There’s a buzzword I see popping up a lot lately in articles about how to become a career artist: superfans. The idea is that if you have a subset of your fans who will support everything you do – buy every album you release, go to all your shows, buy all your merch – then you can build a sustainable career with the support of these hyper-dedicated fans.
As someone who has made a career as an independent artist, I have found no better way to build a collection of superfans than partnering with existing fans to put on deeply connective concerts in their homes. The remarkable success I’ve experienced with this model has led me to abandon traditional club touring, instead performing almost 150 house concerts in the last 2 years.
House concerts are the most connective, fulfilling, and rewarding performance experiences I’ve had as an artist. I’ve built relationships with fans at house concerts that have turned into meaningful friendships. And those connections go both ways; it’s not surprising to hear a guest at a house concert say, “I’ve never been to anything like this before and it’s the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time!”
I’ve thought a lot about why house concerts are so good at turning audience members into committed fans. I think it comes down to intimacy, exclusivity, and connection.
We can all stop waiting for the “new music industry” to arrive. The new music industry is not coming, it is here already. The only thing that will change is change. New models reshaping the way music is marketed and distributed will continue to change the landscape, and there will be many. Right now we have an emergence of abundance within the music industry. There are countless new artists emerging and the same goes for the ways of consuming those artists. This will not change; the emergence will continue to evolve as humans will continue to evolve. With that being said, there will be a shaping and weeding out process. The shaping and weeding out process will define which artists and which models work best for you individually, the consumer. The process of definition for the music consumer will cross all boundaries including race, gender, and age. I would like to include money, but I can’t help but to imagine the rich kid who only wants to see their favorite artist live, so they pay for live shows whenever they decide to.
The music industry of yesterday consisted of great control. If one could just control the few available key aspects, they could and have controlled the market. Distribution in the days of music consumption yesterday consisted of record stores. This is something that I am very fond of, as I remember being a kid working in my grandfather’s record store in Northern New Jersey. I remember the days of going to one-stops in Brooklyn early Saturday mornings and rushing back to New Jersey to make it in time for opening. The distribution dollars still led back to the same few places. Huge media conglomerates controlled distribution channels and consumption channels through radio, tv, and later on portable devices. This took MAJOR funding. It was unthinkable to go against these conglomerates in this state of the music industry. The costs of producing, distributing, and marketing a record were extremely expensive. Even if you had the funding to produce a record, marketing and distribution channels were still tied up with the large media conglomerates.
With the emergence of new music technology, the scope has broadened on all levels. Technology has made way for new opportunities, thus creating new models. The internet has eliminated a lot of past costs within the music industry; this goes for the way music is recorded, the format of music, the marketing, and especially the distribution outlets. New models have taken away the control aspect. A child can be born, grow up developing their musical talent, gather people who can assist in the process, record an album, market that album, distribute that album, get paid, and repeat the process over and over without ever dealing with a record label for their entire career. And that’s just the basic capability of an artist operating in today’s music industry.
Right now we are looking at three entities that are battling in the “Who’s Going to Shape the Music Industry Showdown.” None of these entities are record labels; in fact they are all technology companies. They are Apple, Amazon, and Google. Does this spell doom for major record labels, I doubt it, but who knows? That’s the beauty of the current state of the music industry. It is imploded with an unforeseen greatness of potential. In the coming days, we will see artists partner with entities that we never would have imagined, in fact it’s happening now! Incredibly amazing talents that we never would have heard of in the days of yesterday now have a shot. Sure there will be lesser talents also with opportunities, but if you don’t want to listen to them DON’T. You now have that power in today’s world. The control of the experience has returned to the user, where it should have and always be. So has the music industry changed from what we once known? YES, and it will continue to change, but you will hold the reigns. Follow the technology at your own discretion. The new music industry is here, and from the looks of it, the new music industry will always be here.
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Taurean Casey.
This is a matter that I’ve struggled with, going back and forth. Should I release full length albums in this new music era or should I be releasing singles once per month? I was leaning towards releasing a single each month for one reason: consistent fan engagement. It’s good to always have something new to talk about with your fans!
But then, I ran into a problem - a few weeks isn’t enough time to promote a song in any kind of impactful/effective way, especially when you are an independent artist. You’ve barely promoted that song before you’ve moved onto the next one. And from the fan engagement standpoint, I found many of them didn’t know I had certain songs out. For whatever reason, all of the fans don’t pay attention all of the time. So if there’s no sustained attention/focus on the promotion of a particular release, it’s hard for people to know it exists.
Another important point is that this business has always been about THE SONG. And when you have a great song, it’s just not possible to see its full potential realized (in spreading out there) when you give it only a short promotional window.
So then, the question became…how do I solve the need to have something new to engage the fans with and the need to keep promotional focus on one release in order to maximize its impact in the marketplace at large?
For one, I think releasing an album (a body of works/songs) is necessary to accomplish this. Forget that people are going to buy whatever single song they like on your album and not necessarily the whole thing. That’s going to happen in this market. The issue isn’t point of sale. The issue is promotion. I think the album is necessary for promotional purposes. With an album, I can create a longer window for gaining awareness and discovery by new fans. And, at the same time, always have something new for the current fans, but pointing them to the same release…which will also help them discover the album and dive deeper into it.
With an album, you can have something new to announce/promote to the fans and public each week, such as:
You can go on and on…there are so many creative ways when you have a collection of songs (an album) that you’re working with to promote as opposed to just having one song. The prolonged attention you put on and generate for that album is only going to raise sales and raise your profile as an artist to the public as you progress. Moving on too quickly can really hurt your progress as an artist. I remember reading an article once about Montell Jordan. They had released “This Is How We Do It” and it was a major success. But they moved too quick on promoting a new release and it didn’t work because people were still into “This Is How We Do It”. Radio was still just spinning “This Is How We Do It” (and I’m willing to bet that it was because the market was still discovering that song; hence, the demand). Not respecting the promotional window ended up hurting his career.
Each release is like a spark. So you have to take time to fan the flames and let it burn. When it starts fizzling out and you’ve run out of creative ways to prolong attention on it…then start planning the next release. You can’t have fire if all you do is make sparks, but wont fan the flames. Just a thought.
Article originally appeared on Music Thing Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Minh Chau.
Your new album has just been released, or maybe you’ve just booked a huge show. Time to email everybody you know! Before you add your entire address book to the “To:” field of a new email, consider a few points of email list etiquette. By respecting the recipients of your mass emails, you’ll have far better results from your efforts, build stronger relationships with your fans, and build a healthy email list.
I’ve been maintaining my own email list for about seven years, and along the way have found many ways to gain, and lose, subscribers. I’ve also been added to many email lists, sometimes willingly, often not,but always tried to learn from other artists’ email newsletters.
There are numerous services available to help you maintain your email list. Some are free, others cost money depending on the size of your list and the features you want to install. Look at the bottom of the emails you get from different bands and you’ll find links to some of these services. I highly recommend you find one that suits you to make this whole process easier.
When I repeatedly receive email I don’t want, I apply a setting that sends any messages from that email address straight to the trash. They can keep sending me emails and pretend it’s doing them some good, but the message never even hits my inbox. When enough people on their list take a similar action, the unwanted email eventually causes more harm than good.
On the other hand, when I sign up for a band’s email list I’m far more likely to not only read the emails, but take whatever action they are suggesting, be it listen to some new music, mark their next show on my calendar, or pre-order their new album. There’s also a better chance I’ll forward the email to friends and help spread the word.
If you want your list to be effective, make sure everyone on it wants to be there. A smaller list of dedicated fans is more valuable than a large list of people who think you are annoying.
Here are some ideas to help you build your email list:
I sell my music through several services that give me the customer’s email address. I never assume this person wants to be on my mailing list. Instead, I email them at the end of the year, thank them for their support, and ask them if they’d like to subscribe to my email list. They usually do, and these subscribers have become the core of my fan base. I see more activity (responses, purchases, etc.) from these fans than I do from those that I’ve never spoken to or emailed individually. A little personal interaction can go a long way.
Unfortunately, some people will decide to opt out of your email list. Give fans an easy way out. The less confrontational, the better.
Every email list service will automatically have this option. If you choose to send mass emails without one of these services, include a line at the bottom of each email that says:
Reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line to stop receiving these emails.
People don’t always unsubscribe because they never want to hear from you again. Between Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, and everything else connecting people online, there’s more than one way to keep fans updated. If you’re using several of this tools to update your fans, it’s understandable that some people choose to only get Facebook invites while others may prefer to hear about your upcoming shows via email.
Losing a subscriber doesn’t always mean you’re losing a fan. However, if the only way for people to stop receiving your emails is to block you or designate your email as spam, then you’re probably running the risk of losing fans.
It’s important that you stay in touch with your fans, but only when you have something new to report. If you send too many emails that don’t say much, people are less likely to notice when you have big news. At most, I recommending sending one email per month.
Make sure your emails have some value to your fans. Don’t just tell them about your upcoming shows, because many people might not live in your town. Include links to new blog posts, videos, demo recordings, etc. The key word here is new content, not the same video you told them about last month. In fact, use your email list as motivation to create new content!
One of the most common rookie mistakes I’ve seen is people adding all the recipients to the “To:” field of the email, which allows everyone on the list to see everyone else’s email address. The best solution is to simply use an email list service, but if you don’t have one yet, be sure to add the email addresses to the “Bcc:” field.
Bcc: stands for Blind Carbon Copy. Email addresses in this field are kept hidden from all recipients of the message.
Inadvertently sharing everybody’s email address with everyone else is usually harmless, but most musicians send their emails to other musicians, and some of them might add every email they get their hands on to their own email list. Protect your friends’ email addresses by using the Bcc: field on emails going to a bunch of people that don’t know each other.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s another common rookie mistake. Sending emails with big attachements like MP3s can clog people’s inboxes. Only send MP3s to people that are expecting them.
A far better approach is to send a download link, especially a link that allows you to track clicks, downloads, plays, etc. Whenever you can track metrics, you have a chance to learn about your fans and yourself. If nobody is downloading your music, wouldn’t it be nice to know so you could figure out a better approach?
The most important thing independent musicians can do to build a fan base is to communicate with them. When somebody responds to your newsletter, write them back! Even if just to say thanks, your acknowledgement can go a long way. We should all be so lucky to someday have more fan emails than we could possibly respond to, but meanwhile, take advantage of every opportunity to interact with your fans. Even the biggest stars respond to fan mail!
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank/) and was written by Cameron Mizell.