Superfans Are Changing the Face of Music Marketing

Posted on October 16, 2018 by Media Culture

It wasn’t that long ago that musicians followed a fairly standard rise to stardom.

They played gigs in dark, dank little hole-in-the-wall bars, moved up to bigger and better, albeit local, engagements, then someone discovered them. That discovery by a music label would give the artists the freedom to focus on the music, while the music industry marketers pushed their funky sound onto awaiting and adoring fans. And ‘round and ‘round it went.

Napster and BitTorrent broke that cycle, making music piracy a serious concern. Then iTunes, Spotify and others gave Millenials the option to listen to digital music legally and throw away their vinyl and CDs forever. All of this ultimately collided with today’s social media society, where a new type of fan roams: the superfan.

These aren’t the kind of superfans that sit in the bushes or dig through an artist’s garbage in the hopes of finding some rare and unique treasure. These are the kind that support that artist in a million different ways, from providing financial support to acting as a sort of intermediary social media force.

Marketing in the Music Industry is Changing Rapidly

Music promotion isn’t what it used to be.

That could easily be said about most things, but when it comes to music marketing it kind of goes double. Music does things to people that laundry soap and tire and lube shops just can’t. It inspires them, even sometimes driving them to near-obsession. But with great obsession can come great engagement.

That’s where the superfan comes in. Superfans aren’t content to just buy an album or a T-shirt, they want the rare album and the most uncommon T-shirt, as well as the inside look at everything. They want to be there in spirit, if not in the flesh. What’s truly magical about the true superfan, though, is that they’re willing to take these experiences and share them with people who may not be “super,” but are certainly fans.

They run volunteer news sites about their favorite artist, they organize streams of popular songs to try to outcompete other artists in their genre, and they get the word out about amazing bands that no one has ever heard of. These people are the central hub of social media music marketing, often doing a better job than the pros of music promotion because of their very high level of interest and engagement.

Superfans not only know the platforms, they also know the game. And they’re molding it to their whims, something many marketers only dream of doing. 

How Do Marketers Harness the Power of These Unique Influencers?

The average superfan isn’t who you think it is.

Sure, it might be a 14-year-old girl who worships One Direction, but it’s just as likely to be her mom, or her dad or her granddad. That’s one truly interesting part of the music superfan phenomenon. They’re from every walk of life, but they all have one goal: to see their favorite artists succeed. And they’ll help in that effort however they can.

This isn’t to say that marketers should take advantage of their generosity – quite the opposite, in fact. But the future of music marketing has to include superfans or else there’s nothing.

So, here are a few things to consider when building a marketing plan for your next up and coming musician:

  • Find the superfans early. The earlier, the better. They’ll help you add some genuine enthusiasm to your social media efforts, as well as potentially providing shortcuts to finding audience bases. After all, there are a lot of social networks and not everyone is on Facebook.
  • Give back to the superfans that are useful. Some superfans will be serious over-steppers. These people may leak information, hack accounts or commit other acts of deviance in the hopes of getting a glimpse of something secret. They’re not helping your effort at all.

    Others will be helpful, respectful and seriously well-versed in the artists they support. These guys, they’re the cream of the crop. Don’t just assume they’re going to be in it for the kudos. Make it worth their effort by securing free concert tickets, backstage passes and other bonuses based on how hard they work for your artist.

  • Always act in your artist’s best interest. The music superfan phenomenon can lead to temptation to go too far with those “insider looks.” Your artist may be trying very hard to give their fans everything they want, but there has to be a line in the sand. There must be boundaries that are just far enough in for the fans and just far enough out that your musician can have some privacy and freedom to relax. Otherwise, you’re basically just enabling the social media paparazzi.

Injecting your music social media marketing with the enthusiasm of a superfan may seem like a difficult undertaking, but these are people who are eager to help. Just choose your influencers carefully, make sure they’re not likely to divulge too much information and help guide the conversation for the best success in this realm.

Anyone can be a successful musician today, even if they’ve never set foot in a smoke-filled dive bar. It just takes the right team of superfans.

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