Even though we're still months away from the presidential election, you can't turn on the TV or scroll through Twitter without seeing something from one of the candidates running for office. But as tempting as it can be to turn away, at least until things calm down, artists should be paying close attention to the campaign -- not just because they want to be part of an informed electorate, but because they can also take some stellar marketing tips from all of the hopefuls.
The first is that you need to run an effective ground game. Politicians can't be everywhere at once, so they deputize supporters to represent them. Unless you've got a Koch brother who really likes your songs, you're unlikely to have the resources to open field offices, but that doesn't mean you can do something conceptually similar. If you have any sort of reach, you probably have a few fans in each market -- make them spread the gospel for you. Reach out personally and offer to send stickers and swag if they want to host a listening party, then make sure to have them collect info from attendees and report back. You grow your list and your fans get to feel extra-cool for introducing people to new music. If you have a decent number of fans in each market, make sure to connect them, as people love meeting new, likeminded folks.
Next, target "likely fans." When politicians talk about "likely voters," they're using data to sort people by the probability that they'll support a certain candidate based on their party, whether they vote frequently or not, and if they've ever publicly supported a candidate or cause. For artists, "likely fans" mean people who love similar artists -- maybe bands you've toured with, or bands on the same label, or bands in the same scene. If you're all about the same level, you can swap lists; if not, you might have to do some digging on social media. Regardless, reach out to those fans with an offer of tickets or swag when you come through their market -- this feels more special and less spammy than just sending a link to a track.
Third, build your own database, and keep detailed notes. If you've ever watched a politician work a room, you might be in awe of how they seem to remember people and their stories -- Bill Clinton is especially famous for this. It's not that politicians have great memories -- they have aides with flashcards prepping them before every event. You don't need to go that far, but keeping a list of top fans in each market along with a few details (maybe they have a favorite song, or emailed you about a personal situation) can be effective -- dedicate someone's top track to them from the stage, and you've got a fan (and potential worker) for life.
As we've seen in this particular election, the squeaky wheel tends to get the grease -- there's a reason Trump commands all the headlines. But this can be a double-edged sword; you might get a lot of attention if you say and do outrageous things, but how far will that actually get you? Obviously, you can't simply hide in the background if you want people to pay attention, but swinging too far the other way can be just as destructive. Be outspoken, sure, but proceed with caution. It could give a short term boost with long term consequences.
Even if you're not running a full-scale ground campaign, this will take time and effort -- but it'll pay off in the long run. Shake some hands and kiss some babies now, and who knows where you'll go from there? Elections (and building a fanbase) all begin with one person.