Today over coffee, a musician friend of mine and I discussed the real value of having a loyal audience—how having a network of fans to turn to that have expressed interest in supporting you is one of the most valuable assets a band can have.
As we discussed topics such as the frequency of bookings, the degree of variety in venues, and the way in which bands market and promote themselves, it all kept coming back to one central idea: Don’t burn out the audience.
She told me about how her new band, with just four shows under their belt, are being selective about booking shows and venues. She said they’re trying not to be the blind leading the blind, and when I asked what she meant by that, she said they’re making decisions with the intent to be unapologetically original and not just following in someone else’s footsteps.
She also said they’re not playing shows every weekend and taking whatever gig they can get. They try to let time pass between gigs because they want a strong showing of people at every event and would like to see as many of their fans as possible each time. So they’re selective about dates and frequency, hoping fans will come and support when it really matters.
Then I suggested they immediately start collecting more information about their fans. Start out by getting basic information like name and email, then collect more details from them over time using surveys and forms on your website so that you can only hit them up when it’s prudent to their interests. This is called segmentation.
How to segment your email list as it grows
When gathering names and emails for your mailing list, also consider asking for zip code so you can segment future emails and event invitations by location.
When you enter their name, email address and zip code into your database, include a column to identify the venue and other bands on the bill at the event where you captured their contact info. If you play a show with one of those bands again in the future, you can email all the people who were there and say, “Since you were at X show back on [date] and like [band], we thought you might like to know about this upcoming event.”
You could also choose to email people who always go to your shows at a certain venue every time you play that venue. The possibilities are endless. In the end, as you learn to leverage the power of email segmentation, you’ll be sending fewer email invitations to the show, but they’ll be much more personal, and thus effective.
When you flip it and think about it from your audience’s perspective, isn’t it way better to receive one incredibly relevant, personalized email from a band inviting you to a free show in your neighborhood than to get three or four about festivals you won’t go to and shirts you won’t buy? Aren’t you more likely to unsubscribe when a band or company’s emails consistently provide no real value to you? Remember that as you market to your fans.
How to avoid audience burn-out
Audience burn-out is usually caused by too frequent and/or irrelevant communication.
Be realistic about how much time should pass between communications and set a cadence that outlines how frequently each communication platform should be utilized. For example, you’ll interact more frequently on social media than you will via email, and that’s OK—the key is just to be consistent.
Reeling in relevance
Frequency is easy to manage; quality and relevance take a lot more work and humbleness. This is where the audience segments you created earlier will come into play as you think about what will be interesting to your fans.
It’s also where you get to be creative and dream up fun, yet realistic, ways to continue building relationships with fans until they become brand (and band) advocates.
Take videos on your phone at practice of someone in the band doing something awesome or hilarious. Share it on social media and reference it in your next email newsletter. Take pics of fans and the crowd from the stage at a series of shows, then make a digital collage for sharing on different platforms in different formats.
Write blog posts about tour life and going to the studio and your creative process. These are all just jumping off points; the big idea is to give your audience ways to relate to you and connect with you in a memorable way.
Just remember, when you have someone’s email address, they have given you permission to market directly to them, and that’s an incredibly powerful promotional tool. Don’t squander it by burning out your audience with too many emails that provide too little value.
[Burnt match image from Shutterstock.]