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).
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.
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.
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 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 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.