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The Rise of Direct-to-Fan Marketing in the Music Industry

The Rise of Direct-to-Fan Marketing in the Music Industry

‘Direct-to-Fan Marketing’ is something of a new buzzword that, while not globally embraced yet, is noticing an increased use as the music industry as a whole recognises the importance of the artist as a marketing channel instead of a threat to its existence. It forms a robust and effective business model used by many independent musicians and music labels around the world. Below, we discuss further the rise of direct-to-fan marketing in the music industry.

What is direct-to-fan marketing?

The direct-to-fan marketing approach, as its name may suggest, is a way for musicians to appeal and market directly to their fans, without the need for a third-party or middle-man.

These middle-men may be large music labels or social media channels, and direct-to-fan marketing cuts these out and leaves complete control in the hands of the artists themselves. Direct-to-fan marketing has come about due to the collapse of the traditional royalty payment model and many music industry experts see the direct-to-fan approach continuing to rise and rise.

direct to fan marketing

    Direct-to-fan marketing is about appealing to the people the matter; the fans!

    Why do we need direct-to-fan marketing?

    Surely the best way to appeal to fans is to set up a Facebook page, build up a few likes and then post out some statuses right? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that. In the age of social media and connectivity, it’s easy to assume that setting up a social channel is the most successful way of discovering and servicing your user base.

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    While it might be the easiest route, it is certainly not the most successful route. Social media giants such as Facebook act as information gatekeepers, maintaining complete control over each and every person that likes a Facebook page. This means the page owner still has to go through them and pay advertising fees, each and every time to interact with their fan base.

    This is, of course, despite the fact that these users have come to an artist’s page purely to hear from them directly, and most likely because the artist drove them to their page in the first place.

    It is entirely fair to say that the Facebooks and the Twitters of this world do not have an artist’s best interests at heart. Success and revenue becomes measured in the number of likes that each page has. At the end of the day, they are advertising businesses so they can’t be blamed, but it skewers the way in which artists can interact with their fans.

    How can artists market to their fan base effectively without knowing who they truly are? If artists were able to engage with their users on a much deeper level, in a direct-to-fan way, they would know instantly what songs they do or don’t like, what merchandise they want to see on sale and how likely they are to buy tour tickets.

    Without a direct-to-fan approach, music artists are simply producing tracks, t-shirts, and booking venues without truly knowing how well they will appeal to their fans. By cutting out the middle-man, doing away with the needless control by those who don’t have a deep interest in their business and being able to properly engage with their fans, artists can establish much closer relationships between themselves an their fan base.

    Appealing to your “super fans”

    Direct-to-fan marketing isn’t something that every single “social media fan” is going to be interested in. Some fans will be happy to add a few new tracks from their favourite artists to their playlists on Spotify, and simply engage with them by listening to the new tracks on the way to work.

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    Other fans, super fans as they are often called, want to go much further than this. They want the new merchandise, the exclusive listens to new tracks, the tickets to the tour and even the chance to meet their favourite artists. These are the people that the direct-to-fan marketing business model was made for and the fans that spend money on merchandise, albums and tickets.

    A great example of a direct-to-fan marketing approach in the games industry that has had huge success is with the popular mobile game app Candy Crush, developed by King Digital Entertainment PLC. In the fourth quarter of 2014, Candy Crush had over 356 million unique monthly users, and yet only 8.3 million made any in-app purchases. And yet, they still pulled $263.8 million in from these 8.3 million users.

    How? By seeing who was making in-app purchases, they began to target these users with more deals and offers, enticing them in even further, resulting in the huge revenues for the fourth quarter of 2014.

    Now, this approach may seem a little shadier, having users spend more money simply by dangling deals in front of them. Direct-to-fan marketing in the music industry doesn’t have this ‘shady’ approach. It’s about music artists essentially having conversations with their super fans; finding out what merchandise and new music they want. Would they really buy a new t-shirt? If not, then artists can save on various costs as well as provide the fan what they really want.

    But it goes so much further than this. It’s not just about artists finding out what their fans like and selling to them; it’s about connecting with their super fans. Giving them exclusive access to what happens behind the scenes, giving fans exclusive new tracks or allowing them to meet the artist back stage. It’s a way for music artists to show their fan base that they care about them just as much as the fan cares about the artist and their music.

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    direct to fan marketing

      Direct-to-fan marketing is about getting music artists and fans closer together

      What can newer apps like GigRev and Bkstg do to solve the issue?

      There are new platforms and apps being designed such as GigRev, and Bkstg with direct-to-fan marketing in mind. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all brilliant platforms that go a long way in getting music artists and fans together. But they still create a wall between the two parties, with, as always, money being the issue. Even with Spotify, the money issue is far from solved, with music labels keeping roughly 70% of what an artist makes from streaming platforms. However, this is a different problem entirely.

      Apps such as GigRev have been created as private social platforms that bring artists and fans together. These platforms need to be given to the artists, and then the real musical magic can unfold! These platforms need not to sit on artists’ data, acting as gatekeepers and all-controlling slave drivers. Music artists need complete control over who they engage with and how they do it, therefore taking direct-to-fan marketing to a whole new level.

      Music artists are a lot more than just artists, they are businesses, having to adapt to new technologies and new fan desires weekly, and how can a business operate without knowing what its customers want? These new social platforms operate by knowing what music artists want, and they give artists a chance to connect with fans in a way that simply hasn’t been offered before.

      Many companies try and tackle the problem from a top-down approach by tackling the music labels first, but this isn’t going to solve anything. It needs to be done bottom-up, helping the ones who actually make the music and the ones who actually buy it; the music artists and their fans.

      Are there any drawbacks to direct-to-fan marketing?

      It will, of course, be a more time-consuming process by engaging with users more directly rather than leaving it in the hands of a third party. But this isn’t a drawback, simply another process that must be incorporated into a music artist’s business plan.

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      It’s easy to pay a marketing company to handle things for you, but they don’t know your brand like you do. You could let Spotify handle your promotions, but can they use the right language and approach that you would use? Probably not. The best and most successful companies are those that truly connect and engage with their user base because, let’s face it, who else are you selling to?

      How direct-to-fan marketing is changing the world

      An old, and now somewhat outdated notion, is that “if you build it, they will come”. Although this is a nice concept, things just don’t really work like that anymore. We live in a very rushed, “I want it now” culture, what with the ability of having everything at our fingertips, and you can’t rely on people sourcing you out in the way that they used to.

      The things that get talked about the most are the most successful advertising campaigns or the most viral tweets; things that have properly engaged with those that have viewed them. Direct-to-fan marketing is working in the same way in the music industry. By appealing to your user base, creating a unique group of super fans and, ultimately, selling content that has value, direct-to-fan marketing is sure to revolutionise the music industry in a way no other form of marketing has managed.

      Image credit: Nainoa Shizuru and CONTENTKRAFT

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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      Ryan Kh

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      Last Updated on March 13, 2019

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

      You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

      Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

      1. Work on the small tasks.

      When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

      Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

      2. Take a break from your work desk.

      Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

      Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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      3. Upgrade yourself

      Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

      The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

      4. Talk to a friend.

      Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

      Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

      5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

      If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

      Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

      Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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      6. Paint a vision to work towards.

      If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

      Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

      Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

      7. Read a book (or blog).

      The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

      Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

      Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

      8. Have a quick nap.

      If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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      9. Remember why you are doing this.

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

      10. Find some competition.

      Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

      11. Go exercise.

      Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

      Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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      Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

      12. Take a good break.

      Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

      Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

      More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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