What even is a music fan anymore?
Music is consumed like a public utility. Like turning on a faucet for water. Turn the faucet on and music comes out or off and the music stops.
Music is incredibly accessible. I am less than 30 seconds away from any song I want to listen to.
It is not hard to listen to the music you want when you want it. There is very little friction between a consumer and the music they want. Overall, this is a good thing. Especially for the consumer.
However, the amount of friction a consumer overcomes in order to purchase, stream, download a song is one of the best gauges for determining whether they are a fan. The less friction, the harder it is to determine. If somebody gets in their car, drives to the record store, and buys your album for $15, then it is probably safe to say they are a fan.
You don’t have to be a fan to listen to my music. It is there if you want it. On every online store, Youtube, Soundcloud, etc… You can take a sip then walk away and forget all about it. You can also engage with my entire catalogue for equal amounts of effort, though more time, and also walk away and forget about it.
It is more difficult than ever for artists to determine who their real fans are. Online music stores provide some data to artists about their listeners but not the most important actionable data for an artist to run a business. That is: contact information.
We see nameless and faceless statistics for people who are consuming our music every single day but we have no way to reach out and forge a real connection with those people because they are still strangers to us. Spotify knows who they are. Apple music knows for they are. Online music stores can send out as many promotional emails as they want plugging their own features and services. Meanwhile, artists are stiffed. You’re welcome online music stores that all artists everywhere have subsidized and helped you grow the largest music listener database on the planet.
This is why it is more important than ever for artists to take it into their own hands how to manage their own fan connections. Do not be passive about this. Artists need better systems to keep track of fans. Instagram does not count. You need some way of determining who your people are.
If you make stuff, then it is important to keep track of who buys the stuff you make. I shouldn’t have to argue that point. Can you name a single successful business that does not keep track of who their customers are?
Business - Customer
Service Provider - Client
Artist - Fan
Here are some examples of who we cannot guarantee are fans:
Monthly listeners do not equal fans. There is no way to qualify how you got that monthly listener. Your song may have been put on a very low engagement playlist or queued up on an artist radio station and listened to passively.
You cannot count every single follower as a fan. Again this comes down to friction. There's next to no friction when it comes to following someone. Anyone who has opted in and followed may be considered a warm lead or someone who might be interested in whatever you are offering.
Comes To A Show
You don’t know how this person came to be at your show. Friends may have dragged them. They may frequent the venue and you just happened to be playing.
Here are some example of people who can be considered fans:
Bought Your Product
There may not be a better way to determine if someone is a fan than if they have bought your music. They have put skin in the game. They have declared - I will give up something of mine in return for what you have made. This may include purchasing a CD, merch, concert tickets, etc…
Comes Back To A Show
If they come back to your show a second time that is a major indicator that they are a fan.
Engages With Your Art In A Meaningful Way
If someone comments, messages you, or speaks to you in person about how much your art has impacted them, then they are probably a fan. Remember the names of these people.
Cares Enough To Share
If someone is really a fan of your music they will share it with their friends.
Signs Up For Newsletter
If a person gives you permission to email them whenever you have a new offering (new release or show), then they are for sure a fan.
I would encourage you to use this post as a starting point for you to come up with your own definition for a fan. Once you have, then it is time to keep track of your fanbase. This is your business. As the artist and fan relationship continues to change with technology it is important that artists adapt and learn more about who their fans are.