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.