Music Marketing

Music Subscription Services Introduce You To Fans But Then You Must Take Them Away

Magnifying-glassBy Julian Weisser (@iamweisser),  co-founder
a direct-to-fan subscription platform for creators.

I was watching a Danish film on Netflix a few weeks ago called Klown. I had never heard of the movie but after reading the synopsis I decided to give it a try. From watching the film I discovered comedians Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen. I learned the film was based on their TV show called Klovn and ordered the entire series on DVD. Now I’m (cautiously) looking forward to the American remake by Todd Phillips starring Danny McBride.

Why am I talking about Netflix when I typically discuss startups and the music industry? The ability to consume any and all content has become essential to discovery of the next thing we will love. From Spotify to YouTube, the cost of experimenting with brand new content and creators has been lowered considerably. We no longer need to buy an entire album only to realize we like nothing but the single. We no longer need to worry about being fiscally cautious when it comes to discovery. While the source of discovery will often be on a blog, Twitter, or other social media platform, we instinctively use these services to immediately experience what we just heard about. With these services, we can graze on a plentiful pasture of content; continuing to chew on what we find palatable and spitting out what is not to our taste.

There will continue to be a debate over sensible compensation for streaming content. It is a very real problem that needs further discussion and research. At the same time, artists need to realize that any all-you-can-eat service, free (YouTube) or paid (Spotify), will never be the ideal platform to seek out their biggest revenue streams. It is simply impossible for a fraction of a user’s monthly subscription to equal a CD sale. What is often lost in the discussion about streams is that the user is not paying specifically for any one artist’s music or else they would just buy a handful of albums and be done. They are paying for an ocean; a place to swim deep and see what lies below the surface of familiarity.

While all-you-can-eat content consumption enables anyone to experiment with little risk other than time wasted, there is notably less intimacy between creator and listener. The casual listener gets whatever is available and then either moves on to the next creator or becomes a fan and wants more. When a casual listener changes into a fan this is the time to move them off of the buffet line and convert them into both a customer and evangelist. This is the type of person that will want more than the average listener. They will seek it out at live performances (or movie screenings in the case of Netflix) and online in the form of behind the scenes footage, exclusive tracks, and demos.

It’s time we looked at all-you-can-eat services differently. They are a place for your future fans to find you. Once they do, it becomes time to grow the relationship and move it outside of the cluttered landscape.


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  1. The cultivation of fans is a different business than making music and many musicians either don’t have the skills or don’t want to invest the time to do it.
    For as much talk as there is about relationships with fans, there is still not enough talk about the realities of it. How much of your life/time should you give to them? What if you need your fans but don’t actually like them very much? Do you see them as just a source of money, or are you willing to talk to them when they need hand-holding, friendship, etc.
    Sometimes musicians are in a position to hand over the duties of fan relationships to someone else, but that can be expensive, or it can be ineffective if the fans want a direct relationship with the musicians.

  2. I’m not sure what conversation there is left to have? I see it simply as part of the new reality that musicians need to do the best they can with the time and resources that they have, and concentrating on the channels that they feel most comfortable with.

  3. There is a lot to cover. What do you do with stalker fans? How do you community-build so that your fans are encouraged to talk to each other, thereby freeing up your own time? What are good events to host that build fan community? What skills should you look for in a community-builder you might hire?
    These are issues that do get addressed in other industries, but the music community is still pretty new to this. I’ve been around athletes and musicians who want fans, but then are kind of turned off by fans who don’t appear to have lives other than hanging around with the stars. So the celebrities want these fans and yet they perceive them as weird, and in some cases a bit dangerous.
    And if you are looking for musicians to work with, what kinds of social skills should they demonstrate? Do they need to be socially adept?

  4. Just how the rest of the industry is shifting to digital, online tools will help effectively and cheaply manage a fanbase. Twitter, facebook, email and forums are likely the biggest. Most artists can handle managing their social media presence and email list. There’s tools on each platform to measure analytics and discover (or keep) your biggest fans. However, I’m not sure how many musicians are using analytical tools on their twitter followers to see (for example) who has the highest klout score and who should be engaged. Any tools out there that people are using?

  5. Thanks for the comment James,
    We need to think past Klout scores and other “black box” metrics. 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 your links, writing about you, bringing their friends to shows – I think these metrics are more meaningful.
    Engagement and discovery will continue to occur on social media platforms but, like I state in this 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 Spotify.
    – Julian

  6. This has veered from the topic of my post but I think it is worthy of discussion because it still concerns engagement.
    There are artists. There are celebrities. Some people are both.
    Engagement does not mean that you need to invite your fans over for dinner with your family. Engagement does not imply any real-world interaction must take place-though I feel it is usually a very important aspect.
    The word fan is derived from fanatic. Fanatic is defined as, “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, esp. for an extreme religious or political cause.” Sounds more like a stalker than what we would typically identify as a fan.
    I cannot advise you on what kind of musicians to work with but I believe strongly that being able to resonate with your audience base is crucial in this connected world. Even Justin Timberlake writes letters to his fans showing how much they mean to him.
    Thank you for commenting.
    – Julian

  7. Relationships with one’s fans often includes accessibility, which is a challenge for many people.
    Sure, you can try to maintain fan relationships by just having it all go one way, which is what a lot of people do. They post a continuing stream of content in hopes that will be sufficient to keep the fans happy. And in many cases that will be enough.
    But some fans want more, and often musicians don’t have the wherewithal to give it to them.
    The prime example of someone who does have a strong relationship with her fans is Amanda Palmer. But she seems to have an unreal amount of energy and thrives on hanging out with her fans, exchanging ideas with them, etc.
    There’s just so much to discuss about being a tribe leader and what that means, but most advice to musicians just scratches the surface.

  8. You seem to be searching for a one-size fits all solution…
    There isn’t one.
    There never will be.
    All artists are different people and no two are exactly alike.
    Knowing who you are as an artist and a human being, understanding what your fans want and what you feel comfortable giving them; these are all crucial. I don’t think any managers or consultants can (or should) tell an artist this but they can provide some guidance in deciding.
    – Julian

  9. What I am trying to do is to open up the discussions so that we cover relationship management in further depth. It will be useful for everyone to understand all the nuances.
    It’s an interesting subject and I have watched people in sports, music, and media trying to figure out how to juggle time and relationships as their popularity increases. These issues come up; therefore giving people a place and an opportunity to discuss them can be beneficial. There’s a reason fame is often a double-ended sword. You want it, but it makes demands on you, too. Many people aren’t prepared for those demands. And the ones who complain about the burdens of increasing fame are often viewed as ungrateful by those who want that fame.
    It’s just good to explain the process in more depth so people give some thought to it.

  10. “What I am trying to do is to open up the discussions so that we cover relationship management in further depth.”
    A comment section beneath an article about subscription services is not the correct place for this.

  11. I’m not sure why this isn’t the place. There has been quite a bit of discussion about social media for a number of years now.
    So let’s take it to the next level, which is relationship management. It goes with the territory and it is being done in other industries. Music has done it to some extent, with fan clubs and street teams, but as individual musicians and bands get deeper into fan relationships it’s a relevant topic for them.
    I’m not sure what the problem is with my suggesting we expand the discussion to the nuances of fan relationships. I’m not telling people not to use social media. I’m just saying there’s a lot about it we could talk about. What I am hoping to do is for us to start talking about topics that haven’t been talked about so much rather than just covering the same topics we’ve been covering for awhile now.

  12. There’s no problem with what you want to talk about. The problem is where you want to talk about it.
    It almost doesn’t bother me because the more comments below the article the more people will read it.
    What I take issue with is how entirely off-topic you are and how that could detract from conversations about the post. You have a blog. Have this discussion there. Or find a more relevant post on Hypebot to have this discussion.
    The topics you bring up are irrelevant to this post which is about converting someone who found an artist’s music on YouTube or Spotify into a paying customer. Sure, it’s about relationships, but not the kind that you seem to be implying.

  13. The topics you bring up are irrelevant to this post which is about converting someone who found an artist’s music on YouTube or Spotify into a paying customer.
    I’m curious how you figure it is irrelevant. Are you saying that the details about relationship management are irrelevant to converting fans into paying customers? If so, that’s where we seem to disagree. I think it is highly relevant and hasn’t been discussed enough in music circles, though it does come up in the larger world of marketing.

  14. Sure, bands are startups. They need a community manager.
    Startups have a few people working on a bunch of tasks that larger organizations would delegate to separate individuals. Bands are the same way. The drummer may book shows, the singer might manage social media, the guitarist may handle press ops, etc.
    Relationships are obviously very relevant when it comes to converting a non-paying fan into a paying fan but the point of this article was the role of YouTube and subscriptions services in the discovery and conversion funnel.
    This is certainly an interesting discussion that deserves a follow up post that is more related to the topic you are so passionate about.
    I appreciate all of the thoughts you have shared thus far.
    – Julian

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