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The EvO:R Street Journal
The EvO:R Street Journal
Dedicated to the culture, business and interests of the indie artist.
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How to keep fans loyal and happy
A tonque-and-check look at keeping a fanbase.
By Frank Cotolo
As performers with music products to sell only through limited live performances and worldwide Internet sites, we all find ourselves with an audience that would be outnumbered by today's afternoon crowd at the local Starbuck's coffee store. So, making this small group happy is essential to the musical careers of each of us.
It is more important that we identify and serve these fans than it is for commercially backed performers. Groups like Green Day, U2 and performers like Britney Spears and Jason Timberlake can afford to lose 20 percent of their audience at any given time and still pack stadiums across the world. For independent performers, a 20-percent cut in audience could cause a digital workstation to wind up on eBay.
So, how we treat the few people who purchase our CDs and freely download our tracks and read at least half way through the bios we post is our number-one priority. I submit some suggestions on how to continue to favor these few and keep them in your corner. I have a feeling, after all, that you may not be doing as much as you should.
First and foremost, identify these people. Sometimes an email doesn't tell you much. Stinkbar243 is probably not the person's real name. Find out if it is Robert or Janet or Ernie Stinkbar.
Once you have established the fan's name, do the same for the other six or ten you have heard from over the past five years. When you have this list complete, get ready to use each name often. That's right, no CCs or list-oriented emails; you will begin establishing a personal cyber relationship with each of these people.
Begin an individual email contact something like this:
"Hiya Robert, it's me [insert your name]. I always wonder about people who follow my music and would love to know more about them. You see, people who follow my music are people I consider special and people I consider special receive things free from me. Yes, sometimes gifts, sometimes small change, sometimes articles of clothing and sometimes, even, things that the special person needs. I am not averse to sending food snail mail to you if you are hungry. And if you need extra cash for a soccer helmet, let me know, I can help."
That would be enough to begin. But remember to change words around when you write to the other fans. You never know when one fan knows another fan. If one fan finds out that you have sent the same message to another fan, both of those fans may start searching Besonic for another group to love.
Sending a personal email once a week is not too much. In fact, you want to establish the type of relationship that will include phone calls and even personal visits. This may take a few years; so in the meantime, write a personal email once a week to each fan. Here is an example of what an email from the 20th week might look like.
"Hiya Robert, it's me again. You know, [insert your name]? Right. I was wondering if you wanted to write back to me? It's all right, you can if you want. Also, it would be great if you sent me your home address because I have some free gifts for you. As you know by now, people who follow my music are people I consider special and I always treat them better than people who don't like my music. Yes, that includes relatives. My cousin Abe told me to my face that he hated my music and wouldn't buy my CD. I stopped buying him presents for his birthday and call his parents name behind his back. I wouldn't treat you like that. So send me your address."
When a fan responds to one of your emails, fire more personal questions at him or her and lie as much about your life as a performer as you possibly can. A fan wrote back to me just last week, thanking me for sending him two front-row tickets to an upcoming Prince concert. I told him that Prince sent me the tickets when I told him that one of my fans wanted a good seat and mentioned that Prince does things like that for me because I am his brother. Then, I turned the subject around and asked more personal questions that could help me make the relationship stronger in the future. Here is an example of what I wrote.
"So if I were to call you on the phone, what would be a good time? I am assuming you will email me your number. Of course, the call will be on my dime, so to speak. No good friend and fan of mine is going to pay for a call to me. We could talk about anything you want to talk about, including the influence of my music on social reform in Third World counties. And other stuff, like your feelings about girls, boys or whatever you dream about doing it to. I am open and I can really hold a great conversation. So send me your number."
If you are lucky enough to expand each relationship to an interactive stage, you need to begin finding out when these people will be able to receive you as a guest, because a tour of your fans' houses is one of the most important things you can do to cement loyalty. This will take come coordination and time and money, but in the long run you will have a built-in ten or twenty people poised to buy your next CD.
A typical visit to a fans' house should include playing some of your music live (for the fan alone if the family shuns it). Then, be prepared to take the fan out and be seen in public, where the fan can boast about all the great things you do. That opportunity, of course, is priceless. Be ready to give out information to guide people to your website and re-emphasize how special your fans are to you. You might want to show these new people a receipt for the airline ticket that got you there. Make sure the fan you are visiting tells friends more about all the free gifts he or she is getting for being a fan. The fan doesn't even have to mention your music.
So, there you have it. I am sure now that I have given you some specifics, you will come up with more ideas, plans and expense-driven gimmicks that can guarantee you will keep the fans you have. Don't be so disappointed if in the first ten years you lose one or two and are having trouble adding to your list; things are changing all the time and some could benefit you. Meanwhile, go get to work, keep producing great music and try to enjoy your day job.
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