I believe that if we don't take the concept even further, the music industry will continue to be a trend follower rather than a trend setter. Thinking of fans as consumers and artists as creators seems to be the same old model, now simply spread across smaller and smaller niches.
Based on what I am seeing, both at shows and in the way fans are using technology, I anticipate more of a movement toward involving fans at all levels of music. Or, let me put it this way, if you don't involve them, they will either find ways to insert themselves anyway, or they will go elsewhere.
Many new music business models recognize that there are various levels of fandom. Here is one example: The Long Tail Of Fans
But I think there are even more ways for fans to interact with music. And each stage on the continuum presents ways to engage fans (i.e., to capitalize on their interests and give them more ways to express themselves and find fulfillment in the process). Not everyone wants to invest much time or effort into music, but I think everyone wants to feel emotionally rewarded by the process, whether they put in a great deal of time/effort or very little.
Here's the list of levels of involvement that I came up with. I tried to put them in order from what I think might be the least amount of time and commitment to what might involve the most time/commitment. But this can vary from person to person depending on skill sets. For some, making a video for/about the band would take more time than learning to play a song on the guitar. For others, it might be the reverse. So my list isn't supposed to be a fixed progression of involvement levels. In fact, a better guide might be how many hours a fan is devoting to a band and its music rather than the tasks he/she is performing. For example, someone who spends hours learning to play an instrument in order to emulate an artist or band may have far more emotional involvement than a wealthy sponsor who donates a significant amount of money.
If I have left out any, feel free to suggest them and I will incorporate them in the list (and credit you, as I go).
NOTE: My list started with "listen to music" on the assumption that the first step anyone takes in a relationship with an artist/band is to hear the music. But Tom Higley (read more about our discussion below) pointed out that listening can come with a context. So there are actually multiple levels of music exposure/discovery/receptiveness. You can stumble upon music, have it recommended to you, or seek it out.
This list is basically self-motivated. The reward is in developing an interest and then pursuing it. But I had a conversation the other night with Tom Higley, CEO of iggli (a new way to invite friends to ticketed events), who suggested bands or others in the music business could also provide extrinsic motivators to encourage fans to take additional steps. He cited what foursquare is doing. The company allows people to know where their friends are located. But as people frequent certain places, they receive rewards of various kinds (e.g., titles, discounts and freebies offered by those locations). Here's more on the concept: "6 Innovative Ways Businesses are Capitalizing on Foursquare."
Music could offer something similar (e.g., titles and rewards for attending the most shows at a venue, attending the most shows for a particular artist, earning points for purchases, donating time). There can be both a public component and and a rewards component for engaging in certain activities.
I'll be touching all of the above in future blog posts. Suffice it to say for now that selling to fans is no longer enough. They have too many other options to be passive consumers.
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