Realities Of The Fanbase Lists

Posted on September 1, 2010

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A few years ago I made a stretch into an Internet business called Fan-Base Connect. The idea was a way to gather information from the fans that visit your page, allowing the artist to separate fans into marketable and non-marketable entities.

While I did it well, it was early in the industry concept and now, years later, there are a number of websites who offer these services. They’ve become a requirement because obviously, if you are in Texas and play predominately throughout the mid-west, fans in Finalnd aren’t coming to your show next Saturday. Fan lists are a need, but musicians don’t often see it and very few buy in to how serious an issue it is.

Regardless of my previous efforts, as an active musician, there are a few things you should know about your fan list. Managing it and maintaining updates is almost a full time job and the reality of who will and won’t respond should make you realize how hard it is to actually create a dedicated support from a fan base.

Truth Number One: Your social networks are NOT a fan list.  10,000 people attached to your Myspace and 1500 Facebook friends are not considered a fan base. They didn’t come to Facebook to support you; they started a page for their own interests. How much do really know about them? Do you have telephone numbers and physical addresses on these people? Do you send each and every one of them a monthly update directly, or is it just a blurb you hope they don’t surf past as they look for the next Farmville update? Twitter, Myspace, and all the social update media websites do not allow you to effectively manage or target specific groups of people that will respond to your news with actual purchases, be it tickets, merchandise or CD’s.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you should have these social presences online. It’s almost a requirement, but tread lightly on who and what these free websites are. Your fan list should be your own fan list and it should allow you to itemize fan information into categories for effective PR. (Trust me, it’s what I do for a living).

Can you:

– Track your fans by zip code or state listings?
– Send individual messages to certain groups within your fan list about local performances and airplay?
– Can you track your messages and respond individually to interested fans?

I hope so; because Truth Number Two is that you need to communicate on a regular basis. Be realistic, fans sign up to your fan list because they want to hear more from you. Fans are willing to give you their email or contact information because they want to know when the next show is, when the CD is dropping or where they can get a cool t-shirt with that band logo on it. They willingly gave you access, you need to maintain it with worthy information or you will find yourself blocked, spam guarded or just overlooked and deleted.

When you email these fans, it shouldn’t always be a sales pitch. You have to build a relationship with them by updating them on the direction of the project, new songs in development and even experiences on the road. Non-musicians love to hear what they are missing by not being in a band. Become a friend they want to hear from and they will look forward to the next email. Not every email should be a sales pitch to get them to spend money – that’s a sure fire way to lose their interest.

Okay, here’s Truth Number Three for your fan list. While it is always about the band, it should include links and other things that are involved with the band, but about something else. Offer a link to a club that you play, or a band you perform with. Link them to an online radio station that plays the kind of music you know they like – subtly urge them to request your music on that station.  Send a link to an online photo album with pictures they haven’t seen. Try sharing other artists that the band enjoys and give them a reason to explore your email. This helps build the personal relationship that will turn into dedicated fans that are proud to tell their friends that they know you intimately. Those are the fans that will support you when you need it.

Fankie Banali of Quiet Riot recently underwent a project to raise funds for developing a film about the career of Quiet Riot. It includes footage that the band has had on VHS for decades as well as archives of rare and unreleased material fans want to see and hear. With fan list mailings and help from the social websites, he raised more than 20,000 dollars to make the project a success.

Marillion, the progressive pop band from Kew, England was looking to tour the United States so fans could get their fill of the live magic that the band is known for. However, the label that supported the band called it quits and Marillion was looking at a tour that didn’t include the US. Fans offered as little as $25 and as much as $2000 each to get the band touring in the US and in turn, all those who donated received an autographed double-live-CD that the band recorded while on tour that year in the US. Only 2000 copies were made and they have become a collector’s piece for fans. Without a well-organized fan list, the band wouldn’t have pulled that off. Neither would Frankie Banali, but because they had it together – it worked.

Fans do support artists, but you need to own that fan list and have it organized. If getting it in order is beyond your ability, consider some of the pro services out there that do it for a living. FanBridge is one of many who do it and do it well. If you are on the level where maintaining that fan list is a full time job, do not bypass the necessity of having it done right. Fan lists are a band requirement to make it in the industry today.

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