Imogen Heap: Connecting With Fans By Having Them Help Her Create New Album
from the very-cool dept
Whenever I talk about the whole Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy (CwF+RtB) concept, one person that lots of people kept telling me I had to pay attention to was Imogen Heap. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend MIDEM this year, so I missed out on seeing her speak at the event. But I did hear about her announcement of plans to crowdsource her next album, soliciting all sorts of help from her fans (with whom she had already built a deep connection via her music, of course, and her very active use of Twitter). The idea is that every three months, she’ll work on a new song, asking for various contributions from her fans, which she would then weave into the final offering.
I hadn’t kept up on how that project was going, but Zoe Keating (another musician doing some really fascinating things), directed our attention to a wonderful blog post from Ian Shepherd describing his experience helping Imogen create one of the songs from this new album. He notes that he’s a huge, huge fan already, and when she asked fans to contribute images and “5-word moments of clarity” to a special “interactive cloud” on her website, he did so. What he didn’t realize was that she was then going to invite some of the people who contributed cool stuff to appear as extras in the video for the song. It came as a complete surprise, but he went, and it sounds like it was a fantastic experience for all involved:
So, the video is shot, now, and being edited as I type; I?ve met and made friends with the other five people whose ?moments? were chosen; I?ve chatted to Kelly about production techniques and I?ve heard a sneak preview of heapsong2 in progress. I can say that it sounded as lovely as anything Imogen has written so far to me, and that the 3D audio aspect is going to be extraordinary ? and that Nick and Imogen have a mammoth task ahead of them to get the song finished in time for it?s planned release on July 6th, in less than a week?s time.
I can also say that Imogen is exactly as charming, quirky and inspirational as she appears in her songs, interviews and webcasts ? and crucially, that her interest in her fans and their impact on her music is absolutely genuine.
Think about it ? in reality we five ?bubble people? were effectively unpaid extras ? but very willingly so. We all took time off work to be part of the video shoot ? or college in France, in Izzy?s case. Santina actually booked her flights from the USA and a week?s leave with only two days notice, before she even knew she was finally going to be picked !
Shepard notes that this sort of level of connection seems to come naturally to Imogen. Beyond just Twitter, she clearly embraces opportunities to interact with fans at shows and in other ways as well.
Separately, Shepherd properly points out that this kind of connection can work for people at all levels (something we keep saying, but people keep insisting isn’t true). Imogen is definitely a big name, with a big following, but others are doing similar things on a smaller scale and it’s working great:
I?m sure some people will be muttering at this point that we can?t all be Imogen Heap ? after all, she started out on her one-and-half-million-followers-strong social media adventure with a hit album and several TV synchronisation successes already safely under her belt. That?s a pretty convincing head start, right ?
Well, yes ? but I see plenty of much smaller artists successfully making a similar approach work for them every day in my Twitter stream ? like Zoe Keating, or Hope & Social, or Matt Stevens, or Steve Lawson, or Kate Havnevik, or Laura Kidd?
You can do this stuff, too. Anyone can do it ? all it takes is time, energy, imagination, connection ? and a little musical ability, of course. Laura is great evidence of this ? as she?s said herself, she didn?t have any fans before her first album ? but her second has already been 50% funded by the fans that first album found for her ? in advance.
And, while we keep hearing recording industry execs complaining about how the industry is “dying,” every day we hear more and more stories of musicians building huge, loyal audiences (who are happy to pay for scarce value) by connecting with their fans.