Direct-to-fan tools can — when used to maximum effect — become the thinnest skin between the artist and fan. The full potential is possible and exists; but only a fraction of the artists and labels out there use it.
There are no real problems of scale because each release campaign can and should be as unique and original as the music that drives it. The main challenges are simply that the platforms are being used generally to minimal effect. They’re being used solely as sales engines and not as experience engines. And so the bottlenecks are with the creators of the campaigns. Gimmicks and competitions aside, what is the artist and label really doing for the fans? Or to put it another way, what are the artists and labels giving their fans to do?
Most people in the music business see a side of the music world to which fans are never really exposed. When a manager or an A&R person gets a demo from an artist they work with, there’s a thrill, a moment of true discovery. You’re about to hear something you’ve never before heard. You’re sitting on potential gold, or you aren't, but either way you’re in.
And so my question is, why can't the fans feel some of this too? Why can't the fans be in at the same time as those who are making these records are?
You don't have to give everything away but my contention is that you have to give something away. Most artists are pretty well okay with giving the end result away for free or close to it whether it's the entire album or just a single, but that's for all. That's the very public bit. The broadcast. It's not special and it's not an event.
Direct-to-fan can fulfill this massive unmet demand but the bottleneck is in the thinking that it will in some way diminish the release. In some way it will take away from what the artist or label is going to simply drop onto the fans when it's all done.
The end musical result is far easier to bond with from the true fan perspective if you are emotionally invested in it from its creation. If you have to wait like everybody else then you are simply being treated like everybody else. For some consumers that's okay. For fans and especially true fans this simply isn't enough.
Social is partly to blame for this as people are often made aware of what they are missing and in the same moment they are also aware of how easy it is to share.
So from a fans perspective they look in from the outside and see that someone is keeping them from what they want. The marketing logic that leads to this simply has to change.
Once this challenge is met everybody wins.