Ryan Leslie Goes Direct To Fans: Building Community, Bypassing iTunes

Ryan-leslie-bandannaMusician and producer Ryan Leslie took a break from studio work to fill me in on his direct to fan approach that features personal communication and a private fan network. Building to the release of "Black Mozart" later this month, Leslie is combining web tools and mobile communication to bypass as many middlemen as possible while focusing his energy on his core fans.

When we spoke yesterday, Ryan Leslie pointed to his early work with Cassie and their successful use of MySpace in building her initial base. He revealed that they lost a lot when MySpace began to fade and that experience helped him recognize the need to own one's own platform for connecting with fans.

Though he referenced customer relationship management and the tools long used by online retailers, his personal direct approach is what differentiates the artist connecting with his or her base of support from corporate systems for "monetizing 'high-value listeners'."

This approach does allow Leslie to benefit from the personal interest and financial support of his strongest fans but he achieves his goals by encouraging a more direct access than one achieved by customer service departments. Fans can call, email or text him and he will respond. The core concept is to own the relationship with the fan and to have a point of contact shared by the fan.

As he explained in an interview earlier this year:

"I believe that that level of direct interaction is far more valuable than interaction on what I consider to be passive social-media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook."

Leslie does maintain social media channels but they're designed to connect fans with his official website and Renegades Club.

The Renegades Club is a membership shopping and experience site. If fans want the Black Mozart album, joining for $12 and receiving the free download when it's released is said to be the only point of access.

The album won't be available through iTunes or Amazon though physical copies will be available via the site and at shows. The Club also offers access to merchandise and fan experiences such as meet and greets.

Leslie was quite clear in his belief that having direct fan contact would ultimately be much more profitable than giving up that connection for wider distribution.

By having emails of his fans he's also able to achieve an astounding response rate to his email newsletters with what he claims is a:

100% delivery rate

85% open rate

65 to 75% clickthrough rate for links

Leslie has been working with younger artists encouraging them in his direct communication techniques. This sometimes results in a bit of overload. For example, one artist with a younger audience received nine hundred text messages after first posting his phone number.

Nevertheless Leslie remains a strong advocate of this approach. If you want to find out more, Ryan Leslie is inviting artists to contact him directly for advice on going truly direct to fan:



Feel free to report back on your experience!


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Best strategy, but what happens when your own network turns into oblivion like Myspace? Keeping people engaged is the trick, regardless of it is through yout platform or another.

  2. I definitely think he is on the right path and credit him for venturing out of the box so to speak. At the end of the day the business and artists survive on sales. New ways of engaging fans and incentivizing fans to go out and buy are the key to survival. Kudos to him. Will not be easy though, he will need a great team to promote it as he is sidestepping the major players such as itunes, and is an independent artist (albeit accomplished artist).

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