Loyal AoaM reader Allegra Rosenberg started her own blog and hit on an interesting point in one of her first posts –

In music, a lot of mainstream digital marketing strategy focuses on establishing, maintaining, and growing the relationship between the artist and their fans.

Which makes sense! In order to give artists a platform, you need to give them an audience. One that will listen to their music, buy their tickets and their merchandise, and help them earn a living.

It’s a vertical relationship by nature— on top is the artist, below is the fans. There are a lot of good ideas out there about how to effectively strengthen those bonds in the digital age, from direct interaction and VIP/meet and greet programs to experiential events and social media capers.

But what people forget is that this is only half the picture.

The vertical relationship between artists and fans is going to be dangerously imbalanced if there isn’t equal care and effortful strategy applied to the horizontal relationship between and among the members of the artist’s fan community.

While the relationship between artist and fan can only ever usually be one-way, given the numbers, the relationships between fans can go leagues further. Life-long friendships are formed, histories are shared, commonalities are found and lessons are learned.

These intra-fan bonds provide the solid ground foundation to the central pillar of the artist-fan relationship, stabilizing it. The active social energy produced by these bonds in turn goes back up the pillar to the artist, providing them with content, ideas, inspiration, loyalty, and (to be blunt) money.

Fan-to-fan friendships are the meat to the sandwich, the gems to the geode. An artist can make all the great content in the world, tell the most beautiful story, but without fans who dissect it amongst themselves and generate discussion and excitement, you won’t have an easy journey— or an authentic one.

By spending as much energy on encouraging and curating spaces in which fans can find each other, and rewarding them for engaging not only with the artists but with themselves, as is spent on traditional vertical marketing from artist direct to individual fans, you may find that work you’re used to doing yourself is done for you by fans, automatically and easily and out of love.

Creating a fan-to-fan movement isn’t easy… It often happens organically when there is something to talk about.

If an artist has enough content and a story worth sharing and discussing, fans will start doing their own creating as has been seen with the Grateful Dead, Lady Gaga, or One Direction.

Artist cultures are not built directly by what they deliver to their fans, but it’s more of a T shape as seen below from Allegra’s post. When fan-to-fan communities begin to emerge, it’s critical to stimulate them with the resources they need to grow as these groups are loud and can quickly become a not-so-secret weapon doing half the work to spread the word.

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