How Artists Gamify Their Fanbases

1In this article Bas Grasmayer examines three different promotional campaigns by musicians which employ gamification as way to both further engage and better monetize their fanbases, plus the emerging technology which allows such campaigns to work.


Guest post by Bas Grasmayer for Synchblog

Music lost its value in the digital age, some argue. The fact that music can easily be replicated and shared across networks of people around the world, instantly, has certainly pushed the price of accessing any particular song down. While some value was lost when it comes to accessing music, new value has been generated by being able to map the spread of music over social graphs.

Waking up to the value of this information has made the music industry hungry for data. It’s also waking up to the power of connected fanbases, making smart use of hashtags, having fans tag themselves in photos, and creating quirky viral videos to go with the release of new tracks. Some artists take it a step further and gamify the fanbase itself: giving fans collective challenges to work towards, or compete for.

A look at three campaigns.


For Kylie Minogue’s 25th anniversary in 2012, We Make Awesome Sh and EMI created a campaign to celebrate the release of the new recordings. Every month on the 25th, they ran a ‘tweet to unlock’ campaign. Although tweet to unlock is now a common mechanism to get access to downloads of tracks, or other exclusives, the campaign took it a step further.

Fans had to tweet a hashtag, which would add to the counter. As soon as 25,000 fans had tweeted the hashtag, the campaign website would show the new Kylie music video.

We Make Awesome Sh later went on to do a similar thing with Greenpeace, where a dynamic composition would change every time people signed the petition and spread the word on different social media platforms.


For the release of their 2016 album, CNCO, a popular Latin American boyband, partnered with Landmrk to create a Pokémon Go-like experience to unlocking the songs of the new album.

It had fans in different countries hunt for songs over the course of the four-day campaign. Visiting a location would unlock a song, and when enough fans had visited a particular location, other exclusive content such as videos would be unlocked.

Fan activity also contributed to improving the leaderboard ranking of their country. This stimulates extra activity of fans on social media, who tried to encourage others to partake, just to show that their country had the number 1 CNCO fanbase.

Marian Call European Adventure Quest

Kickstarter campaigns can feel a little bit like games: there’s a common goal to work towards. Marian Call took her campaign to tour Europe and record a live album a step further. She turned it into an actual game.

Fans were given tasks to complete each day, which let those fans unlock certain perks. Reaching different stretch goals in the Kickstarter campaign would unlock additional concerts and tracks. In order to give fans a better overview, she visualized it on her site:


Next steps for gamification

One of the most important trends that enables easier implementation of fanbase gamification is the rise of the livestream, as well as short-format video content like Snapchat and Musical.ly. Live video lets fans work together to unlock goals while you stream, as can be seen with some video game streamers who promise to switch to a certain wacky game mode as soon as they’ve collected $100 in donations during that stream.

The latter, short-format video content, makes it inexpensive and convenient to produce engaging material for fans. Its ephemeral nature creates a habit loop of checking content before it expires. The fact that it expires releases some of the pressure of having everything be high quality, so you can easily keep an engaged fanbase in the loop on how they’re doing with regards to their collective performance towards a common goal.

Both of these formats tend to create personalities which will have way more engaged followers than they can pay attention to. This has fans competing for attention in chatrooms on Twitch, where some decide to donate to have their donation message read out loud on the stream. YouTube’s Super Chat feature mimics this and lets people donate money in order to have their message be more visible to the entire chat, including the streamer.

Short-format video personalities solve this issue in a different way. They use apps like Shimmur and Yam, which let fans compete for attention, ask questions, and pay to give their question more priority.

Another trend enabling easy gamification of fanbases is the rise of messaging apps, and platforms like Chatfuel, POP, The Bot Platform, and Octane AI, which easily let you develop a conversational interface to connect with fans through Facebook Messenger without programming.

As it’s becoming increasingly convenient to gamify, expect to see musicians competing to provide new original experiences to fans in order to engage, spread their music, and monetize.

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Bas Grasmayer is a digital strategist and founder of MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE, a consultancy agency and weekly newsletter discussing trends and innovation in technology and how they may impact the music business. He also curates Synchblog's Projecting Trends series.

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