Do your concerts ever seem like the photo above? Here are a few areas you might be able to improve:
1. You’ve over-saturated your market with too many gigs too close to one another.
Read my post titled “Don’t Kill Your Hometown Crowd”
2. You are promoting to the wrong people.
Friends don’t necessarily equal fans. They may support you even if they don’t care for your music but only to a certain extent.
3. You are playing venues that your fans don’t like.
Are they too far away? Hard to get to by public transit?
4. You are sharing a bill with bands that aren’t a good match.
A $10 cover is harder to justify if your fans won’t enjoy any of the other music and will only be sticking around for your 45 minute set. You will also be unlikely to turn people that came to see the wildly different artists into new fans.
5. You Aren’t Collecting Emails
Imagine if you collect at least 1 email at each show you play. After 100 shows you’d have 100 people (likely many more) that you can target specifically about future concerts and releases. People that are willing to give you their email and risk getting spammed really like you (possibly more than the person that bought a CD). It’s scary how few bands take the minute to write “Mailing List” on the top of a piece of paper and leave a pen next to it. Don’t be one of them. Collect emails online too.
Creators need to think past Klout scores and other “black box” metrics when identifying influential fans. These are more for vanity than anything else as they do not provide much in the way of actionable data. Being more observant of who is sharing a creator’s links, writing about them, bringing their friends to the concerts - I think these metrics are more meaningful.
Engagement and discovery will continue to occur on social media platforms but, like I state in this Hypebot article, the focus should be on bringing the new fans into your ecosystem and eliminating the distraction of the social networks and the millions of other tracks on places like Spotify.
In general, an important goal for many artists is to share their work with an audience. Seth Godin goes as far as to say that artists need people to see their work and react to it before it can even be considered art. The hope of the artist is that their art resonates. This causes people to talk about the art and spread it.
There is a strange dichotomy; artists need their work to spread to become successful but they must be careful about spending too much time it promoting themselves. The goal must be to promote it to the right people that will cause the art to spread to others.
The most powerful endorsement comes from those that have no vested interest in the artist’s success other than enjoying their creations. When they say something positive about an artist’s work they have no incentive to do so other than to share something they love with others who they think will love it too.
Crowdfunding campaigns that really take off are almost always a result of shifting the burden of promotion from the creator to the fanbase. It’s not about the artist removing themselves from responsibility, it’s about them realizing when they need assistance and activating their fans. It is not a good sign if the artist is talking more about their project than their fans are.
A few steps to move artists in the direction of creating an army of evangelists:
- Create something that people cannot help but share and talk about.
- Start a project that is only fun or exciting if many people are involved in it (example: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir)
- Make something incredibly unique based around a currently popular song. Straight acoustic covers won’t cut it. (example: Stony - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us [Looping Cover])
- Start a crowdfunding project or subscription where there is an accurate value alignment with your fans that causes them to help you reach your goal so they can get your art.
If you are in a band it is very likely that you greatly enjoy the genre of music your band plays. This is very valuable because it means you have opinions and ethos that are in alignment with most of your fans and potential audience (read: customers).
Because of this, you should constantly be looking through your “fan lens” as you think about what you do with your band. By that I mean you should look at what you are doing from the perspective of someone that loves the genre of music that your band plays. Do this when deciding on what kind of merch you will be producing, how you will engage with your audience online, etc.
As a fan of punk music would branded shot glasses be something I would like?
As a fan of New Orleans jazz am I usually looking for information on Twitter or artist/venue websites?
New Idea X
When you get excited about new idea x it can sometimes blind you and make it difficult to remember who your audience is and what they actually want. The easiest way to test the viability of any idea is to pause and ask yourself, “is this something that I as a fan of this genre would want/use/buy/watch/enjoy?” You must be honest with yourself in your assessment of x. If you aren’t sure it doesn’t hurt to gather additional data by asking a few fans.
Never lose sight of the fact that your ability to view at your band as a fan of the genre is of incredible value.
The emergence of social media as a key strategy in the promotion and marketing of music has forever changed how artists interact with fans. Gone are the barriers that caused the broadcast > consume culture we have experienced for decades. The emergence of conversation as a means of strengthening the bond between artist and those that support them has become critically important to growth.
Other than your artistic output, there is nothing that matters more than the relationship you have with your fans. Being genuine is heralded and being fake is entirely obvious. The expression, “their music spoke to me,” has changed to, “I spoke with them and realized why I connect so deeply with their music.”
You need to send the love and excitement your fans have for you directly back at them. You need to let them know how much they matter and how much they have helped you grow both creatively and professionally. Remember that a fan is never exclusively your fan; they love other artists too.
You need to be their biggest fan.
You (should) have been keeping a mailing list since the moment you formed the group so you could stay in touch with those that liked your music enough to risk being emailed far too often. If you were really on top of things you should know where and when each person signed up for your mailing list. If you have not been doing this it is never too late to start. I think one of the most powerful emails you can send a fan is the following:
We wanted to thank you for supporting us by sharing our music with friends and attending our shows. It may feel like yesterday but on this day one year ago we played at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, MA where you came out to hear us and signed up for our mailing list. In the last year we have grown as a band and it is largely due to people like you. One year ago today we were opening a show at the Middle East Upstairs and now in a week we will be coming back to Cambridge and headlining at TT the Bears. We hope to see you there and that you come say hello before or after our set.
Please refrain from copying the above email verbatim. You must make the email to your fans personal and my voice is not your own. While you should not copy directly there are a few concepts that are important for an email like this:
- Sincerity. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Write about how and why you are grateful.
- Nostalgia. Trigger memories that they can relive in their mind.
- A call to action. Do you have an upcoming show near where they first saw you? Are you running an Indiegogo campaign? Be selective in what you ask of your fans.
- Encourage further interaction. Getting someone to attend your show or buy your record is nice but encouraging them to talk to you and build a relationship is just as important.
When I shared a draft of this post with some artists their feedback was that they felt this strategy might be tough to scale for a band with hundreds or thousands of fans on their mailing list. Many mailing list managers such as MailChimp allow you to place fans into groups so you can keep track of where and when they signed up for your mailing list. By doing this, these messages can be largely automated yet still highly personalized.
There are many ways you can engage your fans to show them that you care. Consider attaching an exclusive mp3 to the email or a special photo. If you know a particular fan has been very important to your success you can offer to put them on your guest list for the next show in their town. Small yet sincere gestures like these can go a long way towards strengthening the bond with your fans and creating more evangelists.
Earlier this week I wrote a guest post on Hypebot that discussed the issues of faking a fanbase and watering down the average value of a “like” or follow. I outlined a number of reasons that this was bad with a main one being that lies are irreversible.
What I didn’t get into was the idea of what a lie can do to the artist and their perception of themselves.
The image above (edited to protect the guilty) was a status posted yesterday by a DJ from the New England area. He seems pleased to be one of the top 2,000 DJs in the world according to TopDeeJays.com, a website that ranks DJs by their combined social media influence across all networks.
Methodology (from TopDeeJays.com):
Topdeejays uses an algorythm (sic) that measures general social media influence by combining Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, SoundCloud, MySpace, Last.fm and YouTube fans, subscribers and followers. In order to avoid mixing apples and oranges, it uses a unique measurement – TDJ points to rank artists by popularity. Take TDJ points as a currency to measure value of each participating social network’s members.
Here are the stats for this DJ:
There is a saying that goes, “if it smells like sh-t and tastes like sh-t then it is probably not a legitimate DJ ranking (I’m paraphrasing).” As you can see, there is a downward trend for every network. The truth is that this DJ purchased almost every “like” and follow, something that becomes instantly apparent to anyone that visits his Facebook page when they see such an engagement deficit. Someone with 10k+ fans should be averaging more than 3 “likes” per status even if only half of those fans were real.
The big issue here isn’t the deception of others, it is the deception of the DJ himself. Rather than be aware that he truly has loads of work to do in order to get anywhere close to being one of the top DJs in the world he is completely satisfied with a fake, masturbatory statistic because, let’s face it, this is much easier and self-satisfying than seeing that there are tens of thousands of DJs that are more well-known.
When you lie, it hurts you more than it could possibly hurt anyone else. It breeds complacency inside of your heart and causes you to rest on imaginary laurels.
Side-note: this DJ was booked for a Boston show on a Friday night earlier this year. Want to guess how many of his 11k fans showed up?
Perhaps three fans are 80% of his un-purchased “likes” on Facebook. In that case I suppose it was fairly impressive.