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Do most fans really want anything from you other than your music?

I think this is one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves. Do most fans just want your music, or do most fans want something else from you beyond your music?

Why is this question so important? In a world where music is generating less and less revenue, it’s important to understand what fans truly want; especially if you plan to sell them something other than your music.

The following quote is from Ariel Hyatt’s last post about Twitter.
“People want personality. They want authenticity. They want a genuine look at the person behind the music.”

Personality, authenticity, a look at the person behind the music… I am trying to understand who, why, when, what, how and how-many fans (what percentage) would trouble about anything but your music, tickets or t-shirts.

Do fans want to have a packaged, semi-authentic, digital relationship with bands? Can anyone quickly describe how the effort required to maintain these ambient relationships could generate a measurable return on investment? Is this stuff just for kids, or can adults find the time to participate also?

I am asking, in a rather provocative way, because I am looking for clues as to what the next generation of digital music products might do for you and your fans.  What’s missing?  What do you need to capitalize on your efforts to sell be more than your music?

I read every comment.  Thanks for your input.

Reader Comments (40)

I think all fans want a deeper connection to their favorite artists. How people go about this is one of many ways. They can find a band by recommendation from friends either online or off. Of course, they get the music how ever they may. After the music though I think most music fans want to find out more about the music. Like how it was made, who are these people that made this great music, more pictures, video, and any other information on this music that they hold special. I understand that this is not your typical music soccer mom but I think it's most fans of music who "Get It".

People do want to have relationships with their musical idols because who else can make us feel young again. I can't tell you how many songs are time capsules for me. I hear songs and remember when, where and who I was friends with then and what I was doing. Music carries beyond time into some unknown part of our psyche to be triggered at a later date. So, of course adults love to feel that moment when we had not a care in the world even if it is for a brief moment during our favorite songs. This is what makes it all worth while.

We all have an innate desire to hang out with people and listen to music that we love. This is why we go to concerts, to develop a connection, a relationship with a community of people who like something that you like. We are there to feel closer to the music and have a relationship with the artists. Whatever that relationship may take. It could be a piece of merchandise or if we're lucky in could be a backstage pass to meet these people who have in some ways changed our lives. Who can't remember their first concert? Or first backstage pass? Or first autograph? This is the connection the fans are looking for.

The very reason social networking has taken off like it has is the same thing we do when we go to concerts. Hang out and talk about things we like with hopefully people we like. How we measure this connection into a monetization I'm not really sure is possible. All of the things involved are unmeasurable to me in my musical experience. I would trade none of my memories for money but have gladly given up many things to have them (e.g time, lots of money). All we can do is make great music for other people to have memories of and develop that connection and relationship into something greater than the music.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterDale Adams

Bruce, we want Seattle 1994. We want Woodstock 1969. We want the radio of Wolfman Jack. We want the bloody punk rock of 1979. We want the Ramones. We want Led Zeppelin. We want Metallica prior to Bob Rock. We want NWA, 1987. We want musicians who make music to make music, not to sell records.

Musicians need financiers, not puppeteers.

Take a guy like Jason Mraz. On the surface, he is unmarketable. Dorky, geeky, awkward, undefinable. But the kid can write a song and he can flow with the best of the hip hop wordsmiths. He's been on the cusp of breaking out big-time for the past eight years, and he's finally made it to #1 on the charts. From the minute I heard him, I have viewed this kid as nothing but genuine and nothing but honest. I enjoy his music because he's different from the rest and he can attract a crowd. He connects.

You want to know what the next big thing will be? Live music. Underproduced, stripped, REAL music. The Roots hook me every single time I hear them. They are best when they are live. And the best way to reach an audience has been PROVEN to be live music.

I think about music way too much ... I don't make a dime from it, but it is constantly on my mind. And in ten years of thinking about how the industry will change, I honestly think the industry should sit back and watch it unfold. Take the attorneys off of speed dial and let's see what these kids can really do. Give them the money to put together a tour and to build their word-of-mouth. But make no mistake, the long-term bets are the ones that can write, perform, and connect with a crowd.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Moner


You guys have made my day! I could not have asked for greater answers. Of course, songs are time capsules (Dale). That's one of the product ideas I was looking for when I wrote the post. Brilliant.

Thanks. Truly, thank you!


November 4 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I think fans absolutely want more than just music from musicians. Granted, for 90% of the musicians I listen to their music is enough. Those other 10% those who take the extra steps are going to get me to more of their shows and buying their albums sooner than later.

There is a San Diego based band I really enjoy and unfortunately they called it quits three years ago. However, three years later people still frequent the message board for the band and I think a big part of it is because members still post there and keep us up to date on what they're working on now. When the band put out a posthumous record I think everyone on the board pre-ordered it as well as the new releases from their new bands.

I don't have a whole lot of items I've purchased beyond music, tickets and apparel from artists but with these deeper connections I'll keep coming back for more.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Winter

The key word, which the author mentioned, is Personality. When a fan hears\sees your music and materials, is there a coherent and intriguing message? Are you exporting a worldview that listeners can understand and be interested by, or are you just playing notes?

Industry parlance has created terms like your "brand" or "image" to describe the totality of an artist's presentation to their fanbase. But terms like that encourage people to think that that sort of stuff is just marketing - a flashy gimmick that is unconnected to your true art, which is just the music. This is to rigid a way to look at things. Artists need to realize that their "music" encompasses more than the notes they play and record; they need to craft an assortment of artistic materials and moments that give CONTEXT to your music.

A good, though somewhat extreme example, would be Tom Waits. His ridiculous image perfectly matches his music, and the guy never breaks character. Who knows if he's even acting? Whatever. He's weird, he's cool, he's consistent. You can go to a show expecting a new experience with that same twisted personality as there is in his records, or whatever strange media appearances he does. If it relates to the music, then it is PART of the music.

Or take Radiohead, who pump out blog posts and videos and all sorts of random crap that contributes to their image of high-tech alienation.

Can you imagine Nirvana without the flannel?

Consciously or not, ANY choice that is made by an artist which is subsequently seen or heard by an audience will be regarded as an artistic message. People's brains will associate it with the music. They will become more or less interested depending on how well received those signals are.

This is showbiz! Be Freaking Interesting at All Costs!

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

I'd say "hell yeah" most people want more than just the music from a band - but it's up to the band to create that environment (as Justin said, BE INTERESTING).

I'd add something else to that - be brave.

But what I think folks want most is to be PART of something, something novel, something outlandish, something INTERESTING. It doesn't require that the artist talk about the contents of their breakfast. But it does require what an artist does best - using their creativity to tell stories. Look at Deerhoof's recent release of their single AS SHEET MUSIC, asking fans to record their own version of the song before they did. Or Plot Against Rachel's recent request for fans to record their own bedroom contribution to a "choir" to be included on their upcoming full length.

The hardest part from a label/artist perspective is how these actions are and will be rewarded - and how to track that.

Fans interactions with new ideas and outreach is so subtle. Email forwards, diggs, facebook shares - communication on the meta-level - all has a value as real as every item at your merch table - but what that is can only be measured via an inordinately difficult test-measure-optimize approach (think google adwords except web-wide).

An efficient way to track that is not far off, IMHO, and might give the kind of "measurable level of return on investment" your looking for ( is an interesting, if flawed, beginning to that process). I know for a fact that Big Champagne are in the process of making this kind of analysis a reality - but the first company to democratize it (as Tunecore did with digtial dist.) will be on to a winner.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterNick

"Musicians need financiers, not puppeteers."

Definitely true. Bands need to go and let their fans be their financiers, and that is what is trying to do.

Not to mention that being a patron of a band brings about a special relationship between the band and the fan.

Another thing I think bands can benefit from is their own social network - the natural progression from message boards and forums.

Bands can do themselves a big service by creating their own social network on Ning like sites and allowing their fans to support them with money - directly.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterKulpreet Singh

Nick, absolutely right

Maybe its the Obama-just-won awesomeness, but being "Brave" is what isit all about.

The best question an artist in search or a marketing strategy can ask is...:

What does it mean to be brave in today's music industry??

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

I think that what most fans desire the most is simple. They want access. They want in. They want personalization. With regards to the P2P culture, the only thing that beats "free" is added value. If the products that a band markets allows the fan access and gives them added value, they will buy it.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Bodie

That is the definition of "fan" right? Fans (at their best) are more than just consumers... they are advocates. Fans have an emotial tie in... they feel an identity. They want access, respect and recognition. For real fans, product is secondary to the value of the relationship.

But not all fans are created equal. There is the "kinda sorta interested fan" and the "super fan" and then a whole spectrum in between... each with their own behaviors, preferances and needs. To complicate the issue, fandom is shifting. A super fan one day may have out grown the role in 6 months... 2 years, 10 years.

The challenge in fan management is to move the "kinda sorta fan" into the role of "super fan" and then retain that relationship for a lifetime.

The upside is that it doesn't need to be that hard. It starts with permission and grows by giving the fan outstanding amounts of value and love.
Here is our Fan Marketers Manifesto in a nutshell.

Serve the individual - communicate with people not lists

Honor each fan's personal preferences in content, frequency and channel (ie sms, email, rss etc)

Deliver value that serves the fan's needs

Organizations who adopt this sort of thinking are quickly turning their consumers into long term super fans.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterDavid DeVore

The question Bruce asks is way to subjective. A "fan" is a finicky being and each and every one is a product of their own personal OCD and their impulsiveness to like or dislike as well as their decisions about what kind of additional content is "collectible" to them. Age? Nah, does not matter in the realm of the audiophile fan-type...who can say at what age such obsessions occur?

Regarding that comment above by David DeVore:

The "Serve, Honor, Deliver" portion at the bottom of your comment made me think about the Artist / Businessman concept. I know that may sound strange considering the "personal" relationship it suggests is needed to create a "superfan".

This "personal" relationship is talked about quite often on the musician / band resource blogs scattered across the Internet. I happen to like very much the idea of having as personal a relationship with fans as possible...BUT, at what point does it become unmanageable because of the increasing number of fans?

How does an artist (or even five band mates) go about handling so much "business"? So many daily operational tasks? Is this where the creator(s) go on to hire "real" employees to man the computers, faxes, phones and mail? Is the relationship still "personal"?

I understand that as the number of fans increase, income should in turn be increasing. Unfortunately this "new" music environment we find ourselves in does not seem to work out quite that way. File sharing, music saturation, and even the state of the general world economy at this time are all playing their part in this lack of increased income per fan gained.

When the majority of "fans" can get their media for free, why wouldn't that apply to any other additional content an artist could provide? Why wouldn't the same file-sharing vapidness we see with audio also apply to any additional content? I mean we all know that it really already does; Movies, concerts, software, etc. etc.

As long as media is available via P2P / bit-torrent etc. etc. Then it will be taken.

Having said all of that, let me say this: YES. Yes, artists / bands should provide as much content as they possibly can. You should make it as personal or conceptual as you can. You should make every effort possible to connect directly with your fans (and peers). If you make music and draw or write poems or graphic design, etc. etc. Then you should add as much content to your "product" as is within your ability.

Maybe your "product" is better titled / described as your "art" or your "creation"? Whatever. If you are passionate and driven and have loads of content sitting around the house it might be wise to find ways to package them together to add value to what you are trying to share. I say "share" because some of us aren't focused precisely on selling anything (YET).

I do believe that many, many of us making music do it for at least two reasons. First and foremost because we just have to. We would not be living life if we did not create the noises we do, it's our passion and that is the first reason we do it. Secondly it is in the hopes that folks will like our noises enough to pay us for them. So we can pay our bills, eat and sleep comfortably from doing a thing we love.

Reality Check: The digital age has leveled the playing field. So much so it has even made it down to the "underground". I mean, what is "underground music" now? Does the digital age allow for it to exist?

No mater your style / genre / niche the same two major elements of the money making music game are the same: 1- Great Songs & 2- Contacts / Connections (having the "right" ears hear your music).

If you have the great songs it is very probable that those "right" ears will hear it if you are putting it out there. Here's the thing that connects all this babble of mine together and actually relates to at least a portion of the questions posed: Once you have the great songs and once you have managed to get them heard by the "right" ears, you must communicate well.

You have to be able to communicate well in order to facilitate any relationship. You must be mindful and diplomatic to facilitate and maintain a relationship that you are looking to profit from. This applies to strategic music business alliances but more in accord with the topics at hand, you must apply this mindful diplomacy to your "fans". This is not to say you should be something you are not (unless of course you are just a little bitchy ass, in which case good luck)...What I am saying is that the bottom line 99.5% of the time is to profit from your fans (with exception to egomaniacs).

Treat your fans as you would a job you can't afford to lose. Not like a job you hate and can't afford to lose but rather the job you enjoy but inevitably has you interacting with people you might not normally have befriended. Sounds a bit shady I know but I felt it should be put out there.

Pack your music / media full of content. Interact with fans on a personal level as much as possible as well as those folks with the "right" ears. Great music first, package it however / whatever / play live and get it heard. The rest of the business end follows the great songs getting heard (in my humble opinion).

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

The comments on this post intimidate me. Thanks.

Milton. Good points. I do want to say though that a digital music product that people don't want to share will be created. That's the product that encapsulates the fan's relationship (points, messages, history, transactions, memories, etc) with the artist. This product can grow in value (to the fan) over time, like a stock certificate (think patronage rewards for example). The music and chunks of the product may move from person to person, but the bulk of this thing will be purchased, collected and coveted.. As Dale pointed out above - think about songs as time capsules. The possibilities are limitless.

November 5 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

"They want a genuine look at the person behind the music."

Gotta disagree with this one. Am I the only one who's had a crush on a hot new (and rather attractive) female songwriter only to meet her in the bar after the show and find out that it seems she's desperate to be loved by fans 'cause everyone she went to high school with thought she was a weirdo loser? Or that she wants to know what you're gonna do for her career? (honey I'll still come to see you *after* you get dropped by your major label in 3 years). Am I the only one who's met a person who's music you like and found out that they're a total ASSHOLE in real life? Or how about subscribing to someones blog or friending them on Facebook or Myspace and realizing you don't agree with their politics *at all*. These experiences all color the music afterwards. Just keep it about the music. Write a great song. I'll listen to it and come see you when you're in town if I'm free that night.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterSuperfly

OK, first I did go back and thoroughly read the comments now. Dale, you are awesome! Your description of music and memory reminds me of similar things I have said to others (and I believe it is a huge part of the oh-so-glorious "mid-life-crisis" we humans go through!)....The sense of smell is the only comparably stimulating memory trigger.

But I re-read D. DeVore's comment (I swear I am not trying to pick any kind of fight, things just spark ideas when I read intelligent writing)...

Dave said: "For real fans product is secondary to the value of relationship"

Maybe it is merely semantics but in this bloggy-comment-posting world, semantics is kind of important (of course you may have meant the exact words you posted)...To continue: My interpretation of your use of the word "product" is the songs. You could have very well intended for art, shirts, buttons, hats, etc. etc. to have been included in the term "product". But when you follow that term with the other option being a "relationship", you can see how I might have interpreted it that way. As a "Relationship with the artist -vs- Music from the artist".

If that is the case then I would say those kinds of relationships are, for the majority, relationships between two or more musicians (peers) and not between the musician and the "Fan".

What came to mind first was the idea that your "Fan" would not even exist without your "product". This is not to say that fans do not want "real" relationships" with their fave artist but I actually do believe with very rare exceptions (and unhealthily, potentially psychotic stalker types), does a "fan" want anything more than to collect your wares. For their own selfish pleasures and of course to show them off to their peers.

A handshake here, a backstage pass, a drink at an after hours with a "fan" does not a personal re;relationship make. I think what I am trying to say here is that musicians have friends too and trying to make every "fan" a friend is good and all...BUT there will come a point in any successful career when the fan management processes are delegated to someone who will not be you. Is it still personal?

The music is what the fan wants. The superfan wants your phone number and address...And that is not so good in my mind. The fan DOES want content. The fan DOES want as much audio visual candy as you can offer. The superfan seriously wants to know what you ate for lunch.

So, GREAT SONGS first, GREAT ART....whatever. The fan wants more, more, more to listen and see. Sure they would love it if you were their real friend and went skateboarding with them on the weekends....But they are just your fan. You owe them CONTENT not personal time. (IMHO)

Give them great songs, art, video, etc. etc. Keep them hungry for more. Don't be a dick to anyone but don't get your friends and your fans too mixed up. There IS a difference (and your friends were there for you when you weren't shit...Most if not all of your fans were NOT.)

"Serve" is for clerks
"Honor" has merit and is sound advice
"Deliver" should have been the first one listed.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Hm. I might get crucified for heresy on this one, but in all this discussion about what makes a fan, don't you think its a bit of a stretch to say that a true fan needs all this personal attention? Personally, I think all this hyper-personalization towards fans is good if you want a small, dedicated fanbase. I don't think its wrong (and I do think its financially smarter) to want a larger number of fans at the expense of "access" and direct contact for the hardcore.

How many bands do you consider yourself a fan of? Did all those bands give you some sort of special treatment? I've never, once, received anything that I consider to be a personalized message or product from a band, but I consider myself a fan of about 500 of them.

I buy their music. I go to a lot of their shows. I tell me friends about them. I myspace friend them. I do everything a fan is supposed to do, and I don't need to be treated like a king. I just want good product. So I'll say it - fans are consumers, not partners. Unless you are going for a completely different style of music-relationship building, the name of the game is getting your music in their ears and getting a return on that. The best way to do it is to offer a superior product and superior marketing.

I can't think of a band that relies on fans to the extent that music blogs say they do. Did Vampire weekend get big because they had a hardcore street team? No, they got big because Pitchfork took them under their wing, and they got exposure all over magazines and blogs. Read the title of the post again: "Do MOST fans really want anything from you other than your music?" As I wrote in an earlier post, yes, they do want more, but they don't want "access," they want awesomeness. They want an experience. That doesn't mean they need o share the stage with you.

The bands that succeed do so because they master their multimedia presentation, and are able to maximize its reach. Don't be honest, be interesting! The kids want toys to play with - they don't want to chat with the toymaker. Sales and fan satisfaction reflect this.

So, sorry to rain on that parade, but I think this part of the Indie model of promotion simply has not worked. Bands still rise to popularity through traditional means: mass exposure. My advice to bands is to always be thinking about how to reach a bigger audience, not how to further psych-up the people who already buy your stuff.

November 6 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

This is one of the best posts and series of comments I've come across about the challenges facing artists and the industry today.

It doesn't matter what you want to call it... social networking, tribal marketing, image and brand management... we're talking about tools for making and maintaining the connection between an artist and each individual fan.

A live show, a fan club, a message board, a YouTube video, or a backstage pass - each are ways to create and nurture these precious relationships.

As the different methods people use to share and connect evolve, online and offline, we as music marketers will always be faced with finding the most effective and, increasingly, most authentic of these methods and helping our clients implement them successfully.

November 6 | Unregistered CommenterMax Lowe

Gotta agree with Justin and Superfly - fans are interested in you because they dig your music - that's where it starts - now if you happen to lead a pretty awesome life that looks and is interesting - then they'll soak that up - current tech allows for that - but without the music being right - the rest is just fluff. Ariel's comment is only relevant if your music is compelling - you can only sell other things if your music is compelling. Fans don't need anything from you except your music - if your music is right - then they might want something else - but they'll tell you what.

November 6 | Registered CommenterAndrew McCluskey

These comments are fascinating. My hunch, after reading these comments, is that it is important for artists to establish strong relationships with their initial group of hardcore fans and then continue to nurture that relationship (Twitter, blogging, an interactive website, etc etc.). Butt, as Justin points out, not every potential fan cares about this and therefor it is important to perfect your marketing efforts (wide-scale distribution, targeted banner ads, etc.) and multimedia presentation (high-quality studio work, videos, commercial-quality dvds ring-tones, etc.) in order to gain a wider audience. I would doubt focusing your efforts on just relationship building will work as only some fans (your hardcore group) care about this, and many more casual fans care about other things much more.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterPat W.

Do the Rolling Stones nurture a personal relationship with their fans?...Or does Budweiser handle that for them?...And is it still personal?...Was it ever?

Point being; these intimate "fan" & "artist" relationships just cant be truly personal after you have blown up (you know, gone platinum or whatever).

Providing content/media/product for the fans is the most important role of the artist (at least the artist that is trying to grow their fanbase and in turn grow their income).

I think maybe we artists are talking much more about our own desires as fans when we think that a "personal" relationship is crucial. When in actuality it is just not practical if one has truly become (gold / platinum class) successful with their music.

Seeing Thom Yorke on a British game show being slightly vulnerable and silly is about as "personal" or "intimate" as it gets once you reach that level of success.

Fact is that Thom and Mick or whomever...They are just too damn busy to have that kind of "intimate" or "personal" relationship outside of their family and peers. Radiohead nor the Stones would ever have the time to make any music if they were to try and interact as "intimately" as some of the blogs suggest.

Great songs. Right ears. Diplomatic communication. Gets work. (if it's work you're after)

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

I think that there is a problem with semantics in regard to Dave D's posts and Milton's responses. Namely, Milton seems to be interpreting the term "superfan" as being a stalker, and I do not believe that to be the case. A superfan is someone who calls into work to come see you when you are in town, they download your catalog, they may even pay for some of it, they buy shirts or posters at the shows, they travel to other cities to see your shows, they are involved in your forum communities, etc. And the superfan wants more than just music, they want interaction, a community, a relationship. Who do they want this realtionship with though? It is not with the individual making the music, they don't want to be able to call the artist when their girlfriend breaks up with them or just to chat at three in the morning, they want and need a relationship with the character/idea of the artist that they love. They don't need to hear about the artist's cat digging up the house plants, but they do need to hear that you are heading into the studio with a new producer/guitarist/whatever. They appreciate getting a personal heads-up when the artist is planning to come to there town. They like getting first crack at tickets and merch. The want a relationship with the artist as a product, not as a person, because it is ultimately the product that they are a fan of.

So, music matters, it is the product that gets the artist the ability to have a fanbase, and the better the music (theoretically) the more dedicated of a potential fanbase the artist will have. But with an environment where a music fan can listen to fifty new bands a day without even breaking a sweat, how do you stay relevant in their life? When no matter how good you are at what you do, there is someone else at least as good, what else can you offer? This is where the relationship is key. The artist as a product must build a relationship with the fan as a person, this is what is meant by a personal relationship.

Does the casual music fan want this realtionship with every act that they listen to? No. But does the casual fan spend money on and attend the shows of every band they listen to? No. So why worry about them beyond just keeping them entertained? But for those fans who have proven in the past that they are willing to give you some of their hard earned money, it only makes sense to try and keep up a relationship that will foster in them the desire to do so again. And in return for them supporting your life as an artist, why not let them in on a lttle bit of what it is that they are supporting?

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterJosiah

Josiah is dead on. You may not think people are interested in the boring things but they are. Reality Tv was a perfect example of this. If you don't think so then why did Dave Matthews have over 7000 twitter followers in a week. These people want to know the mundane and he's giving it to them. He's talking to his fans, replying and having conversations. That is what people want from their music. A little bit of something extra besides the music. Just to be a little closer to their favorite band.

Change is alive and well in the music business my friends. Adapt and the fans will follow.

November 7 | Registered CommenterDale Adams

Actually it is all about sleeping with the hottest fans. That is the definition of Fan Relationship Management right? Line up the hottest ones first and and schedule the tour from top down.

Not so much.

When we talk about fan relationships, we aren't talking about inviting every fan over for a bar-b-q. We are talking about the BIG R... RELATIONSHIP that every single business in the world struggles with. How do businesses acquire customers, retain revenue and grow advocates? This can happen anywhere a band and their music exists.... so ya it begins with great art, doing things that are remarkable, being respectful, producing great media etc etc. But don't forget that everywhere that an artist interacts with a fan (downloads, website, album, tour, album art, video, email, sms, social network bla bla) is an opportunity to strengthen the (Big R) relationship with the entire fan base.

Do the Rolling Stones have a relationship with their fans? Of course they do. Have you ever seen the stones fan club or how they translate their site into 12 different languages?

Now what is really interesting is how people like The Stones, and NIN and Radiohead are starting to become experts at is actually OWNING the relationship. (I can hear the groans now around my marketing speak). Radiohead (and Trent) have developed the strategies and tools to contact all of their fans directly, so Radiohead will never need a label again and the amount of money that they make with everything they do goes way up because they don't have any marketing costs to get the word out.

One of our clients, the Dandy Warhols, took their last release directly to their core fans and sold nearly $100k in albums and downloads without doing a press release or buying a single advertisement. They didn't have to share a dime with anybody and are thrilled.

That is what we mean by owning the Fan Relationship and it can fundamentally change the way that artists think about and interact with their fans.

Keep up the great comments. This is kinda fun.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterDavid DeVore

"Do the Rolling Stones have a relationship with their fans? Of course they do. Have you ever seen the stones fan club or how they translate their site into 12 different languages?"

About that; It goes right in line with my question of is it actually the artists that manage all of that and correspond in so many languages?

BUT, before we latch on to just that, let me say this. I tend to take a cynical approach when getting into debates. A kind of devils advocate thing. The truth is that the comment above from Josiah is really spot on with many of my own beliefs.

Josiah explained much better than my cynically tilted rants a much more realistic and practical Relationship that an artist can have with their fans. The relationship Josiah describes is not intimate as I had described it. The practical relationship between a fanbase and an artist is understood by me as more of an arrangement and not a "relationship" (but it really is just semantics, I believe we are thinking of the same thing here).

The idea of the artist "owning" the relationship is what it is all about. The artist puts things into the world for people to collect. Music, video, shows, blogs, posters, stickers and anything else. The relationship is an arrangement-delivery system that benefits both parties (idealistically anyway).

I think my cynical battle with the semantics stems from my own notion that many hours of valuable creative energy is potentially being wasted by artists trying to manage multiple networks in an effort to build "personal relationships".

Anyone who is commenting here is sure to recognize this as my own personal issue / dilemma and not necessarily a problem for anyone else. But for me that is the point in engaging in these conversations: To learn how to manage my own musical endeavors.

Thanks Bruce, David, Dale, Josiah and everyone else for contributing to a civil discussion about the rapidly evolving digital media environment. This is great stuff!

Cheers all,

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Intriguing and intelligent thinking! In my humble opinion, music will always have an expiration date --- but interesting humans do not. It's wise to combine making music with creating community and partnering with causes. We must help musicians see the bigger picture.

I so enjoyed reading what you guys had to say! Thanks for your insight.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterTammy Brackett

I get the "how", an artist can use Twitter, his/her blog, Facebook, MySpace, RN, etc, to "deepen the relationship".

Josiah - you really drilled in on the "what" - that is, what type of relationship we are talking about. It's not announcing that "the cat's digging in the plants", it's the "artist as a product building a relationship with the fan as a person".

David - you illustrated a great example of "why" - your client pulled down $100,000 without firing a shot.

This is what I am still trying to work out: Three years from now, everyone gets it. Artists everywhere are engaging fans as described here (along a spectrum).. The music is the appetizer, everything else is the meal (if you want to eat).. My question: how much can one person eat in a week? Only so much right? So, what are the key differentiators? Values, interests, desires, music? How do you win, or do you need to? Does access to capital still play a significant role? Or, is everyone on a level playing field in the near future? If capital is the answer, what does it buy, and does having more capital to do more (engagement) make it less genuine?

I don't want artists to be perceived as financial planners are now (always on the job - even at parties). "Let me deeply engage you baby.." "Please, please follow me on Twitter.".. This happened on MySpace right? People go fed up with bands stalking friends...

It (the future) seems to want to play out differently. I am thinking about super social filters and also sports franchises as a metaphor.

I also can't help but thinking that the SONG plays more of a significant role; as in fan to song to fan relationships; where a single song is the basis for some sort of social interaction. This blog and this post and these comments are a perfect example (Music Think Tank (brand) >> This post (the song) >> these comments (where the social value is)...

Thanks everyone for the great comments.

November 7 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I think you guys are mistaking multimedia management\presentation for "relationship building." Twitter isn't personal. Its a broadcast medium. Dave Matthews got 1,000 people listening to him, he didn't ask 1,000 people how their day was.

You have to do what you can to reach the largest audience you can. If all you are able to do is have conversations with people after playing a coffee house show, then by all means do it. Build those initial fan relationships. But when bands head to the bigger leagues, they recognize that that kind of interaction, while gratifying, is not successful marketing. Your webpage will be far more important. Can\should you translate it into 12 languages? Thats a marketing question, not a relationship building question.

I'm sorry, but if your major marketing issue is trying to figure out how to personalize your appeal to individual fans, then that just means you aren't that big an act. Bands have to be leadership-oriented. Put your message out there, and those who want to hear it will hear it. If you build it, they (or some, anyway) will come. And they'll stay because you keep doing what you do well, not because you twitter them.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

But I certainly get the concept of using the tools and it becomes a matter of being able to narrow them down to a fairly modest list and streamline the content output / interaction (posts, comments, replies).

The technology is great. It is just that it is so abundant and overwhelming, saturated with a cornucopia of really useful, affordable tools. Things like twitter are a good way to macro manage the "personal" output like when you are headed to the studio or what guitarist is playing with you at a gig, etc. etc.

It is kind of exactly the kind of practical "personal" relationship that would not take so much time away from creating new music / media.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterMilton


I agree but have to differ a bit. Personalization can be automated. Look at Amazon for example. People keep coming back, not because Jeff Bezos pours them tea and chats with them about last night's football game, they come back because the experience is highly personalized. You can achieve personalization without being personal. Edgar Bronfman said yesterday that Warner use to have 3 SKUs per release, now they have over 50 per release (I may be a bit off on the numbers - but the point is the same). This is a form of personalization. Do you agree? It's delivering multiple product versions/variations into all the places and onto all the platforms where fans live and exist.

November 7 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I totally agree with Bruce that the SONG is coming back into prominence - I've commented elsewhere that the album format was economically derived in terms of production and distribution costs of vinyl - not artistic desire to career an opus. I don't however think that anybody kids themselves that Warner's 50SKUs or Amazon's algorithm is a form of personalization. Here's the new model:

The song is the perfect viral medium - under 5 minutes, can be distributed in numerous media, formats and distribution channels - release often say once a month or every couple of months - keep the internally generated social media content (tweets, facebook, etc) focused on the music -send your newsletter only when you have new music - respond to fan feedback and input immediately - and by doing so you speak to their actual needs not what you think they should be. If you record 12 songs at the beginning of the year - release one a month and you'll never be short of something to talk about, always have something new to tell your fans and you'll never be far away from their conscience.

Finally on Twitter - I disagree with Justin - Twitter is personal - I bet you that most followers of Dave Matthews who has exchanged tweets- has that tweet in their favorites and is telling their mates that they have "chatted" with Dave Matthews - ;-)

November 8 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Increasingly Marketing and Relationship management are blurred lines. Look at how Zappos or Amazon or Expedia treat customers. Corporations are spending millions each year to initiate large Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions like Salesforce to database customers and then deliver targeted personalized messages that drive sales at a better ROI than old school media buys.

Increasingly the music industry is starting to adopt the same types of tools and strategies... but it is a bit of a different beast all together and fans are a wide and varied crowd.

Part of the reason why the industry is slower on the draw compared to the corporate world with CRM is that nobody knows who is supposed to be responsible for the fan. The Label? The Manager? The Web Master? Or does it switch at different points in an artists career? Whose job is it? In the corporate world it is the marketing department.

Artists need to make their art. We shouldn't expect artists to be great marketers. Just like going on tour... artists need a team.

So per Bruce's point "in three years... how do you win?" Well I don't think there is a silver bullet... because every artist is different and every fan is different.

Plus... it isn't about technology or tools.

I can go to home depot and buy all the best tools in the store, but it won't make me a great craftsman. I can run after every new shiny music 2.0 twiiter/myspace/facebook/widget mashup and it won't make me a great marketer. Strategy and execution win the game. Using the right tools for the right job with craftsman like precision is the key.

Increasingly we are going to see the smart labels and smart managers becoming the conduit for the fan relationships and learning the skills around being great fancentric marketers.

Great marketers know that if you love your customers and treat them exceedingly well, they become outstanding fans and loyal evangelists.

November 8 | Unregistered CommenterDavid DeVore

Bruce, I do agree with your response. I think you hit it right on the head that "personalization can be automated." In my head, anything that is automated is not "personal," but if you want to call it that, no problem. Its just a semantic difference.

My original point was that all communications from an artist need to be considered as an extension of their art, and that while artists absolutely should offer something "more" than their music, they should not look at that offer as something divorced from their core artistic message.

I think what I was trying to say is that artists shouldn't sit around asking "what do fans want?" They should only concern themselves with how they can maximize their message, and what tools are available for that. If that means twitter or Muxtape or Facebook, then go for it. But I would caution against letting all these tools frame your message too much. That could lead to another form of being overhyped: having presence everywhere, but spreading your substance too thin.

So as long as all of these tools are used to pull fans in to a place (on the internet or otherwise) that the artist has 100% control of, then thats good. But I worry that too many indie artists are letting themselves be defined by the sum of their internet locales. Its just not that fun to join a facebook group. So as a matter of prioritization, I would get the coolness of your product and message set first, then go to all these extras to amplify it. I think too many artists assume that the internet can make them interesting. It can't. Be interesting first, THEN twitter about it.

Thats more what I'm trying to say.

November 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Yeah I would also like to clarify something about just what gaining a fan is about and how it is done. It is NOT about sitting around trying to create your art specifically to please a certain type of fan. This is not to be confused with the strategy of marketing to an established fanbase. I am speaking strictly of the up and coming artists, those of us trying to get a fanbase to begin with.

Use the tools to make what you love to do, get your message out, please your own ears, eyes, mind and soul. Those tools should not be used out of the gate as ways to cater to unknowns like trying to read potential fans minds. You will get your fans because they are into what you do, not because you spent months strategically planning their induction into your fan club.

November 8 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

I would like to present some very personal images into this discussion. Memoirs of a Fan, if you will (who is also now an artist with a day job and loving the fact that I don't need fans or income from my art to do it) -

PEARL JAM- (for me)

The image begins with a young emotionally turbulent suburban youth, in a college town and a private school. A skate boarder whose parents were experience a violent divorce. I was thirteen in 89, when I was institutionalized in a ploy to remove my father from our home. I spent two weeks in facility until he moved out and I could live with him. On the inside of said facility, I faced head on that "these other kids" there were not on my path and that survival, if you will, required a connection as a defense. I set about to be cool. I had not had sex yet, had no idea who Metallica was, yet it did not stop me from talking the walk. This was the first modern music discussion I had, with the exception of a few other times in my life: Falco "rock me Amadeus" and convincing my mom that the Dead Milkmen were a reggae band to get Big Lizard on cassette.

In that incarcerated moment of successfully bluffing my way to safety, I developed an initial understanding of what "fandom" could provide me socially or personally. I sought to eliminate my uncertainty regarding the background of what was popular, as a way of ensuring my role.
A Super Fan was born.

This continued metal to industrial to classic rock to a real need to play and perform music.

Then it happened , the GRUNGE explosion-

By this time, I was in bands and well into healing. I sought out new music, stayed up late with college radio and 120 minutes but had moved into a pursuit of substance and inspiration in my "collection" of bands and music. I was not interested in look, presentation, etc. but in message. I wanted to hear my own in what I pursued. Who could lead me to my conclusion, who seemed to share my experience.

The album 'Ten' blew my mind, quite literally. I need not get into specifics but there it was, my experience in someone elses music.

Having painted that picture, I now want to make a point (too late I am sure, but thanks for hanging in there). Popularity and Press destroyed that band, killed Cobain, and in the mess left on the ground gave birth to the Back Street Boys and I never made it to college.

When a band or artist is so real or can connect or express so successfully, that very connection first and foremost is in the art. We as fans or consumers collect that art because of a deeply personal motivation to do so.

The economy of such connection, revenue and cost, is what comes next. The GRUNGE era was the time the machine got over. I could reference Reznor's Downward Spiral or Vitalogy's bitter anti-promotional rebellion and vinyl record release. The art of it was almost destroyed completely, the artist trapped. The next five years of music was all slick, vanilla, cds, MTV talk shows, and Industry.

So where are we now? Everyone in their early twenties developed with this mass-media image oriented barrage of consumeable motif presentation. I dig the new bands and this new surge of technological independence. I am especially proud of the anti-label efforts of bands like Radiohead (as mentoned above).

If one is to further their art or desires income from it- the tools are their to do it yourself. If one simply must create to live- share to exist, the tools are there to do it yourself.

As a fan and as an artist, I have always responded to my truths. As I can express and receive them. I remain hesitant to seek a fan base, I obsessively worry about a massive connection with them. I fear being exploited, I resist the commercial, and I do not personally respond to the bulk of popular music these days.

Yes age is a factor but only because I am old enough to remember when and lucky enough to have survived.

I hope this presents as stimulus. I do think this is a fascinating thread and I will continue reading.


November 10 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin Moody

This is a very interesting discussion, but I'd like to add a point that I think is missing (with the exception of Alvin Moody's last post above that touches on it). Before I do that, let me be clear, I agree with many of the points made about Fan Relationship Management (FRM). Its what our company was founded upon -giving Artists the tools they need to conduct effective FRM.

But I think the missing element in the discussion is IDENTITY. Music is more than what people want to hear over and over on the radio or on the net, or even on their own ipods. Its about providing them the subtext to their own life. Its about RELATING to their values, status, and struggles. And about giving them a way to express themselves with eloquence where their own words are insufficient. Its a more convenient metaphor for shouting 'this is who I am!'.

How many of you have recommended an Artist to a friend to bolster your standing with that friend? I have, and I know it sounds shallow (and, admittedly it may be). I used to tell everyone I knew that Dave Mathews Band was going to be the bomb. That was in 1991 when I was a freshman in college, and DM was new to the scene (I said that about lots of bands that turned out not to be the bomb too). I made sure that every party we had was playing some Dave Mathews music so that I could get 'credit' for introducing them to it (pathetic, right?). I had become an advocate for DM b/c of what that did to my personal status, and how it reflected who I was at the time. True, I loved the music anyway. But I was using music as a form of identifying who I was to my peers. This is who I am. I am cool. I know new music. I can expand your mind. You should think like me. It was almost a litmus test to filter out potential friends.

Later in life I have come to the conclusion that I still do the same thing, just not as vehemently or obviously (like putting my favorite artists into family slideshows and other stuff that older people with kids do). But I still recommend music to friends based more on what I like (and think identifies me well) than on what I think the recipient will like. I can't help it. I want others to love what I love. By achieving that, I get a thrill of some sort, and I IDENTIFY who I am - hopefully influencing others, which is the ultimate currency, and the ultimate source of fuel for the ego.

Why do you think that millions of people take the time to list their favorite Artists at Facebook on their profile? They get no tangible reward for doing so. What they get is an added sense that they are portraying themselves appropriately via the music they love. Music is a more robust and complete way of telling people who you are. Its not that different than having the right profile pic (should it be the one where I am at the top of Kilimanjaro or the one with my new baby, or the one with my sports car?). I recommend music b/c I think you SHOULD like it, if you are like me.

Do this exercise for a minute with me:

1. What are your favorite pass-times?
2. What is your job?
3. What is your sign (horoscope)?

Does that give people a more accurate view of who you really are than the following:

1. What music are you in to now?
2. Who is your favorite Artist of all time?
3. What is the last concert you attended?

You may be screaming "the music list is just a way of stereotyping me!" But if you are an accountant that loves Metal (and many of them do from what I can tell), ask yourself which set of questions more accurately portrays you to friends and potential friends? Music. It is a language we all understand.

Have you ever been to a concert internationally? The ability to connect via music supersedes the language barrier. I've rocked out with foreign people I didn't know b/c of the common bond of the music. These people didn't speak English, but they danced to the same drum that I did, and I IDENTIFIED with them. If I had seen them later that evening being hassled at a bar, I would have stood up for them. We were made from the same cloth, as far as I was concerned.

Music is a language. Its the ultimate language. It breaks barriers. Its primal. If you've traveled abroad you've probably had that moment in a foreign country when you are sitting at a restaurant and you overhear English (or whatever your native language) at the table next to you. Its amazingly tempting to lean over and say 'Are you Americans too?" Music can connect people the same way.

When an Artist has real followers, its as much about identity as anything else. They have spoken to them via the music. Its how you build a 'tribe' - to steal Seth Godin's term. Everyone shares a common belief via the music they have in common.

So, again, I do not dispute all of the FRM talk here. My mission over the last 2 years has been largely to help invent that term and those tools. But the music itself has to spark a seed crystal of fans who identify with it. It can be a small group of fans, but the difference between 'like the band' and 'promote the band every chance I get' comes down to identity, as much as it comes down to providing the fan an opportunity to promote the music at the right time.

Convenience, frequency, and 'push marketing' are important and can extend the reach of an artist (FRM) to new potential tribe members, and solidify them with existing members, but providing real reason to latch on (IDENTITY) and 'pull' marketing are the holy grail. Its what separates good Artists from great Artists (or at least commercially successful Artists from those that are not). Unfortunately, there is no formula for this. We have the sonnet and the haiku as structures that work for poems, and we have similar structures in music. But its the 'relatability' of the content, the attitude, the way the Artists carries themselves that makes the difference between a song you want to hear and an Artist you want to IDENTIFY with and promote to friends. Artists still need the exposure if they have the 'relatability' thing going on (which is what FRM can do for them). But it won't carry them far if they don't have that.

Of course, I could be wrong. So let me have it now.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

GOOD, I thought I was the thread-kiler ;-)

I want to hear more artists as fans. How and why and what do you pursue, have pursued in the past?

it makes sense to me that if one was to try and figure out what fans want, what does one want as a fan? clearly I am not gonna buy the t-shirt anymore but what about you?

November 19 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin Moody

Some fans will just want the music, others will want to be part of the group and have more interactivity with the band.

When I thought about the popularity of facebook, people cheering for sports teams, etc it confirmed that people like to form groups with similar interests. Facebook has smaller groups but it's generally too broad a community.

Then I joined Jimmy Bruno's jazz guitar institute online for $20/month. He actually allows us to submit videos of our playing and he responds with video or text feedback. They even had an 'offline' party in california. So I think in the future people will probably join a variety of smaller niche groups that cover their interests, instead of one big group.

What this means for the musician/band is that they should build and manage their own community of fans. A certain percentage will pay to get the latest and greatest songs, bootlegs, videos, photos, and so on.

November 29 | Unregistered CommenterWill

hmm, probably a bit late to the party... The original post though really did speak to me. It made me realise exactly what it is about all the twitter, facebooks / 'FRM" (WTF?) rants that I find so pathetic.

Its that of those few peopel that buy your music I think maybe 1-5% give a shit about your personality. The rest just don't care, they just want to hear the music.

Consider Daft Punk, probably the biggest 'Dance' music 'band' in the world. - yet they are faceless robots.

December 1 | Registered CommenterLuke Echo

Well to increase the revenue you have to spread your "service"

like: makin music and sell it.
later: selling your band name. how? maybe getting a brand? band name as a brand? well could be possible

let me take the band "Insane Betty" as an example. insane betty, sounds really fresh, doesnt it? sounds crazy sounds young! why not making any fashion design where your band name is printed and sell it? no, i dont mean printing some band shirts! i think a fashion label or something!

many musicians are makin money with fashion. well it's spread more in the hiphop scene but maybe its getting over to the rock/pop scene?

or why not selling YOUR style? fans love your music. but fans also love the style of some bandmembers! so why not selling it?

sex sells


band-brand sells!

honestly, Carl

January 14 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

I have two answers:

1) I have found that the people in my life that I have true, unwavering rapport with take a genuine interest in my music. They are usually captivated by this previously guarded side of me and they welcome the opportunity to take a listen, buy a track or come out and support me. The thing is that it is a very soft sell. After knowing the in's and out's of each others' lives for a couple years, the trust is galvanized. The problem with this approach in the realm of fandom is that you are trying to gain the trust of several thousand. The solution is to work your ass off and come with a level of integrity that is as solid as a rock (whatever that means to you).


2) Recently, I have tried to revisit my process of crafting content for my music, and it has led me to an epiphany that could translate well to this question.

I get the feeling that there are a ton of people creating music, but none who are creating a movement. My feeling is that people would really get behind an artist who is talking to the world through their songs in a language that resonates with a core belief/style/idea that a fan or group of fans can share with them. How this relates to the question: if an artist was embodying a movement and the documented actions in his life reflected it, then authenticity is busting from the seems. It is no longer about showing up with a certain level of consistency on Facebook updates, or a quota of tweets, but more of a constant presence pushing something forward.

A bucket of gray matter,


April 9 | Unregistered CommenterMitchel

WOW !!! What a Nice post and great discussed to think tank

November 22 | Unregistered CommenterGalvanised tank

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