An Academic Study Of Connecting With Fans & Giving Them A Reason To Buy

from the cwf+rtb dept

Nearly four years ago, I gave a presentation at the Midem music industry conference, called How Trent Reznor & Nine Inch Nails Represent the Future of the Music Business Model, in which we first discussed the concept of CwF+RtB=$$$ -- or how Connecting with Fans plus giving them a Reason to Buy was the future model. While some are incorrectly suggesting that Reznor's recent decision to work with a major label somehow takes away from that point, I've yet to see any example of how he's no longer connecting with fans or giving them a reason to buy -- or how that's become any less important for musicians (or other creative artists) these days.
Either way, I found it interesting to hear that Steven Brown, a student at Glasgow Caledonian University, has taken that presentation and published an academic article about it in the Empirical Musicology Review, entitled Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. The paper goes through my presentation and looks at related academic research to see if there's support for the theories I discussed. I don't necessarily agree with everything stated, but it is interesting to try to put it all into the context of academia. Here's a snippet:
That these three factors may be partially responsible for the strong relationship between fan and artist in the case of Nine Inch Nails, is made all the more plausible in light of the findings of another qualitative study, by Saarikallio and Erkkila (2007), who explored the role of music in adolescents’ mood regulation. Seven unique regulatory strategies were identified, including solace, where particular attention is paid to lyrics - often in isolation. The authors noted that participants identified with the lyrics, and felt that the songwriter had faced up to feelings, worries and experiences similar to their own, helping them to connect with the artist. Given Reznor’s often dark lyrics and relatively narrow lyrical palette principally concerning themes of isolation, abandonment, loss and belongingness, it is likely the lyrics of Nine Inch Nails are a fundamental attraction to Reznor’s music. His naked lyrics help form a unique relationship with adolescents in particular, with consequent influence on consumer purchasing behaviours via age-based musical preferences. Furthermore, by engaging with Reznor, fans are ultimately drawn to him on a more personal level where reciprocity is more likely to be carried out. To this end, elusive superstars such as Madonna are perhaps more likely to suffer from piracy where blogging, fanclubs with exclusive interviews etc are likely means for musicians to help create a way of allowing their fans to engage with them on a more personal level, leading to reciprocal behaviour.

Reciprocity forms the basis of Shultz’s (2006) research into jambands; defined as bands whose live sets include much improvisation and variation and who allow their fans to record their live shows, copying and distributing them freely. The phrase is befitting for Grunge veterans Pearl Jam, who have been offering fans soundboard quality recordings of their live shows since 2000. These ‘unofficial bootlegs’ provide fans with documents of their live concert experiences, where as Masnick (2009) stated, live music is the ultimate form of connecting with fans and providing them with a reason to buy. Exploring the success of Tori Amos’ use of ‘official bootlegs’, Farrugia and Gobbato (2010) argue that Amos’ efforts at personalising each show increases the perceived value of each recording to those who were there. Amos and Powers (2005) note for example how throughout the 2005 Beekeeper tour Amos solicited fan requests for cover songs via her website, performing at least two of her fan requests. This level of interaction helps crystallise the importance of the relationship between fan and artist in creating a successful working relationship, adhering to supply and demand traditions, and subsequently increasing the likelihood to purchase hard copies of live music documents.

Such recordings can of course be easily obtained illegally for free and many fans are likely to do so, without affecting ticket sales. Those who do pay for them are the hardcore fans who enjoy bootlegs (Naghavi & Schulze, 2001) and circulation of their live recordings both legally and otherwise form part of the reciprocal relationship between artist and fan. In Shultz’s (2006, p. 657) words ‘the music industry thus needs to think in terms of building loyal communities that have reciprocal relationships with artists rather than simply moving physical products into the hands of consumers’.
Interestingly, the paper (obviously written prior to Reznor's recent announcement) notes that the research suggests different strategies at different times in a band's development -- and wonders what sort of distribution model Reznor would choose for his new projects. No matter what, it's great to discover a number of academic studies related to these topics that I had not yet seen. I'll have to spend some time digging through them.
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Filed Under: connect with fans, reasons to buy, trent reznor


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Oct 2012 @ 4:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Oh look, it's black and white choice time again."

    You are making directly contradictory statements that indicate different positions. I apologise if asking you to pick one confuses or offends you.

    "Funny, you seem to be very touchy about Reznor's choice, like he has broken your trust or something"

    No, I'm not. Quote where I've done anything but support Reznor's decision to move to a label if that's what's honestly best for him. You can't because I haven't. Without knowing the details of the deal, my mind is open, which is all I've ever said about it. Perhaps you mean my generally low opinion of major labels? As stated above, it's possible that someone has actually decided to offer what artists actually want, but I'm sure Reznor isn't diving into a bad deal, blindly accepting the negative he fled from in the first place.

    If I'm "touchy" about anything (what is it about stating my opinion that offends you people so?), it's that yet again we have people trying to distort the truth to pretend that Mike and/or Reznor have failed. He made one decision 4-5 years ago that worked, now he's making another decision. We'll see how it works out, that's all, and then we'll discuss the positives and negative as we have done previously. Stop with the attempts to score points off him because he happened to be the most prominent example of alternative models several years ago - what he's done does nothing to invalidate the actual points being raised, now or then.

    "Remember, he was one of the first to walk away from a label deal, perhaps he's the first in a line of people walking back."

    Which is what I've said, and I'm not reading anything into it other than at this exact moment in time that's what was best for this particular project in Reznor's mind. I'm certainly not extrapolating the decision one way or another, as you are.

    Why do you pretend I am doing so? Am I not fitting neatly enough into one of those simplistic boxes you always try to attack so that you don't have to think too hard about my real position?

    "I just take what you say over time here and react accordingly. Perhaps you might want to review your own angry comments in others to understand where I come from."

    Quote them, then I'll address whether you've interpreted them correctly. reading comprehension does seem to be difficult for many ACs round here, and speaking as someone who's been attacked for piracy when he tells people why he bought something, you can forgive me for not taking your interpretation at face value.

    Until then, you seem to be coming up with fictional positions for me that don't match anything I've ever said, and often are the exact opposite of what I believe. That's intellectually dishonest at best, outright lying at worst.

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