Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nurturing The Tribe

More than ever, touring is becoming the most important aspect of being a band. With P2P file sharing turning the album into little more than a social object of exchange, the “bread and butter” of being a band in the future will hinge directly upon making the best of their touring schedule, and ensuring that their tours are as efficient and effective as possible. The result of this is the need to reach fans in new and innovative ways.

Opportunities for interaction with the band need to be provided to fans whenever possible. The gap between the old model of “untouchable, idolized rock god” and the newer model of “leader of a close-knit tribe of invested fans” has vastly shrunk in the past few years. All efforts henceforth need to be aimed at nurturing this tribe of fans to bring them out of the realm of idle bystanders and into the realm of voracious consumers of all that you provide.

The best way of doing this is to give your fans a stake in what you, as a band, are trying to accomplish. In order to do this, bands must provide what fan want most of all; access. If you don’t believe me, lower the price of backstage passes at your next few shows, or giveaway backstage access for joining a mailing list. The number of fans who simply want their interaction with you to go beyond the simple, “I see you on stage playing for me” will surprise many (even young, not yet popular) bands. All that needs to happen is the breakdown of the cognitive dissonance between the stage and the floor.

The best means for providing access to your fans outside the venue is to grant them a chance to participate in what you do. Your fans have talents that will amaze you, and most of them would be perfectly willing to utilize those talents (pro bono) for the opportunity to see their work being used for the good of your band.

Try this example: have an online contest for fans to design a new t-shirt for your band. Once a winner is chosen, give them a few freebies. Then say that you want to post pictures of your fans wearing the new design on you website or blog. Track how many purchases of the new design are made and by whom. You would be incredibly surprised to see that, not only did the person who designed the shirt bought more shirts, but how many people would buy a shirt just to have the opportunity to be on your webpage. Furthermore, every person who gets their picture on your page will tell their friends, “go to so and so’s page and see my pic.” The tribe is now at work.

This is just one example (and I’m sure it’s already been done several times over) of how building your tribe can help sustain your band in the new music paradigm. Now it's up to you to come up with your own ideas of how you can nurture your tribe. Just ask yourself, "what do my fans want?"

Please comment and let me know what you think!!!


Jason Bailey said...

Great advice for all bands. Too often artists get caught up in the traditional sense of being in a band: release an album and then tour. Like you said, this doesn't work anymore. Consistently giving fans new material/new ways to participate directly with the artist is the way to go.

George "Loki" Williams said...

Excellent post! I've actualy seen some of these processes used back around 2000-2001 when I was working with New Orleans underground music a lot.

As I often stress in my social media oriented blog, it is the interaction that is important NOT the particular platform used. Its all about conversation and interaction these days and things like Twitter, Facebook, ect are merely the online equivalent of the local bars and coffeehouses where that conversation takes place.

Again, glad to see someone putting this out there. The DIY movement in music is one that is close to my own heart, and seeing intelligent analysis that benefits that scene is something I shall always welcome!