How To Communicate Effectively With Your Fans: Tips From Trent Reznor, Songkick, PledgeMusic And More

Tab_widthIn today’s music world, the artist/fan connection matters more than ever, but with so many avenues of communication, artists must be able to effectively find ways to engage with fans in settings ranging from social media to backstage at a show.


Guest Post by Oliver Cox on PledgeMusic

Let’s start with a premise: your time and attention comes at a premium. Time spent crafting a truly knockout social post, hours honing a music newsletter worthy of Hunter S. Thompson, is time spent away from your audience and studio.

But, a moment’s attention from a musician whom they really appreciate will make a fan’s day, encouraging them to come to more shows, buy more music and be an evangelist of greater fervor. A second of your time, well-spent on communicating with your fans, will multiply the power of the time spent at the mixing desk.

Put it this way: if I ‘like’ Deadmau5’s tweet, this is nothing special in anyone’s mind. If he likes my tweet? Now that could potentially make my day. You can see, now, how powerful a few minutes of social media can be in looking after the fans that matter the most. Fact is: your fans want you and, whether it’s in person or over Facebook, every moment you spend with them will nurture your relationship and, hence, your career.

Superfan Social Media: Show the Love

You’ll find articles out there doing to death how to nail your social channels as a musician. To keep it fresh, let’s look at superfans in particular: these are the fans that go above and beyond for you, and always have your back.

Many musicians’ social channels are deluged with attention, making it impossible to respond to it all. Some producers, quite clearly, have no social appetite, or at least don’t look forward to spending time on networks and away from their craft. As I mentioned above, you have to understand how valuable your attention will be to your fans.

Why not take, say, 30 minutes per day to sit at your comp and like, retweet, pin, share, etc. the social interactions that you get from your fans. That fan who has bothered to write a comment on your artist Facebook page on how much they like your new track is already on your side—show them the love and they’ll be onto their buddies about how great you are. Job done.

You can take this as far as you like. If you see that a few social users are very active on your Facebook or SoundCloud, bring them into the loop. Invite them to a private page where they can chat to you. Shoot them a raw preview mix of some new music/experiments: this will get leaked and put on YouTube, of course, but that’s the point. These superfans will introduce it to their music-obsessive networks, building excitement and interest.

Remember to keep the conversation going. Don’t set all this up, wipe your hands then forget about it: the party will last as long as the music and the excitement, keep up your own inputs (social and musical) and the superfans will stay behind you. If your interest drops off, so will your superfans’ interest.

Songkick & Superfans

When it comes to gig promotion via superfans, the more innovative the better. SongKick relates how its live music crowdfunding system ‘Detour’ helped the band Hot Chip to achieve viral promotion by motivating their superfans. Here’s how they did it: choosing three cities that often lost out on touring bands, Detour set up a crowdfunding campaign wherein the city with the most pledges would get a Hot Chip concert. In Folkstone, one of the chosen cities, the superfans sprang into action, using word of mouth, the local newspaper and radio station to publicize the tour. Interest (and pledges) for Folkestone grew exponentially.

Artists can achieve next-level results by letting their superfans own the situation. Give them the tools, and they’ll be tenacious allies and savvy viral promoters.

Dealing with Feedback

FeedbackimageAccepting and responding to appreciative feedback should be pretty easy. Please leave a comment if you’ve ever come unstuck while responding to a happy comment. So how do you talk to people when you’ve just put out material that they consider to be awful, when they’re disappointed in the artist/band/producer (you) that they’ve supported for years?

Now’s the time for balance: too much contrition, too much falling on your sword and no one will respect you. Too much pride and doubling down and your fans will feel like you’re abandoning them. Bring Me the Horizon’s (BMTH) response to intense criticism is the way to go (read the full confession on Alt Press). The first sentence is the most important:

We appreciate the level of passion both good and bad for DLD. We are really proud of what we created, but at the same time, we understand people’s confusion and panic after hearing the track.

What more do you need to hear? BMTH accept your criticism, but they stand by what they created; they understand that fans might be a little scared to imagine that this is what their favorite group will sound like in the future. This is to say that BMTH expressed the extent to which they care about what their fans think, but they won’t just flop under pressure.

The band’s statement went on to explain how the song was created for a special project (the Drive rescore), and that the fans might enjoy it better in context. Bases: covered. You can’t please all the people all the time but, when you displease some of the people, it pays to look after them.

Trent Reznor: Superfans and Gigs

How do you check in with your superfans at gigs? Signing autographs is a start. For some master advice, let’s pay a visit to Trent Reznor:


Here he is, hanging with fans backstage at Sasquatch festival for a meet-and-greet. He’s cool, talkative, approachable, and clearly didn’t mind the camera. Remember: these days, everything that happens that is of any interest will be on the internet within minutes—this includes you being impatient (or being an angel) backstage. Maybe the fans who know every piece of music you’ve made won’t stop talking when you just want to relax. That’s part of the bargain.

Here’s another Trent Reznor example: during the tour for Year Zero, Nine Inch Nails and accomplices left USB drives in venue bathrooms, containing a single with a secret message encoded into the music’s spectrogram. This message brought fans into a virtual reality-game, created by 42 Entertainment, themed on the album. Nine Inch Nails and 42 Entertainment gave superfans all they could ever want, turning a regular music gig into a gateway into a world that they created.

When it comes to the fans that matter most to you, it’s not just about the music, something to put on in the car or play during breakfast. It’s about the experience. This is to say that you need to create something holistic, employing multiple media, something that will stay with them. The greater the impact, the better they’ll represent you.

Writing Newsletters that Don’t Suck

Newsletters are usually garbage. Why? Possibly because the people who write them aren’t interested, put too much in there and don’t like writing.

I hate to be the one to admit this, but I actually look forward to the Friday newsletter at the company for which I work, and I think most of us do. This is because, if you printed the thing and picked it up, the irony would drip to the floor—we even have a dedicated GIF and meme section.

OK, producers—maybe you’re not writers, but if don’t want to employ someone to create a newsletter for you, why not infuse your newsletter with your craft? Structure that thing like you would a song, or maybe arrange and describe the stories like the tracks of an EP. People follow your newsletter for you, and if, when they read it, it turns out to be nothing like you, why would they keep reading?

Here’s some inspiration: Sisters of Mercy’s drummer, a drum-machine going by the name ‘Doktor Avalanche’, used to run an advice column on the Sisters’ site. This has all the absurdity characterized by the Sisters of Mercy’s sense of humor. Put something uniquely you into that newsletter, and the superfans will be happy to read it.

In conclusion, the modern musician has to be something of a media Renaissance man: a social, writing, mediation, meet-and-greet genius. Hopefully you’ll have time to make some music as well. The thing to remember is that your superfans tune in for you, so pour as much of yourself into them and your loyal fans will return the favor

By Oliver Cox, contributing writer for Soundudes. Soundudes was a platform for musicians to grow their audience and monetize their music, by connecting them with their SoundCloud Superfans. Regrettably, SoundCloud decided it’s not good for them and shut them down. Read more about it here.

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