Troy Carter At Wired 2012 On Owning A Direct Relationship With Fans

Wired-2012-logoTroy Carter was interviewed during last week's Wired 2012 gathering and he spoke quite a bit about the power of artists having a direct relationship with their fans. In Lady Gaga's case, that desire to connect led to a Lady Gaga-centered social network called Little Monsters. Carter shared some of what they've learned along the way.

Troy Carter's appearance at last week's Wired 2012 event in London included some discussion of what's happening with Backplane, the tech company powering Little Monsters. He also addressed frustrations around the music industry's failure to dive deeply into data but his most relevant comments to indie artists focused on not only building a direct relationship with one's fans through the use of social media but in owning as much of the platform for that relationship as possible.

Troy Carter Hallway Interview

To some degree he summed up that perspective in a quick hallway interview following his talk:

"I think it's very important for an artist to be in control of their online community. You basically don't want any sort of intermediaries in between that relationship. I think we're living in a time where it's important to understand the fan, understand the community as a whole. Being able to communicate directly with that fan…whether you want to release new music, whether you want to release new merchandise, whether you're selling tickets. We're living in a time where it shouldn't be anybody in between that relationship."

Troy Carter at Wired 2012

In his Wired 2012 appearance he dug into how Lady Gaga uses Twitter and Little Monsters to connect with fans.

On how he and Lady Gaga got started with social media:

"We basically got into technology just by default really. When we first put out the Lady Gaga record she couldn't get played on the radio…At that time Facebook was just coming out of colleges and opening up the platform a bit more wide. Twitter was on the rise. YouTube was on the rise. And basically we used technology in order to be able to reach this audience."

On Lady Gaga's approach to social media and her fans:

"She's engaging and authentic in terms of her interaction with her audience…She doesn't use Facebook. She only uses Twitter. And she uses it in moderation actually. And I think there's a direct correlation between the number of tweets she sends because right now she's probably somewhere under 2000 or 2100 tweets out of the several years she's been on and the types of messages that she sends, it's a very authentic conversation. I don't think she inundates her fans with just random tweets so when she talks to them they listen."

Lady Gaga got the idea to do her own social network, called Little Monsters after her fans, while watching a screening of "The Social Network." Carter's comments about Little Monsters focused on the direct connection to fans and the access to and ownership of data:

"We've never had a direct relationship with the audience. So when somebody buys a CD from Best Buy we count that person as a fan but we don't really know if they hated the music and tossed the CD out of the window. And it's the same thing with iTunes, that's not a direct relationship. iTunes owns that relationship with the fan. So the idea behind it was to build this community where we had the direct relationship and we actually own the data. And we know the behavior."

Though he emphasized that Little Monsters was still new, he said they'd already learned quite a bit. One of their discoveries helped draw them closer to fans while boosting revenue:

"Our sales went up 30% in merchandise because we started buying fan artwork. So they were creating artwork through the site…showing their creativity. We noticed it and we started including that in our actual merch line on the tour. And what we found is that fans like art from other fans. So they know what they want better than we know what they want."

The plan is to continue to center Lady Gaga's ongoing operations around Little Monsters:

"Eventually we'll stream our music through the site. We'll sell our music through the site…We already started selling tickets through the site."

This perspective is similar to that of many indie artists and the people and companies that serve them. In particular, the emphasis on artists owning their own space on the web is one that appears in Hypebot posts on a regular basis.

In his hallway comments Carter emphasizes that artists don't need to hire engineers and build their own platform given the many social networks available. Of course, as any Hypebot reader knows, there are a huge number of options for artists to create their own websites and even to build their own social networks as has been the case for a number of years.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Always nice to read what Mr. Carter and Lady Gaga is doing. So many valuable lessons from how to run a successful music company in today’s balagan world…Thanks Clyde. Slav

  2. I love this article! Really interested to hear the discussion about the origins of Little Monsters. “Buying fan artwork” – brilliant. Its crowdsourcing musician-related artistic content – like what Amanda Palmer does. (Now when I read Hypebot articles I routinely scroll down to see the author – yup, it’s Clyde again. How do you write so much good content daily? #prolific)

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