I find that from everything that I have been studying about artist success, whether it has been from conferences, videos, or books, none of them have really focused or elaborated on the power of the quality of an experience that an artist creates for their fans. From the familiarity of having always been a super fan myself and being surrounded by like minded friends, I am able to honestly state that a huge contributing factor to the overall success of an artist boils down to the experience that they create for fans. Whether it is during live shows, on social media, or in person, a consistent delivery of a unique experience that surpasses peoples’ expectations will always create a lasting and resonating effect.
A common mistake that upcoming artists may be subject to is underestimating the value and potential of their first few fans. Remember that “the most important person while creating a movement isn’t the leader, it’s the first follower that has the courage to follow and persuade others to do the same” Derek Sivers. An unknown artist needs to give people a reason to support them, as well as provide current fans with a reason to remain a fan, and to develop into a super fan. Part of people supporting an artist is the investment of time and money- two of the most valued things in society, and an experience is going to convince people that their music is worth the investment. Fans also want to feel as though their time and efforts are being appreciated, and once an artist creates a memorable experience for them, recognition of their support is validated. There is a reason that fans of certain artists are willing to camp out at concerts, buy multiple copies of the same album, purchase as much merchandise as possible, or create a dedicated social media accounts for that specific artist. It is because those fans feel as though the experience that they receive from supporting an artist outweighs the efforts, time and, money that they dedicate, and confirms that their time and efforts are not being wasted.
While I was in Portugal a few months ago, I came up with an idea which I call the sparkler effect. At most restaurants and bars that I passed by, there were certain drinks and desserts that came with a sparkler, a simple gesture that had a huge effect on attracting attention as well as increasing sales. Receiving a sparkler created the sense of pleasure, and made the night more memorable and special for the individual who obtained it. By passers and other dinners seeing the sparklers in certain drinks and desserts were immediately persuaded and more inclined to order the same item, not necessarily for what is was, but for the experience that it offered. A box of sparklers is simple, and probably costs no more than a few dollars, however the effect and experience that it offered was lasting, unique, and effective.
Now going back to the music industry, making the effort to embed an experience into different aspect of an artists’ career will automatically increase the quality of a fan’s experience, as well as attract other fans who are noticing the unique experience being offered. Personally, I find that the standard of fan interactions is low, which means that surpassing fans’ expectations can be done quite easily. Artists should consider what is currently being done for fans and determine how to increase that experience. For example, Twitter has recently introduced twitter videos, so instead of simply tweeting people back, take the extra time to do something that a fan will surely appreciate and recognize.
A good example of developing a unique fan experience is what Taylor Swift did for her 1989 album release; every album came with a set Polaroid pictures, and there were about four different sets of polaroids available in the different albums. Not only were fans inclined to buy one physical copy of the album, but some even made the effort to buy several, simply to collect all of the polaroids. Additionally, Swift encouraged fans to post pictures of the album and of the polaroid on social media, which she personally reposted herself. Due to the buzz that had been created across social media, even individuals who were not necessarily fans of Swift became more inclined to buy the album, simply to be a part of the movement that was occurring. Most of the time people just want to be a part of something, and if an artist is offering an amazing experience for their fans, it is very likely that many others will be inclined to listen to the artist simply to be a part of that experience.
Another key element to be aware of is that a bad experience can generate just as much word of mouth and memorability as a good experience. Ed Sheeran once said in an interview that an artist may only have one bad day out of one hundred, however, the fans meeting the artist on that particular day will only ever get the impression of them being rude and unappreciative. Part of an amazing experience as being a fan is hearing other peoples’ good experiences with the artist because it validates the artists’ image, and a fans’ beliefs in them. However, a bad experience has the potential to be a huge let down as well as cause damage to how fans view the artist and their relationship with them.
An experience can be created in virtually every aspect of an artists’ career, whether it’s on social media, live shows, or in person, there is always an opportunity to show appreciation towards fans, which can and should be done at any level of success. In an industry cluttered with the music of thousands, if not millions, of different artists, music alone isn’t enough to convince an audience that an artist is worth actively supporting, or worth investing time and money into. Great music may be enough to compel fans to buy concert tickets, however it won’t be enough to make them inclined to line up for 15 hours prior to the show. There’s a difference. And an incredible experience is the defining factor.