Personalization has sort of been a theme on this blog for the last few weeks, and it’s a valuable one. It’s one that’s so valuable that I want to take the time to address it directly. If you can’t embrace the power of personalization then you are leaving your band in a bad place and you are going to suffer -that’s the long and short of it. There are a ton of ways to do this, and most of them are free, and many actually can save you money or will act in such a way as to make your band and brand be able to profit more directly off of what your fans want. The best part is that it doesn’t even matter if people give a shit about your band or not. I mean obviously it helps, but with the right approach to personalization, you can find a path forward that is going to make people turn around and care about you, just because of all that you have done in order to make your fans feel special and valued. Sound to good to be true? Well the downside is that it will take a lot of hard work.
As we go into this I want to take a minute to think about the thousand fan theory, something that I have written about before. This theory essentially states that if you have a thousand true fans for every band member then you can maintain a decent living. Think about it, if you put out a couple of new shirt designs, some cool merch, and some form of recording every year, a true fan is looking at investing $40 into your band. Well, if you’re a solo act with a thousand true fans suddenly you’re starting to look at a decent amount of money! Of course getting a thousand people to be true fans isn’t always easy. But it is actually fairly doable. A thousand isn’t that big a number, and it only takes a little bit of work personalizing things in order to get a thousand people to feel like they have a special relationship with your work – because you are going to give it to them – and it’s not going to be hard at all. This I promise.
First off – you need to appreciate that the power of personalization is contingent on one thing and one thing only – engaging directly with your fans. You want your fans to feel invested in your music. If they don’t feel invested then no matter how much personalization you engage in it isn’t going to matter because they don’t see you as a normal guy. They see you as someone trying to be a bit of a dick and make a buck. You make people feel invested in two ways. The first way is easy, go out and ask your fans questions! They want to be heard! They want you to reach out and then have you respond to what they have to say. Ask them things about your music, about their favorite bands, whatever, but then engage in the second method of making people feel invested, go through and respond. Make them feel loved. This is going to make people into fans for life. After all – it’s not every day that an artist tweets memes back and forth with you! Even if it’s not a band they care about, if you can make that sort of positive impression then the odds are they are going to be willing to check out your next live show.
On top of this – I think there is a very valuable lesson from Benjamin Franklin that we can apply to the world of music. He found, early in life, that if someone didn’t like him, he could make them like him more by getting them to do him some small favor, like lending him a book, or holding a door for him. When it comes down to it, it hacks the human mind, making people think “Well if I’m doing nice things for this band, then I must like them!” This doesn’t mean you should become a panhandler begging your fans to do everything, but it does mean that you can go out and ask your fans if they want to do you small favors. For example – I know groups who ask their fans to help choose the merch designs they should go with, or better, get their fans to design the merch themselves! Other ways to get people involved include contests. One of my favorites is getting people in the audience to take a picture of your performance and tag your band on Instagram. The person with the best picture gets a free t shirt!
The thing to be aware of is that any sort of personal engagement is going to lead to exponential interest in your band. If you develop a strong relationship with one fan through contests, direct engagement and all that good stuff, then they are definitely going to tell their friends. If you become a band who is known for loving their fans and taking care then you are engaging directly with the community of people you need to be if you want people to care. If you are going out and developing ideas and showing that you are loved by your community then even more people are going to want to engage. In an increasingly isolated world, it’s no longer really about the music, it’s more about making people feel like they are a part of something and that they aren’t just another lonely soul desperately slugging it out in front of a god who failed.
There is an incredible power to positive attitudes and giving back on the internet. This is not something you see a lot of these days in a world of incendiary headlines and cruel clickbait. So why not be a positive force, one who loves the people who love them and who like to sit down and help the bands they love get to where they deserve to be. This may seem like a hard thing to do, but trust me, once you become an act who are actively engaging with people others will take notice. I have routinely seen groups who are actually fairly small get huge social media responses just because they engaged directly online. So why shouldn’t you get in on the fun?