Recently, on ContentSphere.de I argued about how highly required it is for DIY artists to get mobile – to find a way for mobile communication with fans. Actually, it is key to truely connect with fans. Apparently, there’s a solution to that. Finally.
I know, it’s beaten to death… but – there is an app for that. Of course, the main issue in CwF (Connect-with-Fans) is authenticity. You can’t buy that, same with the quality of your music. Yet it is required to have something to grow that on. A medium like an app.
That’s why I was curious to see if there’s anything like that available for the common DIY artist. But first off, why is it necessary at all?
The initial spark: attention & focus.
Ok, now the quality of your music is mind-blowing. Plus, you were able to get the attention of people who like your music, say at a gig. That’s when you must start to connect with fans – or they’re lost. Btw, that’s the same reason why merch should be available at a concert. You’ve got your listeners focused.
Make it last: contact, conversion, longevity.
Start with personal contact. The usual things: autographs, or talking to people if your just starting out. Mingle with them, share some thoughts. But again, once the concert-goers leave the club they lose their focus on you. Even merch doesn’t grant a contact forever. That’s why email addresses are worth that much (ask any company from any market): newsletters and messages can make your listeners visit your site. This is of highest relevance – because to allow for paying your rent, you have to convert as many of the casual listeners to fans as possible. To paying customers.
A fragile relationship: the volatile fan.
Now, back to my main topic. So you succeeded in connecting and some fans did visit your site. There used to be three issues with that. First, you have to convince your fan to visit this very site again and again and again… as often as possible. Secondly, your fan spends some spare time at his computer – but most probably that’s not the whole day. Not every day. Thirdly, if you are not established yet on one of the predominant download platforms (ever been featured on iTunes front page?) your listener will share his web time across several artists’ pages. This particular problem in accessing fairly unknown artists’ music is a quite crucial one - one to look at in the near future.
See how difficult it is to keep connected with your fans? They have to contact you, they have to spend time at their home computer’s fixed location (even starting your laptop isn’t always possible), plus it’s uncomfortable to look out for several artists at once. So it’s pretty easy to download it all at the torrent of choice. Entering: mobile devices.
Don’t leave it to the fan – reach out to him.
What about enabling your fans’ smartphones to connect with them? What about enabling them to help you instantly spread the word by social media, right in the moment when focus is highest? Did you ever experience what it is like when you’re watching Twitter messages and – in this very moment your most valued artist announces a new and free release? I did so with Trent Reznor. It was like… YEAH! I’m first!
Moreover, surprise your most loyal fans by sending personalised messages or rewards. That definitely will generate great impact. Again, here’s an example – this time referring to Zoe.Leela, a Berlin artist just starting out who contacted me.
Also, it’s not only the DIY artists who should read on. What about netlabels, even small “regular” labels, managers or promoters might find it comfortable to work with a set of apps maintained via one interface.
There already are some manufacturers around offering a mobile connection. Obviously, there are only but a few:
- BandApp: Good approach, I like the dashboard feature with the statistics. Though, at the moment only available for iPhone but at acceptable cost ($ 120 per year plus $ 30 one time set up fee).
- Mobile Roadie: Very promising and extensible. However, everything beyond the „Core“ plan is for the tech-savvy people only I guess – plus, even the DIY „Core“ starter plan is way too pricey (850 EUR – 1.200 EUR / $ 1.130 - $ 1.600 per year).
- mozes: The site doesn’t reveal much. The texting approach appears to be outdated, and limiting plans to a number of campaigns only is rather disappointing. Obviously, it is not the DIY artist who is targeted.
- Seedfolia: Right now iPhone only. If you include hosting etc. the starter plan is about 500 EUR ($ 670) per year. Reduced functionality.
- Songpier: Actually, this appears to be the only service delivering apps for all platforms on smartphones and iPads/tablets/slates. Best thing is – now hold your breath… They offer a freemium solution. Starter package is for free. That’s true DIY spirit. They are set to launch by end of January – and judging by their comments on ContentSphere, they prove to have a good sense of humour.
Of course, I wasn’t able to do a full-fledged test with any of those, so maybe if you are using one of the services please tell me what you think.
The Good, the Bad, and the Brilliant
Definitely, be prepared to find some problems when testing these or similar services:
- Any customised app would easily cost you a fortune. So it disqualifies for DIY artists.
- Then there is the multitude of mobile platforms: iOS, Android, Windows… at least these should be considered. When I was searching for any reasonably priced service, mostly it said – for iPhone only. At best, Android and Windows were announced to be coming soon. Too bad.
- Essential: Make sure that your app will be approved by the appropriate AppStore. Apple tends to be quite difficult at times. Best are Songpier or BandApp which just use a link meaning you bypass any store.
- It must be comfortable to use. You want to focus on music, not on tech issues.
- Is it possible to integrate with all your common social media tools? Are you able to send messages to mobile devices and Twitter/Facebook at the same time?
- Check out if there are any add-ons to extend functionality.
Songpier (shortlisted for MidemNet Lab’s mobile application of 2011) and BandApp I found really easy to share with your fans: You send them a link, they open it on their smartphone, and move it to the home screen. That’s it. However, Songpier starts at a cost of zero. Currently, BandApp fails on that.
Website only vs. Website plus App – any improvements?
What’s different to just having your website (which you still have to keep running!)? Doesn’t matter where your fans are, you can send messages – location of gig has changed, new song release, competitions, whatever. You can add information like tour dates, lyrics, the links to your shop and to your website. The core of it all: streaming your music. Everything updated in real-time. If you are more into details, statistics and all that, a service like that can even let you find out where your fans live, so you can decide where to play. It also is a way to identify who’s street-teaming for you.
This time it is you who is contacting your fan. He has his mobile at hand – everytime and everywhere. There’s quite a lot of time to pass playing with his phone. Those artists being present with an app will be on his phone to browse instantly.
Sure shot? No. But as close as you can get.
It’s certainly not suitable for any artist. Though, if you are going DIY style meaning making use of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter – well, I’d advice you to at least try it.
Wolfgang Senges advises independent artists and music startups in marketing issues. Besides blogging on the bilingual site ContentSphere.de, he is a core member of Berlin’s all2gethernow music conference (Curator of Content) and involved in founding C3S (Creative Commons Collecting Society).