Music industry veteran, Bob Lefsetz shared about the essential nature of building and nurturing a fan community in his blog this week. i can't agree more with his insight. Building, engaging, and nurturing community is central to my messages to my clients and my students. Enjoy Bob's post below.
You've got to build it from scratch.
And you have to know each and every member and how to reach them.
Remember the MTV era? Instant heroes who soon became zeros. The faster you make it, the faster you lose it.
In other words, if you're depending on the label, the corporation, to bring you to the top, you're in trouble.
I know this is antithetical to everything you've been taught, but the mentality of the music business exists in the twentieth century, while we're living in the twenty first. Grass roots. Credibility. Honesty. All these things are going to grow your career in today's era, and it's gonna happen slowly. You might never break through to the big time, but your fans will support you. Fans will house you, promote you and give you all their money. All they want in return is respect and access. It's the best deal in history. One e-mail, one tweet can motivate them into taking action.
No candidate is better known than Joe Biden. But he's living in the last century, he had no mailing list, except for the one from when he ran for Vice President, and they say those mailing lists are only good for two years.
Biden said he raised $6.3 million in his first day of fundraising, more than Bernie's first day, which netted the Vermont Senator $5.9 million.
But the devil is in the details. Biden raised the money from 97,000 donors. Bernie raised his cash from 225,000. It's about fans, not grosses. Which is why you'll see big bands limiting ticket prices, selling tickets to fan clubs, doing everything to maintain their base which will sustain them through the thin times.
Furthermore, Biden got $700,000 from fat cats, at a fundraiser. And in today's era, all the little people hate the big people.
It's happening in music too, it's just that the big people don't want you to know it. The imprimatur of the label, the push at radio, these are things the true fans have no sympathy for. The labels and radio are in the hits business, the fans are in the career business, and there's so much more money in that.
The press is behind Biden. As are the corporate donors, lobbyists and the Party. You'd think he's a winner until you look at the actual voters. This is how the Republican fat cats lost control of their party, when Trump swooped in and appealed to the little people who felt ignored.
A big publicity campaign won't tell you who you're reaching, won't give you hardly any information at all. And today it's all about the data. Spotify will tell you where you're hot and where you're not. But even more important is the rank and file, the fans. They want to hear from you, but with so many media messages your effort gets lost and stops before it reaches them. No one catches everything, it's impossible. Even the biggest of publicity campaigns don't reach everyone.
It's all about targets. Efficiency.
And there's a nerd in your fanbase who will coordinate all this. Someone savvy, who'll do it for the love.
You've got to be organized, you're managing yourself. If you're handing off responsibility to someone else, you're missing the point. Fans want you, and they can tell when it's fake.
Of course it's a lot of hard work, but the dividends are paid in the future.
Bernie could only raise this much money because he ran in 2016, he had an infrastructure.
The era of the vapid instant superstar is done. It only resonates with the media and the brain dead. True fans want to feel like they belong, they want to channel their energy, they want to know they're important.
So we've got two music businesses today. Actually three.
One is the oldsters who made it before the internet coasting on their hits, never to have another one.
Number two is the Spotify wonders. Propped up by the machine. Hyped. Sure, some of them will sustain, but most of them will not. Come on, you know that fans want to own the act themselves before everybody else does, they want to say they were there first, they don't want to be a number, they want to be known. They want to say they saw you in a club. That they bought a t-shirt from you at the merch table. And when you break through, they'll still support you.
Number three is the vast majority. Those who the machine doesn't want. Those who do not rap or sing pop to an 808 beat. Their time is coming. Stop bitching about recording revenue, everybody can hear your music essentially for free, that's a good thing! You used to have to depend on radio and sales for traction, now your music is just a click away and there are so many ways to monetize, be encouraged, not discouraged.
The media can't cope with numerous genres. It's all about winners. But in the internet era there are tons of winners. And the more different you are from the hitmakers, the greater the chances that you'll succeed.
But it's a slower process than before.
And you have to do most of the work yourself.
But your fanbase will support you through thick and thin. And no one is as rabid as a fan in spreading the word, they'll drag friends to a gig, which is why you've got to be great every night even if there are only ten people in the audience, because one person today has more power than any newspaper if they believe.
The world has become inverted. We're going from the macro to the micro. And the truth is there's plenty of money in the micro. And if you hang in there long enough, you can go macro. The machine is throwing things against the wall. You're making music containing your heart and soul, humanity emanates from the grooves, it's not for the good times, but for all time.
The old game is dying.
You're in charge of the new game. But you must use the new game paradigm. And that starts with ones and twos, fans. Know who they are and activate them, it's the only way to win in the music game today.
If you want to sell perfume and have a clothing line that's a different path.
But if you're a musician, your time has come.
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