In the previous post of this two-part series, we talked about how your fans don’t just want to own your music: they want to feel an ownership in your success. They want a piece of you—meaning they want to feel connected. In the continuation of this train of thought, we’ll talk a little about what this might look like for you, and how it can affect the choices you make with your career.
The music business is constantly changing, and what works today, quite frankly, might not work tomorrow. So I’m not going to try to lay out some exact formula for helping you form connections with your fans. This is really more about a way of thinking, a whole approach to your branding as an artist, than it is a set of steps. But what we can do is to help you start thinking in this direction, and give some examples of what other artists have done to connect with their fans.
BUILDING A BASE OF “TRUE FANS”
Several years ago, Kevin Kelly wrote a blog post about getting “1000 True Fans” that has since sent lots of ripples through the indie music community, even receiving attention and elaboration from thought leaders like Seth Godin. It might sound a little bit formulaic, but given the current state of our culture, the principle behind it makes a lot of sense.
The idea is that “True Fans” form your core group of followers; these are the people who will buy anything you put out, who will drive all day to come see you perform, who want the special edition version of everything, who will be the largest contributors to your Kickstarter campaign. These are your loyalists, the ones who feel the most sense of connection and ownership with what you’re doing. If you can gather a base of 1000 of these True Fans, and if you can gain an average revenue from them of $50 per person per year (through music/merch sales and concert tickets)—that amounts to a base income of $50,000 annually, almost enough to make a living. Of course, you’ll also be gathering fans at other levels of loyalty, as well, who will buy your products more occasionally, and you’ll have deeply loyal fans who will spend more than $50—but you get the idea here. Be willing to connect with your fan base at whatever level they’re comfortable with, but have a goal in mind to develop a core group of True Fans. The larger this group, and the more connected they feel, the more stable your income stream becomes.
GET CREATIVE ABOUT CONNECTION
Your fans want a piece of you, so look for creative ways to give them that “piece.” Here are some ways to accomplish this that have worked for a number of artists:
- Creating a “special edition” of your latest recording that includes a variety of perks (e.g., a vinyl copy of the record, personal commentary, limited printings of merchandise, autographs, whatever).
- A subscription program. Some artists have offered fans exclusive content unavailable to others for an annual subscription fee. (This is a great way to engage some of your True Fans, btw.)
- Developing a “street team” of fans who help promote your music, talk about your upcoming shows, etc. This directly engages your fans in spreading the word about you, through word-of-mouth, social media, etc., giving them a chance to participate in your success.
There are many other ways to do this sort of thing, so use your imagination.
KEEP IT PERSONAL
Don’t use the social networks just to advertise your stuff—that’s a turn-off, anyhow. Write your own tweets and Facebook posts, and don’t send identical posts to multiple social channels. Don’t just talk about your music; share things that interest you, or ask questions that engage your followers. In short, be real. The more you can create a personal conversation on social media, the more your fans will feel connected to you.
SOME ADDITIONAL RESOURCES…
If you want to delve a little further into this topic, here are a couple of suggestions:
Music Think Tank recently interviewed Kat Parsons about the “1000 True Fans” idea and developing a mailing list. You can read it here.
Last year, author Seth Godin did an excellent podcast interview for CD Baby on developing musical tribes. Definitely worth a half hour of your time.
(Photo credit: Creativity103/Flickr)