How Imogen Heap Connected With Fans, And Created Her New Album With Their Help

from the cool-example dept

Another day, another example of a musician using social media tools to better connect with fans and built up true loyalty. This time, it’s the story of how singer Imogen Heap involved her fans in the process of creating her latest album, using a variety of tools, including MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. She not only kept them in the loop of pretty much everything that was going on with the album, but she also reached out to them for ideas and support on certain parts of the album and its packaging (including fan-submitted artwork for the packaging). As the article notes, because of all of this, many of her fans feel personally invested in the album itself, making them more willing to purchase it when it comes out.

The whole story is interesting, though the one part I’m not sure I agree with was her decision to “fight back” against someone trying to auction off a pre-release copy of her album on eBay. Rather than complain about it, she did ask her fans to just bid up the price as high as possible, which helped eBay become aware of questionable activity on the auction, which they pulled down. As the article notes:

During a time when many music fans are clamoring for free music, Heap’s fans actually helped ensure her music wasn’t prematurely leaked.

While it does show the loyalty of her fans (and puts to rest the myth that fans will automatically try to get pre-released music), that strategy does seem a bit questionable and could result in eBay users losing their accounts. She claimed that she would make sure no eBay users were punished, but that’s a decision up to eBay, not Heap. Still, overall, the entire story is definitely a great case study in really involving her fans in the process.

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Comments on “How Imogen Heap Connected With Fans, And Created Her New Album With Their Help”

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Anonymous Cowherd (profile) says:

Leaked album

From the article: “Heap was outraged, as she puts it, not because she doesn’t want the music to get out there (she wants her fans to have the music), but because some opportunistic person who had nothing to do with the album stood to make a lot of money from its pre-release sale on eBay.”
It was more about “fighting back” at the greedy industry insider trying to grab some profit off of someone else’s work. Seems reasonable to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Extremely famous because of a long term record contract (and heck, his own record label!). Using existing supported and promoted artists is sort of meaningless, because NIN could ose half their fanbase and have millions more than most of the artists getting discussed here.

You don’t see Trent passing the hat to pay for dancers, ala Facepalm.

It’s just realizing that most of the artists doing this stuff, from Jill Sobule, Facepalm, etc to Corey Smith all have something in common: they aren’t playing to the masses in the slightest, but to niche markets that are likely way more loyal than the general music fan.

Just saying, you know?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s a valid point IMO, but on the other hand the artists who are “post-label”, that is have never had a label contract and are exclusively doing things the new way, haven’t been at it very long. That’s because until pretty recently the labels were the only game in town.

If the free music types are still on the fringe in 5 years or so then I think we would really have to examine what is going on and why none of them have collected a big fan base. Or maybe a single band having a big fan base is a thing of the past, and smaller more loyal fan groups are the way of the future. It really doesn’t matter as long as the bands can make enough money (where “enough” is defined by them, not you), and I’m sure many of them will, and many will not. Just like in any other business.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“This never works for mainstream artists”

“What about NIN”

“Well they’re only famous because they used to be on a major label”

Quick! Chase those goalposts!

Anyway, as for “they aren’t playing to the masses in the slightest, but to niche markets that are likely way more loyal than the general music fan.”. You know what else used to be “niche” markets at one time? Blues, rock ‘n roll, reggae, soul, metal, hip-hop, music television, recorded music, digital downloads…

Just because these free models are not making massive waves in the mainstream as yet (unsurprisingly, since the major labels control all of the traditional promotional outlets), that doesn’t mean they won’t ever do so. This is especially true if more major artists go the NIN / Radiohead route (or even the “paid for” but independent of major labels route like Moby has recently gone).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There is no moving of the goalposts or finish line here. NIN long since scored the goal and / or crossed the finish line, long before any of this “free” stuff started. They aren’t a good test because, as I said before, NIN could lose half their fanbase and still have more fans in a single city than someone like Amanda Facepalm Palmer has in the whole world. Trent Reznor has probably lost more fans that Amanda will ever have.

As for niche, I think of niche as not being at all mainstream, and having been that way for a long time. Single artist at a piano / guitar or similar styles of music have their high moments (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple) and their low moments (Facepalm). But most of the artists in the niche will likely never break through to wider general public acclaim. This seems to be the common thread of all of the “Masnick Success Stories”, artists playing a type of music with loyal fans but much fewer of them.

it just seems to be a very common thread in these discussions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It comes up because Mike gets accused of using examples, like NIN/Reznor, of artists using “free” as part of their business model who have already made it to the mainstream. So, then he shows artists who haven’t made it to the mainstream using “free” as part of their business model.

Of course, at that point, he gets criticized for using examples of artists who aren’t mainstream…and on and on ad infinitum…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

It isn’t that the artists haven’t made it into the mainstream, it’s that they aren’t playing a type or category of music that WOULD be mainstream.

What is mainstream? Straight R&B, Country, Rock, MOR, top 40, etc. What isn’t mainstream? Folk music, elevator music, Brechtian Punk Cabaret, etc.

As for NIN and Radiohead, they are there because of their past record contracts and everything that was done to promote them. They can piss off and lose a whole lot of fans and still come out looking good. It is very difficult (impossible) to tell positively or negatively what their marketing approaches have done for them. Speaking only from experience, I have everything NIN until “With Teeth” and I have two or three Radiohead albums. There is very little in their current music that I find appealing. I am one of those people who wishes they spent their time on making unique and high quality music, rather than worrying about marketing strategies and such. The opportunity costs appear to be very high here.

Actual Artist says:

Re: Re:

Yes, because mainstream music is the pinnacle of artistic expression. Perhaps mainstream musicians would like to try out this “free” thing only to have their bosses laugh in their collective face. Assuming they can have an actual dialogue with their bosses. Their bosses being the CEOs and shareholders of EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmm. This is a step toward approaching monetization from a community angle that I’ve seen bits and pieces of in different places online, if only someone could bring them together.

As an example, I was on a band’s website and message board a couple months ago, which the band’s singer/songwriter participates in quite a bit. Anyway, they’re working on an album, which is often a process of producing more recordings than you’re actually going to put on the album. So what this guy did is he made a couple of non-album tracks available on the website to sort of reward the fans’ patience. Happy times. But! It got me thinking.

When I was younger and had more money than responsibilities, I bought a lot of music. I’d get into a band and then buy everything I could find that they had released. And what I noticed is that I would routinely spend way more money on hard-to-find non-album tracks than I spent on the albums (which were readily available). And you know how fan communities can be. The dedication to acquiring the rare stuff was sort of a mark of, hell, I don’t know, “real” enthusiasm? Well dorkiness, but whatever. But then you get that ability to discuss songs with other fans that not everyone has heard, and you can meet their eyes and stifle a mutual grin because obviously you’re way more into it than all those so-called fans who have only ever heard the albums and etc.

Point is, what if the “pay for album, get non-album stuff free” thing could be inverted? That way everybody gets the album, but the people who purchase the non-album material get to feel extra awesome or something. Like, you’re not selling the track (it’s just data, man) so much as you’re selling membership in a super special community. And it’s more participatory (like what the artist in this story was doing by getting design ideas from the fans), which is almost–almost–a self-reinforcing thing. It doesn’t seem rational, but people have paid a lot of money for that feeling in other contexts.

Granted, it would only work for those artists who are most likely to be able to build a devoted fan following.

herodotus (profile) says:

“It’s just realizing that most of the artists doing this stuff, from Jill Sobule, Facepalm, etc to Corey Smith all have something in common: they aren’t playing to the masses in the slightest, but to niche markets that are likely way more loyal than the general music fan.”

In my case, all of my favorite artists, from Bela Bartok to the Tallis Scholars to Frank Zappa to Mike Patton, are niche markets.

Maybe that’s why I have trouble empathizing with the likes of Sony and EMI: 99% of the encounters I have with their mainstream, overcompressed, autotuned music are involuntary.

Anonymous Coward says:

This seems to be the common thread of all of the “Masnick Success Stories”, artists playing a type of music with loyal fans but much fewer of them.

This is an (admittedly kind of esoteric) approach to business that those clandestine few “in the know” call “selling stuff to people who want to buy it.”

Would it just as easily enable publicly traded companies whose officers and employees are facing constant pressure from all over the place to adopt it mid-stride, while simultaneously retaining current market share, being first in line to sign up-and-coming artists to exclusive deals reminiscent of past successful contracts, continuing to build an exploitable catalog of IP holdings, and not even temporarily lose share value? Uh, probably not. I’m sure complaint forms are readily available at their local Office of Things That Are Not My Problem. Just FYI, I understand the lines there are long and the waiting area is a bit cramped, but well, y’know, take it up with them.

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