Artist Content For Superfans: Give What They Want
September 19, 2019
Artist content for superfans means things you do especially for your biggest fans. It’s a key move toward building a whole set of fans who’re more than just people who like your music. These are fans in the original fan-atic sense, fans who take joy in interacting with you as much as possible. Every one of them is a marketing powerhouse, but to have them, you’ve got to invest in them. We’re going to talk about how.
To know what superfans want, we need to look at how they’re different from regular fans.
What’s a Superfan?
Regular fans can be expected to really like (maybe even love) your music, to attend a show if it’s convenient, and maybe to buy a shirt. They’re more than just listeners in your audience, but they’re not going out of their way for you.
Superfans, on the other hand, try to make themselves a part of your music. Some superfans consider their favorite music an important facet of their personality. They’ll do nearly anything to interact with artists who create songs that mean so much to them. That interaction is what makes perfect artist content for superfans.
You can expect a superfan to:
- Attend all the shows they can
- Buy one of every key merch item you offer
- Wear your merch often
- Visit all your social media, probably daily
- Comment and like your posts
- Potentially start viral social media domino effects
- Be a word-of-mouth-marketing machine
Word-of-mouth marketing machine? Oh, yes. Read on to see what we mean.
The last point in the above list is the most important. Word-of-mouth marketing (WoMM) is crucial. WoMM is so powerful that Beyoncé once marketed an entire album just by word of mouth. Superfans tell anyone who will listen all about you because they love to do it.
“The urge to tell the people who wrote the songs just how much they’d helped quickly became uncontrollable,” writes superfan Sarah Doran for Radio Times.
The New Yorker‘s Michael Shulman quotes Wanna Thompson as saying, “When it comes to [superfans] and how they operate on social media, it’s crazy to witness. These people really think that they’re doing some due diligence by the celebrity.”
And they are. What if your music were that important to someone and you didn’t show your appreciation for them? You can’t let that happen.
So let’s look at artist content for superfans you can create now.
Artist Content for Superfans
The goal of making artist content for superfans is to build a lasting relationship with them. You don’t have to become besties with everyone, of course, but you do want them to feel befriended by you. One of the surest ways to help them feel like a special kind of friend is to treat them differently than all your other fans. You know, treat them special. And the key to that is exclusivity.
As personal growth and relationships writer John Weirick writes, “For better friendships, have fewer friends.”
You don’t actually need or want fewer superfans, no. But you do want to give them the impression that they are the few, the chosen, the elite. Luckily, as the artist in control of what and how much you create, this is totally in your control.
Artist content for superfans falls in three main categories:
- Merch for superfans
- Social content for superfans
- Music content for superfans
Really, anything you do for fans can be done exclusively for superfans in a smaller number, but these three avenues will account for pretty much all of it. There’s also one thing you can do for superfans which falls in all three of those categories:
One thing superfans want which artists should be happy to provide is collaboration. That’s right — eagerly invite your superfans to become part of your creativity. Rather than chucking material out at random hoping fans buy, openly ask them what they want. Hold votes and contests.
Which cover art do they like best? Which of three music video settings excites them most? Sing a lyric several different ways and ask the people which should make the final cut. Take submissions for brand designs. Heck, you can even hold a vote on what kind of contest to hold next or a contest to determine what the next vote will be.
The important thing is to help your superfans understand that they are part of the process. That shouldn’t be hard because you already have your audience in mind when you create things for them. You can look at it as beta testing for those outside your current superfan base as well.
Merch for Superfans
Merch options for superfans might seem obvious: “Just make a couple special items and only sell a few of them, right?” But it can be done well or poorly. Here’s how to make the most out of it.
Exclusive Signed and Numbered Merch
Pretty obvious, yes. But make sure you number as well as autograph these items to show how exclusive they are. Make it a fraction, like this: [Signature or signatures] 33/100. That way the superfan can always boast, “Dude, they only made a hundred of these.” Don’t do this with everything, though. If you only make fifty of a certain shirt, put a sticker on the shirt that says so, or ship it with a note on the card. Don’t sign wearable merch unless specifically asked to. It’s tacky.
Merch Just for Superfans
You can make merch specifically for your superfans without making the merch exclusive. “What?” Yeah, by calling them out by name. Don’t wait for fans to make your fan club. You can create one. Nicki Minaj has the Barbz, Beyoncé has the Beyhive, Kiss has the Kiss Army, and Lady Gaga has Little Monsters. All you need is a little branding creativity, and you can offer a merch item that basically says, “#1 Fan.” If you give your superfans permission to be as enthusiastic as they like, more of them will be.
Superfan Subscription Items
This takes more hands-on attention than you might like, but it can generate a bit of income for you, and the marketing effect can be huge. The idea is, you charge your superfans a little bit of money every so often (monthly/bi-monthly/seasonally) and you send them something special in return. That something special could be anything, so long as you can deliver it on the regular.
Superfan Loot Box
An extremely effective option is the “loot box” of surprises. Imagine the marketing value of a superfan unboxing their special merch on video, super excited to find there’s a limited-edition beanie in there. Oh, and look, a really cool superfan bumper sticker! And this is an audio cassette signed and numbered! You get the picture. If you get just one unboxing video on a superfan’s social media, it’s marketing gold. Just make sure the contents are worth getting excited about. Coming up with cool new stuff can be tricky over a long term, so plan ahead.
Pretty obvious, really. Don’t forget to do this, though. As long as you have a way of telling a superfan from a casual fan, you should have two prices for everything you sell. Casuals pay full price, superfans get the discount. And as noted later, don’t forget to consider special ticket prices for shows, too. Even though TomorrowsVerse says superfans will pay most for tickets, you still need to show them love at the door. After all, they show you love all the time.
Social Content for Superfans
Artist content for superfans often takes the form of personal communications. After all, how could it not? But there are still some tried and true methods.
Ask Me Anythings started on Reddit and grew everywhere else. You can host one there or on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, chatrooms, or really anywhere online. An AMA needs to be publicized just like a live performance. Your marketing for the event needs to have the place, date and time it’s happening, of course. You might want to subtly suggest a general topic, too. For example: “Thursday November 12 on the Official YourBandHere Instagram Page, an exclusive AMA only for superfans.”
Since you’re running it for superfans, you’ll have fewer people. That means you’ll probably want to stock up on questions beforehand. Ask each superfan to provide some questions days or weeks before the event. When the AMA starts, answer at least one prepared question from each superfan in-between the questions which come during the AMA. You don’t want any awkward silences.
Exclusive Superfan Social Pages
The idea of a super-secret VIP-only fan clubhouse can be very attractive to fans. The problem is that, well, they’re exclusive. The whole idea behind developing your relationship with superfans is that you want them to market for you to everyone else. They can’t do that behind closed doors.
When you’re still starting out and don’t have too many superfans, don’t think much of an exclusive area. There’s nothing worse for your image than an empty party. If your superfans join the OFFICIAL SUPERFANS CLUB on social media only to find very little activity in there, they may rethink their enthusiasm. That’s not useful artist content for superfans.
If you do have a clutch of enthusiastic fans, though, you can make this work for you. Lots of indie bands such as The National have exclusive pages. Make sure to occasionally post things they do and say to your regular pages. Not all the time, of course (or what would be the point?). Just enough to let your casual fans know there’s an exclusive party going on. That can build excitement.
Post things in these exclusive pages you don’t post other places. It makes sense to post more personal things in here, but don’t mingle so closely with your audience that you lose your mystery. You want superfans to clamor for more. They can’t do that if they’re totally aware of every facet of your life.
And of course, refer to the previous section and make some exclusive merch for members of your Superfan Social Pages.
Behind-the-scenes posts are a staple of exclusive artist content for superfans. They’re especially useful around performance time. That’s where lots of the most interesting photos come from. Tours make content like this almost constantly.
BtS material can also come from practice rooms, recording studios, songwriting sessions, and any place you get together with your crew.
To make these posts exclusive, you can post them to Superfans groups, sure. But what if you don’t have those groups? There are good reasons for some artists not to have them, yet. Collecting email addresses for superfans is easy. Send them that way. Collecting snail-mail addresses is easy, too, and superfans get pretty excited when they get a printed, signed behind-the-scenes photo in the mail. If you take this route, it’s worth your time to write a little something on the back of the photo. Oh, and use actual photo paper for your color printer, too. It’s cheaper to buy a printer than it is to do this at a printshop like Kinko’s, so make the investment.
If you’re brief — emphasis on the word brief, here — you can make superfans really happy with just a private message. Keep it super short or else you’ll lose the artist’s mystique. But if you don’t enter into full-on dialogs with your fans (save that for AMAs) this is cheap, effective exclusive content they love.
Example: “Hi Superfan! Just a note that I saw your post about X song. I’m glad you like it — that’s one of my personal favorites. Cheers to you from [your hometown here]! – [Signature]”
Many will come back with a follow-up question. If you answer it — briefly — make sure to terminate the exchange: “Yes, we did record that on analog. Well, back to songwriting now. Thanks for being a superfan, Superfan!”
Also in the same vein as messaging is SuperPhone, a texting service specifically to connect artists to fans created by musician Ryan Leslie. To use the service, fans fill out a specialized online form to be added to the artist’s list. After that, they can text the artist directly.
What’s so good about that? The SuperPhone app lets artists see which fans spend the most money on music and merch, which fans haven’t been talked with for awhile, and which fans would be willing to pay X-amount of money to attend a private show. It does more than that, too, so it’s at least worth looking into.
But after the merch and the social media, there’s the mother of all artist content for superfans…:
Music Content for Superfans
The holy grail for exclusive loot isn’t merch or social media, of course. Superfans are superfans for one reason only: they really like your independent music. So how do you make a superfan extremely excited? With exclusive music content for superfans, of course. This can take several forms. These are just some ideas.
Music Content for Superfans as Previews
Previews are marvelous because you don’t have to make anything new at all. Take a particularly impressive portion of your new single, or several from an album, and make this available at your official website or some other online platform just for superfans. This is great marketing on several levels.
Highlighting the best of your music makes people anticipate it more. When they finally hear your official release, they’ll actually like it more because they’ve already heard some. But most importantly, superfans get to wave it around as a badge of honor, which is really what you want them to do.
How do we know it works? Because pretty much everyone has been doing it for years: Danny Brown, Drake, Big Sean, Young Thug, Chance the Rapper, and Nas are just a few. How easy is it for them to release their previews early (or only) to their superfans? So easy that superfans definitely expect it. That’s why Chance the Rapper let 500 of his best fanatics into a club all their own for their 2019 preview. Hard to top that.
Exclusive Acoustic or Acapella Tracks
There’s nothing more intimate than a musician performing music without the cover of studio magic. Many indie artists will say, “But not all artists can do this.” That’s not necessarily true.
While not all artists will be able to record entire tracks outside the studio, nearly all artists can record a twenty-second snippet of something which will wow superfans. You may need to come up with something extra-creative or unusual for you. You may need to record it 100 times. But if you do it enough, chances are you’ll be able to produce a single take which will truly endear your superfans to you.
You don’t necessarily have to leave the studio completely out of it, either. If you’re an EDM artist, imagine recording four video tracks of yourself tapping pencils and pens to make a really cool rhythm. A little video editing and you’ve got a pretty creative effort which just might go viral.
Well, you know. Among your superfans, at least.
Music Content for Superfans as Performed Live
Chance the Rapper may have opened a club and done some DJing, but what if you were to play a show just for your superfans? Living room performances are all the rage, too, with whole companies, websites, and even indie labels dedicated to them (Undertow Collective! Imagine Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate performing in your home). Your biggest fan base is probably in your hometown, so what’s keeping you from performing in your No. 1 fan’s backyard? If nothing, that’s a surefire way to solidify some hardcore fans for life. People don’t forget that.
And of course, there’s always guest-list spots for superfans you can raffle off or use as contest awards. Special ticket prices for shows also top the list of superfan expectations. Most venues won’t let you do this. You’ll need to pre-purchase the superfan tickets yourself and sell them to the fans at a loss. It’s not a loss, though. You’re investing in your superfans. Remember, each of them is a marketing powerhouse.
Music Content in Limited-Run Formats
Most people think of colored vinyl, but cassettes are also stylish today. There’s always the we-burned-this-ourselves signed and numbered CD, which you can package with cool art.
And for the uber-creative, there’s…
Music Content for Superfans on Paper
Whaaat? Yeah. In fact, there’s a whole indie label in Canada called Pentagon Black who releases every album solely on paper. What’s that mean, exactly? It means putting music online and then making some cover art, printing it out, and including somewhere on it a download code. Download codes can’t be traded around, so having one is as good as having a physical copy. Fans get all the cool art vinyl releases come with. They also get whatever swag you’d like to send with it (signed photo?). Many of them will hang it on their wall. And it’s dirt cheap to make and send. Do take note of the high-quality art Pentagon Black is delivering with these releases, though. If you’re really a stick-figure person, maybe hire an artist.
Music Content for Superfans as Exclusive Singles or Albums
This is more expensive in terms of time and creativity than many artists can afford. Still, there’s no topping the superfans-only music release for exclusivity. The music will leak anyhow, but superfans will still get it first, and to them, it’s the thought that counts.
Artists who have done this include the Beatles, Neil Young, U2, and plenty of others. There’s nothing to this, really. It’s exactly what it sounds like. If you’re really looking to say ‘thank you’ to your superfans, this is the ultimate way to do it.
Be careful, though. Drop one of these before you have a grip of releases already, and you can alienate all your listeners who have been waiting for your next release.
Artist Content for Superfans Is All About Exclusivity
In case we haven’t made it clear enough, the actual content is not necessarily as important as the exclusivity of it. You can make keychains fans will go gaga over so long as you only make a few of them. In fact, there’s something to be said for the idea, “If it sells out, don’t make any more of them.” That’s the M.O. of rock legends the Melvins, who make a new album almost every year, but who specialize in making physical copies of their music as scarce as possible.
That’s maybe not the best option for up-and-coming indie stars. But present and future superfans are always looking for the next hard-to-get anything. So here’s to playing hard-to-get.