Your fans are the lifeblood of your career. Without fans, you don’t have a music career, you only have a music hobby. Fans buy your products, listen to your music, give you feedback, share you with their friends, come to your shows, and wear your t-shirts. They are the people that enable you to become a full-time musician, and live the artist lifestyle. The most loyal of fans will stand by your side through thick and thin, buy all of your swag, and help you in many ways throughout your career.
It’s the end of the year, and showing some appreciation to your fans for all the support they’ve given you can go a long way. They deserve a bit more than music and t-shirts.
1. Don’t give your fans live music. Give them a live experience.
Your fans were awesome enough to pay money to see you perform, so the best way to give back in that regard is to put on an incredible show that fans cannot wait to talk about with their friends afterwards. Do something fun and unique that portrays your personality in a positive manner, and make it memorable. Whatever expectations that your fans held with them at the beginning of the gig should be shattered to pieces by the end. Blow your fans away, and give them more than what they believed they paid for.
The possibilities are really endless, but here are a few simple ideas that you can try out to give your fans a more memorable live experience:
- Teach the audience the lyrics to a chorus line in one of your songs, tell them when its coming, and have them chant it in your place.
- Pick a random fan to come up to the stage and help you sing a song (if necessary, you can plan this beforehand but make it feel spontaneous in a live situation).
- Tell a story or rant over something you feel passionate about.
- Give away a CD or t-shirt during a break in your set, and let the fan come up to the stage to accept the prize from you personally.
2. Treat your mailing list subscribers like royalty.
Instead of just having a signup form on your website, use a service like Fanbridge, HostBaby, Nimbit, or Topspin, that helps you automatically send your fans a free song, EP, lyrics book, or any other type of digital file upon signup. Put the form on your website, style it up, make it painfully obvious that they will get a free [insert digital item here] for signing up to the mailing list, and state that you will keep their information private and their inboxes spam-free.
Once they are signed up, give your subscribers the inside scoop on almost everything. Find out when their birthdays are, and send them hand-written postcards wishing them well. Ask them to enter their zip codes, and only announce an upcoming gig to fans that are close to the venue. Interact with your subscribers, but don’t overwhelm them, because it will start to get annoying really fast. It is usually a good idea to reach out to your mailing list a couple times a month, but experiment a little to find the right balance.
Occasionally, it’s a good idea let some information or music slip to a different group of fans, like your Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Doing this can tempt some non-subscribers to want more, and join your list to get a bit extra from you.
3. Keep everything as simple as possible.
From your merch booth to your Facebook page, try your best to make the experience for your fans easy to navigate. Don’t make your fans have to jump through hoops in order to purchase your latest album, because they probably won’t do it, and will listen a substitute band instead. The music market is heavily over-saturated these days, so having an easy and pleasant fan experience will help you stand out from the rest.
Here are a few ways to make life a little bit easier on your fans:
- In addition to cash, accept credit and debit cards at your merch booth by using Square or a similar service.
- Set up an online store, and sell your music and merch directly from your website. Encourage fans to buy directly from you because its easier, and their money is going directly to the band to fund future endeavors.
- Also distribute your music to iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, etc. using a service like CD Baby or Tunecore. There are some people that prefer buying music from these places, because they provide familiar and trustworthy customer experiences.
However, some bands have been successful in making their music hard to find on purpose, which is cool if that is what your fan base enjoys. Turning the music discovery process into a game-like experience, where fans have to follow clues and do research in order to arrive at your prized, limited-edition whatever is a fun way to engage your fans and promote your upcoming album. For example, DJ Shadow stashed vinyl records of his latest release in random record stores around Europe to be discovered by unsuspecting crate-diggers. Beware, though, because if you’re fans aren’t into that sort of thing, it can be a huge turn-off.
4. Give your fans a glimpse into your world.
One of the best and worst things about social media, and the web in general, is that you can be as openly transparent or strangely mysterious as you want. If your fans love watching you ramble on video blogs or hearing you rant at live shows, then those are great opportunities for you show off your personality and give your fans the intimate experience they’re looking for. If your fans are intrigued by the mystery of your lifestyle, then keep your distance and only share tidbits here and there to keep them intrigued and wanting more (think Gorillaz in the early 2000′s).
If you have no idea what what your fans are into, then….well, ask them! You can use a service like SurveyMonkey to set up a brief questionnaire, and ask everybody on your mailing list to participate in the survey to help make their fan experience better. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to give a minute of their time to help out.
5. Saying thank you is not enough.
Go the extra step, and thank your fans with something they’ll remember, like a free song, a high five, a handshake, a bro-hug, a conversation, or tickets to an upcoming gig. They don’t have to support you, they do it because they like your music and believe in you. A simple thank you goes a long way, but exceeding their expectations with something more is a better way to give back, and provides an unforgettable experience that can create long-lasting, personal relationships.
6. Reward your die-hard fans.
And by die-hard fans, I mean those people that have been there from day one, coming to your shows, sitting in on your practice sessions, giving you feedback, and sharing your music with others. One thing I’ve seen bands try, that I really like, is the use of punch cards at live shows. For example, if a fan comes to five gigs and has their card punched five times, they get something awesome, like free concert tickets for a month, or your upcoming album before it’s released.
If you’re goal is to make a career out of your music, it is important to always be thinking about your fans, and what you’re doing to keep them interested and coming back for more. The ideas above should at least get your brain juices flowing so you can come up with even better ones!