4 min read

MAX Tracks: Thinking Like a D2C Brand, Pt 3

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This week we wrap up our three part series on direct to consumer (D2C) brands and the marketing lessons they offer to artists. In part one we talked about D2C brands like Dollar Shave Club, how they have disrupted retail by not working through retailers, but going direct to their consumers. And then in part two, we talked about how this applies to artists. While social and digital platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Spotify have been so powerful for artists, they don't necessarily let artists know exactly who their fans are so that direct relationships can exist. We talked about tools like Set the Set from us here at Music Audience Exchange, SuperPhone, Community, and surveying tools that can allow you as an artist to extract data from social platforms and then bring that fan information into your own database.

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5 Tactics for Nurturing Relationships

This week we are going to talk about what you do once you have all that fan information. How do you talk to those fans? What is the proper cadence and frequency of messaging to fans? And what technology is available for you to automate most of the work? We will cover 5 tactics for artists to engage their fans to nurture deeper relationships for greater career longevity.

1. The Welcome Email

Anybody who joins your email marketing list or gives you their permission to text them directly, you've got to welcome them. Something as simple as, "Hey, it's great to connect with you. Thanks for following me and supporting my work.” Then give them more information about you and ways they can stay in touch with you. This is about setting up the relationship, it’s important you don't get into commerce right away, there will be plenty of time for that. You want to build a real relationship with these people, who I'm sure that you care about beyond the commerce. After all, you're making art for these fans.

2. Exclusive Content

Give your fans who have opted into building this direct relationship with you, something for free, and something not publicly available — something exclusive Maybe a sneak peek at a song, a preview of some lyrics you're writing, some interesting behind the scenes footage from your home or studio. Put that on a hidden link on YouTube, or on your website, and give your fans access. They'll appreciate that they're getting to see something that's not in the public domain.

3. Encourage Interaction

Encourage interaction and allow these fans exclusive input or communicating with you, the artist. We’ve already talked about how you can use surveying tools to get people out of the social platforms. But surveying is a great way to continue to engage fans as well. As your fan base grows in different cities, maybe poll fans on their favorite local venues you should play at (when that resumes, of course). Maybe ask about other artists they’d love to see you collaborate with. There's so many things that they'd love to weigh in on to have that interactive experience with you, the artist.

4. Limited Time Offers (LTO)

This is where you want to intersperse some commerce, maybe a discount code to buy your merch. If you have a new song coming out on Spotify, give your fans a sneak peek or early preview, and get them to pre-save it and share it with their friends, so you can get to 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, a million streams, but this is where you want to start interspersing commerce and things that actually financially benefit your art and your career.

5. Exclusive Fan Experiences

How cool would it be to take your first 100 sign-ups and do a Zoom meeting with them? This gives you a chance to talk to some of those super fans who sign up early and let them get to know you. Think about how intimate that experience could be, and how interesting and exciting that is for those fans!

Timing & Tools for Nurturing Your Fanbase

So those are five ideas on how to communicate with the fans, but how often you communicate is another point to consider. Once a quarter is probably too little and two times a day is 100% too much. It’s the Golden Rule, right? Treat others as you want to be treated. How often do you want to hear from the people that you’re a fan of? Maybe weekly works best for your audience; the key is to build that relationship with the right cadence and trust your gut on how often to communicate, and eventually you'll want to bring in software to help manage that cadence.

There are lots of tools out there for what are called “nurturing systems.” You can search for these tools on Google — there are some for email and some for text messaging, so you can automate some of this. For example, when somebody joins your email marketing list, they can automatically get the welcome email with their name in it. And as you get a bigger list, you're going to want to have these kinds of tools so that things can go out automatically to your fans, like when you have a new release, it can go out to everybody at the same time.

1,000 True Fans

Why do a series on how to build and nurture direct relationships with your fans? What sparked this idea was an article from a technologist named Kevin Kelly. Really influential guy. Helped start WIRED magazine, and he talked about the concept of 1,000 true fans. Whether you're an artist, or a manager of an artist, this is an important lesson, and to wrap up this 3 part series up, here’s an excerpt from his article, 1,000 True Fans:

Kevin says, "To be a successful creator, you don't need millions—you don't need millions of dollars, millions of customers, millions of clients, or millions of fans to make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor. You only need 1,000 true fans. A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the hardback, and paperback, and audible versions of your book. They will purchase your next figurine sight and scene. They will pay for the ‘Best of’ DVD version of your free YouTube channel. They will come to your chef's table once a month.
If you have roughly 1,000 true fans like this, also known as super fans, you can make a living if you are content to make a living, but not a fortune. Here's how the math works. You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn on average $100 profit from each true fan. It's easier to do in some arts and businesses than others, but it's a good creative challenge in every area, because it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans.
Second, you must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly. You get to keep all of their support, unlike the small percent of their fees you might get from a label, publisher, studio, retail, or other intermediary. If you keep the full $100 of each true fan, then you only need 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year. That's a living for most folks."

Think about that concept. Let us know what you think, we always appreciate your comments and questions.

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