I’m a casual fan of the White Shoes And The Couples Company. I love their music and try to collect all their albums, but not to the point where I try to keep myself updated with everything they do. The albums are always great and refreshing, and the live shows are never a disappointment, whenever I have the chance of watching them. And every time they have the chance to go overseas and play, they always take the time to record some audio or video to offer to their fans.
I came to their ‘Six Live Selection’ event last Friday (August 10,2012) at W Space, Kemang, Jakarta. It was a small event with around 150-200 people present, and we paid Rp 20,000 for tickets; there was an obligatory merchandise stand as well inside, selling limited edition t-shirts, tote bags and numbered CDs (they only printed 200).
Before playing a 90-minute live set of various songs, a projector played videos they recorded of their adventures to various overseas locations, including several live recordings. The limited-release album itself is a collection of six live-recorded songs, and they are also recorded the ‘Six Live Selection’ event for possible future release. The album was also available for pre-order online before the event.
WSATCC is one example of a band which is definitely not playing mainstream music, but kept surviving and flourishing despite the overall music industry’s woes. Their music is unique and they have managed to build a loyal fan following, even overseas.
I am not privy to the band’s financials, but I dare say they are one of many bands who are not wholly dependent on selling recorded music as a large part of their income. They also sell merchandise, and I assume they have many paid performing gigs as well. And who knows, they might already be making money form Google Ads running on their Youtube videos? And you never know, the band might actually have jobs or projects they run on the side.
The great thing of being in a popular band, or have a good fan following for your movie/music/comic projects, is that the word of mouth happens automatically. Using the social networks smartly and maintaining a good website or Facebook fanpage are essential to further amplify the message. But when it comes down to it, these digital tools might not be the things that actually make you money.
Play your cards right, and a well-constructed “campaign” (if we have to use that word) through social networks will drive people to your concerts/events, buy merchandise or CDs, and even spend some extra for some premium or limited-edition products.
A replied tweet from a favorite musician might mean more to a fan than that mp3 file they downloaded (and possibly paid for), because it’s the intangible value of the tweet that attaches itself to the emotions of the fan. Ringbacktones worked (for a while at least) as a musical way for people to express their feelings, but it did not necessarily offer the personal connection between the fan and the musician.
These kinds of connections are only created in experiences that go beyond selling something for your phone or for your computer, and it’s no wonder that many kids today aren’t willing to pay for something so impersonal, yet are willing to spend money to buy seemingly silly phone cases like this.
You can use the digital landscape to build up a fan base and goodwill towards your creation, amplify your message, and direct fans to experiences like private concerts or screenings that simply cannot be duplicated by selling a CD or offering a paid digital download. A little something for everybody – the casual fan might be able to download stuff for free from the internet, but the most hardcore fan could hang out with the band and pay for limited premium products.
Instead of having a generic product that is offered to all (i.e. a CD album or a music download), creating different packages of experiences – from free to the super premium – will ensure that the most loyal fans have a higher sense of belonging to you and your work, and will similarly invest in it by buying your products.
But of course, you have to be really good to get fans in the first place.
Ario is a co-founder of Ohd.io, an Indonesian music streaming service. He worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog onhttp://barijoe.wordpress.com.
[Image source: Flickr/Jazzuality]