Although arguably a little late to the game, Google+ has demonstrated that it can compete against social media veterans like Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to almost seamless integration with tools like search, YouTube, and Gmail, Google+ may have some advantages over other networks.

Google’s social network has clear benefits for businesses and brands, but a not so obvious target audience that could also benefit from its tools is musicians. Musical artists, whether as individuals or part of a band, have a lot to gain from the new platform.

This article will highlight some of the ways you can use Google+ to interact with fans and build an online community.

Play Live Shows Without the Hassle

Whether you’re an up and coming artist or a veteran performer, Google+ Hangouts is a great tool through which you can interact with fans. Hangouts is a video chat feature that allows you to chat face-to-face with groups of fans from anywhere in the world. If you’re on tour you can share a post-show high-five with some fans, or host a secret repeat performance of the show closer. If you’re still developing your sound and building a fan base, skip the live mic nights and host a live show right from your living room.

Hangouts are limited to 10 people, but Google has introduced Hangouts On Air, which enables you to broadcast a live session to a much larger audience. The feature is still under development so access is limited, but the company has turned it on for hundreds of celebrities, public figures, and Google+ members with large followings. Eventually it will become more publicly available for everyone on Google+.

To get started, just look for the “broadcast and record” option after starting a Hangout. Additionally, Hangouts On Air now integrates with YouTube, so once you’re off the air you can upload a full-length recording to your account. Recently, musician hosted a live On Air session and his recording was promoted on Google’s front page.

Tell Stories Through Photos and Videos

Recently Britney Spears surpassed Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page and became the first Google+ member to reach 1 million followers. The pop superstar has done a great job of interacting with her fans by sharing pictures from vacations and glimpses of some behind-the-scenes action.

Google has made a number of improvements to the Google+ Photos feature, including a redesigned viewing experience. Photos are viewed in Lightbox — a type of script used to overlay images on the current page — which puts the focus on the image by blacking out everything else on the screen. You can also read through the comments that have been left, or you can choose to view only the image. Tag photos with fans or fellow musicians and spread some Google+ love!

The search giant has also leveraged the popularity of online video by redesigning the YouTube platform to integrate more fully with Google+. The newly designed layout transforms the homepage into a news feed that features popular videos and activity from your subscriptions and Google+ Circles. With the addition of the YouTube Slider on the Google+ homepage, your fans can easily search for your YouTube videos and watch them within a pop-up window without ever leaving Google+.

Share Exclusives With Your Fans

As your fan base grows, it can become challenging to get the right message across to the relevant crowd. With Google+ Circles, you can easily tailor your content for a variety of audiences. You can create Circles for local fans and different tour cities and share relevant news to those Circles, such as promos for upcoming shows. You also might want to consider creating Circles for booking agents, press and bloggers, and other musicians that inspire you or that you’re collaborating with.

You can also create a specific Circle for fans that you want to share exclusive content with. Maybe you’re organizing a street team and you’d like to offer a sneak-peek of your new album cover, or give specific people a heads up when tickets are on sale to your next show.

Building a community on Google+ will take some time as both creators and fans learn how to navigate the new social network. If Google Music — the company’s music player and cloud-storage locker — integrates the way YouTube has, Google+ could become a powerful entertainment platform. Musicians are already finding new ways to interact with fans through the social network; hop in and join the conversation.

[Image credit: Craig CloutierWaferboard, Britney Spears, Ibrahim Iujaz]