6 Simple Ways to Give Back to Your Fans

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This post was originally published by Chris Bracco on his music industry blog, Tight Mix. Chris is currently the digital marketing coordinator for a boutique management and publishing house in NYC. Feel free to subscribe to his blog’s RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter.

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 HostBaby, 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.

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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. 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.

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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, thenÖ.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!

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  • Some excellent ideas! Thanks for sharing.

    I have always been a big proponent of the pay-it-back mantra when it comes to fans. Your ideas take that paradigm to the next level with individualized, one on one contact that is sure to delight fans and perhaps transition them from a casual concert goers to diehard, never-miss-a-show super fans.

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  • Linda Vee

    We rent an outdoor stage and throw a huge party every year with free food and drink.

  • Thanks for the re-post, guys!

  • This is absolutely true. Fans are the most important part of being an artist. I think what is missing is that you should also be writing for your fan base too. Not every song. But definitely some songs should cater to what your fans are into at the time. Which is why I also find it crucial to find out what your fans are also listening to. If they are really into club music, maybe write a club-inspired tune with your unique sound. Too many artists act like artists and forget about giving the fans what they want. If I was writing music just for me, then why would I bother sharing it? As an aspiring artist, I want to give my fans everything they want.

  • I think getting committed fans has alot to do with treating your fans like you would treat your date. Thing of it as relationship where its an even exchange of give and take. And more on that here: 5 TIPS FOR MAKING TRUE BLUE FANS

  • I think the most important thing in this article is "give them a live experience". There are a lot of GREAT bands out there who are wonderful musicians… but BORING entertainers. As much as some musicians may hate it, great musician ship is only a small portion of what makes a band successful. Entertainment and marketing also make up a big portion of band success. Just look at any Top 100 Chart. How many artists on there do you say "How the hell is that song #…" Because of marketing and because they put on an entertaining show. KISS is a prime example and they freely admit it. They weren't good musician when they started but they put on a hell of a show.

    So get out from behind the mic stand, put on a show. Get into the mindset of a "character" on stage if that helps. The audience WANTS that. They'll appreciate your music, now blow them away with a SHOW. Interact with the other members of the band. Jump off stage and interact with the audience. Its called "breaking down the 4th wall".

    Also, for those hardcore fans who've been there all the way, have bought tons of your merch, etc etc… get some band posters made up (CDBaby can print you 300 of them for $90) and autograph them. Then go to Walmart and get a $10 11×17 frame and frame it. Give that to them and show them how much you appreciate them and their support. They'll show it off to their friends.

  • These tips. Are priceless. Use them and you won't regret it. Especially the 6 ways to give back to the fans. That's what it's all about.

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