The Joy of Releasing Music When You Have No Fans (Yet)

Hi, fan! Yes, all one of you. I’m the artist currently known as adv, but you knew that already. I may be completely unqualified to talk about releasing music and building a fan base, as I am so new to this industry, and my song ‘Bubblebath’ still shows the ‘<1000 of doom’ on Spotify indicating that not only do I have no traction whatsoever in popular culture, but also that I do not meet the threshold for NZ on Air funding. That ‘<1000’ mark of shame is a constant reminder of how much of a flop I am, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s so much joy in releasing music when you have no fans, and I’m here to tell you about the countless hours and resources you will put into your art, only to see it go nowhere. Yet the true mark of a seasoned professional is to do it all with a smile, and I’m going to tell you how.

The first thing you’ll do is sink hundreds or thousands of dollars into recording a banger tune that you’re sure will set NZ radio—nay, global radio—on fire. You’re going to be the next Lorde. This song is the next ‘Royals’. You know it. You feel it in your bones. The money you spend will be an investment in your career. No one else will understand. They’ll say “You can do all of this at home now, everyone has a computer these days. You don’t even need to play an instrument.” And to that, you’ll say “Well, why aren’t you doing it then?” because they don’t really know how anything works. Let me tell you how it works—you write a song, you go to a producer you like and trust, and then together you take it out of your brain and turn it into binary code to be streamed into the ears of the masses. 

That’s it. 

You could do it at home, alone in your room, with your synthesiser as your only friend. 

But, the most fun part out of all of this is getting into the studio with another human being who you can collaborate with, test out ideas with and potentially even become friends with. Every time you go to the studio it should feel like hanging out with a friend, albeit one you pay to spend time with. I have been so lucky that I found a producer I vibe with, who is endlessly more talented than myself, and who can take all the weird sounds I hear in my head and bring them to life (shout out to Noah Page). When we finish a song, we’re kind of amazed with what we’ve done. We sit with it for a moment and smile. I can tell you that if I was alone in my room with my Synthstrom Deluge, I wouldn’t feel the same joy as I do when I witness the fruits of collaboration. It’s the collaboration that lights me up.

Leading up to your release, you will spend hours consuming TikTok after TikTok, with 20-step plans, 25-step plans, and 135-step plans for the perfect release. You’ll realise that you somehow have to become a marketing machine and learn everything from filmmaking to content creation to copywriting. You’re supposed to learn how to tell a story in one minute, be completely relatable, and tease your song constantly for a month. You should define your audience, and figure out what your brand is. This is important, because it’s all people will ask you for the next month. It’s all people will ask you at music networking events. It’s all people will ask you when you pitch yourself for gigs. You have to sum up everything about yourself in just three words, and those should be the first three words that come to mind when people think of your music. You know, like ‘real hot shit’ or ‘jaded industry plant’. When people think of my music, they immediately think of ‘chill sadboi vibes’—that’s my brand. That’s the product I am selling to the world. Wait . . . I’m the product I’m selling to the world . . .

Yes, you have to become the product, as well as the salesperson. Now I can tell you, there’s no joy in all of this marketing nonsense. Unless you are really a child of the internet, you will find all of this a challenge, and you will start to fall apart when you realise the same 13 friends from uni are the only people who engage with your Reels™. You don’t see your following grow and you don’t see Sony BMG slide into your DMs because your brand has captured the nation and they are desperate to sign this unknown superstar. This is why famous people pay other people to handle their marketing and PR—because it’s hard to get it right, and you really have to care about it to do it well and keep doing it well. So you’ll quickly figure out that everything above is not working, you’ll work yourself into a state of panic, then you will release your anxiety into the universe and just put the song out anyway. It will be the biggest relief when you realise that as a new artist, you can kind of do whatever the fuck you want and you don’t have to follow any rules or guidelines or algorithms. You have come to accept that you are a flop and you relish in your flopness. This release is for you now, and no one else.

When you have finally given up and put your song on the internet and gone back to your day job making the perfect oat milk cappuccino with the silkiest smooth milk (the real ones will know), you post your song to your Instagram story one time, and one time only, only to discover that you already have way more fans than you imagined, except you call them friends. Yes, somehow you already have more people invested in you and your art, desperate to hear more. They were annoyed at you for tickling their balls for so long while teasing your song and your music video that you went three times over budget to make, but they stuck around because they believed in you. And when your song finally drops, you see that within three weeks you are halfway to ridding yourself of the cursed ‘<1000’ that haunts every flop musician in this country. Because you are not a flop musician. You’re just a musician at the start of your career. And everyone has to start somewhere. You realise this, and you smile to yourself, knowing that there’s only up from here.

In saying that—go stream ‘Bubblebath’ and follow me on Instagram, because this has all been shameless self-promotion.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


Help keep the lights on.

find us on: