Friday, March 23, 2018

Does the 21st century music industry need fan clubs? | Music Business Worldwide

The following MBW blog comes from Samuel Barlow, Founder and CEO of Openstage (pictured). Openstage gives artists in-depth insight into fan behaviour, location and demand in one simple dashboard.

In a fan-centric universe it’s all about “me”.

Fans want “stuff” and they want to feel listened to. They are increasingly subscribing to platforms and apps that grant the best access to the artist.

Simultaneously though, the music industry has not made it easy for fans to spend their hard- earned cash in one place.  Within this digital landscape the traditional notion of a ‘fan club’ can deliver solutions – but the model is nothing more than a reluctant survivor of the past and due for a serious reboot.

Historically, the fan club’s rise in popularity came at a time when our overall experience of culture was a much more linear affair. Think fan letters sent to a PO box, think Top of the Pops, think tour announcements in the music press and tickets delivered through the post.

“We have evolved into a ‘swipe left’ generation.”

Fan clubs presented a mutually beneficial transaction that was transparent. Loyal fans were given priority on all the artist’s offerings and this in turn drove sales of tickets, albums and merchandise.

Everyone was a winner.

Then along came the internet. Social media took over and our attention and time became increasingly divided and disrupted across numerous channels with customer loyalties diluted more than ever.

Add to that a slew of intermediaries all baying for attention and you had a confused and congested marketplace of competing agendas all using content and digital advertising to entice fans in.

We have evolved into a ‘swipe left’ generation.

Much has been made of the power of the ‘direct-to-fan’ potential of the internet but there remains a huge value gap.

Recorded music is just ‘there’. All of it. Too much to consume in one lifetime and ubiquitously available at the click of a button.

This has put a greater onus on artists, managers and labels to come up with solutions to convert online fan engagement into something with real value.

Fans want to hear more, see more, and talk more to the artists that they love, and in return they want to know that they have been recognised and listened to.

It is also worth noting that a ticket purchase is often the indicator of a fan’s desire to invest more in an artist and can be used as a trigger to bundle and ‘upsell’ merchandise and album sales. Yet often the ‘engagement’ stops with the ticket sale and the relationship stalls.

“this next generation of music fans are now waking up to the fact that their time and attention is valuable to artists.”

A number of companies have stepped in to provide solutions where fans sign up to get advance access to tickets and can boost themselves into priority queues but, frustratingly, even ‘super fans’ of the some of the biggest artists in the world are left feeling ignored and ripped off.

That lack of understanding of how to engage fans properly has increasingly driven them towards the secondary ticket market and created a lack of trust.

There is clearly a growing appetite for live experiences and joined-up thinking can bring new efficiency to the whole value chain and in turn generate growth.

This transition from online activity to these meaningful real-world experiences can serve this next generation of music fans who are now waking up to the fact that their time and attention is valuable to artists.

Yet music fans still feel overwhelmed by the choices available online. How do they rise above the noise and still have access to rich, meaningful music experiences?

What is required is contemporary versions of fan clubs that are attuned to the needs of the digital marketplace.

Fans need to be able to participate in meaningful relationships with artists and be proportionally rewarded for their level of loyalty. They want to be listened to and valued.

And they want access – access to information, to products, to the artist.

They don’t just want engagement, they want intimacy. They want to feel they are part of the artists journey and recognised for their role in it.

Artists want this too. They want to understand more about their fans, what makes them tick and what they actually want.

They want data.

“Too often data is scraped and hoarded in a way that feels coercive and underhand. That needs to change.”

Data shouldn’t be a dirty word. Too often we conflate data with an invasion of privacy. It doesn’t have to be.

Fans will gladly give their data to artists if they feel there a positive reason for doing so. If that data is used transparently and sensitively, if it is collected and applied in a non-intrusive way to provide fans with all the things they want it becomes a symbiotic exchange.

Too often data is scraped and hoarded in a way that feels coercive and underhand. That needs to change.

If we can build trust between artists and fans based on the delivery of meaningful experiences and intimate relationships that deliver mutual benefits to both parties, if we could demonstrate the value that could be provided by providing and understanding audience data, we could change the perception that parting with personal information is necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes, while rushing towards the future it’s important to look at what worked in the past.

Fan clubs may now seem quaint and old fashioned through the lens of history but they worked.

And if they worked, maybe we should revisit why they did and how we can apply those learnings to today’s industry.Music Business Worldwide


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