6 Simple Ways to Give Back to Your Fans

stage dive

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.

queen of england

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.

two monks

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!

Image credits:
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#2 – Click here
#3 – Click here

  • http://twitter.com/MicControl Jon Ostrow

    a comment on #1 of this list… yes, yes, yes, yes and yes!

    Creating an experience is absolutely crucial to increasing the demand of your live shows. If every show is different and unique, then people will be willing, hell they will NEED, to attend multiple shows a tour in order to get more of what they love so much. At this point you can start to book longer tours and continue to sell out every one! This is the fundamental principle behind bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead and is the reason why Phish can tour throughout the summer, fall and winter, selling out show after show. People desire the experience of their shows and are willing to pay $60 a pop for every show within a 200 mile radius.

  • http://www.helenaustin.com Helen Austin

    Brilliant article! I believe very passionately that your fans should be treated like gold!!! Some great ideas here, especially for the live gigs! Love it!

  • http://twitter.com/mikeborgia mikeborgia

    ALL good points in relation to what you can do for your fans. Keeping things fresh and engaging are important, but you have to really know what your core fans are in to before you try some of these ideas. First thing is to wow them with a professional and commanding live performance, not a put on one. Face to face interaction with fans will hands down beat any kind of online promotion you conjure up. Exactly stated by Chris, is to shake their hands, give them hugs, look into their eyes and smile like you give a shit. Acting like a pompous rock star when you clearly are not yet, is a bad idea.
    There is no definite answer to what the right thing to do is, because every band and situation is different.
    Punch Cards are a really nice incentive for younger fans. Love that Idea. Need a good tracking system in case they lose their cards.

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  • http://www.paper-deer.com Paige X. Cho

    Really fantastic list, particularly number four. I think some social media marketers encourage bands to give away TOO much when mystique and intrigue can sometimes work to an acts advantage.

  • http://www.valleyarm.com Jane White

    Point three – keeping it as simple as possible is really important! Fans aren’t going to spend ten minutes trying to find a legal download of your song if it is that hard.

  • http://www.promoteyourmusic.net Chris Rockett

    The way I like to think about email is something I learned form a clever information marketer called Frank Kern.

    Basically you want to be like Santa, so each time you speak to your fans you want to give them or tell them about something cool.

    This works great because nobody thinks that Santa is a spammer and they are always happy to see him ;-)

    It’s also a good idea to use Survey Money to learn more about your fans.

    Maybe offer a free track in exchange for them answering three open ended questions.


  • http://thenewcareersblog.com career ideas

    fans are the life of the artist. no fans no artist in my opinion.

  • http://www.makeitinmusic.com Ian

    Love that punch card idea – never seen that.

    As a minimum, make sure that your fans – on your mailing list and those that connect with you on social media – know that you respect them.

    They have given time, money or both and a little of their own reputation in committing to your band – and you need to commit back to them.

    Thanking them the day after a show, replying to emails, saying thanks when they fan you on facebook (all in a timely manner, as well) is what the modern two-way fan conversation looks like for most bands.

    I take your point though that for a select few, there can be another way of total detachment and intrigue. That’s working for a new hot band in the UK (Wu Lyf) who have a very odd internet presence – only stoking the interest people have in finding out more about them. NB – this won’t work for everyone!

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Yeah I mean look at Daft Punk, for example. I hope they win an Oscar for the TRON soundtrack, and except their award in full costume. That would be awesome, haha.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    That’s right, they’ll just say f*ck it and move on to the next best thing.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Or, invite some fans to meet you at a coffee shop, where you can ask them the three open questions face-to-face.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    I disagree. You can definitely be an artist without fans, but if you want to make a living with your art (aka have a career), then you need fans. No fans, no career.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Thanks for the comment, Ian (see what I did there…lol). Another cool idea is to award the 500th, 1000th, or whatever number person to join your mailing list, or twitter, or facebook, etc. with a prize. But, the key is, don’t announce that you’re doing it. Just do it on the spot.

    Reach out to that 1000th fan with a thank you, and be like “yo dude/girl, also, give us your address because we’d like to send you a free copy of our latest CD because you just became our 1000th facebook fan.”

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  • http://blog.bandsoup.com Ryan

    Great article! I really love the punchcard idea as well and never heard that one until today. Some artists should have their twitter/social media network logins revoked, but those with personalities should have a weekly vlog to give a glimpse into their world, as well as capitalizing on YouTube’s reach.

    Going to post this one up somewhere on our site.

  • http://www.promoteyourmusic.net Chris Rockett

    Nice! Press the flesh…

  • Abi

    you have some super ideas here, but don’t put down the music itself. Making music is first and foremost what musicians do, and for many fans, it is the music itself that has the most value. Saying that the fans “deserve more than music and t-shirts” implies that the music itself is of little value compared to the razamatazz that goes with it. Not to say that you shouldn’t do all the other stuff as well, mind, but go too far down that road and you end up with the X-factor – all style and no substance. In my experience as a musician, the more that you love and care about your music, and the more that you develop the skills you need to express yourself as a musician, the more chance you have of putting on a great, and sincere, show.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Abi … you’re absolutely right, and it goes without saying that your music and performance of it better be really special if you want to try and make a career out of it, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.

    These days, however, it is so hard to grab even a few seconds of someone’s attention. The world moves at lightning pace, and with all the music floating around on the Internet, consumers are provided with virtually endless choice. You need to give your fans a reason to stick around and be interested in you, and I’m not so sure that the music alone is able to do that anymore. People take music for granted since it exists in nearly every crevasse of our lives. When people take something for granted, they will usually want more. What I wrote above are ideas on how to give them more, which if done effectively & genuinely will make your fans more dedicated to your music, the thing that matters most.

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Thanks Todd, feel free to re-post. Please link back to the original article!