“Where the f*ck am I gonna go now to sell my records?”
That’s a musing from Kid Rock, as quoted by Carson Daly, after the final episode of TRL. Most people would instantly reply “the internet.” The internet, however, despite being a great tool for music discovery, has been poor, at best, at turning that discovery into actual fans.
The way things are set up now with Facebook and Twitter, very few artists have fans. Artists have plenty of “likes” and “followers,” but they don’t have the artist-fan relationship that’s needed to be as big as the acts of previous generations. Fans buy albums, concert tickets and t-shirts. Fans tell their friends about artists. The person who “liked” a Facebook page, who are they in relation to the artist? Are they really a fan?
The internet has a million ways to communicate, and a million ways to sell things, but it’s failing when it comes to creating fans. The reason for this is that there are very few fan experiences on the internet. There’s no waiting in line at midnight at the record store for the latest release from your favorite artist when you’re downloading it on iTunes. There’s no gathering all your friends up into your car and going to a concert when you’re watching a live stream of the show on YouTube. There’s no anticipating your favorite artist appearing on your favorite music video show when you have access to them 24/7.
These are the fan experiences the internet hasn’t been able to, and probably will never be able to, replicate, and they’re exactly what artists, and labels, need if they’re going to reach their previous heights.
Yes, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Adele and Lady Gaga are selling a lot of records (even if it’s nowhere near the previous generation’s highs), but if you’ll notice, with the exception of Bieber being discovered on YouTube, they just have their collective toe dipped in the internet water, they aren’t considering it the be all and end all of how they create fans, and that’s the key.
The artists who have found ways to utilize the internet to create and grow their fan base have done so by using it as just one of an array of interlocking tools. Canadian synth pop/dubstep artist Lights has done a fantastic job of this, largely through her own website’s message board, which gave birth to her fan group (Lights’ Army), and her use of video blogs on YouTube. Lights has kept her fan base as a close knit community, and once you find out about her you become a part of it. Some may scoff at the idea of having to seek out an artist, but it’s worked for her - all of her shows sell out, and they do so pretty darn quickly. In addition to her online efforts she does a plethora of fan meet and greets while on the road. Meeting her online fans offline is a big reason why her online efforts continue to work so well for her.
When I interviewed Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman he mentioned this idea that social networking and the internet are just two of many tools that need to be in an artist’s arsenal, saying “you can’t become so dependent on social media that you forget to put up a poster or pass out a flyer once in a while.” He added “I don’t want tech to overrun the Warped Tour cuz I still think it’s important for kids to come and learn, so we always have to manage it so that kids come early and wander around and run into a band they might like. We want to try to keep some sense of adventure to shows.”
When those kids Lyman is talking about find a band they like, enjoy their performance, and then go to their merch tent to buy their album and meet them, they’ve had multiple fan experiences in the span of an hour and, as long as the album is good, that artist has created new fans.
When someone “likes” an artist’s Facebook page all an artist has is someone who’s “liked” their Facebook page. Turning that “like” into a fan takes some decidedly offline efforts.
original posting can be found here… Fan Friction - How The Internet is Failing Artists