Music Marketing

Michelle Shaprow Asks: “How Can I Maintain My Personal Touch As I Build My Career?”

Michelle-shaprow Michelle Shaprow is an emerging jazz pop singer whose debut album, Purple Skies, is currently available on iTunes with her first video for the single, Back Down To Earth, available via YouTube. I'm writing about her today to ask Hypebot readers for feedback on challenges she faces at this point in her career based on her personal approach to building her fanbase.

Michelle initially received some visibility in the music world via her guest spots on a variety of dance tracks. However, it was not until she began focusing on softer, jazzier songs that she felt truly at home. She has a light, relatively quiet voice that gives her work a personal, intimate feel and an approach to marketing to match. One may not typically think of marketing as an intimate process but Michelle has focused on direct contact with her fans, primarily via Facebook, even as they have grown into the thousands.

Michelle Shaprow: Back Down To Earth, Directed by Dustin Highbridge

She has also developed and maintained many of her business connections online. For example, she met her video director online. She has never interacted face to face with the label in Japan, P-Vine Records, that helped take her album to #1 on iTunes Japan jazz albums chart and three singles simultaneously to the top three positions on iTunes Japan jazz albums chart. Relations with her Korean label, Leaplay Music, are all online and many of the relationships that are helping her grow her fanbase were made via the Web.

Shaprow  also met Michelle Phan via Facebook. Phan's fashion and makeup videos on YouTube regularly pass a million views. When Phan subsequently featured Shaprow's music, it certainly helped broaden her awareness and increased fans of her Facebook page where you can get a sense of her direct and individual interactions with fans.

Still Answering Every Email –

Michelle has maxed out her personal Facebook account and her Facebook page is now over 6,000. She's still answering all emails and interacting with fans in her comments section. This situation sometimes leads to emails being answered weeks later, especially if she's in the middle of projects like her video shoot. Our conversation about her career plans and approach was inspired, in part, by my wondering just how she expected to maintain such personal interaction if her fanbase grew into the tens of thousands or higher. My assumption was that she would have to let that go but she has no intention of so doing.

Michelle does have some thoughts on how to proceed, noting that many of her fan interactions fall into basic information requests or inappropriate attempts at more personal contact. So having someone help with categorizing communication and responding to general info requests seem plausible without giving up direct contact when the message goes beyond, "when's your album coming out" or "can I have your phone number".

A related aspect of her future planning is her interest in finding alternatives to the typical mad push to get as big as possible, tour as much as possible and make as many pr appearances as possible. Though she does want to tour in a sane manner, finding ways to build and prosper without making the typical assumptions is high on her list. Connecting personally with all her fans is not just a maneuver to build a fanbase but the manner in which she intends to conduct her business.

The Questions:

  • How can Michelle maintain personal contact with her fans as their numbers grow?
  • How can she maintain her personal touch and accessibility as she explores touring and public appearances?

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. Flux Research is his business writing hub and All World Dance is his primary web project.

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  1. Scalability is difficult. While I’m not a fan of automation, she could put some things in place to let her fans know that she likes to answer everyone personally, but that takes time, so she may not get back right away.
    I’ve seen this done with autoresponders that send people to a video explaining this. It’s best to start now, and manage expectations early so her fans know that she wants to, but isn’t always feasible.
    Figure out ways to use her newsletter to communicate with fans which should include a personal message of things that are going on. She could address the common questions/comments all at once. (she could also do this in a weekly video)
    And.. just do the best that she can to keep up with it. She can hire an assistant to help with other stuff which would give her more time to play with the fans.

  2. She’s going to have a meltdown at some point and realize she cannot continue to interact with everyone who wants to interact with her.
    Then the problem becomes how to create the illusion of that kind of intimacy at scale. Phil’s point about “managing expectations” is key.
    On the plus side, if she’s actually having a problem with “too many fans” that should hopefully correspond with a lot more money coming in, which expands her options considerably.

  3. I agree with Phil.
    I would add this..if she is receiving common questions she can simply answer them via blog.
    To keep things intimate, we have some great technology out here that can address that…ustream and Youtube.
    I would say if she keeps a regular U stream where she can interact with fans more direct, and i it could be fun seeing that they can see her.
    Also a Vlog (video blog) would be a cool way too keep fans aware of whats going on while she is on tour, video shoots, PR appearances.
    She can simply post edited video clips of her weekely events on her website..and do it in a fan and creative way…a mini documentary series/ reality show style…or she could just keep it raw and just post videos..
    ABC (always be Capturing)
    Queing theshameless self plug
    If she is looking for a good editor, graphic artist, songwriter…I am Down 😀

  4. I got to meet The Fray guys before Epic discovered them and they were still a relatively unknown Denver band, albeit with lots of family and friends they had amassed growing up in the Denver area. We were all thrilled for them when they kept getting more famous (hitting multi-platinum status and doing a world tour) because (1) we were happy for them and (2) it gave additional visibility to the Colorado music scene.
    They have stayed remarkably in touch with their roots and you can still see them in the usual places in Denver and at local shows here when they are in town. But their ability to directly engage online with fans who aren’t close friends has always been limited by the amount of available time they have had.
    What they have done, over and over again, is to say their success is directly tied to their fans and Denver connections, so they have tried to stress that their success is everyone’s success. In other words, their goal has been to make everyone feel a part of this journey.
    What is harder (and I have seen this often with other friends who have become worldwide successes in sports, music, and business) is maintaining touch with people who were close to you when you started, but who you don’t have much time to see anymore. Who gets to remain a part of our entourage and who doesn’t?
    What The Fray have done is this regard is to give opportunities to those they’ve known. All of the band members are bright and creative and have a network of friends from high school and college who are also bright and creative. So there’s been a collective, of sorts, that has built up around them. The collective presents its own community that can exist even when The Fray members aren’t in attendance. And the band sends professional opportunities to those collective members that help them rise in their own careers. So there are residual benefits for these long-time friends that extend beyond getting personal emails or event invitations from The Fray.

  5. Michelle, your need is the exact reason why I created Music Assistant Now. Music Assistant Now is an online music marketing and communications service. The demands of artist’s attention outside of creating music are increasing everyday. Simply put, you need “assistance”.

  6. Don’t even think about stopping answering emails and talking on Facebook. Do some live video streams with Ustream, make some short videos with updates from life and work. If a guy like Chamillionaire can answer tons of tweets on Twitter then everyone can keep conversation going. It’s not hard, u just have to like your fans actually..

  7. Giving people lots of info about your day-to-day career is good. Videos, photos, updates. Fans who come into your career at this stage are happy with that.
    Where the problem lies is with those whose status has changed. If you were once responding to them and now you are not, it’s harder for them to deal with. The best you can do is let them know you are thinking about them and that although you have less time now (due to their help in your success), you will find a way to connect, even if it is less frequently.

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