Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


« How To Sell And Market Your Music Using The Latest Research | Main | 10 Ways to Trade a Song for an Email Address »

Give Your Fans The Experience They Crave

There is no doubt about it; social media has taken the sweet and innocent fan, and has created a monster.

A transparency-seeking, interactivity-craving, empowerment-hungry monster.

Ok so maybe fans aren’t these terrible things that goes bump in the night, but the point remains the same. Today’s fans desire something more than just music and the occasional Facebook or Twitter update.

Today’s fans desire an experience! 

But creating this experience can be a bit tricky. It has to cater directly to the needs and desires of YOUR fans, or else you run the driving them away. 

In short, failing to give the fans what they want is failing to establish an emotional connection with them. A strong emotional bond with fans means a more dedicated fan base, which will directly translate to a stronger internet presence and an increased level of sales (album/ track, ticket, merch, etc.).

So of course, in order for you to cater directly to the needs of your fans, you need to understand a few things about your fans first: 

- Where do your fans spend their time online? 

- Which aspects of yourself are fans most enamored with (i.e. studio recorded music, the live performance, music videos, social media presence)? 

- What do your fans want MORE of (music, videos, personal updates, merch)? 

Once you have a good grasp of who your fans are and what they are looking for, you are ready to begin planning out all of the different ways that you can turn ‘being a fan’ of your music into an experience. 

The following are some examples of how you can turn many of different aspects of your career into an experience for your fans:


Audience Participation During Live Performance

Once you have the fans at your show, you’ve got a great opportunity to give your fans an interactive experience that will be sure to stick with them for days after the show has ended.

This is the key to repeat attendance and increased ticket sales.

There are tons of ways that artists in the past have empowered their fans to participate and become a part of the performance that you can consider.

Cake - ‘No Phone’ (live) - Call and Response

During the song ‘No Phone’, Cake frontman John McCrea brings the band down and calls the audience to action, by splitting up the men and the women of the audience to sing different parts of the chorus line:

(skip ahead to 4:00 to see the example)

Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) - Drum Solo - Duel with Fan

During the taping of Dream Theaters’ DVD Live at Budokan, drummer Mike Portnoy took to the audience to have a dueling drum solo with a fan. 

(again, skip ahead to 4:00 to see the example)


Fan Submission Driven Music Videos

Creating a unique, inexpensive music video is an effective way to increasing the branding of yourself or your band, further developing your image. Not only does a music video refresh the same music that your fans have already grown to know and love, but it is a foot in the door at many music blogs that focus on music videos as opposed to streaming music.

But a music video is not just a great branding tool. It is also another opportunity for you to empower your fans to make the video for you by submitting their own photos and video footage for you to use. Not only is this an extremely inexpensive way to make a music video, but it ultimately allows your fans to appear in your music video… and if you’re a fan, there is nothing cooler than that!

Below is a fan submission driven music video that started just with the band taking videos of themselves in different positions. The band then uploaded the video and asked their fans to replicate the positions to be submitted and embedded into the video by the band. The result is an extremely entertaining video containing more than 24,000 fan submitting photographs and video clips.



Design Contest

Social media has made all sorts of fan-driven contests more accessible than ever before. Creating a contest surrounding upcoming official releases from the band is a great way to not only engage your fan base, but can be an incredibly powerful way to empower your fans. Not only does it help fans feel as though their voices are being heard, but it gives them the opportunity to become a part of the band history, with the potential of turning something they created into an official release from the band.

Of course, for these contests to be successful, you do have to already have a fan base that is connected with you online. With that said, here are a few different contest ideas:

- Merch (T-Shirt) 

- Album Cover

- Band Logo

And permitting that you have a strong enough fan base, you could take this one step further by giving your fan base the opportunity to vote on which one wins. This will completely take the control out of your hands, which may result in some not so great designs, but is an ultimate way to empower your fan base… and they will appreciate you more for that. 

Fans Pick The Music To Cover 

In the early 90’s, Phish set in motion the idea to cover an entire album of someone else’s music on Halloween. Since then, they have covered albums like the Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia, The Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and most recently, Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus. This concept has since become popularly used by many bands on Halloween, and some have even taken it a step further by allowing the fans to vote for the album.

Giving your fans the opportunity to weigh in and determine which songs you cover is an excellent way to not only empower them to make decisions for you, but it is a great way for you to get to know your fans better, by understanding their music preferences. And as discussed many times before… knowing your fans is the first and most important step to making your fan base as a whole happy and more loyal.

Fans Pick The Tracklist

There is no question that we are living (or surviving) in a time when the album as a format has become less intriguing, with access to digital music becoming far more important. But there is no reason that an album cannot be a successful method of releasing new music.

In an attempt to engage their existing fanbase, meanwhile stimulating some new potential fans to check out their music, Devo recently allowed their fans to pick the final tracklist for their next studio album. Through an interactive website (not a necessity, but when you’ve got money like Devo, why not?), the band listed 16 tracks and let their fans pick which 10 songs would make the final cut.

There is no better way to make an album appealing to your fan base than by empowering them to become apart of the decision making process. It gives the fans what they want, and again, allows you to better understand your the preferences of your fans.

TRY THIS: Allowing your fans to pick the tracklist is great, but give them even more incentive to do so! Give fans an incentive to partake, by offering up the additional unreleased tracks as a free EP. 

Fans Pick The Setlist For Live Show

By using either Poll Daddy or Survey Monkey, you can create a simple (and embeddable) survey that allows you to give your fans the ability to pick all of the songs for your next setlist. Your fans will get the thrill of taking control of your next show and is a great way to stir a bit of buzz online.

When creating the survey, make sure that you pick the ‘multiple choice questions’ option. This will allow you to maintain control of the overall setlist, with all of the peaks and valleys in their proper places, but still gives the fans the control over which songs make those memorable moments come to fruition.

Below is an example of a ‘You Pick The Songs’ survey using Poll Daddy:


In a time when social media has made it easier for you to connect with your fans then ever before, why stop there? There are literally an endless amount of opportunities for you to take the aspects of your music career that your fans already love and turn them into an interactive experience. Empower your fans to become apart of the action rather than just acting as a spectator from the sidelines, and watch your fan base grow into a living, breathing movement surrounding your music.

[image credit: randomduck]

Jon Ostrow (@miccontrol) is the cofounder of MicControl, a music blogging community that bridges the gap between musicians and music bloggers. This article originally appeared on MicControl.

Reader Comments (11)

I know this was on your website Jon, but didn't read til now. I can say from experience that getting your fans involved in any way (creatively, at shows, designing stuff, contests, anything) will make you more respected and admired by them.

I did not used to do this, I just didn't get it until a year ago. I was one of those musicians that would just say, "hey, I'm playing here at this time, so come out." Maybe I'd offer to buy a drink for them, but it got me no where. I see this too often of musicians (many of them friends of mine) doing this online. Unless you're putting out memorable shows every single time, you're not giving fans anything to care about.

Some people are wary of getting their fans involved. I'm not sure why--a control thing possibly. But in my experience, it's been the best thing I've done for my career. It's not all about you. That's a different mind-set to take on for some musicians.

Put it another way, if there's a product you really like and the company said, "hey, we're going to let you decide on what the next version is", you'd more than likely get involved. Or think about it at least.

Getting your fans involved in anyway builds your community, trust, communication, and relationship with them. So if you're not doing it, start right now.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

I agree with the article to some extent, but I think if everything nowadays is totally democracy driven a band is like a fan's bitch or slave of some sort.

Let us not forget about artist integrity.

Just a thought =)

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterAndrej Vovk


I'm sure Jon will answer, but from my experience I don't let my fans write my songs. It's more of letting them be a part of other types of decisions and experiences as the article points out. For example, my fans voted on the cover of my album as well as the name of it. I gave them the pictures to vote on though and the possible titles.

Anyway, I know what you're saying, as long as you don't give the impression to your fans that they can control you or influence you're career in some way that is not comfortable for you, then it should work out.

Brian Franke, Singer/Songwriter
@bfrankemusic (blog)

January 22 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

"..if everything nowadays is totally democracy driven a band is like a fan's bitch or slave of some sort. Let us not forget about artist integrity."


If a tree falls in the...

How does making your art an inclusive experience cost you integrity.

Without fans your music is just a hobby. Nothing wrong with that, but just saying.

January 22 | Unregistered CommenterKen M

I agree with the spirit of this post, though not some of the details, especially regarding fan participation in the creative process. Pretty much all the most classic record records we can name off the top of our heads were made without fan participation. I shudder to think at The Beatles letting fans vote on a track list for The White Album, or Bruce Springsteen letting fans invade the privacy of writing a record like Nebraska.

January 22 | Unregistered CommenterInvisible Oranges

Sorry I totally disagree with this article. This is typical of those who have forgotten the basics of music. They try to cover this up by inventing all sorts of 'alternatives' such as fans picking songs, choosing designs and the total madness that is the social media strategy.

Face the facts I do not like Katy Perry, or anyone else, any more because of their inane Twitter posts. I don't give a monkeys about interactive websites, most of which are clunky, slow and frankly not giving very much.

You talk as if artists have the time or the resources to do all of the above. You are also assuming they have fans. Most people who use this board have no real fans but transient fans who are more passionate about other artists such as the big major label acts.

Instead of all of this nonsense how about you get back to basics and give people GOOD music, HIT songs, music they can hum along to, music they can make love to, music they can dance to and spend all your energy on this.

Then you will begin to build real fans and stop all of this work.

Social media is vastly over rated. It suits those whose business it is such as Facebook, Twitter and those who make a living marketing such sites. Perhaps the writer is one of them. He makes his living blogging about music and not selling music (I may be presumptious here).

As Sir Alan (The Apprentice UK) says, business is about buying and selling. The public are less complicated than these purveyors of social media think. Social media is no different to othe aspects of the internet. Those chasing it won't sell a record by jumping through all these hoops.

FFS a simple video + a great song = sales. THAT'S IT folks.

Make music people want to buy, or view repeatedly (if that is your business model) and they will.

January 22 | Registered CommenterKehinde azeez

Opps sorry for the delay of this reply...

@Brian - glad you got the chance to read it. I know from how you run your own organization that I can see you certainly put the effort into growing fans and not just selling music.

@Adnrej - what Brian said :-)

@Invisibleoranges - that's very true. All of the classics did have a 'vision' or even a 'visionary' behind them. And again, you are correct that most of them happened within isolation rather than publicly or even democratically. But in a day where access is the most prevalent barrier of entry into the music industry, some artists may need to take it a step further and this article is really for them. I certainly wouldn't recommend that every artist do all of these, but take one, or another and use it to strengthen the loyalty of your fanbase. Once you have those fans... you can record that classic album all by your lonesome and you can be sure those fans will be waiting for you with money in hand.

@kehinde - you seem to be a bit all over the place in your argument. This article is specifically about leveraging social media to build a stronger fanbase, not increase sales. A stronger fanbase is a more long-term goal to focus on as it will increase sales of your recorded music, live shows and merch all in one. Do you think bands like Phish who still remain off the radar would have been able to sell out 90% of their 60+ date 2010 tours (some 27 years into their career) had they started out with a 'simple video and a great song?' No!. It's aboult building community, building brand loyalty... OF COURSE you have to have good music, that's not at question here. That is always the #1, this article picks up afterward, when you need to do something with that good music if you hope to make any money.

January 24 | Registered CommenterJonathan Ostrow

sure, hey why not just let the audience come up on stage and play the instrument of their choice? being in the band could mean simply keeping the instruments in tune....hey why stop there, ask the audience what color guitar would you like to play tonight? you know that sort of thing. this article makes up for the fact that most bands suck. if you are a good act, people want to see you..end of story

January 24 | Unregistered Commentertimaayy

@timaayy whether a band sucks or is a good act depends on people's tastes--which are all different. I've seen what I consider sucky bands draw huge crowds and good acts struggle. I don't get it in either case why that happens, other than there's something else going on behind the music.

I spoke with a local act who I think sucks but sells out shows quite a bit and he said, "I know I'm not the most talented musician in town. None of this is about talent, it's about how you market yourself." I took it with a grain of salt, but will say he does harness social media well to draw people.

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

@brian is exactly right - in a perfect world all you would need is great music and thats it. But it doesn't work like that, artists need to proactively take the growth of their fan base into their own hands if they want to succeed. If that means pulling your fans in and giving them an experience in order to satisfy their needs, then thats what you have to do. And unfortunately (or maybe not), just throwing good music at people doesn't cut it any more.

January 26 | Registered CommenterJonathan Ostrow

". Do you think bands like Phish who still remain off the radar would have been able to sell out 90% of their 60+ date 2010 tours (some 27 years into their career) had they started out with a 'simple video and a great song?' No!."

1. Phish are in no way an example of an "off the radar"
2. The answer to your question, of course, is a resounding YES. If the STARTed out with a simple video and great song (performance), it would likely have lead them to the same path to success that everyone else who sells out stadiums went through: Years on a Major Label, making high level promotional contacts.

The real question is, if phish had never gotten a record deal but spent 27 years building its own mailing list and was an early adopter with social media, would they be in the same position they are now? NO!

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>