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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Filed Under: connect with fans, cwf, imogen heap

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2009 @ 4:09pm

    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.

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