Super-fans & Regular Fans

I saw a discussion on Facebook the other day. A bunch of musicians were discussing whether it’s better to release singles, or to wait and release a full CD. The answer is, of course, there is no pat answer. It depends.

But one of the musicians brought up the following points about releasing singles.

  • Too many releases could get annoying
  • People would take some of the songs for granted since there’s no expectation or anticipation.
  • It’s too predictable and doesn’t build interest/wet the appetite of potential fans.

Who Is Your Favorite Musical Artist?

I know a married couple that goes to Bruce Springsteen concerts, every chance they get. They fly to different cities to see him. Recently, when he was on his book tour, the woman couldn’t make it to see him in Seattle, where she lives. So, she went to Portland to have a chance to meet him.

Maybe you have a band that you love as much. It might be an indie, or underground band, and not somebody huge. Whoever it is, would you mind if they put out a single every month? Or would you want to wait 8 months or a year, for a full CD? How often would you like to be contacted by them? Is once a month good? Maybe once a week? Or would you like to see their living room, watch them record, know what they had for dinner, have an online Q & A with them, watch them play scrabble on the tour bus?

The answer is of course, that it depends. But most superfans like to be contacted more, rather than less.

One Superfan Is Worth How Many Lukewarm Fans?

A superfan will share your music. A superfan will like, comment on and/or share almost every Facebook post, watch every YouTube video, and read every tweet. They will buy nearly everything you put out. They are invested in you.

A lukewarm fan will like a few of your Facebook posts, but they probably won’t share them. They’ll say, “Nice job!”, or leave a smiley face. Maybe 10% of them will buy your CD when it comes out.

Although the percentages may not be exactly 80/20, that old rule applies. A minority of your fans will be responsible for the majority of your success.  So, you should be set up to please your superfans, not your lukewarm fans. And you should be doing things that turn your lukewarm fans into superfans.

Who Should You Nurture?

Nurture your superfans. Give them as much content as they want (if you can). Don’t worry about the rest, too much.

I run an internet business (unrelated to music). I have an email list of several thousand folks. Whenever I get an email from one of them, especially a complaint, I check a couple of things right away.

  1. How long have they been on my email list?
  2. Have they ever bought anything from me?

If they’ve bought something from me, I know they’re invested. We have a relationship. They’ve demonstrated their commitment. I take their concern seriously, and address it as quickly as possible. If they’ve been on my email list for a couple of years, but haven’t bought anything, I take what they say with a grain of salt. The chances are., if they haven’t bought anything from me, or interacted with me in a memorable way, my message hasn’t resonated with them.

Here’s my point. If you try to please everyone, you won’t please many. You’ll move away from what you’re passionate about, and then everyone loses. If you do more of what you’re passionate about, you will attract those that resonate with it. Then, what do you do about people who aren’t quite into what you do? Well, don’t worry about them. They’re not who you should focus on.

You Need Regular Fans, Too

Not every fan is going to be a super-fan. While super-fans will probably be responsible for maybe half of your success, you need regular fans too. You might have an email list of 10,000 people, and only 500 of them are super-fans. But the 9,500 that are left, will make up the rest of your success.

My suggestion is to do your best to convert regular fans into super-fans. Beyond that, just keep engaging with them. The least of your worries should be contacting folks too much. If they aren’t that interested, they’ll remove yourself from their list. If you lose people, it won’t be the dedicated fans, it will be the lukewarm ones.

How Often Should I Contact People Who Like My Music?

One of the ways you can avoid over-contacting people is to have different channels that you create content for at different intervals. You can tweet 4 times a day, post to your Facebook fan page 4 times a day, send to your email list once a week, and post a YouTube video every two weeks (I’m just picking numbers out of a hat — it’s not a suggested schedule).

If somebody wants less contact than once/week, they’re not that interested. If that’s all they can handle, they can sign up for email. If they’re a super fan, they may want to be involved in all your doings.

But at a bare minimum, I’d suggest contact once a week. It doesn’t always have to be a new piece of music. You can talk about writing, what song you’re working on, the recording process, your journey as a musician, a cause you find important, or your cat. Less than once a week, and people will lose track of you, and forget who you are.

Singles Vs. CDs Or EPs

A lot goes into the decision of whether to release music as singles, or wait until there’s enough fro a CD or EP. Personally, I lean toward releasing singles, and then when you get enough, do a CD. Singles give you a chance to engage more often. Maybe, once you get enough tracks for a CD, you can do some live versions and remixes for the CD, and add a couple of tracks that you don’t release as singles.

Also, if you don’t have a big backlog of recorded material, singles can be a way of getting started delivering music to fans, without waiting months for a larger project.

Of course, I record at home, on a computer. When you’re recording a full band in the studio, it’s going to be much more economical to do a bunch of songs at once. It means you’ll probably only have to set up and mic the drum set once, for instance. You can still release the songs as single though, if you want.