“Everyone who is a potential fan is there. You just have to find a way to reach them,” Gil Assayas says.
And that includes T-Pain.
Composing synthpop under the name GLASYS, Assayas and his incredibly swift “fonky fangas”—as the Grammy-winning king of Auto-Tune called them on Instagram—have built an online community that includes some 11,000 YouTube subscribers, 18,000 Facebook fans, and more than 2 million views on live videos that feature his phenomenal, intricate playing.
It’s the consistent experimenting he documents and posts online, accompanied by subsequent engagement and sharing via social media and sites like Reddit, that caught T-Pain’s attention—that and Assayas’ pure talent. Long story short, one video got traction on Reddit where T-Pain saw it and commented. An offer was extended to collaborate. Then crickets. A few weeks later, Assayas jammed over T-Pain’s incredibly popular Tiny Desk Concert, which caught the attention of the internet again and quickly racked up a half million views—watch below. Unable to ignore it, T-Pain invited Assayas to L.A. for two days in the studio.
While Assayas isn’t sure what’ll eventually come of their sessions together, even if it’s never released, “it was fun,” he says. “I had a lot to gain from it”—like new fans.
“I see all my friends who are putting out really polished tracks that sound amazing but no one’s listening to them and that really bums me out,” Assayas says. So he’s taken an alternate tack: Let audiences into his creative process as he consistently produces content.
Moving from Jerusalem to Portland in late 2015, Assayas learned how to build an audience in a completely new environment. Now, he’s also doing it online.
“Frequently releasing content is the most important. If you just release an album once a year and one music video and nothing else, you’re not going to build momentum because you need to constantly engage your followers. I try to put up at least one video a month.”
It seems obvious but “just try different shit. I try not to repeat mistakes. If something doesn’t work, then I’m going to try something else.”
“Very few people go to check out new music [from an unknown artist], and if there isn’t a visual attached to it, usually no one’s going to notice it. People kind of hear with their eyes nowadays.”
Get Lucky (or Try Again)
The T-Pain vid that blew up? “I posted that video twice [on Reddit]. The first day, it got maybe four upvotes and that’s it. [I thought] maybe the timing was bad so I tried it again the next day and it got to the front page. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Self-Promote, The Right Way
“I asked myself, ‘If I were following a page, what would I want to see?’” Don’t just share gig flyers and links to buy your music. But be direct and have a call to action when you need it—like a subscribe button at the end of your video.
Spend Money on Self-Promotion
“You always have to have a budget for anything you do.” Assayas recently spent his promotional budget on prizes for a contest. He also advertises. In 2016, “I started running a Facebook ad targeting potential fans,” spending $5 per day. “The ad gets me a bunch of new likes every day and really let me build up my page to the point where when I posted a video, there were enough people who would actually see it in the first place.” And those followers are not “just friends who I asked to like my page. They are actually people who saw my ads and liked what I did and decided to follow me.”
Interact with Your Followers
“Social media is all about personal connection. I try to reply to everyone. If people are taking the time to engage with you, they’ll love it if you write back; they’ll become bigger fans.” He’s had great conversations and fans have offered ideas and inspiration, including suggestions on what to name his new custom MIDI controller. “Listening to people is important. I want to hear what they want to see.”
You Don't Have to Love It
Social media is work, which can be tedious and draining. “It’s just the world we live in. It’s just a fact of life. If you want to have some kind of success as a musician, you have to learn how to utilize it.”
For Assayas, his active presence has also garnered the attention of sponsors, which has in turn led to paid appearances at industry showcases like NAMM. His online audience has “kind of turned the tide, which is great because I can focus on what’s most important to me: creating content, sharing it with people and building a following.”