As paying for music has become more of choice than a necessity, artists must rely increasingly on their more profitable superfans, and market themselves and their music in accordance with the shifting consumption habits of today's music enthusiasts.
Guest Post by Tyler Allen on PledgeMusic
There’s often a joke among musician about how an artist spends their day. They usually kid around that their day is spent something like 10% rehearsing, 15% writing music, and 75% dealing with their crippling self-doubt. And while it’s total self-depreciating humor, in today’s industry, I don’t blame ‘em. We’re living in an industry where artists are making a fraction of a penny per stream and radio, which is still a huge means of music discovery, is still very much controlled by major labels. We’re also dealing with a marketing landscape in which literally anyone can release their music, and have a social media presence. So now you have to deal with hundreds of thousands of artists vying for the same spotlight as you.
However, all of this static isn’t always a bad thing. This consistent noise of artists showing up on your social media, and flavors of the week on radio, have only furthered fans to discover new music, and in a way, has encouraged some listeners to dedicate more time to music discovery. Having fans that will stick behind you and are consistently engaged with your work is key to today’s success. These fans or superfans will not only be your biggest consumer, but they’ll also be your advocate, and your go-to demographic for touring, writing and marketing decisions.
Here are a few reasons why superfans are your most important assets in your career, especially in today’s digital and evolving landscape.
1.) Paying For Music Has Become a Lifestyle Choice
In music industry analyst Mark Mulligan’s Midem presentation, Meeting The Needs Of The On-Demand Fan, he does a great job of breaking down the various “types” of fans and just how important the superfan is, and how to find them. Though one of the largest points made, fairly early on in the presentation, is that paying for music is a lifestyle choice. Fans don’t have to do it!
And while this may seem like an obvious statement, going into your marketing with this mindset only furthers the need to have a superfan relationship with your listeners. With streaming giving pennies, and YouTube nearly infringing on radio-type numbers with younger listeners, it’s more important than ever to develop a superfan type relationship where listeners are consistently engaged and take interest in your work.
It’s also important to note that superfans aren’t just a hypothetical entity. Also in Mulligan’s presentation, we learn that there are a good amount of fans who engage with music, pay for streaming services, and even buy albums and merch. It’s finding that core group within your fan base and demographics, and catering to them. A good chunk of your revenue will come from them.
2.) Fans Are Mainly Consuming Singles Now
Again in Mark Mulligan’s presentation, he brings up the fact that fans are no longer listening to albums, but instead are listening to singles from various artists. While this may not be of shock, it shows how fickle fans are with their consumption habits. Years ago fans would buy albums, listen to it a few times, and then the next time they were introduced with music was the next time they were in the actual physical location. However, today, fans are inundated with new streams, and new ways to discover music. Therefore, they aren’t as likely to take too much interest in a single artist’s entire discography or even their entire album. Mulligan’s figures show that 60% of these listeners claim they don’t take time to listen to an artist’s entire album, as they have so many other music discovery options in front of them.
This is yet another reason as to why you need a set group of supporters that will take interest in your brand, music, and longevity. Folks today just want to discover new music constantly, so by having fans that are particularly interested in your work, you can ensure growth and longevity.
3.) Live Sales Can Be Affected
While the first two were pretty blatant, this next fact shows the direction in which the industry is moving. If fans are less likely to take an interest in an artist’s full breadth of work, or an artist has to compete with the massive amount of competition, live shows are going to falter as well.
Currently artists can go on tour when album sales are low, and while they still can if discovery is getting more hectic, that means fans will either have no interest in a concert, or a newer artist simply is going to have issue standing out, so their live shows won’t do well either. This could be an issue as live performances are currently the only real money maker in the industry.
And while fans could discover your music from a tour or series of shows, the tried and true model has always been to hit the road to build on a single, and to build on current success. If no one is hearing your single because of all the other music options out there, it’s hard to even begin building a buzz.
This is where it becomes all the more important to establish multiple channels with which you can sell to your fans directly. Tools such as Patreon, Bandcamp, and Pledgemusic, as examples, allow artists to communicate and sell to their fans in a personalized way. The sales from such platforms can help further support your overall music sales and also establish a relationship with your fans with the purpose of developing them into superfans.
4) Experience Is The Product
Taylor Swift invited her fans to a 1989 party and her mom made cupcakes. Or the band Suicide Silence’s guitarist went into guitar shops and taught fans licks. These are the things that money cannot buy, and these are the things that fans want. The key is to offer more than just a music download, but something unique that only the artist can offer in the form of an experience.
These personal moments, whether it’s live streams, exclusive listening sessions, or even meet and greets before shows, are really what artists need. It makes you stand out from the chaos of all of the new music that’s widely available through streaming, radio and YouTube. It will also pay off exponentially. If an artist gives a memorable experience to a fan, the fan will naturally be more likely to not only buy more of the artist’s music, but also tell others about the experience, whether through social media or word of mouth.
By Tyler Allen, contributing writer for Soundudes. Soundudes was a platform for musicians to grow their audience and monetize their music, by connecting them with their SoundCloud Superfans. Regrettably, SoundCloud decided it’s not good for them and shut them down. Read more about it here.