3 Critical Steps For Musicians To Build Fan Engagement
Over the years, I've sat at a lot of breakfast tables with local musicians recapping last night's gig. Usually the conversation starts about the nuts and bolts of the evening itself, but many times, the theme of the conversation moves towards the difficulty to get people to pay attention to the music or attend the concert.
As a musician and someone working in social media & technology, I've spent a lot of time thinking about traffic and engagement. In my research, I have found there to be a prevailing theme in the thought leadership.
It's with this context that I humbly present to you 3 critical steps to building fan engagement:
So you've attended the latest conference, gathered a lot of business cards, downloaded the newest social media podcast, and bought the newest book on how to get fans.
Sweet! That's great. But it's just one piece of the pie.
Content is king, and putting out regular content is important. However, it's not only about consistency. Amazing content (with a little social engineering) will spread like wildfire without as much need for all the "social media turd polishing" hype. If you're spending more time on Facebook than playing your instrument, you're doing it wrong. If you find yourself coloring your hair more often than meticulously working on your lyrics… you're doing it wrong.
Don't be like Narcissus, drunk off your own reflection, when there are thousands of people you could be learning from. It takes an awful lot longer to make good stuff without knowing, mimicking, and studying all of the good stuff that's out there. Know the rules first before you go about breaking them. It's like trying to learn a martial art without going to class. If you won't dedicate yourself to being an expert, don't be sad when people lose interest. Cultivate the dedication of the white belt while you strive for the black belt's execution.
Make good stuff and they will come…
#2. Why should I care?
Look. I'm busy. Everyone is busy. We're all inundated with input. So what stands out about YOUR music? Who is talking about it that I know? In a sea of talking heads, I'm probably only going to spend my small amount of allotted attention quota to the heads that I trust. Trust is key. Trust is earned and even then, I don't always have time for trusted sources. I don't read Pitchfork every day. I don't even read Pitchfork every week.
Let's take a deeper look.
It's no secret that advancements in technology are moving at lightening speeds. Moore's law states, "the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years." That means devices and platforms are getting exponentially faster and everyone is sharing more information. Two years ago, "McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 800 million Facebook users were posting 30 billion pieces of content every month." That was two years ago. As of August 2013, Facebook has 1.15 billion users. That's a staggering amount of exponential clutter to cut through.
What kind of information is actually making it through the clutter? What are we more likely to notice? A fascinating article written about a study in 2008 states that, "100,000 words cross our eyes and ears in a single 24-hour period. That information comes through various channels, including the television, radio, the Web, text messages and video games." Look at the percentage of recorded music. It's less than 2%, and this was in 2008!
The point that I'm trying to make is pretty simple. You're going to have to do something amazing to cut through the clutter; otherwise, why should I care? Think about about ways to get noticed in other forms of media, in addition to your music. Quit vomiting information about your gigs and go drop swag bombs man!!
Be an expert about something in your tribe. Build up your tribe so that it's doper than you are. Make it about them and they'll lift you up. Locate other social mavens are in your community, get to know them, and leverage their networks. Just don't be a douche bag about it.
Wrestle tigers, jump out of planes, or tag Air Force One; that just might get our attention. I know… it's daunting. Don't lose hope. One thing you can take comfort in is this; once you pop the threshold of invisibility, people like to share the same stuff. So get creative!
#3. Give & Ye Shall Receive:
What have you given recently? Seriously… Take a moment here and reflect. Are you giving more than you're receiving? I know you think that your talent or your song is a gift to God's Green Earth (and it might be – once you have diehard fans), but what else could you do be doing? Are you really at the stage in your career where you're above playing that benefit concert? Really? Look man… U2 isn't even at that stage. (Benefit concerts, cooking dinners, helping people move, inviting someone to a cup of coffee instead of always inviting them to a show, showing up to other people's performances or big life events. Sending a personalized thank you card… an email… whatever). This is the stuff that matters. Have you built your 100 true fans yet? How about your 1000? Do you even know their names? This is the stuff that's crucial to growing a fan base in a world where everyone has ADD. It's all about connection.
Give big and you will get back bigger.
It's not easy. Trust me. I struggle with this big time! My natural tendency is to be very driven and self-centered. I often alienate close friends when I get this way. A couple of friends recently reminded me of this. At the end of the day, the success I'm having or not having is directly correlated with my actions.
Giving vs. Receiving.
One last thing: a gift is a gift. It doesn't come with strings.
Now go tend your garden.