Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Involving Music Fans at Many Levels

Many in the music industry have woken up to the fact that relationships with fans are important. Social media, direct-to-fan sales, and fan management are concepts being discussed online and at conferences.

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).

  • Be exposed to music in some fashion (e.g., radio, TV, blogs, Pandora, friend suggestions/playlists)
    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.
  • Listen to music
  • Go to the artist/band website
  • Stream the music (from Next Big Sound Blog)
  • Download the music for free (from Next Big Sound Blog)
  • Attend a show because friends have bought your ticket (suggested by Tom Higley)
  • Add music to a playlist
  • Become a fan on Facebook or another site
  • Forward a link to friends or post it on Facebook or another website
  • Indicate that you like the music or favorite it on various websites (from Next Big Sound Blog)
  • Vote for the artist/band in a contest. (from Next Big Sound Blog)
  • Play with an application on the artist/band website (e.g., augmented reality)
  • Buy the music
  • Sign up for a mailing list
  • Read the artist/band blog on a regular basis (suggested by kahnzo)
  • Subscribe to the artist/band's YouTube channel
  • Comment on the artist/band's webpage/Facebook page/bulletin board/etc.
  • Promote the artist/band to friends
  • Sing the artist/band's songs at karaoke
  • Purchase or create a ringtone of the artist/band's song (from Next Big Sound Blog)
  • Support a company because it sponsors the band
  • Buy yourself tickets to shows
  • Take photos, videos, and/or text at shows to send to friends
  • Dance/sing at the show
  • Talk to the band after the show (suggested by kahnzo)
  • Get the artist to sign a CD
  • Buy a t-shirt
  • Wear the t-shirt a lot
  • Put a widget from the artist/band on your webpage
  • Take friends to the show
  • Buy show tickets for friends (suggested by Tom Higley)
  • Engage in an ongoing online conversation about/with the artist/band
  • Download an iPhone application for the artist/band
  • Blog favorably about the music (that might include posting setlists, photos, and reviews)
  • Record the music at a show
  • Create a video using the music or in some other fashion related to the artist/band
  • Create a remix
  • Choreograph a dance number to the music
  • Perform the artist/band's music at a talent show
  • Use the artist/band's music in your wedding
  • Play a fantasy game with the artist/band on your roster (suggested by ZikPot)
  • Join something related to the band which requires a monthly or annual payment
  • Be an extra in the artist/band video (suggested by kahnzo)
  • Learn to play the songs on an instrument (which would involve more effort than just singing along)
  • Get to know other fans to the extent that you recognize them at shows and/or stay in touch between shows
  • Buy tickets to a show on the first day
  • Join a street team (doing tasks such as postering or handing out flyers)
  • Help the artist/band by doing something outside of street team work (perhaps pro bono professional services)
  • Create an artist/band related t-shirt
  • Collect artist/band-related stuff
  • Create a fan page for the artist/band
  • Learn an instrument to play the songs
  • Befriend the artist/band (i.e., get to know the artist/band to the extent that you socialize beyond music-related events)
  • Date or get involved with a band member beyond friendship (suggested by Rick -- he actually said "become a groupie," but I'll include dating and marrying in addition to sleeping with)
  • Contribute money/goods/services to the artist/band or become a sponsor
  • Travel outside your area to multiple shows
  • Plan vacations around the artist/band
  • Hire the artist/band for a private concert
  • Write songs inspired by the artist/band
  • Create a video game or characters based on the artist/band (suggested by kahnzo)
  • Create your own band after being inspired by the artist/band
  • Join the band itself
  • Get better/more famous than the original band that inspired you

  • 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.

    Suzanne Lainson
    @slainson on Twitter


    1. Suzanne,

      Nice blog post and read read....!

    2. interesting post

      some ideas: read the bands blog, post on the bands bulletin board, introduce yourself to bandmembers at show, write a review of a live show, post setlists and pictures of the band, get involved a one of the bands projects, volunteer as an extra in the bands video, create a video game which has band members as characters, etc

    3. Thanks for the ideas. I'll spend some time either working them in somewhere or combining them with something already on the list.

    4. Very nice work, Suzanne. And I think you hit on something very important. There are a fan's involvement with the music can occur at various level. But even though it seems reasonable to believe that most people won't go the extra mile (from the perspective of commitment) unless they are engaged emotionally, it is certainly possible that someone can be very much connected and engaged just by listening to the music. It isn't necessarily true that a fan is a bigger or better fan if they join the artist's street team. And it isn't necessarily true that those who make the extra commitment will experience a greater measure of satisfaction or enjoyment. It is true, however, that many fans will become engaged with the music (and the artists) they care about. And as they become engaged, many of them will go further than the passive consumers of an earlier era. They will share their views, their photos, and perhaps even the music itself (or a ticket to the show) with others. Some of them may even be inspired to create their own music, their own experience that they are then motivated to share with others. And the cycle continues.

    5. A site where music fans and artists can play a game like in the stock exchange and win some cool item is here

    6. Tom, yes, I agree that how fans interact with music does not indicate their level of emotional attachment. That's for them to decide.

      What I wanted to do was to get people to move beyond the idea that music continues to be a one-way street, with artists creating content and looking for ways to sell to fans, and fans buying tiers of content, merchandise, and services.

      What I am reading in the direct-to-fan discussions is what to sell fans (e.g., t-shirts, limited edition packages, monthly subscriptions).

      I think that thinking is limited, so I have proposed that we think in terms of ways to involve fans. I suppose it is coming from the idea of experiential marketing, but I want to move beyond the idea that musical experiences mostly revolve around attending live performances. I think the live show is one of the most experiential activities, but viral marketing, where people send a link to friends, also contains a level of involvement too.

      So if we begin to think about why people will get involved with music other than just to listen to it and to buy related items, maybe we will find more ways to make this a creative process for everyone, not just those perceived as the artists.

    7. Zik, thanks for the game mention and link. Yes, just as fantasy sports leagues engage people, something along those lines should do the same for people following artists/bands. The prize-winning aspect would give them an additional level of involvement, too.

    8. Suzanne, this is a great refreshing post from the usual "top 10 ways to do this...." articles that are everywhere. Sometimes all the music industry needs is for people to just approach ideas with "I was just thinking about this and decided to jot down some notes ot bounce off of everyone"

      Defintately the area of fans offering their time, skills (in a controlled environment) or help in a specific area to a band. Some artists are asking their fans to help them create their artwork, comment on pre-released material help out with tours. However, mass participation by fans in the creation of music will probably not happen simply because everyone will become a critic even before the music is released.

      I listen to music all day, it's part of my job, but rarely do I connect with a band purely on the basis of their sound. More often than not I really connect with a band through a video, website, out of the box thinking on how their music could be used or simply just being themselves and being true to their art.

    9. Conrad, yes, I agree that crowdsourcing a song would probably not result in an especially good piece.

      But we have been to shows where the person on stage gets everyone participating in some fashion. You could even engineer it so that everyone feels like they are creating, even if they are actually being guided. I think flash mobs are tapping into that. There is an organizer for the flash mob, but a lot of people are recruited or invited to participate and the sheer mass of them adds to the effect. They are the event, even if each person didn't actually come up with an original move.

    10. No mention of groupies? Why do u think I got in a band in the 1st place!?

    11. Groupies. Funny. But you're right. I've seen groupies in both music and sports. And not necessarily ones who actually sleep with their objects of adoration. They are just there all the time, wanting access. The difference between a hardcore fan and a groupie is hard to discern and sometimes there isn't a difference.

      I'll have to think about if there is an appropriate place to put "Being a groupie" on the list.

      Actually there is. You can go from hanging out with the band to dating the band.


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