Are Music Fans Craving Exclusivity?

Musicians-guideGuest post by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk – a website that offers resources such as music contracts for DIY musicians..

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you'll most likely be familiar with Amanda Palmer's impressive KickStarter campaign (she's raised over $750,000 through the crowd-funding platform). At risk of being 'one more to add to the list', I want to focus on what we can learn from her and what the success of her campaign suggests to me about how music fans are showing cravings for exclusivity.

Amanda's campaign teaches us the importance of building an army over time, being authentic, and trying innovative and unconventional means of promoting music, but I think one of the most valuable lesson we can learn from Amanda is that fans are willing to pay a heck of a lot for something a little bit special i.e. something not mass-produced.

The problem is that most artists have adopted a 'mass-production mindset'. By default, we think "how can we create the same CD / MP3 and get it to the highest number of listeners?" or "How can we perform gigs to a larger audience?" and while exclusivity is nothing new to musicians (limited editions merchandise and private shows have been milked for decades), I'm beginning to think that the increased accessibility to exclusivity through online services like KickStarter.com and Stageit.com is increasing its demand. Even Twitter is having a significant impact on shaping fan's expectations – we now expect to be able to get to know the artists we love and interact with them personally and exclusively.

I'm not saying that you should go ahead and turn down the stadium concert to perform an exclusive streamed show from your kitchen, but what I am saying is that by focusing your attention on deepening relationships with a few fans, you may end up better off than if you try to capture huge quantities of casual fans.

From a solely financial perspective, if you had just 20 fans who were willing to pay $5,000 to have you play in their living room, you'll end up with more in the bank than the band with 90,000 casual fans who pay $1 to download their single. Of course that's an extreme scenario, and one of the ironies of focusing on deepening relationships with a relatively small number of fans is that it tends to increase the number of 'casual fans' anyway, but hopefully you see my point.

If you're not convinced that loyal fans will invest heavily in exclusivity, then why would 35 people pay $5,000 to get Amanda Palmer to play in their living rooms when they can go and see her for $20? Why would hundreds of her fans pay $200+ just to get a signed copy of her album & artwork? Those fans are not paying a premium for convenience; they're paying a premium for exclusivity, and a massive one at that.

You don't need a KickStarter Campaign to Offer Your Exclusivity

I have to give Chris Jackson full credit for this tip. Chris and I were having a Skype call last week when the Amanda Palmer story came into conversation. Chris made a really good point that lots of bands are rushing to create their own Kickstarter campaigns offering exclusive products and services, but exclusivity is something you can offer all year round, without KickStarter.

Sure, a sense of urgency helps, and Kickstarter.com sure does make it easy to set up, but why not offer living room performances and YouTube recordings personalised to specific fans as a service – in the same way that you offer regular gigs as a service? If there's demand for those services, you have an opportunity to supply and benefit from it. Make your exclusivity accessible without compromising its exclusivity and you'll be onto a winner.

As always, I'd be interested in hearing the other side of the coin and any arguments for why musicians shouldn't offer their exclusivity as a service. If you have any thoughts or anything you'd like to add, please leave them in the comments below – or you can contact me personally on Twitter @themusicguide.


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  1. I personally agree with you about the possibilities and benefits of offering a more accessible exclusivity, but for the sake of exploring some of the possible arguments against, some might argue that losing the “mystique” of an artist by having too much access could be a negative thing. One could argue that some artists may lose their “cool” when seen as just another schmoe. Sometimes an artist can be more “desirable” when they’re harder to “get.”

  2. Thanks for the comment Dee, I agree that there’s definitely got to be a balance between the exclusivity and the mysterious element of the band. It’s one of the reasons why you don’t see companies like Apple tweeting – because the brand is built on mystery, a lot of musicians are like that too. Very good point.

  3. As a student of consumer behavior, and more specifically as it pertains to the relationship between artists and their fans, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. As the founder of Stageit, I want to thank you for acknowledging our efforts in helping artists monetize exclusive content.
    In response to Dee’s comment above I think that it is dead on. Doing too much makes you undesirable. That said, services like ours actually create a heightened sense of mystery. Here’s a short piece I wrote back in Dec 2010 about how to bring back a sense of mystery and romance to the relationship between an artist and a fan.
    I’m sorry to be the guy that drops links to his articles, but it’s very short and I thought it would be less rude than cutting and pasting all the copy here.
    Thanks again for the great article!

  4. Thank you for the shout out, Marcus! I love all the tools that are coming out today that you can have direct access to your own fans. You don’t need a major label; you need a PayPal account and a webcam!
    I think we’re living in an exciting time where we can truly have fun with our fans and get a direct interaction.
    Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but, if you want your band to be successful financially, you need to do a lot of work. At least this work doesn’t land in someone else’s pocket.

  5. Reminds me of a recent Hypebot comment mentioning how patrons have been hiring artists for private work since the Renaissance and before. Can’t spell “customer” without “custom”.

  6. yeah……. but with this 24hr 15 min. of fame society we live in, thats getting pretty hard to do. so something like a kickstarter is an alternative , with the hopes of getting projects off the ground with a focus on crowd sourcing, apposed to getting eyeballs, clicks, likes and views….. you want MONEY. but Im a firm believer in all those mediums it just depends on what your trying to do and what you want from them. I may bash a few sites, but I do know their importance to those who embrace them. the problem is…… how do you give exclusivity when we over saturate ourselves everyday?

  7. I’m not too entirely sure about this.
    I understand that taking those exclusive jobs isn’t a bad thing by any means…
    but people like the popular music because everyone else likes it! You see… part of what drives the music industry is the energy from the fans. When you divide that energy like that, it’s no longer bonded — it dissipates and spreads thin and just goes into the wind…
    Exclusivity has always existed if someone paid enough money.
    I just don’t know about this advice. It once again seems like people are writing articles in an attempt to dissuade so many people from trying for the top.
    For all we know, this article is just another attempt at reducing the number plastic CDs and e-mails the companies are getting today. XD Hahaha.
    Can’t blame you.

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