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How Well Do You Know Your Fans?

It is common knowledge that establishing, building upon and maintaining a fan base is one of, if not the most important goal of any emerging artist who is looking to use their music to forge a sustainable career.

But in order to make sure that your efforts are maximized and your fan base grows properly, it is important that you understand that not all fans are equal.

‘Fan’ is a metric of measurement of a persons dedication to your music.

While everyone likes to say they are a HUGE fan, the reality is a little different: your fan base will range from the mildly engaged Listeners to the overly-dedicated Superfans. 

Although creating legitimate and valuable relationships with fans is important, it is also extremely time consuming, especially as your fan base begins to grow. Therefore it is crucial that you understand who your fans are, in terms of dedication, so that as you invest more and more time into establishing and maintaining relationships with fans, you continue to see an increasingly beneficial return in terms of on and offline influence, engagement and sales (both music and ticket sales included).

The Friend

Lets get something straight: a friend can certainly become a fan, but is not by any means, an inherent fan.

When any artist first begins creating their music, the friends are the initial support system: looked to for feedback, to attend the first shows, to help spread the word, etc. And in most cases, friends are more than happy to do these things. But ultimately, these people are supporting YOU because you are a friend, and not necessarily supporting your music as a fan.

The Bandwagon Fan

Bandwagon-ers are those who join into a fan base simply because it is the popular thing to do. Often doing more speaking than anyone else, many bandwagon fans will be the loudest in the room, trying to prove that they belong. While this sounds great, these fans are ultimately less interested in you and your music than they are the other fans and their own sense of belonging.

These are short-term fans who will add little value to your fan base and unfortunately will most likely disappear as quickly as they came.

The Listener

These are passive fans that they will enjoy the music as others share it or post it to their blogs, but ultimately won’t take the action needed to seek out and listen to the music on their own time.

Don’t misinterpret these fans though, as The Listener is truly the lowest level of fan that you do want to put your effort into. With a little effort, a listener will most likely become a hobbyist.

The Hobbyist

Unlike Listeners, The Hobbyist fans are actively seeking new music from new and existing artists. These are fans who may have stumbled upon a song they liked and decided to look into the band a little further. However, for the most part, this research is done just to find a place to stream music or download music for free.

The lack of willingness to purchase music right now is because these fans are still unsure about the need to experience the music on a long term…

Most fans fall into this category, which is unfortunately why music sales have been declining year after year.

The Committed

The Committed fan is someone who buys all of the music and sees the artist/ band perform when they come to town. These are fans who will engage with artists on a regular basis through social media and will sign up for the official mailing list just so they can remain up to date on any and all news.

These are the fans that can be counted on to check out and even share blog articles, youtube videos and even tweets. Typically fans that are committed to your music will be similarly committed to another artist as well and it will show through their Facebook and Twitter updates. In other words, these fans should be highly valued and time should be spent creating real relationships, as these are the fans who will likely convert their friends to become fans as well.

The Superfan

The Superfan is the golden egg. These are the fans that can launch a career. A Superfan will buy an album, then buy it again when a special edition is released. A Superfan won’t just go to a show, they go to as many as they can. A Superfan is beyond a dedicated fan- they have established an emotional connection so strong with the music that it becomes a piece of who they are.

Superfans take their fandom to the streets, and are the best candidates for street team and tribe members. If you find yourself with a Superfan who is almost religiously following you and/or your music, do absolutely everything you can to empower them to continue to build your fan base for you. These are the fans you WANT to give exclusive music, behind the scenes videos, backstage access, etc. as they will be the most likely to reverberate any value you give to them back to the rest of the fan base. 

No fan is cemented in a specific category. By identifying what sort of value your fans are looking for, you can continue to build relationships with the Committed and Superfans, meanwhile continuing to refer back to the well of listeners, hobbyists and committed fans in hopes of creating more loyalty and dedication throughout. 

 Written by Jonathan Ostrow (@miccontrol); he is the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a social networking platform. This article originally appeared on the MicControl Blog on Oct. 28, 2010.

Reader Comments (15)

Excellent article. This is very useful. I've always sensed this kind of breakdown but never defined it like this. I'm glad that someone finally acknowledged the bandwagon fan and the hobbyist. It's so easy for artists to feed into the bandwagoners as real fans, only to find out later it was all an illusion. And the hobbyist must be considered, because although they will download your music for free if they can find it, they still can be valuable if they come to shows. Good read!

November 1 | Registered CommenterDarryl Reeves

Great breakdown Jon!

Just guessing from the clickthrough ratios on my mailing list emails, I'd guess about 10% of my subscribers are "The Committed" or better. I suppose the rest fall into "The Hobbyist" category, as you so aptly described. At some point they wanted to get a few free mp3s, but now they just aren't motivated enough to either click through or unsubscribe.

November 1 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Great piece. I would also like to know how you get fans to move to the next level of fandom? In business it would be up selling a current customer. Might be a great follow up piece. Thanks again for the great info!

Thanks guys! I tried to break it down so that all of the major fan types were covered. Of course, there are will be those fans who are in transitional periods that I didn't feel it necessary to include in this, but for the most part, these overall fan categories SHOULD help artists better target who.

Feel free to add contribute your own ideas as well!

November 1 | Registered CommenterJonathan Ostrow

@ Brandon - great idea! Im going to serious consider doing that this week!! Feel free to email me at if you've got any suggestions or any ideas that you;d like to see covered in the article.

Thanks again!

November 1 | Registered CommenterJonathan Ostrow

These are pretty good definitions for musicians to start thinking about in terms of their fan base, but what it doesn't say is how to specifically measure each fan. I'm sure most people have read the 1,000 True Fans piece ( which says a "True Fan" (akin to your Superfan definition) will spend $100/year on your music (be it shows, merch, music, etc). And so gaining 1,000 of these fans yields $100,000/year. Money is just one way to specifically measure the fan base though.

One issue I have with slapping labels on your fans is that those who are not the Superfan or not very engaged won't get as much attention from the musician and will easily drop out as a fan. The level of attention one has to give to each fan is never going to be equal, but if a musician had a a certain amount of time to engage a fan who was a Hobby fan vs a Superfan I would guess the Superfan would get more engagement.

Anyway, my point here is two fold. One, to answer the question in the title of this blog piece is difficult to do. Musicians need criteria or some tools (like surveys) to measure their fans better in this environment with hard data. And two, every musician ideally (in a perfect world) wants to convert every fan to a Superfan. How to do that with data to back it up would be a really cool read.

Brian Franke
Singer/Songwriter (Blog)

November 2 | Registered CommenterBrian Franke

great break-down of fans.... now where are those Super ones hiding?

(you missed out the Stalker-Fan... :0)

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Austin

This is a great breakdown of fan labeling, and I really appreciate this article. Thanks for this information Jonathan. I hope you do write that follow up article about how to move fans up within this system. That would be a killer topic to cover.

- Jason Bobela

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterJason Bobela

Thanks for this! Inspired a response for my own blog:

As a full-time musician, we can't spend enough time thinking about the people who support our livelihoods. Amazing the power a group of fans can have, negative or positive, in their own individual ways.


November 3 | Unregistered CommenterNeara Russell

Speaking as a fan I think you've missed a catergory between 'the hobbyist' and 'the commited'. There are many bands I like where I'll buy some, but not all, their releases, I'll see them if it's convinient to do so but I'm not interested enough to sign up for mailing lists or follow them on Twitter/Facebook. I know I'm not the only one either. Personally I'd call them 'Casual Fans' although that could have negative connotations because I've also heard people use that term for what you called 'Bandwagoners'.

Again based on my personal experience I'd also say they're a group worth remembering because they're likely to buy albums, gig tickets ect. but unlike commited fans are unlikey to make the effort to find out for themselves when there is a new release to buy, so they need that extra push from conventional promotion such as posters or radio adverts, even articles and interviews in magazines or on music news sites.

Other than that it's an excellent list. :)

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

Thanks Katy, I really appreciate the feedback. That is a great point - though I still think that what you are describing could more often than not, fit into the hobbyist category. But either way, your feedback is greatly appreciated - Ive got a follow up article coming today on how to increase the dedication of your fans. :-)

November 4 | Registered CommenterJonathan Ostrow

great describing it, now how do we get superfans? that's what everyone needs to know.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterButch

The entire problem regarding the intersect between fans and sales, is of course, that the music industry has lost its strangle hold on the flow and distribution of recorded music to the public. Control of the market is shifting more and more into the hands of consumers, and rightly so; hobbyists don't search for single tunes for any other reason than singles have been used for far too long as the primairy tool for pushing an otherwise tepid album.

Regardless of what the recording industry does to survive in this new paradigm, musicians are going to have to grow comfortable with the fact that increasingly, musical careers are not going to fit the mold of record//promote/tour in order to push CD/MP3 sales. In fact, provided that the recording industry ultimately fails in protecting its outmoded business model, it seems likely that it is inexpensive MP3 single releases that will push live performance sales. In that sense, musicians can free themselves from the traditional music industry and use recordings as tools to push booking sales, rather than bookings as tools to push recording sales.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterPaul "Calvo"

Great article!!

Instead of Super Fan, at KleerStreem Entertainment, we call them True Blue Fans (TBF). TBF are those that spend a min. of $100/year with an artist.

We believe Indie Artist are able to earn a good living and support a great 5 piece band and tour when the are approaching 5,000 TBF. Anything less limits what an IA can do.

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterKSE

FYI............Many of the links posted on here do not work....later!

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterKSE

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