music industry advice maintain online fanbase

Music Industry Advice: Maintain an Online Fanbase

Today’s fans aren’t the same as they were five or 10 years ago. They’re online, connected and crave a relationship with their favorite artists and brands. The options for interacting with your existing tribe—and attracting new fans—often feel limitless, from your own website to a growing selection of social media channels spanning video, photos and text.

In his day job at Acquia (acquia.com), Chuck Fishman develops and manages digital experiences for clients in the media and entertainment business. As a side gig, he oversees digital marketing for bands, including George Clinton and P-Funk All Stars. He knows what it takes for today’s artists to grab and hold the attention of an always-connected fanbase. Here, he offers eight tips for ensuring an artist’s digital presence keeps fans coming back for more.

By Chuck Fishman

• Invest in an “Owned” Channel. Whether you’re managing several bands, performing as an indie artist or already an established musician, “owned” digital properties—like your website or mobile app—are some of the best tools you can have. As the operator, you get full ownership and control over the online experience, from creative content to insightful data on fans. The alternative? Relying solely on third-party discovery platforms to do things like publish your artist profile, build a press kit or launch email marketing campaigns. These services lack flexibility and often come with hefty fees for content you could easily post to your own website. And there’s always a risk that a third-party app or site will ultimately shut down, taking with it the site presence you built. Instead, make your website a top priority, emphasizing fresh and exclusive content, and you’ll have a robust, reliable medium for engaging online.

• Optimize Behind the Scenes. It’s not just the things your fans see that matter. Choosing platforms that have templates to get you started but can’t be customized to your needs (think Squarespace and Wix) is like cutting corners when recording an album. While less glamorous than social media stardom or releasing exclusive tracks, choosing a powerful web platform that maximizes your flexibility both today and in the future is essential. I’m a fan of open source publishing platforms like Drupal, which affords sitebuilders the community support and technology integrations they need to stay current, customize and get creative.

• Give Yourself a Crash Course in SEO. When someone searches your band’s name, what comes up first? If the first results are your Facebook page, YouTube videos or anything other than your own website, it’s time for an SEO makeover. Proper Search Engine Optimization leads your fans where you want them to go—straight to the content you fully control. Odds are your fans will like you on Facebook and follow you on Instagram, but you don’t want these platforms to be the first or only thing they see. First impressions matter.

• Ensure Fans Come Back. I’ve seen so many artist websites without an email sign-up list front-and-center. By gathering email addresses, you’ll continually curate a list of fans eager to get updates on songs, tour schedules and more to their inbox. Instead of assuming fans will come back on their own, commit to sending out eye-catching, engaging email updates regularly. This approach will make them feel like part of an insider community and provide a teaser to click through and learn more. This approach has another advantage, too: it’s far more cost-effective than paying to reach fans on Facebook, where the sponsored post experience is far from personal.

• Choose Social Networks Wisely. It is tempting to broadcast your presence on every platform available, but spread yourself too thin and you’re bound to have one or two platforms that aren’t the best representation of your brand. Instead, do some legwork to find your fan base’s networks of choice and focus your efforts there. If your target audience is millennials but you don’t know the first thing about Snapchat, it’s time to study up. And get creative while you’re at it—new platforms are popping up all the time. Who knows if your next social media video could lead to a record deal? Hey, it’s happened before.

• And Use Those Social Networks for Business. Some major companies are partnering with YouTube content producers to sponsor music channels and expand artists’ reach, like AT&T’s partnership with Fullscreen. Artists today can join forces with these multi-channel networks for increased exposure. There are currently more than 20 multi-channel networks based in North America alone, and linking up with the right one can provide promotional, funding and audience growth support. Talent management and rights holding companies that focus on signing talent from specific social networks (like Hello Society for Pinterest and GrapeStory for Vine and Snapchat) are also worth considering.

• Let Algorithms Help You. Spotify, Pandora and iTunes are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they recommend music to fans. Services like Ditto Music and Tunecore ensure your tracks get to the right ears on these platforms by giving each song the metadata it needs, like copyright information, artist names and track names. Without that information, Spotify won’t know if your track is perfect for a listener’s Spotify Discover Weekly playlist—and that future fan may never know your music.

• Avoid Fan Interaction Burnout. Congratulations—you’ve created a memorable digital presence that fans can’t get enough of. Now you need to maintain it. Social media can become a full-time job, but platforms like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite let you plan out several days of posts in your spare time (like transit time between shows). Hootsuite even allows management by multiple contributors, which is great for band members looking to share online fan responsibilities. Always snapping photos for your personal Instagram account, but you’re also in charge of a band account that’s rarely updated? Instagram’s new multi-account management tool lets you post to all of them without logging out of one and into the other. Managing pages for multiple artists? Facebook’s Pages app allows you to do it from your phone.

Chuck Fishman is Media, Entertainment and Publishing Director at Acquia, where he works with companies to build one-of-a-kind, memorable digital experiences that focus on growing reach and engaging with audiences. When he isn’t at Acquia, Fishman also works with artists to manage partnerships and digital marketing. He currently works with George Clinton and P-Funk All Stars, and has previously worked with Blush and Duran Duran. acquia.com