During the first installment of the 2021 Business Growth Summit, Weave CPO Jeff Lyman interviewed performer Lindsey Stirling¹ about how she’s cultivated authenticity and connected with her audience over the course of her career.
Lindsey is a violinist, dancer, and artist with 13 million YouTube followers, 4 million Facebook followers, and 1.5 million Instagram followers. Her other accolades include being a New York Times bestseller² and runner up on Dancing with the Stars.³
Lindsey’s conversation with Jeff covers topics such as how she built her loyal following, what authenticity means to her, and how she maintains connection with her fan base.
A cornucopia of talents
Growing up, Lindsey was primarily a violinist. As she got older, she realized she wanted to add something to the music she played to make it stand out to audiences. She began writing her own music in her early 20s, and only started dancing while she played around the age of 23.
Lindsey also attended film school, though she didn’t immediately link her knowledge of film with her music. However, she eventually realized that skills like film editing and directing could supplement and enrich a music career. These different skill sets created a cornucopia that fused her professional talents with her passions.
Early days on social media
At first, Lindsey posted videos of herself performing on YouTube, a somewhat unexplored medium at the time. YouTube was thought of as a platform for cat videos and the rejects of entertainment, but quickly developed into a tool that allowed Lindsey to share her art.
Lindsey also read books about the music industry, but they discouraged her and made her feel like she didn’t have enough money and connections. She decided to experiment with alternatives to the conventional approach to establishing oneself in the music business. For her, that involved doing open mics, sending DVDs to record companies, touring on the college circuit, and even riding a bus to Las Vegas to canvas. Weave helps you easily collect and monitor reviews on Google and Facebook. These reviews can be some of the best marketing for your business.
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Lindsey takes the most pride in her original songs, albums, and live performances. However, she had a breakthrough early in her career when she decided to make a medley of Zelda tunes that coincided with the release of a new version of the popular Nintendo game. The cover went viral, and although Lindsey isn’t a gamer, she caught a glimpse of how she could use existing platforms to share her music.
The tipping point
The next big moment in Lindsey’s career was when she replicated her Zelda success by creating a Dubstep for the violin. Within 24 hours of posting, her video had over a million views. She immediately knew that her life was changed forever.
The meaning of “authenticity”
Lindsey second-guessed herself after gaining some fame with her violin covers. She always felt like being authentic meant not selling out and staying true to her artistry. However, she discovered that, for her, authenticity was more about having values and putting people first. Doing covers was a means to an end and would never define her as an artist.
Lindsey is a fan of self-help books. She recently read a Brene Brown book for her book club. Brown’s book helped her solidify some ideas about setting boundaries. For example, Brown teaches that attention seeking isn’t real authenticity. Authenticity is about connection.
In the process of trying to connect with her fans, Lindsey has realized that she needs to share her art and life from a place of understanding. We all overshare occasionally, and Lindsey admits to blurring the lines between seeking attention and connection at times. That’s why she studies mental health and aspires to be authentic in the right way.
Fitting into new platforms
Nothing will work on every platform, Lindsey says. Right now, she’s in the process of figuring out TikTok and why Gen Z is crazy about it. To find out how unexplored cyber territory works, she studies it and looks for patterns of what appeals to its users.
Lindsey believes there’s a way to adapt your content onto each platform without creating original material for every new social medium that comes along. In fact, there’s simply not enough time to make new stuff for every platform. Identifying the different types of personas that use various platforms is also central to her process.
Making time for the audience
Since starting her Twitch account, Lindsey has met with her most diehard fans multiple times a week, just to hangout. It’s a relatively small group compared to her YouTube audience, but making time for your audience isn’t always about what’s most efficient. Sometimes you have to do what appeals to you on an emotional, intuitive level.
Everyone’s going to have a large chunk of their audience or customers that’s casual, and that’s fine. Lindsey tries to make time for her loyal fans by practicing her violin on a live stream. Though this vulnerability initially scared her, it’s allowed her to develop a deeper relationship with those that care most about her work.
Finding time to post online
Lindsey admits that the pandemic gave her a lot more time to post content online. When she’s putting everything into a project or tour, she finds it helpful to just focus on the moment and look for ways to let her given tasks trickle into her posts. For example, she’ll hire a photographer to follow her on the first two weeks of a tour to get pictures that can be used across multiple platforms.
Social media missteps
Although Lindsey’s understanding and talent with social media has been a huge factor in her rise to stardom, she’s made a few mistakes along the way. A while back, she put dreads in her hair, and got some scathing feedback about cultural appropriation and white privilege. She apologized and let people know her intentions.
Lindsey’s also a bad speller. She recently spelled the word “read” incorrectly in one of her book club posts. Instead of getting defensive about her dyslexia and going into a shame spiral, she used the opportunity to share her struggles in the education system and to express how she’s grown to see herself as an intelligent woman in spite of these obstacles. Fans reached out to thank her for her vulnerability and inspiration.
Advice for entrepreneurs
In closing, Lindsey tells entrepreneurs to think broadly as they develop their businesses. She recommends not fixating on specific deals and services. A good amount of her own content isn’t music-based, but it lets her establish an overall brand that appeals to a broader audience. As you go about cultivating authenticity and making connections with your customers, remember that your content should always be supporting your unique brand.