This contribution is by Bas Grasmayer (@Spartz), head of online communication at official.fm, a d.i.y. platform for music creators and content owners. Be remarkable, be easy to discover, turn your fanbase into a party, connect, listen. Those were the final words of my article when I introduced my thesis’ main theory of the ecosystem of fans on hypebot back in March. Being a perfectionist, I’ve been waiting with the public release of my thesis until I felt that the layout matched the content. I teamed up with a wonderful designer called Ryan Van Etten, who built an amazing site for this thesis, which you can visit at http://basbasbas.com/thesis (and the entire thing is available in its entirety for free).
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Entries in Fanbase (13)
Social media gives you the opportunity to create genuine relationships with the members of your growing fan base, helping to create more super fans and ultimately working to strengthen your fan base as a whole.
At first, this is the best possible situation: as you grow, your fans will demand more attention and more access from you, and thanks to social media, you can now supply them with it. And again, thanks to the level of transparency that social media offers, the experience of the artist/ fan relationship is more authentic and personal than ever before.
And this is all good. Both you and your fan are happy. You continue to grow and your fan continues to gain more access and attention in return for support.
But as you and your fans go down this path together, you will inevitably run into the situation where you couldn’t possibly continue to manage all of the existing relationships that you’ve formed with your fans. No one can. Sorry.
Are you still not sending newsletters? A new study proves you should be….
Boston based research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey has recently completed a study that all musicians should know about.
Here are the important highlights:
“Three-quarters of web users are likely to share content with friends and family, and nearly half do so at least once a week. But while much social networking content is built around such shared items, most people still prefer to use email to pass along items of interest.”
The study goes on to say: “Overall, 86% of survey respondents said they used email to share content, while just 49% said they used Facebook. Broken down by age, the preference for email is more pronounced, as users get older. And only the youngest group polled, those ages 18 to 24, reverses the trend, with 76% sharing via Facebook, compared with 70% via email.”
So, if your audience is older than 24 you better be thinking about your newsletter strategy now!
So I thought I would apply that theory to building fans and work out why I recently became a loyal fan of the artist Jason Mraz – what was the psychology and marketing that really made me warm to not just his music, but him as a artist (or brand).
I wanted to know how I went from being just aware of his hit single ‘I’m Yours’ to downloading albums of tracks, checking out his videos and tour dates - what steps did I go through as a fan, and what breadcrumbs did he leave online to turn me into a fan?
It’s worth noting that I first heard ‘I’m yours’ in Summer 2009, yet only recently became a fan of his - what was my hold up? Here’s what I think happened.
Fans of groups such as the Insane Clown Posse (the Juggalo), the Grateful Dead (the Deadhead), and Jimmy Buffet (the Parrothead), are all apart of communities that exists beyond the band. The music is what brought these groups of people together, and the loyalty to the music acts as the glue bonding them together, but the artists themselves have no responsibility to control the group - the community acts as it’s own separate entity, with its own leaders and followers.
These fans belong to a tribe.
What Is a Tribe?
Tribes exist as a way to connect and to share an interest in a topic, and it is because of this that you as an artist must recognize that creating a tribe is an essential step towards success and career-longevity. And since a developed tribe acts as its own entity, the incessant ‘shameless self-promotion’ that unfortunately paints the walls of all too many artists’ Facebook and Twitter pages will become a thing of the past.
With a tribe of loyal fans at your side - just one announcement of any album, any show, even any new merch will be absorbed and spread like wildfire. Remember that a typical characteristic of a tribe member is to be overly dedicated, or obsessive, which can be used to your benefit! Think of these obsessive tribe members as your own instant viral marketing strategy- these are the types of fans who make sure that everyone in their social networks know about this new announcement.
Emerging musicians are in an eternal struggle against two evils: funding projects and growing a fanbase. In the past, musicians have funded their own albums, and have used it as leverage to gain more fans. But artists on a fixed income may run into issues funding their own projects, which can have harmful effects on the quality of the final product.
Of course, the next option is to release a demo or EP and work on building a fan base, meanwhile shopping around for a record deal with a major or indie label. The benefit here of course is that all of the financing of the album is accounted for, but lets face it, this is not the easiest thing to pull off. Labels typically won’t even look at you until you’ve crossed the 10,000-units-sold mark, and unfortunately that is becoming an increasingly difficult task to accomplish:
…in 2008 there were 1500 releases that sold over 10,000 album units. Out of that there were only 227 of them that were artists that had broken 10,000 for the first time. So in the whole year only 227 of the artists were artists that had broken what we call the “obscurity line.” When you sell 10,000 albums, you’re no longer an obscure artist; people know about you. You may not be a star yet, but you’re in the game. That gets you out of the glut and into the game. We looked at the 227 and identified that only 14 of them were artists doing it on their own and all the rest were on majors and indies; a little more than half were on indies.
~Tom Silverman Founder, Tommy Boy Records
And more often then not, you as the artist are stripped of some if not all creative control, resulting in an album that may work for the fans, but doesn’t work for you.
I hear a lot of people complain that their band can’t really get anywhere because there’s not much of a scene where they live. However I don’t see a lot of people doing anything about it. If there’s going to be a scene, someone needs to have the vision and initiative to start it. So if you don’t have a booming scene where you live – start your own! Here’s how: The first thing that you need to do is to scout out at least one good venue. What you want to look for are venues that are:
So you have a show and you want to promote it. Many artists take this pretty simply. They post on their website, announce it on Myspace, share it on Facebook, sometimes list it on Craigslist and then maybe send it to a local music magazine. There is this idea that people will just make the effort to find out about you. Now in some cases that can be true, but with each gig and show it is much more effective to pull those that already know you, reach out to those that might be some what familiar with you and connect with people that have never heard of you before.
Email is an essential part of the fan relationship equation for artists, labels, and managers. While it is difficult to say the exact value of collecting any individual email address for musicians, marketers from other industries peg the generic value of getting an email at about $1 each. But it’s all about what you do with it once you are given the great responsibility of owning it. We have seen Artists generate as much as $10 per email address on their list, when used properly.
Email has some interesting attributes going for it, like:
In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in. Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.
What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.
Since I started my career in this business. I’ve always been working within the 1,000 True Fans model.
Here’s my story: In 1996, I was living in Boulder, CO and I had just started Ariel Publicity, my boutique PR firm.
Acoustic Junction and Zuba two local bands became my first clients. Both had been staples in Boulder for a couple of years, and both made fantastic livings touring and selling their independent releases from coast to coast. They did this with no label, no distribution, and no major marketing budgets: just a manager, a tour manager, and me.
I also represented The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, The Slackers, and Skinnerbox, (and practically everyone touring during the third wave of Ska).
These artists and dozens like them all made full time livings from playing and touring. They had a core group of fans that supported them by seeing several shows a year, buying merch and buying albums.
Today, it feels revolutionary when we hear about bands that make a living based on their music.
What happened? What changed?
So the show got cancelled. Whether it was your fault, the venues fault, the manager’s fault or the weathers fault, it really doesn’t matter. It is strange to me that when something goes wrong, people seem to be much more about figuring out who did something wrong and assigning blame over the much more obvious and much more effective problem solving and doing what you can to make the best out of the situation.
Gigs are going to get cancelled or rescheduled. Times are going to occur when you are going to be double booked. You can take the right steps to organize and track things the best you can, but problems occur and sometimes they just can’t be helped. I have heard bands scream and moan about this booking agent or that manager messing up. Then I have seen the online postings where bands blast venues and then the venues go back blasting bands. This really doesn’t solve a single thing and it keeps you further as well as takes up time you could use to reschedule, take steps to make sure it does not happen again and reach out to your fans and people that were going to come to the show.
As many of you know my company Cyber PR specializes in Internet Marketing, Social Media and PR. I am an avid Internet Marketing student and I gather the nuggets I learn from my studies of musicians.
I recently spent two intense days in Los Angeles, where I attended an Internet marketing retreat led by my mentor, Ali Brown. I belong to her mastermind group and participate in her yearlong program.
It was a whirlwind, and the core principles I learned were both basic and critically important.
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(Updated Feb 25, 2014)