Your fans want to know your story
What does it really mean to be an independent artist in today's music business?
Well, for one thing, it means you need to rely on a new skill set. Masterful melodies and thoughtful lyrics may be your calling card, but you still need to embrace the reality of marketing, fan engagement, social media, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, tweets, pings, and more.
But in true independent fashion, musicians are meeting the challenge, and a whole lot of them are doing better as independents than they ever could have imagined with label backing in the traditional model. Success in music starts with great songs, but when it comes to engagement and relating to your fans, these five elements are keys to success.
1. Craft – and share – your compelling story
It might not always seem easy to create a story around yourself, but if you are driven to perform or write on a regular basis, you have a story to tell. The trick is identifying it, crafting it, and then sharing it with your fans because, whatever you may think, they really do want to hear it.
Dig in to find your story by asking yourself probing questions.
- What drives you to create art and music?
- How did come to realize you love writing music?
- What inspired the lyrics for your last song?
- What issues in life or the world today resonate with you or inspire you to create music?
- What are some of your hobbies, quirks, or interests that might surprise your fans?
These questions are just a start, but the point is, you have a story, and your fans don’t just want to listen to your music – they want to know the artist behind it.
At PledgeMusic, giving you the means to tell your story is the driving force behind everything we do. We're thrilled to see music artists sharing their stories with fans – new and old – every day. From photos in the studio to special access to new demos, from videos on the tour bus to personal messages with updates to their pledgers, indie artists are sharing their everyday experiences and inviting fans behind the scenes, and fans are responding.
2. Give your fans an experience
Successful indie artists offer up something even more valuable than just their new music: they offer a personal experience for their fans. Once you recognize your fans want to know your story and the stories behind your art, it goes without saying they want to be invited in for a closer look.
When you perform live, instead of offering a handshake and the message of, “Our new album's coming out in the summer,” offer something much more immediate like, “Pre-order our upcoming album at our merch booth or on your phone tonight and get in on the process of making it!” Find creative ways to offer personal and exclusive experiences and turn every fan contact into a win/win.
3. Take your fans behind the scenes
As far as exclusive experiences go, once you decide to offer fans something beyond the opportunity to just buy your CD when it's released, what are you going to give them? Where do you begin?
How about a little VIP access? If there's one thing better than a personal “experience,” it's an exclusive experience – something only a select few can get in on.
This is a model we see working well for artists using PledgeMusic. A music artist invites fans into the creative process and keeps them up-to-date with progress on the project with exclusive merch offers, special updates, and information fans can’t get anywhere else. This is a model that gets fans extremely excited and invested – we see it time and again.
Your fans want to be more than just listeners, they want to participate, and the artists who have figured this out and have found ways to make that happen are reaping the rewards. Because fans don't just get excited about these kinds of experiences – they’re willing to pay for it, and they’ll pay significantly more than they would if you just offer them your latest CD.
We have statistics to back this up. On a regular basis, we see:
- 37 percent of pledgers spend more than $250 when they contribute to a project.
- The average pledge is over $50.
- 17 percent of traffic that comes to PledgeMusic is driven through direct-to-fan updates by the artists via Facebook and Twitter.
- 12 percent of traffic is driven via direct-to-fan email alerts and newsletters.
- Social media referrals – fan-shared links of pledger updates – make up 22 percent of all site traffic.
The average fan on PledgeMusic spends roughly the price of four CDs, and more than a third spend the equivalent of closer to 17 CDs – per pledge! Fans keep coming back to see the exclusive updates, and when they share links to the updates, they bring new potential pledgers to the campaign.
As an indie artist, how exciting are these statistics? It's proof that fans do care, they want to be involved in your creative process, and they are willing to spend money when you offer them the right opportunities.
4. "New” is normal
Anything new can be intimidating, but it also opens the door to opportunities and possibilities you may never have thought of. For some artists, the model of write, record, release, tour, repeat still works, but that doesn't mean you should expect that's going to be the model that works for you. It's probably not going to be enough to release an album on CD Baby and iTunes and expect sales to rush in, but that doesn’t mean you can't find success as an indie musician.
Music artists who are making it in the new landscape are those who are able to look ahead and see where the future of music lies.
The music industry has changed, and some great things have emerged as a result. Artists have a new freedom to do what they love, new music is being released by the minute, and fans are getting more involved. The two-way communication between fan and artist is an extremely positive thing, and that conversation continues to flourish.
5. Stay in touch with your fans
Beyond the pledge period of a crowdfunding campaign, another very practical and essential component to maintaining a relationship with your fans is to manage an email list with their names on it. You don’t have to carry a clipboard around with you at your show and pass it around, though that's not the worst idea, but you absolutely must find a way to get your fans’ contact information, at your merch table, or somehow during the night of a performance.
Why not embrace it as another opportunity to show off your creative side? When Ben Folds was conducting his PledgeMusic campaign, he would make an announcement from the stage at a show and ask everyone in the audience to pull out their phones and email a specific address in exchange for an exclusive track. Within seconds, he had his audience's email contacts. He could keep them updated and pitch his PledgeMusic campaign, they had an exclusive track, and everyone was happy. He even snapped a photo from the stage to commemorate the moment.
You can make it as an independent musician in today’s music industry, and your fans are your most valuable resource. Part of your recipe for success depends on how you tell your story and how willing you are to invite your fans along for the ride.
PledgeMusic helps and encourages artists to participate with their fans in an exciting and unique way by creating an irresistible customized menu of exclusive content and experiences that integrates email databases, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and various other social networking sites. Learn more at PledgeMusic.com.