By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
Everyone wants to make their life a little easier. Especially independent musicians. From being the artist to the tour manager to the PR specialist, indie artists have a lot on their plates. So when we find a tool that frees up a little of your time and does its job well, we get excited.
Bandsintown is a website and app that lets music fans track their favorite artists. Then it lets those fans know when the artists they tracked comes to town. 65% of all touring artists in the United States use Bandsintown, and they have over 120 million fans subscribed to their service. For the artist, it’s an easy tool to use. Bandsintown adds a “Tour Dates” tab to your Facebook page, and you can manage everything from there. It’s a simple concept that has some great features. So let’s dive into why Bandsintown might be a good tool for your band.
Social Media Updates
A few weeks ago we posted a blog about ReverbNation, and it warned against letting third parties automatically post concert updates to Facebook for you. We cautioned against using this feature on ReverbNation primarily because there was no way to control these posts, besides turning them on and off. They tended to fill up artist’s Facebook and Twitter with duplicate content that had the potential to drive fans away.
This is not the case with Bandsintown. Their automatic posting feature has tons of options that let you control exactly what is posted.
If you choose to turn these posts on in Facebook, you can also target them geographically. This a great feature. It makes sure you’re not bothering all your West Coast fans with your extensive touring in the Northeast.
It’s also notable that the “Tour Dates” tab allows you to upload a custom video header. This is great news, because it allows your fans to engage with visual content before they browse your tour schedule. It’s been shown that visual content (graphics and video) tend to create higher response rates with viewers, so having this built into the page where your shows are displayed is a great feature.
Fans are the lifeblood of any musician. And having data about those fans can mean the difference between a successful tour or playing to empty rooms every night. If you have over 100 trackers (fans) in Bandsintown, you can receive fan analytics.
Probably the best feature in these analytics is the fan heat map. This tool allows you to see where the fans that track you live, where fans who track similar artists live, and the locations of fans who have RSVP’d to your shows. This helps you to create a tour schedule that will have the most impact for you.
They also create a list of the top 100 markets for your live show based on the number of trackers in each city, and show you a graph of actual RSVPs for your shows vs. people who are interested in attending.
Google Loves Bandsintown
Bandsintown has a nice looking widget that you can embed onto your official website to display your tour dates. This is handy because you only have to upload your show dates once and they will be live on your official website and social media.
Another bonus is that Bandsintown has partnered with Google to streamline the ways that events show up when you search for a band. Since Bandsintown and Google are buddies, all your show information is easy for Google to read, and shows up clearly.
Another benefit to Bandsintown’s relationship with Google is YouTube Cards. YouTube hopes to replace annotations in videos with small rectangular boxes called cards. These cards are small pictures with text, and will display on desktop as well as mobile browsers. You can link these cards to your official website if you’ve already affiliated your YouTube channel with your website. However, if you want to use YouTube cards to sell anything, you have to use a retailer that has already been approved by YouTube. The good news is that Bandsintown is on that list.
But the best news about this feature?
When you use Bandsintown on your YouTube card, the card will link directly back to your website.
This is great news for artists, and is vastly different than many third party applications that will take your fans to their website instead of your own.
What Not to Do With Bandsintown
Just like any other online tool, there are some things you need to be careful of when using a third party app to help you out.
Don’t let Bandsintown social media posts take over your profile. Just because the social media posting feature works well doesn’t mean it is a replacement for actual posts created by you. Even though Bandsintown gives you lots of posting customization options, if all your fans ever see are these posts, they will probably check out pretty quickly. You can read our blog for tips on managing your social media profiles here.
Don’t let Bandsintown gather all your fan data for you. Although they have some great analytical tools, you don’t ever want a third party to be the main way you gather information about fans. If third parties are the only way you’re collecting fan data, if they ever shut their doors, you will be left high and dry with no way to communicate with fans.
Don’t Let Bandsintown Emails Replace Your Regular Newsletters. It’s great that Bandsintown will automatically send your fans an update when you’re playing in their area, but a personal newsletter written by you is a better way to engage with fans. Many email newsletter services also allow you to geographically target your email audience. Using Bandsintown and your favorite e-newsletter platform in conjunction with each other can optimize your fan interaction, and help get those fans out to your shows.
Overall, Bandsintown is a well built, professional tool that can help artists manage the planning and promotion of their shows, and I would recommend it to almost any artist. But as always, do some experimenting and find out if this app is something that will work for you and your music. If you want more information, you can check out Bandsintown’s official website here.
Have you used Bandsintown? What are your favorite features? Has it helped you to plan more effective tours, and get fans out to shows? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 6 minutes
I have an idea of what you might be thinking: Pinterest? For my music? Isn’t Pinterest for girls planning their weddings?
As a musician, using Pinterest for your band may sound a little strange, but just give me a minute. There is a chance you are missing out on a great opportunity to market your music.
If you’ve never used Pinterest before, its concept is simple. Users create topical pages called “boards” and add content to their boards by “pinning” pictures, videos, or audio files. Much like bulletin boards of the past, a user’s pins are a mishmash of images from their own life, items they want to purchase, things they want to try, places they want to go, and things that inspire them, spark their creativity, or simply make them happy.
Unlike a private bulletin board, Pinterest is a very social system. You can find and follow other users by searching by name or by linking to your other social media accounts. A user’s pins show up in the home feed of everyone who follows them; likewise, the user can see the pins on boards of users they follow. When following other users, you can follow one of their boards, all of their boards, or only their boards that interest you. Most boards are curated by only their creator, but boards can be shared among multiple users, allowing for easy collaboration on projects. Users can also create private boards, accessible only to their creator. Lastly, users can comment on pins, repin a pin on their own board, and send pins directly to other users.
Since its creation five years ago, Pinterest has gained millions of users. Its purely visual format is simple, the content is inherently shareable, and it allows users to collaborate easily. What’s not to like?
Pinterest has an interesting—almost niche—user base. About 75% of their users are female, and most users are between the ages of 24 and 34. The most popular topics on the social network are food-related (recipes) and DIY projects. Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking Pinterest can’t be relevant to you or your music. There is a vast array of content. Yes, you can find step-by-step instructions to frosting the perfect cupcake. It’s right there next to tips on turning wood pallets into coffee tables, makeup tutorials, and the fall line for Marc Jacobs, which in turn are mixed in with humorous memes, pretty pictures of handwritten song lyrics, celebrity snapshots, and photographs of classic cars.
Regardless of what they’re looking for, a large portion of Pinterest users choose the site as their go-to search engine. Which makes it a little less surprising that close to 90% of “Pinners” have purchased something that they pinned.
Pinterest for Musicians
For the musician, Pinterest has two main benefits:
What makes someone really truly love a song? Good melodies help. An interesting phrase can catch someone’s attention. But, chances are, someone loves a song because that song makes them feel understood. Listeners feel like they share an experience or emotion with the artist.
If used correctly, Pinterest can be as helpful in building connections with your fans as your best songs are.
Pinterest is a great way for your fans to get to know you and vice versa. Your customized, topical boards let your fans have a sneak peak into your life. Common interests and tastes may turn a casual listener into a real fan who is ready to support someone they feel close to. Chances are, if they already like the music that you make, they will have some other similar tastes that can be a jumping off point for a strong connection between you and your existing fans.
You can also see the things that your fans like. If a particular style is consistently repinned by your fans, you might think about adding a product with a similar style to your merch table. Tailoring your products to the tastes of the people who will potentially buy those products can mean more merch sold and more money in your pocket.
Pinterest is also a great way to reach new people who might enjoy your music. If you have thoughtful content on the site that interests your followers and prompts them to share it, their networks will see it. If the new viewers are interested and look into the pin (i.e., follow it back to the source), they might discover someone new to follow (you!) and something new to like (your music!).
Pinterest is an aspirational website. Its users pin content that reflects something they hope to be, or do, or buy.
Pinterest is also inherently viral. The vast majority of content on Pinterest is “re-pinned,” meaning that people are sharing existing content rather than generating original content. Because of this, pinned content stays around for much longer than a Facebook post or a tweet, and something that you uploaded months ago still has the potential of being repinned.
Lastly, Pinterest is effective at sales conversions. Pinterest beats out other social media platforms in terms of links leading to online purchases. It also has more users click through to the source site than any other social media platform.
What does this mean for bands using Pinterest? A few things:
Your content should resonate with fans, genuinely hitting on something they hope to be, do, or buy.
Sharing existing content isn’t bad, but uploading original content is better. With original content, you can link to content on your website, driving traffic back there. You can’t really do that with someone else’s images, video, or audio. Additionally, original content is something that your followers haven’t likely seen before… which means they haven’t already pinned it and can do exactly that.
Your profile should link to your website. That way, anyone curious about who exactly is pinning this amazing content has a way to find out more.
Keep the above in mind with pinning, and you will likely see your website’s traffic and your sales increase.
As With All Marketing
As with all forms of marketing, the first step is to know your audience. Pinterest isn’t for everyone. If your audience is mostly 55-year-old males, Pinterest probably isn’t the best social media platform to use to market yourself. However, if your target audience is 20 or 30-somethings or largely female, it may well be worth the time it takes for you to establish and run an account.
In the end, you have to be smart about the tools that you use to market yourself and make sure that the time you spend on any marketing endeavor is worth your efforts.
Want to learn more about how to use Pinterest as an effective tool to market your music? Check back later this week for practical tips to build an engaging, effective profile.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
Often, communicating with fans is like walking a tightrope. If your balance tips ever so slightly to one side or the other—too frequent, too seldom, too polished, too sloppy—you lose them. They get annoyed, or forget you, or feel like they’re being spammed with smarmy marketing, or just don’t take you seriously. Finding that happy middle ground is a struggle.
So, when I saw an artist put out an amazing letter to his fans, I sat up and paid attention. Then, I decided to share it with you.
About the Artist
We’ll take a minute to introduce you to Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves. Understanding who he is as an artist makes it easier to understand where he’s coming from in his fan communication.
Shakey’s music is a fusion of folk, blues, and rock, at once familiar and distinct. His lyrics—packed with emotion and evocative imagery, and weaving fantastical stories—capture basic elements of humanity: love, lust, hope, despair, bitterness, folly, rage, regret. His voice is haunting and soft one moment, then rich and impassioned, then gravelly and road-weary.
The same shifts in his voice are reflected in his songs, which slip from one tempo and dynamic to another. He changes pace and volume, dropping off just when listeners think the song is about to peak, then building it all up again. What a way to keep listeners’ attention!
Most musicians sing or play an instrument, or do a little of both. But this guy? He takes it to a whole new level. Often playing as a one-man band—handling the guitar and vocals and a (likely homemade) kick drum/tambourine combo, conveniently packaged in an old-fashioned hard case suitcase—Shakey brings his music to life. He embodies it, far more than any other musician I’ve ever watched. As he carries out these four parts of his songs, his body sways, his hands slide, his fingers press, his head nods, his legs dance, and his feet tap. There’s not a single part of him that isn’t contributing to the performance. It’s mesmerizing to watch.
To recap: he’s young and talented, he’s pretty damn unique, he knows when to drive it home hard and when to gently caress with his music, and he can handle four parts at once. Impressive.
In July of this year (late July, appropriately), Shakey sent an email to his fans. Calling it a newsletter or press release doesn’t do it justice. “Love letter” might paint a better picture. EDIT: The letter is no longer present on his site, be we discuss the importance of it below.
Know Your Audience
There are two ways that Shakey does this.
First, the letter is intended for an audience already familiar with Shakey. He wasn’t trying to reach people who hadn’t heard of him, he wasn’t trying to impress the general public, and he wasn’t trying to make a pitch to a team of venture capitalists about the profit margins and sustainability of his career. He was simply reaching out to people who had supported him previously.
These are people who had attended his shows, people who had bought his music, people who likely listened to his songs until they knew every dip, crescendo, tambourine crash, guitar lick, and hushed lyric. Some are intimately familiar with his work; some are likely just casual listeners. But none are strangers, and all are supporters.
He addresses that audience with an appropriate degree of familiarity. By no means is it a formal letter or a lifeless sales pitch. Like a letter you’d get from an old friend (if people still sent letters, that is), it exudes personality, a sense of shared history, and camaraderie. Not only is his tone casual and friendly, but he directly acknowledges the role that the reader has played in supporting him.
Second, he actually knows his audience. He knows their names and email addresses, knows that they’ve purchased his music before, knows that they are likely more interested in updates from him than some random person on the street. They aren’t random likes or followers on some social media network (although many probably do like or follow him); they are actual contacts. At some point (likely the point of sale) he gained each fan’s contact information. That is extremely valuable data, and requesting it was an incredibly wise move for him to make. Putting that data to use (by sending this letter) was an even wiser move.
Tell Your Story
Shakey’s songs tell stories. His lyrics paint pictures, and there’s a natural ebb and flow that his lyrics, dynamics, and tempo build. Those same characteristics are present in the first half of his letter.
The beginning of his letter focuses on expressing gratitude and fortifying the previous connection that the reader had with Shakey’s music. He thanks the reader, reminds them of their previous help, and then says exactly why he’s thankful for their support: “[it] has allowed me to survive,” “[it] has been essential in my understanding of what is most important as I navigate this terrible and glorious industry,” “[it is] enabling artists like me to help lead that charge.”
The next paragraph tells readers what Shakey has been up to. He launches into his story with words suggestive of bar stool retellings of epic legends: “Since the days of recording Roll the Bones in various living rooms on questionable equipment…” It’s a fanciful way of saying “I know my first album wasn’t necessarily recorded or produced as well as it could have been,” and it segues nicely into his next thought: “I turned my Austin home into a studio.” So, that’s what he’s done with the money from supporters! Good! Not that questionable living room recordings don’t have a charm of their own, but converting your home into a proper studio shows a good amount of dedication to your craft. That implied dedication is confirmed by the final thought of the paragraph: he has new material.
Take Care of Business—Without Being a Gold-digger
This letter isn’t just to thank supporters and wax poetic about their shared history. (Although, personally, I don’t have a problem receiving those letters from him.) Nope. Shakey has a purpose for writing, and he is sure to include it.
Shifting to the present tense (and out of storytelling mode), Shakey announces that he has a new album in the works. He discusses the album’s anticipated release date, its merits (full platform, bigger sound, more collaboration), where it can be ordered (with a link), and why it should be pre-ordered (there’s a digital download as an incentive). He also lists new tour dates (again, with a link), hoping that fans interested enough in his music would be willing to come see him perform.
It’s a lot of information to present to fans in two short paragraphs, but the way the words pour out and rush each other along suggests that the writer was brimming with excitement over finally being able to share this huge news with others. Like someone who’s ridden a new rollercoaster and gushes to his friends about how awesome it was and how much fun they’ll have when they ride it together, he’s thrilled about this and wants to share that feeling with readers. That excitement keeps this announcement from reading like a smarmy, greed-driven, lifeless, and boring sales pitch.
If you’ve seen him perform, watched video of his concerts, or read his updates on his website or social media profiles, it’s hard to get the feeling that Shakey’s an elitist musician. He seems pretty casual, down to earth, and genuine, full of admiration for fellow musicians and with a healthy mix of humility and confidence in his craft. His letter reads the same way.
There’s a good dose of Texas slang: “Howdy, y’all”. To keep things casual, he uses informal, even improper, language: “I really really really couldn’t have done this without your support.” By sharing his personal feelings, the letter has a sense of intimacy and sincerity: “from the bottom of my heart”, “allowed me to survive”, “I am thrilled”, “I hope you are as excited as I am”, “You keep me flexible, motivated, and sane (ish)”, “for that I am forever happily in your debt.” There’s a bit of self-deprecating humor in his jabs at his previous recording process and, at the end of the letter, his sanity. However, the acknowledgement of changes in the industry and his efforts to “lead that charge” erase any doubt of him being another industry lemming; there’s fire and passion in his blood, and a good head on his shoulders.
Argue with the style or errors all you want. The letter comes across with life in it… specifically, the life of this Shakey Graves persona. That’s hard to do, yet so important.
Please don’t mistake my admiration of his style and music for idolization. I know Shakey isn’t perfect. For example, although I’ve been a fan since the beginning of the year, that July letter was the first contact he’s made since my initial purchase. That’s not ideal. (Although since that letter, I’ve received another, so he’s improving in that aspect!) Nor do I expect his music to be everyone’s cup of tea.
But this letter? Flaws and all, it’s a shining example of striking that balance between commercial and genuine, formal and fun, sincere and stylized. For those reasons, I thought it worth sharing.
P.S. – Shakey, if you happen to read this, our door is open. Fort Worth isn’t too far away from Austin. We’d love to have you stop by!
Download cards can be a great way to get your music out to people. But, when your band is choosing cards, you need to choose wisely. Not all download cards are the same.
NationWide Disc recognized that musicians need better download cards, cards with options and cards that help musicians. That’s why they created cards that:
Collect Your Fans’ Email Addresses
How does this work? By logging in to your account, you can instantly access your download stats, including the email addresses of anyone who has used one of your download codes! It’s a simple and effective way to grow your fan list.
The best part? It’s free! There are no setup costs, no annual fees, and no hosting costs. Really…It’s FREE.
Let You Get Creative With What You Offer
You’re not restricted to an MP3; we also accept MP4s, JPGs, PDFs, and zipped files.
This means that, if you want to think outside the box and offer your fans ringtones, artwork, wallpapers, band photos, or full albums, you can.
Need some ideas here? If you’re a boy band with a fan base of enthusiastic teenage girls, take a few official band photos and offer them as phone wallpapers. If you’re a singer/songwriter, try offering a pretty photograph with your poetic lyrics on top as a desktop background, or turn your lyrics into a unique printable piece of art. If you have an iconic logo or kick-ass album art, consider offering that as wallpaper for phones or tablets. Or, take a page out of Coldplay’s playbook and offer downloadable copies of hand-written lyric sheets.
Use Them To Market and Sell Your Music In-Person and Online
We give you options. Get your codes printed on physical cards, or have the codes delivered to you digitally.
Physical download cards can be sold (which we’d recommend for a full album and, perhaps, for singles) or given away (for example, included with a purchase or handed out to fans after a show). Download codes can be shared with your fans online (think “To access this fan-exclusive single, visit NWdownload.com and enter the following code…”).
You can also choose between Static Codes and Dynamic Codes:
Static Codes: This means you purchase one code that has unlimited downloads. This option is great for offering free downloads. You still collect the email addresses, and fans can share your code via social channels or by word of mouth.
Dynamic Codes: You can purchase an unlimited number of unique codes. However, each code is only good for one download. This option is ideal for sold codes, where you don’t want the code shared with anyone besides the buyer.
Are Easy And Free
We made it super easy for you to set things up. There’s no hosting, no coding, and no software required. You simply purchase the codes or cards online, log in on the NWDownload site, and upload your file. You can send fans to the site with your download code, you can hand out or sell the cards in person, or you can do both.
NWDownload will do all the hosting for you, and they’ll do it for free.
What can be better than that?
Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes from NationWide Disc
Visti NWDownload, then click Artist Login at the bottom of the page
Enter your Username and Password, or Register as a new user
Register on NWDownload as an Artist
Once you're logged in, you can access your email addresses or upload a file
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
Music has changed more in the last 10 years than in any other time in history. More specifically, how you listento music has changed. A wave of great new listening experiences has flooded the market, starting with CDs in the 90s, iPods in 2001, iTunes in 2004, and mobile phones that stored and played music shortly thereafter. These new formats allowed fans to listen to music everywhere they went, and we all spent a lot of time and money building our music libraries.
Now, we have progressed to streaming music. In the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in streaming services: Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Google Play, iTunes Radio, Deezer, SoundCloud, Grooveshark, and so on. The list keeps growing.
Streaming Was Made For Fans
For many fans, music is uplifting, and it evokes emotions in ways nothing else can. Just like the smell of cinnamon rolls baking still reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen, certain songs take me back to relive some great memories. I know others feel the same way. Music can also be exciting and fun; many fans eagerly anticipate the next musical discovery that blows them away, whether it’s from a musician they already know or from someone entirely new.
As a fan, streaming music isincredible.You can choose from an unlimited library of music and gain exposure to new artists that you would not have found otherwise. Streaming allows you to play music on almost all of your devices—from mobile phones to smart TVs—with just one account. Streaming music also lets you to listen to a huge variety of music without ever purchasing anything, as long as you don’t mind hearing a few commercials. If commercials bore you, then pay as little as $3.00 per month to listen commercial free.
Surely somebody brilliant came up with this idea. It’s an experience designed entirely for fans, and it’s almost impossible for you to say no. I get it, really.
Sound like everything is perfect in the world of music? For fans, it nearly is.
What The Changes Mean To Artists
Not everyone is benefitting, though. Streaming music, digital downloads, CDs—the music you listen to might be the same, but the delivery method is considerably different. That difference has affected how you listen and what you buy, which in turn has affected the musicians that create the music you love and their ability to make even a modest living. I can’t say this about all musicians, but the vast majority of independent musicians—I’m not talking about superstar performers or the kids still in high school, but about professional, independent musicians (like me) who rely on their creative work to make a living and support a family—struggle with this new model of compensation in the music industry.
iTunes began changing the monetary model for musicians in 2004. At that point, fans learned that you could purchase any song you wanted for $0.99. No need to pay $12 for an album. Yes, you’ve downloaded a lot of singles since then, and some albums, too. But because you no longer had to purchase the album for $12 to get the hit single, the value for an artists’ most popular work dropped more than 90%. The typical payment to an artist for a single download from iTunes is about $0.65. Since singles are in such apparent demand, if they’re going to be sold, they should sell at a premium. This would help musicians cover the production costs and still make a living. Sadly, that is not the case.
But things don’t stop there.
Streaming music has been around for a long time, but it was not really mainstream until four or five years ago. Now, it is everywhere, and it seems to be impacting download sales. In 2013, iTunes had its first ever decline in digital download sales of music, likely due to competition from streaming music. That trend will continue. What’s worse is that artists generally make much less from streamed music than they do downloaded singles.
Music is just as creative and demanding of talent as other forms of art, but admirers of sculptures or paintings don’t expect to take their favorite piece home with them without paying for it. That would be crazy. Yet musicians, who put just as much effort into their work, are often expected to give their creations away for free (or practically-free).
I know that you, as a fan, love streaming music. But for me, and for my fellow musicians, the picture is not as promising.
Here’s How You Can Help
If you think you’re powerless to change things, think again.
An artist who had 100,000 streams of his music in a year might make $300 to $400. I don’t know anyone who can live on just $400 for a year, which means that artist would have to find alternate forms of income, maybe giving up on music altogether. But… what would have happened if 50,000 of those people had downloaded a single, or 15,000 had downloaded an album from that same artist? His income would have been $35,000 to $65,000. Wow, what a difference! The income would have been even more if the artist sold CDs, but the price to fans would remain the same.
None of this would matter except that fans streaming music tend to download or purchase less of the music that they stream. Remember what I told you about iTunes sales in 2013? If you don’t buy my music online or at shows, the income I need to make a living is being cut to almost nothing. Streaming music does not pay the bills.
I can’t expect you to give up streaming music. The experience is too good. But you can help your favorite musicians by seeking them out online and purchasing their music. Buy their album. It may sound a little crazy to pay for something that you can get for free, but it’s not. You could also choose to purchase their merchandise online. Better yet, check out their event schedule, attend a show, and purchase their products in person.
If you truly enjoy music and want to keep those memories coming, you need to go above and beyond the norm of streaming. Support your favorite artist. Support music. Support me.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 12 minutes
It really is a problem. Between social media, email, texting, and phone calls (let alone snail mail) there are numerous conversations going on with your fans all the time. If you want to be heard, your communication needs to fly above the fray. The key to doing that, thereby cementing your fan relationships, is quality content and an effective delivery tool. Otherwise, even though you’re talking, no one can hear you.
If you want better solutions for reaching your fans, keep reading.
The Battle For Your Fans’ Attention
We remember when industry pundits predicted that digital communication would make us all much more productive. It turns out that the opposite is true. The constant bombardment of information is distracting, and not at all productive.
In terms of information overload, social media platforms like Facebook are often the worst offenders. You may think that, since you are a performer and these are your fans, your voice somehow filters to the top. Not true. Performers get the same priority as everyone else who has something to say. The reality is most of what you say scrolls off the page before anyone has a chance to see it, which means you remain unheard, even if you have a large number of people following you. Why is that? Too much competition for your fans attention.
It may come as a surprise, but the average person on Facebook has over 335 “friends”. That’s like being in a room with 335 people simultaneously talking to you and trying to show you something.
Stepping slightly off topic for a second: Who really has 335 close friends? And even with your actual close friends, would you want to hear every single thing they think or see, every mundane thing they do? No. Sure, you want to know the big, even the medium, things: life milestones, how their relationship and careers are going, what their interests and hobbies are, what they’ve been up to. But the little things? Not so much.
It is like being a slave to a crazy person’s impulse to over-share all the things that stumble into their brain at any moment. This is what you face as an artist if you intend to communicate with fans on social media. Just more noise.
Let’s look at an actual, typical fan. This fan has 453 friends on Facebook (not counting pages liked or groups joined), has 68 connections on LinkedIn, and follows 259 users on Instagram, 129 users on Twitter, and 152 users on Pinterest. That makes five networks used regularly by this fan, and accounts on two other platforms that rarely get used. Plus a personal email account. And that doesn’t even factor in work-related accounts.
When faced with accounts on multiple social media platforms and hundreds of interactions to wade through daily, the thought of seeing everything becomes a bit daunting. The result is that, despite creating accounts to stay in touch, their connections actually weaken.
It’s easy to see how users can be inundated with information, and it’s clear that you’re fighting an uphill battle. Yes, some of your fans are seeing your information. And yes, there are ways to better your odds, such as paying to boost your posts, or strategically timing your posts. But, in the grand scheme of things, you’re still competing with all that other noise.
Good Content Creates Loyal Fans
While we are on the topic of noise and over-sharing, let us make one point that is critical for your career: do not over-share. When you speak to fans, make sure you have something important and relevant to say, something they want to hear. Otherwise, your fans will classify you as someone who wastes their time. It is like a good relationship that has gone bad; fans can close the door on your relationship as quickly as they opened it.
You may have a better chance of creating a connection with your audience if your communication focuses outward more often than inward. For example, if you are constantly talking about yourself, it might sound too much like self promotion or bragging. Quite often, when I get an artist communication it seems that they are “shouting” at me with their announcement – “Hey, come buy my new album!” Remember that you are talking ‘with’ people, not ‘at’ them. Have something interesting to say that gives insight into who you are, and try to engage fans in a conversation. That’s hard to do if the entire conversation is one-liners from you about your accomplishments, so stay away from “sales speak”. Inspiring fans with real conversation will get them engaged and talking, to you and to their friends about you. Other people talking about you is much more powerful than you talking about yourself.
Now that we have covered over-sharing, we want to emphasize the importance of good consistent communication. It is not our purpose to convince you that less is more. While you do not want to over-share, it is very important to share good quality content on a regular basis. Do not ignore your fans.
There are plenty of topics that are good for sharing, here are a few examples:
Announcements. This could be a new album release, concert date, tour, products, promotions, crowdfunding opportunity, last minute texts, etc.
Insights. These reveal what it’s like to be a musician or offer a behind-the-scenes look at the industry and your career, etc.
Personal comments about your music, how you write music, what inspires you, your passion for music, how you started as a musician, which musicians are your role models, etc.
Fun, short features. Shoot a simple video, tell a funny story, post a picture from a live performance with relevant comments, etc.
Whatever you offer, make sure it is thoughtful and well-presented. It does not necessarily have to be polished and professional looking; sometimes informal and impromptu create a better connection with your fan base because it feels more personal.
As long as we are discussing social media, we encourage musicians to maintain separate social media accounts: one for personal friends and family, and one for their music career. Friends and family can choose to follow both accounts, but fans should not have access to all of your personal comments and shares. Do you really want everyone to have access to the details of your personal life: a list of your family, photos of your kids, embarrassing posts from aunt Nicole and your sister Anna?
The Most Effective Communication Tools
What if there was a way to cut through that noise and truly stand out, to have your message pop up where your fan notices it (in other words, outside those social media platforms)? In our book, there are two methods that help you do just that.
Method One: Emails – Email allows you to personalize the communication, control the conversation, and convey a complete message without length limitations. Try to automate this process as much as possible. For example, a fan signing up for your mailing list should auto-generate a welcome email. This is also a great time to offer them a free download for signing up. (If you’re wondering how to capture their email, manage your contacts, and run campaigns, we’ll cover this topic in an upcoming article.)
Method Two: Text Messages – Communicating via text message with your fans (using an SMS service) is a great way to convey important information. This is the only communication (other than printed material or a phone call) that does not require your fan to log-on to their account to view it. This is completely different from Facebook, Twitter, and most other forms of social media. Text also carries a sense of high priority. When you get a message alert, don’t you check your phone and that message as soon as possible? Most people do.
(See the end of this article for tips on responsible mobile marketing practices.)
If you’re interested in mobile marketing, keep reading as we discuss several text marketing options.
Using An SMS Service
We scoured the internet looking for SMS service providers that offer good features and flexibility at a fair price. Of the services we found, we narrowed it down to two options that we would use.
Mozeo is our frontrunner. You can use keywords or a website widget to allow your fans to opt-in to your SMS contact list, or you can enter contacts manually or by uploading a spreadsheet. Mozeo allows you to enter a lot of fan information besides their name and phone number: address, email, gender, date of birth, and a half dozen optional fields. This is probably because it offers services, like email solutions. For accurate feedback on sent messages, Mozeo provides real-time reports. There is not a monthly fee for Mozeo’s SMS services; it’s simply 3 cents per outgoing message, and incoming messages are free. Keywords are sold separately as one-time fees ($25 for 1, $70 for 3, or $111 for 5). Mozeo also offers email solutions (half a cent per message—you can manage your contacts, design your emails, and send your marketing messages out to subscribers) and mobile web design (at $10 per month, with no limit on pages or sites). Web design includes the option of adding a mobile merchant/shopping cart to your page. Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.
We chose our runner up, Ez Texting, because it operates on its own or as a plugin to other popular platforms (such as MailChimp), and it’s one of the most popular SMS service providers available. Ez Texting allows you to import contacts or add them manually and then sort those contacts into as many groups as you need to. If you need help gathering contact data, you can use the keyword, widget, or QR code features that Ez Texting offers. You can incorporate merge tags to personalize your messages, and you can send text or voice messages to your contacts either when they are written or at a future scheduled time. The site provides you with analysis of sent messages so you can see which messages and acquisition methods are effective. Ez Texting does not charge for incoming messages, which are stored in your account’s Inbox or forwarded to your email address; messages forwarded to your mobile phone do require a credit. Plans range from $29 to $2000 a month, depending on how many messages and keywords you need. There is also a pay-as-you-go option, where messages cost 5 cents each (unless purchased in quantities of 20,000 or more, when a discount begins to apply). Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.
Other SMS Options
While our downloadable tutorials focus on Ez Texting and Mozeo, they are by no means the only options. Here are some details on other SMS service providers:
For MailChimp Users Planning Events:Gather is an event-focused SMS tool available to MailChimp users. MailChimp recognizes that email is ideal for sending event invitations and information ahead of time and for following up afterward, but less ideal for communicating with attendees—sending reminders and updates or receiving live feedback—right before or during the event, when they might not have email access. Gather also provides texting security (by keeping phone numbers private) and ensures that attendees won’t be spammed with text message marketing down the road. As a musician, you could use Gather to communicate with your core fans about exclusive after-parties. What fan doesn’t like that idea?
For SMS Campaigns with MailChimp:Call Loop is another SMS option that operates independently or as a plugin for MailChimp. Your contacts—which are unlimited—can be uploaded in a spreadsheet, synced from MailChimp, or inserted individually. Call Loop offers many of the same features that Ez Texting offers, including Merge Tags, scheduled messages, and auto-respond triggers. There is a pay-as-you go plan at 5 cents per message, or plans range from $30 to $150 dollars a month (depending on the number of messages and keywords you want).
For SMS Campaigns and a Little Extra: ProTexting also offers a variety of SMS features. Subscribers can sign up through mobile keywords or web signup forms, which you can create and add to your website or social media profiles. The site then stores their contact information in your subscriber database. Messages—which can include audio, video, and/or text—can be sent to individual subscribers or to groups, and they can be scheduled or sent immediately. ProTexting encourages paying personalized attention to your fans, such as targeting recipients by location or sending birthday wishes. It also provides analytics on your messages’ performance, so you can see which messages are effective and which aren’t. ProTexting also offers a mobile website builder, letting you create a simple and functional interface for your fans, as well as an app for you to access your account on the go. For self-managed accounts, pricing starts at $70 a month and reaches up to $899 a month; as with the other SMS service providers, the packages vary in terms of how many messages and keywords they include.
Responsible Mobile Marketing
Now, before you go rushing off and start texting all your fans, you should know that there are some rules that apply to text marketing:
You must get recipient consent first (i.e., they have signed up to receive communications from you in this manner, and you’ve provided them with information on messaging rates, frequency, and purpose). Note that, if they’re under 13, they’ll also need parental consent.
You should not overwhelm fans with irrelevant or redundant information—don’t spam them!
You should make it clear who is sending the messages.
You should provide opt-out information with your messages and/or on your site.
For more information, we recommend reading this Best Practices guide assembled by the Mobile Marketing Association. You’ll also want to check state laws, both where you live and where your recipients live, to make sure there aren’t further restrictions.
If you’ve decided that SMS marketing is the right step that will give you an advantage in reaching your customers, and you’ve done the research to understand the best practices and laws regulating text marketing, it’s time to start looking for a way to get your messages out where they belong: in front of your fans.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 12 minutes
Fans are the lifeblood of your music. Learn how to keep them happy, and you will profit from the relationship. Ignore them, or trust your fan relationship to someone else, and you will suffer. Simple, but true.
We have a few suggestions to help you work through how to do this, including a free iPad app that helps to make it easy—read on.
The Right Stuff For A Career in Music
Remember when you were a kid, daydreaming of being a rock star? If you were anything like us, you were singing your heart out while picking out your clothes for the day, or vacuuming the house with the stereo blasting your idol’s tunes, or going all Risky Business while jamming on your air guitar. As a kid, it was so easy to become what you wanted. You just pictured your dream and—BAM—you were livin’ it.
As an adult, you might have realized it’s not as easy as just imagining. You now know that, to be a rock star, you need to have some talent as a singer, songwriter, musician, or performer. Ideally, you’ll be talented in each of these fields, but being extremely talented in just one field might be enough to gain some traction. You may also have realized that not everyone with talent has a successful music career, which means it takes a bit more than talent to make things really happen. That “bit more” includes some pretty mundane—but important—things, like collecting and reviewing data.
When we were growing up, we didn’t know anyone who wanted to collect data or review statistics for a living. It wasn’t exciting or thrilling. It still might not be… but it’s important, even to rock stars. Actually, especially to rock stars. Boring things like collecting data can make the difference between success and failure in your music career. Just remember, in this case, boring equals profitable.
Data Collection and Your Music Career
Let’s explore just one of those boring things today: what are you doing to develop your fan base? You know, your fan base. The people who like your music, attend your performances, visit your webpage, purchase your CDs, download your music on iTunes, and hopefully do more than stream your music online for free. Those people. Do you know who your fans are? What are you doing to develop your connection with them? We hope your answer is more than “ummm…” or “nothing”, because fans are the lifeblood of your music.
We know that musicians can be funny about fans. Everyone seems to have his or her own take on the musician/fan relationship. Some performers prefer to operate in a higher circle than their fans, creating a sense of mystique about their persona; others are quite friendly and enjoy personally interacting with fans. Whichever method works for you is fine… as long as you establish and maintain connections with fans. Don’t be the performer that ignores fans and then wonders why their career is suffering.
Why Knowing Your Fan Base Matters
We had the opportunity to visit with a musician client recently. He noted that he was struggling to sell merch to fans at performances, and he had decided that the fans attending his gigs already owned most of what he had to sell. Since a significant part of his income was coming from merch sales, this presented a problem for him. He told us that he had not released any new music in over 20 months. When we asked him why, he confided that he had material ready, but the expenses associated with releasing a new album were high. He also wondered, given recent low sales, if he would recoup the investment in a new release, yet alone profit from it. Lastly, our client said that he wasn’t doing much beyond social media and the merch table to connect with fans that attended his shows.
His story, especially that last statement, really resonated with us. He noticed that sales were down, he assumed it was because of product saturation, and he struggled with investing in new material. All of that is understandable. But, without solid connections with fans, he couldn’t confirm product saturation, couldn’t reach out to those not attending shows or who didn’t have his existing merch, couldn’t advertise shows effectively, couldn’t test the waters on interest in a new project, and couldn’t use his existing fan base to help fund a new project. He was up to bat, but blindfolded, deaf, and dizzy.
Had he connected better with his fans and owned that relationship, his story could be quite different.
Social Media Does Not Cut It
Don’t get the wrong idea. Our musician does have fans. People come to his shows and buy his music—just not as much as he’d like or as they used to do. And he has followers all over social media. In fact, Facebook was his main source of communication with his fans. He’d post about a gig, and they’d like the status, or share, or comment. He even recognized a few of them at gigs from their profile pictures.
Despite that, he didn’t have a good connection with them. The fans were largely anonymous, his posts didn’t get the reach he hoped, and—most importantly—he did not have direct contact information for them.
Here’s the downfall to counting on social media (or any third party) for your fan connection: it will always let you down.
With social media, you cannot control the conversation or its reach. Sure, you write a post, but you can’t really control who sees it or how they respond. You become just another voice in a long list of voices trying to communicate with your fan. After a short while, your post drifts off to the bottom of the fan’s feed. Even on your own page, it is very hard to control the conversation.
Also, what happens if your fans do not get on Facebook very often or are no longer active at all on Facebook? Anybody remember MySpace? We know of another musician that had over 90,000 people following her on MySpace in the site’s early years; when MySpace fell out of favor, the fans stopped signing on, and she lost the ability to communicate with them. It is a bad idea to base your entire fan experience on a site that may not even be popular in 2 years.
So… what can artists do?
Start Capturing Contact Information From Your Fans
Remember our other articles, where we pointed out that iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and other services wouldn’t tell you who downloaded or streamed your music? They know how valuable that information is, and they keep it for themselves. Social media is the same: no direct contact information, just an interface that is shared with everyone else trying to communicate with your fan.
Instead, you have to actively work at gathering information from fans. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that make the gathering part easier.
At gigs, you should have a sign-up sheet for fan names and email addresses. Better yet, save yourself a step and have fans sign up electronically. If you have an iPad and a MailChimp* account (which we recommend), we suggest using their free app, Chimpadeedoo, for in-person mailing list signup. We tested this software, and it performs well. We’ve even written a guide to walk you through the setup process, including a link to stands that prevent iPads from being loss or damage.
Having a signup list sitting on the merch table probably isn’t enough, though. You need to make its presence and importance known; point out the merch table and your must-have items, and ask people to sign up. Be witty and humorous. Play around with it to see what works.
If this still isn’t enough, you might offer an incentive. You’d be surprised how many people will give you their email address if you give away a t-shirt, CD, or signed mug at every gig. Our musician friend tried this the other night and got 106 people to give him their contact information. Not bad for one night.
Outside of gigs, you should add a signup form to your band’s website and social media profiles. While social media sites are not good for direct, consistent communication, they can be a great place to let fans know about your mailing list. Again, MailChimp makes this easy. If you need help with this, let us know and we will send instructions.
Of course, you don’t want a stack of sign-up sheets sitting in a corner. You’ll need to find a system to keep track of the data on them, and then you can put that data to use. Use your emailing service to help set this up.
As you collect names and email addresses from fans, you should begin communicating with them on a regular basis… but only when you have something to say. You don’t want to spam them by filling their inbox with repetitive information or meaningless ramblings. Don’t be like so many people on Facebook who have nothing to say but say it quite often.
Instead, you want your fans to feel special, like they are part of an exclusive club. The communication can and should share your current schedule, especially if you make it feel like a personal invitation to those shows, but it can also offer more. Share something revealing about your career, pictures from behind the scenes, or funny stories from performances. Post a “teaser video”; it doesn’t have to be anything complicated, either. One artist we know posts a 20 second video weekly; all he does is play his guitar off-camera for 15 seconds, then ask the fans to guess which guitar it is. The response to these videos is pretty impressive. Be creative and get your readers to respond.
In short, you should focus on communicating with fans regularly and with quality content. If this means you email once a week instead of daily, that’s fine. Just be consistent and be active. Your ability to communicate with your fans on a regular basis develops the relationship. You have to reach out to them.
Also, if you have the cell phone number of your fans, then texting can be a great way to communicate as well. (Hint One: get their permission first. Hint Two: this method might work best for specific messages, such as reminders about a show, instead of every message.) Although not as flexible in format as email, it puts your message right in front of your fan. They don’t have to sign in to an email account or social network to see what you have to say.
Does It Really Work?
Let us share our business experience with you. If fans have a relationship with you and have purchased your music in the past, they are over 30 times more likely to purchase your music in the future. This means existing fans are the biggest supporters of your music career, which in turn means you want to connect with them.
As with any form of marketing, not all recipients will read your material. However, email is one of the more personal and flexible forms of communication you can have. Some email programs allow you to thank fans for signing up or sharing your email by offering a free download, or you could tailor emails to each recipient by including their name in the subject line or message. You could (should) separate your list into groups, emailing grouped fans only about shows in their area (instead of shows elsewhere that aren’t relevant to them) or about product they don’t have yet (if you’ve tracked that). Short of receiving a hand-written letter, emails tailored to each fan is about as personal as marketing gets.
You should also be tracking fan data. When fans sign up for your email list, be certain to include details like the date and event information. Over time, as you interact with your fans, you can develop more detailed fan profiles. Don’t pass up an opportunity to capture more information about your individual fans. In addition to an email address, sign up forms can request or require a fan’s address (or at least a zip code), phone number, age, gender, how they found out about you, and more.
Ideally, some of your fans will become “super fans”. These are the people that absolutely love what you do. When organized effectively, super fans can form a network or street team that drives your success. They bring people to your events, help you promote your merch products, even volunteer to do some of the boring things that you might otherwise have to let slide by. Do not miss the opportunity to engage them.
Back To Our Musician
His past lack of data collection is hurting him, but it’s not too late for his story to change.
He needs to engage his fans in the markets where he is well known. While he thought that those fans were his least valuable audience (because they already have his merchandise), in fact the exact opposite is true. Because they already know him well, they represent a great opportunity for him. If he releases new music, these are the fans that will buy it. They might even fund the project. They just have to know about it first.
Taking action now can turn things around for him. It can work for you, too.
* This post is in no way sponsored by MailChimp. We simply think that it’s a valuable tool for musicians to consider when managing their fan databases and communicating with fans. And in some cases it is free, so it fits almost any budget.