You Want a Fan For Life? Here’s How You Do ItBy
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
One of the artists we work with has been in the music business for years, and he has an established yet growing fan base. He’s worked with record labels in the past, but for a number of reasons he has ended that relationship and gone off on his own. This artist recently dropped by to visit with us after returning from a short whirlwind tour with well over 50 performances.
After hearing about one spectacular show after another, we asked him what his favorite moment was.
He thought for a minute, then shared with us this story:
He was working his merch table after a show when a teen came up to buy a CD, digging in his pockets for every last bill and coin he could find… and still coming up short. Way short.
Our artist noticed the crushed look on the teen’s face, asked how much he had, and discreetly made a deal.
The teen was elated, to say the least, and the smile on the teen’s face is our friend’s most treasured memory from an incredible trip.
While it was a very brief encounter, it’s probably not something either party will forget anytime soon, and it’s an awesome story to hear him tell. Better yet, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this:
1. Make Yourself Accessible
Fans love personal attention from their favorite artists. You don’t have to hang out on social media all day or share your private phone number with your fans to be accessible. You just have to make an effort to connect with them.
This artist regularly does just that. Over the past year, he’s launched a new website with pages for fresh content and places for fan interaction; he also stepped up his social media presence to better connect with fans. He does a phenomenal job of replying to, or at least acknowledging, fans’ posts and comments. Because of his international fan base, this sometimes includes translating his comments into a fan’s native language. He regularly shares quick videos, a free ringtone, or pictures from the road with his fans; while the shared items are nothing fancy, his fans love them.
His efforts to connect with his fans in-person are also strong. Like many musicians, he’ll sign autographs or do post-show meet and greets.
It’s important to note where he was in the above story: at his merch table, selling CDs and interacting with fans. Early in his career, he never would have been caught at his merch table. He was convinced that artists were supposed to be mysterious, deific beings that were above the masses, and that selling merch was for groupies, managers, or… well, anyone but the artist. (For what it’s worth, he’s not the only artist we’ve heard share this concept.)
At some point in the not-so-distant past, he had a change of heart; he realized that fans want someone who cares about and appreciates them, someone they can relate to, interact with, and reach. So, he swallowed his pride and started working his merch table.
The results have affirmed his decision. Not only have his sales increased significantly (it’s safe to say he made as much from merch sales on this short tour as he did in the past few years from his record label), but his interactions with fans have become much more frequent and, like the above story, meaningful—both for him and his fans.
2. Make the People a Priority
You can be the most talented musician ever, but if you ignore your fans and make them feel like you only want them for their money, you won’t be left with many fans. With no fans to buy your music and come to your shows, you won’t have much of a career.
So, what does it look like to make your fans a priority? Well, it doesn’t mean giving everything away; you have to make a living, after all. It doesn’t mean taking song requests and polling the masses on every decision you make. It doesn’t mean that you become obsessed with your social media stats, analytics, and gaining traffic.
It does mean making eye contact while performing, considering them when ordering merch, sending out exclusive sneak peeks to your followers, and shaking hands and signing autographs after a show. For example, Taylor Swift has mastered the meet and greet. She gives up a few moments of her time to give her fans a moment they will never forget.
It also means going the extra step to connect with them, and remembering that they are people just like you, not numbers and dollars. This can include doing what our artist did and cutting the occasional deal.
Now, merch sales are literally what pay our artist’s bills; he depends on that income, and he knows it. Discounting merch all the time simply isn’t an option. So, while he knew sales had been going well, he also knew that every penny adds up and makes a difference. He could have said no.
But he didn’t.
Our artist wanted to make his fan’s day. He wanted that connection with the fan. He didn’t make the deal for good press coverage or out of greed after quick calculations on the potential lifetime value of a fan. He did it quietly and out of genuine affection for his fan base. To him, that was enough, and it was worth the small one-time hit on his profits. To the fan, it was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
That kind of mindset—where you make yourself accessible to your fans and you make your fans a priority—has made a big difference for our artist, and it is what can lead you to long-term relationships with fans and a lasting music career.