just good for your music as a whole, but it can also lead to the financial freedom that many starving artists simply don't have access to.

2. Radiohead: Know Your Audience

Radiohead is known for having one of the most dedicated audiences to date, and that's no accident. Sure, the band has critically acclaimed music, but they also offer they audience immersive experiences that speak to their interests.

Their app PolyFauna 2 plays music from the famed band while you explore an endless amounts of VR world right from your phone. The app is regularly updated with new worlds an gives listeners a unique listening opportunity that most reviews find "incredibly calming" and addictive. It's a win-win.

3. Dev Lemons: Educate and Entertain

Dev Lemons has built her up and coming artist platform by cultivating a network of musicians and tastemakers through her video series Song Psychology. She now regularly cohosts Spotify's coveted Lorem show and has grown her own artist audience to over 100K monthly listeners and plenty of editorial playlists under her belt due to her willingness to share some of her sonic secrets and infectious personality (along with good music).

4. Conan Gray: Your Artistry Is More Than Your Music

Now one of the most exciting voices in pop music today with over 18 million monthly listeners, Conan Gray was once a Texas-based vlogger, creating YouTube content mostly centered around an average teen life and drawing with the occasional acoustic cover mixed in every once in a while.

When he released his first song and DIY music video for, "Grow" his fans were already drawn to Conan's personality and nostalgic editing skills. He effectively created the world he wanted his music to live in before putting out his music, transcending him into stardom with just a released single song under his belt.

5. The Weeknd: Create Mystery

The Weeknd is one of the few artists who was able to truly let the music speak for itself. The extremely popular artist original posted his own creations anonymously onto YouTube for 2 years before one of his videos came across none other than Drake.

The mystery behind the artist's persona got people talking, leading to some of his earliest performances to sell out. As he steps into the limelight, Abel continues to reveal more of his persona, but not so much that his original allure becomes mute.

6. Gwen Stefani: Find Your Fashion Style

One of the best things you can do as a musician is cultivate experiences in other art forms in order to extend what your music represents. Gwen Stefani took this to new heights, with her well-loved fashion line L.A.M.B which regularly made its rounds at New York Fashion Week.

While the singer has taken a step back to commit solely to an eyewear line, it's safe to say that her bustling brand certainly helped boost her reputation as an artist of multiple disciplined and transformed eyes to ears for her music.

7. Teejayx6: Speak to A Niche Community

TeejayX6 certainly isn't your typical success story or someone to look up to in terms of marketing strategy --- but you have to respect this rapper's unique rise to fame.

As an avid member of the scamming community, Teejayx6 went viral after creating a song that taught prospective scammers how to execute a scam step by step. Where's there's risk, there is a deeper level of investment, and there's no denying that TeejayX6 has built a cult following by speaking to his (hopefully) unique truth.

8. Courtney Barnett: Build A Music Tech Pioneer

Courtney Barnett brought music to the people, literally. By offering a free stem mixer on her site, the producer, signer, and songwriter offered an immersive experience for promotion and play.

This ingenious marketing strategy allowed fans to appreciate songs as they were but also in individual parts, crafting their own listening experience as they saw fit.

9. Poppy: Play A Character

Chances are, you remember Poppy from her internet classic "I'm Poppy" that circulated the internet via 2015. Poppy started out as a mysterious, sometimes eerie bubblegum pop star and has since transitioned into an unpredictable metal sound.

To this day, Poppy still keeps her character consistent, even in interviews, though she's notably more relaxed than she was in her earlier work.

10. Oliver Tree: Leverage Comedy

Oliver Tree is certainly a skilled musician, but one of the best things he brings to his listeners is his absurd persona and comedic antics. Just look at him crashing the world's biggest scooter:

Oliver is a master at converting eyes to ears and is hard to ignore with his production chops and unique voice.

11. Gorillaz: Make A Statement

The band Gorillaz was originally created to make commentary on music as a whole --- all music felt so homogenous in the eyes of the band, so they felt like anyone could do it. This lead to the development of the first alternative cartoon band which unassumingly earned the loyalty of misfits and music lovers everywhere.

Gorillaz proves that if you start with a mission statement, the right audience will follow and align with not just your music, but also your message.

12. Imogen Heap: Make Your Own Instrument

Music tech is constantly evolving. No one understands this better than Imogen Heap with the development of her Mi Mu gloves which allow musicians to make music in a 3D space (sound familiar)?

The gloves can now be pre-ordered so that music enthusiasts around the world can create music through movement. This cutting edge development has certainly boosted Imogen Heap's representation as a skilled musician and producer. Not that she needed any help in that department.

13. FKA Twigs: Know The Industry To Be The Industry

Before she was the critically acclaimed artist and producer we know today, she was a backup dancer for years in the industry. Most notably, as one of the marionettes in Jessie J's "Price Tag":

Twigs carved valuable connections with people within the industry all while learning to producerher own tracks. FKA twigs was able to leverage her connections and reputation with some of her earliest work referencing her behind the scenes approach in "video girl".

14.Lil Nas X: Dancing To The Top of The Charts

Lil Nas X is undoubtedly one of the best music marketers of our age, but it's still worth examining his origin story into mainstream pop culture. Before "Old Town Road" became a record-breaking hit, Lil Nas X created his own challenge on Tiktok.

He spent months posting his version of the challenge, until the trend caught fire, blasting his music across the world. Lil Nas X continues to create unique experiences for his fans and music, only solidifying his place within the music industry.

15. Olivia Rodrigo: A Powerful Love Triangle

While Rodrigo was not intentionally leveraging love, there's no denying that a lot of success of her debut release "Sour" can be traced back to the public love triangle between her and two suspected castmates.

Sometimes, the best experience you can create for listeners is a highly personal one that's bound to connect on a deeper level.

16. Brian Eno: Creating A Sonic Watermark

Many people became introduced to Brian Eno's music after the composer was responsible for creating the iconic Windows 95 startup sound. This sonic watermark continues to draw listeners in today to Eno's unique, relaxing soundscapes.

17. Amanda Palmer: Creative Crowdfunding

Amanda Palmer is known for having a highly dedicated fanbase and for asking her fans to help fund her art and work. This author and artist works with her fans to create custom experiences -- From living room shows to offering fan makeovers, Palmer creates community and bonds that are hard to break.

There are plenty of ways to find your footing as an artist that don't always involve making just your music. Open yourself up to other creative possibilities because who knows, it might just be the missing piece you need to gain some creative traction.

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