What You Should Know About Your Fans

Stop trying to get a recording contract, you have no idea what is inside one of those 120 page, single space contracts anyway. Instead get to know who your fan is.

That's right. Study up on your fans, the people who come to see your live shows, buy your records and merchandise, and visit your web sites. Those folks are the most valuable asset you have outside of the outrageously great songs you have written. Studying the lifestyles of your fans will give you a passport to making money with your music. Why? Because when you discover who they are in great detail, their habits and lifestyles will inspire ways of reaching them you never imagined.

Haven't you seen hundreds of entertainment products and other merchandise for sale at unusual stores and other places outside of the obvious stores? You know, stuff like the action figures associated with some mega movie promotion given away with a hamburger. Or, how about those special deals where if you subscribe to a certain magazine, you get a free book or discount coupons good for movie tickets. Well, if you have it is because most every company that has a product to sell spends a huge amount of time, effort, and money researching the lifestyles of their potential customers. So, here are a bunch of questions you can spend some time researching and thinking about. After I list the questions I will show you some examples of how to use the answers to these questions.

  • How old are they? (determine the widest range of their ages)
  • What gender are they? (if both, what percentage is dominant, or is it even?)
  • Are they of one particular ethnic background or a mix of backgrounds?
  • Do they drive cars to work, or do they carpool, take public transportation, ride bikes, or walk?
  • If they go to school, what kind of schools do they go to?...gradeschools, highschools, colleges, business schools, universities?
  • Are they religious people, or spiritual seekers, or athiests?
  • What political parties do they belong to, and what if any causes do they champion?
  • If they go out to dinner, what kind of restaurants do they go to...fancy and expensive places or fast food restaurants?
  • Where do they shop for clothes...Value Village, Kmart or Nordstroms?
  • What kind of hobbies and other interests beside music do they have... mountain climbing, hiking, jogging, boating, other sports activities?
  • What other music do they like...particularly what other bands and artists do they spend their money on?
  • What kind of movies do they go see in theaters, and/or rent at videostores?
  • When they travel, do they go by car, bus, train, or plane?
  • What books might they enjoy reading, and where would they buy them?
  • What kind of volunteer work might they do...work in hospitals, fairs and festival volunteers, church groups, youth clubs?
  • What TV shows might they watch, and what radio stations do they listen to?
  • What internet web sites do they visit on a regular basis?

OK. So now, how do you begin finding out all the answers to these questions? Well, a client came to me one time and told me that for 2 years they had been videotaping their live shows to watch at rehearsals, so they could see what their stage appearance looked like from the audiences point of view. I applauded this habit, but told them that after 2 years of doing that they should turn the video camera around and videotape their audience! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So, studying your audience for awhile should give you some big clues to their lifestyles. You will see their ages and genders, their hairstyles and clothing, and if you look between the lines you can make some pretty good educated guesses on some of the things I have suggested in the questions listed above.

In the beginning you will have to get use to this new habit of studying your fan. Give it time. After awhile your ongoing survey of who they are will begin to tell it tale, and before long you will be thinking like a professional marketer.

When you see that most of your audience are 18-25 for example, are more male than female, are in community colleges or enrolled in a university nearby,and buy their clothes at second hand stores...then you can find some fun and exciting promotion and marketing ideas that may catch their attention. Like, concentrate your live shows on having house parties, or playing campus venues, and blanketing the campuses with posters and flyers. Get a campus organization to sponsor one of your shows, get a listing or a story about your act in the college paper, and partner with a local record store to sell your concert tickets and offer a dollar off your CD when they buy a concert ticket. Make your show a partial benefit for that charity second hand clothing store, so that they can promote your show with posters and handouts to their customers, and have a small display at their checkout counter for your CD at the clothing store too. (But don't forget to sell your CD and other merchandise at all your shows, and have your mailing list available for the new fans to sign up for).

If your fan research shows that you have fans who are older, you will have to go a different route. let's say they are females, 25-39 and live an alternative lifestyle that includes shopping at having groups of friends over for a book club discussion, listening to acoustic music, and preferring tea to coffee. Then think about doing what I call 'tell a friend' acoustic home concerts. You select a fan to host a show at their home and invite their friends to attend for free. You again make your money by selling your CDs and other merchandise to an ever expanding fanbase. Then. If you have a CD called 'Red' for example, and you are sitting around that tea shop and you notice they have a brand of tea called 'Red', approach the shop owner and tell them you have a natural co-promotion you can do with their tea and your CD. ( A free box of tea with every CD sold at their

So, there you go. The list of promotional ideas and inspirations for creative self marketing are endless, when and if you know who your customer is. The best independent labels out there are thinking this way all the time. That is why you may have seen hip hop CD compilations for sale at shoe stores, or found CD samplers given away at bookstores. Your customer is really not that much different than you. Just start paying attention wherever you are, and wherever they are and watch how other products are being sold and marketed. The customers are out there, but they have a lot to choose from, so get your music to them in fun and creative ways.

Your fans won't let you down.

Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab