Creating a “community” vs. a “fanbase”

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Creating a music community vs. a fanbase[This article was written by Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music book, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.]

The concept of “fans” is so completely ingrained into the music industry. The artist creates the music and the fans watch from afar, but there is often very little personal and direct interaction between the two. It’s almost as if the artist is up on this untouchable pedestal while the creative process remains much a mystery to fans. Indeed many artists promote this distance and try and create this myth about themselves, such as the DJ ZHU.

Of course, these days many artists “talk” to their fans on social media but these conversations still generally happen within the traditional artist-fan roles. How many of us have tweeted things like “check out my new song,” “check out my new music video,” and “I just released an album.” Notice how one-sided those statements are? The old model was about push marketing – music was created behind a curtain and pushed out to fans who consumed it — but I want to take this opportunity to propose a new artist-fan relationship.

Despite all the changes in the music industry — streaming, YouTube, social media, and crowdfunding to name a few — the typical artist-fan relationship has remained largely the same as it was 20 years ago. It’s time we caught up to the changing technology and use it to build communities, not fanbases. Some artists are already out there pioneering the way, and they’re seeing huge success. In fact, some have stopped using the word “fan” altogether.

In this article, I’m going to share some ways you can start developing your own community. It’s a simple shift in mindset, but it can have a huge impact on your career.

1. Start a conversation

Building a “community of fans” starts with two-way communication. This means talking with your fans, not at them. Social media is the obvious platform, and it will just take a little tweaking to turn your posts into two-sided conversations.

People are more likely to respond when presented with a direct question – this is true for social media and real life conversations – so try to incorporate questions into your posts. Instead of just saying, “Going into the studio this weekend to work on a new track. Can’t wait to share with you all,” frame it with a question. Something like, “Going into the studio this weekend to work on a new track. Can’t wait to share with you all! What are you up to this weekend?” will be more likely to get comments and replies. You don’t need every single one of your posts to be a question, but try sprinkling them in a few times per day.

The number one rule with conversations is to always reply back when a fan leaves a comment or @messages you. Every single conversation is your chance to build a deeper connection and relationship with that fan – don’t miss this opportunity.

2. Get them involved

Once you’ve started talking with your fans, the next step is to get them involved, so pull back the curtain, show them what goes into your music and get them participating in the actual creation process. As an artist, it’s important that you follow your own creative intuition and make creative decisions for yourself, but getting your fans involved every now and then can help foster a strong community. Think about it: people are more likely to support something if they feel they played an active part in it’s creation, so getting your fans involved is one of the best ways to make your community of fans a powerful, supportive force for your music career.

This doesn’t need to be a big sacrifice on your part – I’m not telling you to let your fans write your songs for you. There are plenty of little things you can turn to your fans for, like what song you’re going to cover next, which design you use on your merch, or the set list for an upcoming show. Simply ask your fans for their thoughts on social media, take note of your favorite suggestion, and be sure to thank the fan who suggested it by name.

You can really get creative here. On top of just social media, there are so many platforms that foster fan involvement, such as crowdfunding sites Patreon and PledgeMusic.

3. Make it personal

The last step in building a community of fans is to create a more personal connection with your biggest supporters. Shannon Curtis has this down to a science with her house concert model. Her biggest supporters volunteer to host concerts at their home. She then works with them directly to plan and organize an amazing show experience for the guests. Through this entire process, Shannon has become friends with most of her hosts, taking the artist-fan relationship to a whole new level.

You don’t need to go on a full-blown house concert tour to develop a personal connection with your super supporters. Another extremely successful band, Pentatonix, uses social media to connect with their top advocates. Pentatonix has a band Twitter page, but each individual member also has a personal account and they actively promote their personal pages with their official channel. Most people won’t go for this, but the most dedicated followers will jump on the chance to get a more personal look into the daily life of an artist they support.

If you want this to be successful, you need to have a decidedly different tone on your two accounts. Your personal page should be less promotional and more like the kind of posts you would send to your friends. You could also set up a private Facebook group and personally invite your top supporters to join.

You can get even more tips on turning your fanbase into a powerful community and more great music business and marketing strategies that could help you take your music career to the next level in this free ebook from New Artist Model.

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[Rock fan monster from Shutterstock.]

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