‘Help! I Bought Followers’: How to Get Back on the Road to Organic Artist Growth

When you work alongside artists every day, it’s pretty common to find one who has tried to cheat the system and bought followers. Whether it’s Instagram followers or Spotify streams, the problem has become pandemic to the industry, affecting not only those who pay for fake numbers, but all artists trying to make a name for themselves.

We all know success is hard to come by in this industry and frustration with your current music marketing tactics, or simply a lack of knowledge about strategies can quickly lead to these sort of actions. But let us tell you now that there is no cheating the system when it comes to successfully marketing your music and artist brand. In many facets of life, people look for the quickest route from A to B, and it’s the same in music. A lot of artists want to explode overnight without truly being ready and without putting in the work that will gain them real success. The result? They turn to the world of fake numbers to provide a thin veneer of what they deem to be ‘success’.

If you’re reading this, panicking and beginning to regret those fake followers you bought a while back, don’t worry – you aren’t alone – and your reasoning for doing so is not lost on us. However, in this article we’ll show you exactly what to do if you have bought followers/streams in the past and how you can get back on the road to genuine, organic growth as an artist – whilst deterring you from buying any more in the future too!

Why Do People Buy Followers?

In short, this question can be answered with one word: insecurity. The scenario is not difficult to imagine; you’re an emerging artist with a few releases out and you’ve been posting content across socials to help build your brand, but perhaps your audience growth has stagnated, or has not really grown at all. There’s a lot of reasons why this might have happened, but inevitably, it leads to artists feeling inadequate and disheartened by their lack of progress. Consequently, they look for a quick fix and that is exactly what these third-party services are offering.

Naturally, inadequacy leads to comparison, and comparison loops back to inadequacy – it’s a vicious circle. It’s completely human to compare ourselves to others and we strongly believe that this is something emerging artists need to stop doing. Of course, it’s hard not to, but usually when artists do this, they place themselves next to their musical heroes and heroines: household names with huge followings and significant financial backing. This is simply a pointless task, made even more pointless when reports show that some of the biggest artists in the world, including Justin Bieber and Rihanna, have large percentages of fake twitter followers.

If you do feel compelled to go head-to-head with other artists, don’t compare, but evaluate instead. Look at artists at a similar stage in their career to you and if they have a stronger following, ask yourself: What have they done to get to this point? What kind of content are they sharing? How are they engaging with their current audience? There’s no need to be envious of the success of others – just learn from them instead.

As a result of these inadequacy issues, many artists start to believe that their music promotion just needs a ‘little boost’; that there’s one single thing which will kickstart their career and drive their growth up a gear. Unfortunately, this often realises itself in the form of a quick google for ‘buy streams’ or ‘buy followers’ – what’s the harm, right? Let us show you.

The Reality of Purchasing Followers

The big question here is this: Do you really believe in your music if you’re buying followers and streams? Perhaps the act in itself is a warning sign for artists that, subconsciously, they aren’t fully confident in the quality of their music and should consider going back to the drawing board. After all, starting with great music is the best possible course of action – the numbers mean nothing when there is no substance behind them.

So besides kidding yourself, who else are you trying to fool? The social media platforms? Good luck with that. Social media has come a long way since its early days and it’s far more intelligent than most of us can possibly comprehend.

Instagram knows when you’ve bought followers. It knows when you’ve used engagement pods. Even if you think you’ve found a loophole to cheat the system, you can guarantee that this method won’t last long, as the platform will get wise to it sooner or later.

On top of that, there’s a strong chance that you could get ‘shadowbanned’ when it comes to Instagram. The platform has seemingly denied the existence of such a term, but it has become clear that if you fail to comply with the terms of service, your content won’t be getting pushed out to new people or achieving its full potential reach. You won’t be informed of any changes to your account, but you’ll be sure to see a drop in engagement.

Not sure if you’ve been shadowbanned or not? Try this:

  • Post a picture on your account with a fairly niche hashtag (using a popular one will make this test very difficult).
  • Then, ask a handful of people who don’t follow you to search that hashtag and see if your content comes up.
  • If it doesn’t – chances are you’ve been shadowbanned.

Finally, one last point on being realistic: it’s usually pretty obvious when you’ve paid for followers. If there’s only a handful of posts on your account, consisting mainly of ‘OUT NOW’ promotions and selfies, but you’ve got tens of thousands of followers – something doesn’t quite add up. The modern content consumer can sense an inauthentic profile a mile away, so the only person you’re fooling is yourself.

Stop Being a Slave to the Numbers

What is your actual goal in music? Do you want 5 million followers on Instagram or a sold out arena tour? In the modern social world we inhabit, we’ve been indoctrinated into believing that these big numbers are a like-for-like replacement for genuine success. Of course, it proves that you can build an audience through a well considered content strategy, but does it really show that you’re a successful musician?

Artists shouldn’t be using these numbers as targets, but as measurements and indicators instead. They can show you how and sometimes why your success is growing, but they are not the definition of musical success itself. Of course, it’s a great feeling when you hit that milestone of 1000 or 5000 followers, but artists need to stop obsessing over the temporary gratification of a larger number when the better course of action is to work and engage with the audience that is already there.

You have to think about the value of the followers you do have – are they truly dedicated, engaged fans? If so, then a couple of hundred is ten times better than a thousand fake or unengaged ones.

Followers aren’t all necessarily ‘fans’ anyway. Someone may have seen one good piece of content and hit the follow button, expecting more of the same, but they might not have even listened to your music or checked you out on other platforms. Basically, just because someone follows you, it doesn’t mean they are entirely invested in you and your music.

The Benefits of Keeping it Real

Streaming may not be the money making machine that artists want it to be, but it is nonetheless a fantastic exposure tool and host for your music. Therefore, you wouldn’t want anything to jeopardise your presence on these platforms, right?

If you keep up to date with the latest industry news, you’ll surely have heard of the plight of many musicians who found out much of their music had suddenly been removed from Spotify. The reason? Allegedly, this was the platform’s way of cracking down on artificial streams. It was estimated that in January of 2021 alone, around 750,000 tracks were removed from the platform. Appeals processes have been launched, but many artists are still fighting to restore their music.

The point here is that sooner or later, platforms will act on dishonest activity. Knowledge of fake streams on Spotify is nothing new – the platform may not be able to stop it entirely, but they can seemingly monitor who is using these services and it proves that you will inevitably be punished for violating their terms and conditions of use. Not only would you be compromising any revenue you were making on the platform, but more importantly than that, the potential reach of your music being on Spotify – the number one location for listeners to seek out new music.

But people love exactly that – new music. There’s tons of people out there who love to be the one discovering new music, excavating these ‘hidden gems’ from obscurity and telling all their friends about it. Word of mouth is the most organic, valuable kind of music marketing, but you can’t be the hidden gem if you already have 20,000 followers and 100,000 streams (apparently) – those people won’t want to know you then.

If nothing else, is knowing that you’ve built your career on an authentic, true foundation not enough to dissuade the purchase of trivial numbers? When you build your artist brand the real way, the numbers aren’t trivial, in fact, they’re a useful indicator of where you’re at in your career.

Buying fake streams could lead to your music being removed from Spotify

Paid for Followers? Here’s What to Do

This might not be the answer you want to hear, but we would recommend starting fresh. The Instagram ‘shadowban’ is rumoured to last around two weeks, but no one really knows for sure – do you really want to take the risk of your content not being pushed out like you know it could? It’s a waste of time if nothing else. So, by starting over, you can at least know that if you aren’t getting engagement, it’s not because your account has been restricted.

Of course, depending how far down the line you are with your account, it might feel like you’re throwing away a huge fan base, but think about how many from that group are actually genuine, real followers? Here’s how to go about starting over:

  1. Create your new artist account
  2. Let your followers on the old account know that you’re creating a new profile and where they can find you.
  3. Try to populate the new account with some fresh content so you don’t send people to an empty profile.

Other than the money you spent on buying followers, you won’t really have lost anything, as once you inform your audience of your new account, all the dedicated, quality fans will happily migrate to the new account because they are genuinely invested in you – it doesn’t matter about the rest. See it as a ‘spring clean’ of your following.

Conclusion

Starting again isn’t easy, but we can safely assure you it will be better for your music career in the long run. It helps to not view this as returning to square one, but as moving on from a false start, and as we mentioned, the real fans will follow you on that journey.

Fortunately, a quick google of ‘buy Instagram followers’ returns a fair amount of results discouraging you from doing so, in between the services themselves, but it can cost around $100 for a few thousand followers. We can tell you now that there are a lot of better ways to spend $100 towards your music career which will have much greater impact than a trivial number.

If you want to give yourself the best footing for your music to grow, don’t build it on a faulty foundation. Authenticity is at the heart of artist growth these days, so be patient with your audience and stop ego-stroking by buying your followers or streams.

We hope you’ve found this article useful in giving you the right mindset towards your following, and if you did, feel free to check our other music marketing articles here, or if you prefer, head over to our YouTube channel for more tips and advice.

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