The Key To Being A Successful Musician: Focus On Fan Relationships… Not Industry Relationships
from the get-it-straight dept
Mark Rosedale points us to an interesting blog post from singer/songwriter Shaun Groves, where he discusses how the music business is changing, and how it’s the artists that need to change, by focusing on different kinds of relationships:
The music business is about relationship. And now it’s the artist’s turn to have one.
Success in the music business once hinged on only a handful of relationships: a publicist and a magazine, a salesman and a bookstore, a radio promoter and a radio station, a booking guy and a promoter, an artist and a manager, a writer and a publisher. If all these relationships were working, if all parties’ interests were respected and pursued, if no personalities collided to the point of impeding progress, then the project or artist they were tied to would succeed (from a business standpoint.)
But, today, that equation has changed, and artists need to learn how to have very different types of relationships — and it’s difficult for some:
Technologies can foster relationships. But not without a lot of personal investment and intentionality from an artist.
This is a big shift in thinking for artists, especially at the top levels of this industry. Artists aren’t accustomed to being so accessible, accountable and out of control. Artists are accustomed to being in front of audiences that care about what they do, audiences they know are fans and they keep in the seats for a couple hours by charging a ticket price. But on-line, where spending time with an artist is free, anybody can wander into the crowd, boo, change the subject, or walk out. And they will.
Also, artists are used to hiring people to handle their relationships for them. That’s at least 90% of what a manager does. Labels congratulate and critique through a manager, for instance, who adds his own diplomatic spin to every word so the artist’s feelings aren’t hurt and the relationship is preserved. Not so on-line. Someone can be hired to hit the “publish” button on a blog post that gets e-mailed over, invite people to a Facebook event and even write to people for an artist and signed their name (it happens), but no one can convincingly be the artist every day in post after post or interact with commenters regularly. Artists can’t hire anyone to be them 24/7 and the internet demands those kind of hours.
I know that whenever we write stories about artists successfully connecting with fans, we get angry messages from music industry folks about “what if artists don’t want to connect with fans.” What Shaun is suggesting here is that if they don’t, then they’re not going to have the type of relationships necessary in the modern music world. In some ways, saying “what if musicians don’t want to interact with fans” is the equivalent of saying “and what if Widget Co.’s employees don’t want to interact with customers.” That’s fine… but then they can’t complain when their widgets don’t sell. Shaun concludes by stating:
If the music industry dies it won’t be because everything changed. It will be because artists didn’t. Artists today have to – no, we get to – do what the rest of the industry and human race has been doing for eons: We get to be real human beings spending time with other real human beings. There’s no shortcut for that.
This is a fantastic point. In my MidemNet presentation about how Trent Reznor connected with fans and gave them a reason to buy, one point I raised briefly (which got a laugh from the audience) was the crazy idea that some of Reznor’s actions made him “seem human,” and how rare that was in the music industry. It’s a point that bares repeating, so I’m glad Shaun called it out (and that Mark alerted me to it). Nearly every success story we’ve discussed has had that in common: it’s about making the artists seem human — and that helps people feel like they want to help the artists out and they want to pay for things, rather than feeling pressured or coerced into paying.