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« The measurable music world peaked a long time ago. The immeasurable music world has a long way to go. | Main | The music industry is financially healthy. I will pay you to prove me wrong… »
Monday
May102010

5 Ideas For Creating a Rabid Online Fan Base

I’m a sucker for infographics. Yesterday during my morning ritual of combing through RSS feeds, I stumbled across this little ditty which detailed the 5 steps a consumer brand should take in order to gain “social currency” – which is essentially convoluted marketing speak  for “online fans”.

I thought I’d take a moment to make a cross-post that explains how what artists and aspiring rock stars can take away from these steps.  So here we go – five round-about suggestions for creating a rabid online fan base:

1) Advocates Trump Followers
As much as it pains me to say this…you can’t do much better for advocacy then Insane Clown Posse.  These clown-faced (and recent meme subjects) rappers are the perfect embodiment of artists that don’t create fans, they create family.  Not many other acts can boast a self-created name for their fans (Juggalos), their own annual festival (Gathering of The Juggalos), or fans that refer to each other as “family”.  It is this sense of fanatical community that drives fans to support ICP in droves – in 2009 ICP’s latest offering landed at #4 on the Billboard charts and outsold rock band Chevelle by 5,000 units!

I’m not kidding.  They even have their own documentary titled “A Family Underground” which you can watch on YouTube for insight into this nutty micro-culture – I highly recommend checking it out, if just for a laugh.

What traits of your music can fans rally around to create this kind of culture?

2)  Context Matters
What do indie-rock fans bond over?  Organic coffee?  Flannel shirts?  Ironic beards?  I could play on the stereotypes all day, but it is in the genuine interest of an artist to find out and package yourself around these ideals and shared interests.

For example, let’s say you are a jazz musician with a stipend advertising budget to spend on one of e-zines.  While it may be tempting to advertise in the publication with a larger circulation or readership, but what you should really be finding out is which publication do jazz fans read?  The answer might surprise you.

Vampire Weekend understands this concept.  When the band began their viral marketing campaign for their new album ‘Contra’ they specifically targeted blogs and sites where indie fans hung out like Stereogum and Pitchfork.  You can bet there wouldn’t have been nearly as much impact if their advertised Vibe.com

3)  Not Every Band Should Be Social
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but worth a mention anyways:

If your audience doesn’t use social media, you probably shouldn’t expend your time and resources on it.

You can probably assume that the audience for classical music isn’t big into twitter, so if you are a classically trained pianist perhaps your efforts are best served elsewhere.  Or, if you are band which already has a poor reputation amongst social media users (I’m looking at you Nickelback) getting onboard likely won’t help the situation.

At the very least, you can do some research to see just which networks you should be using based on the age of your audience.  Here is a great breakdown of social networks by age for reference:

4)  Social Is A Means, Not An End
So your band has just reached 5,000 twitter followers, congratulations!  Now what do you plan on doing with that exactly?  There is always a drive as an artist to have more. More followers, more friends, or clicks, and more views – but many times there is no planned endgame.

Make sure you have a strategy to funnel all your digital friends into channels where you can exposure them to your music and ultimately turn them into fans.

Some ideas?  How about posting exclusive demos on twitter, acoustic/live videos on YouTube, comment on fan’s Facebook walls, or post exclusive merchandise/ticket sales on your website.

Take a page from YouTube wunder kids The Fold, who instead of merely offering their fans a fun cover video of Miley Cyrus’s “Party In The USA” they offered them the MP3 as well – provided they were funneled to their website, where they can be exposed to more of their music and hopefully buy their albums.

5)  Gimmicks Marginalize Trust
You might spend untold amounts of money or time crafting the most incredible viral since Nine Inch Nails “Year Zero” for your music, but at the end of the day are you rewarding fans or just chipping aware at their trust?  As the first comment on a thread for the IAmWhoIAm viral states: I am so sick of viral marketing

Your biggest bargaining chip is your music, withholding it or masking it from your fans is only going to work up until a point.  Your audience will be much more receptive to what you are offering, and much more enthusiastic to boot if you don’t have to think “what’s the catch”.

Bottom line: Your innovative viral might give me a laugh, but you have to ask yourself if it motivates me to become a fan or ultimately buy your album from iTunes?

Take Control of Your Music

Chris Dejong - Marketing guy for Point2, music lover, bass player, info junkie, avid runner, reader of books, and lover of all things cool.

New Rockstar Philosophy

Reader Comments (6)

Good call on #3 and #4 -- I like seeing people mention that because it indicates they're paying attention. Too many social media gurus think what they have to say is actually important. All the recent data makes it pretty clear that social media is not going to net musicians (or anyone else) a ton of sales -- it's just a tool to enhance the conversions you're already getting. And if you're not already getting 'em...

As for #2 -- an interesting angle to check out...

You heard of Glasses Malone? Don't feel bad, it's no big deal, trust me. What is interesting about him is his marketing team, that decided to skip the over-saturated inboxes of hip hop bloggers altogether. They're aiming all their promo at non-music bloggers -- not randomly, either. They've actually got a small research team whose sole purpose is to ID people who, for instance, love hip hop but run a blog about beach lifestyles, or men's fashion, or urban cycling. (No, I don't know what "beach lifestyles" means, either, but someone does.)

For them, this works out great because when you're reaching out to a non-music blogger, you've got their full co-operation because it's such a flattering novelty. You can dictate the terms of the appearance and cross-promo...but best of all, their man Glasses Malone is the only rapper getting promoted on that channel.

If you make the front page of Nah Right, that's great and all, but you're up there for about 3-4 hours tops along with 10 other artists. Then it's gone, and anyone who blinked during that time never saw you. If new Raekwon was directly above you and new Drake was directly below you, nobody saw you at all. Those sites move fast and remain over-saturated at all times.

Just wanted to toss that into the mix. Your hypothetical jazz musician might be better off finding out what OTHER interests his fans have in comment...and then doing their online promo based on that.

And uh, maybe look into what interests his fans have in "common," too, just to be safe.

@Justin Boland
Wow. I never knew about the angle that Glasses Malone's team was working.

I kind of work the tech blogs a little more like being the first "indie hip hop" label to release an album in the iTunes LP format after I spent a weekend reverse engineering Jay Z's *(This was before Apple released the specs to the general public).

I also agree that you're not missing much if you haven't heard of him.. lol!

really good post! but i should add that if you're going to model the post after the infographic, you should've added that it was written by Ben Paynter for Fast Company

May 11 | Unregistered Commentermr. tunes

You did an excellent job of relating that infographic to artists, especially #3 & #4 - Its very important to keep those notions in the back of your head, and will save you a lot of wasted time and energy if you can figure out early on that your fans simply might not be tuned in to the social media world, and it may hinder rather than help your musical career.

However, being a classical musician on Twitter seems to be working out just fine for Zoe Keating (@zoecello). :P

@Justin, I really like that you mentioned Glasses Malone. I've never heard of him, but I've heard of the strategy his marketing team is using, and I think its genius, and it does work. It has happened several times when I was pitching artists to blogs with Ariel Publicity...the blogs who seemed the most stoked to feature an artist, strangely, were the "lifestyle" ones I took a chance on - not the typical music blogs related to their genre.

You started this post with a picture of Elvis and I imagined what would follow would be something like: "To build a rabid fan base be a brilliant musician who's style contributes something new to the world and is so good it's imitated for decades. Also, it helps (but is not required) to be very good looking and charismatic." But no.

May 20 | Unregistered CommenterFitz

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