The following article is featured in the current issue of Canadian Musician. To view the original article and many more please visit: www.canadianmusician.com
By Aaron Bethune
Fans are the single most important element of a professional and satisfying career in music. Without fans you’re an amateur! Two things I have noticed in successful musicians are that (1) their goals are clearly defined, and (2) their audiences are even more clearly defined. If you don’t know your fans, how are you going to market your music to them?
I have put together a list of free online tools, with suggestions of ways to use them for developing the profile of your “super fan.” By super fan I mean the fan who is going to buy all your music and merchandise, attend as many shows they can, rave about you to friends, join your street team, call in to the radio to request your song, leave reviews, talk about you online, blog about you, contribute to crowdfunding campaigns, and so on.
Start by identifying at least five bands that are embodying the goals you have set for yourself. Don’t pick big household names, because they will have too many fans that are not exclusive to their band. Start by picking local acts you like who have a good following both off- and online. If you don’t know who you sound like, start off by asking other people. If you find categorizing and comparing your music to that of others to be difficult, you can also use the tools I have provided to help you search for similar bands.
A good way to begin to know the profile of your super fan is to consider what you already know about your existing fans, find out more about the fans of artists who are similar to you, and then look for overlaps. More established artists will have a clearer understanding of their fan base and you can use the available tools to tap into that information. I suggest that you write out a profile of your super fan, using as much information as you can acquire. My descriptions below may not provide sufficient information on their own, especially if you do not have prior knowledge of how the platforms involved work. Go to the sites mentioned to educate yourself as well as start accounts and put them to use. The most important thing is to get your mind working on these kinds of concepts and ideas and how they can be used to serve a specific purpose. Of course, there are countless websites that can help you profile your fan, and I suggest you look further than just the ones listed here. Note that this way of doing things may not be to every musician’s taste, but it’s always better to know what’s out there than to not know.
Here are some of those tools:
Next Big Sound
Next Big Sound conveniently takes stats from 27 social platforms and gives you feedback about your fan base. This information includes gender, location, preferred social platforms, and even which songs and videos are most popular. One of my favourite features is being able to cross-check which events directly impacted the number of views of videos and plays of songs and got your fans buzzing about you online. If you create an account with Last.fm, you can see suggested “similar artists.” If you know of artists you sound like, you can get all the same information on them. Knowing more about their fan base and what type of events created spikes in fan engagement can be a great way to learn more about your potential super fan and about ways to create better fan engagement.
Hype Machine scans blogs across the internet and finds the music that is being featured. Once you find a blog that is featuring music by an artist who sounds similar to you, you have the option to see other tracks or artists those blogs play. This has two great functions: (1) it helps you find artists who sound like you and tap into their fan bases on social networks (e.g., follow and interact with their fans on Twitter); and (2) it gives you a great way of knowing which blogs to approach with your own music. Being featured on blogs is a huge source of exposure today. I have spoken to countless industry folk, including label representatives and music supervisors, who discover artists on blogs. Obviously you can use Hype Machine to find similar-sounding artists to you and then use some of the other tools here to get more information on them. Just saying …
This computational knowledge engine is a great resource for all kinds of calculations. However, in the case of profiling your fan, I recommend typing “Facebook Profile” in the search box. This will provide a detailed analysis of your Facebook profile. You will find stats on people’s ages, genders, geographical location, who “likes” and “shares” your posts the most (this give you an insight into who your existing super fans are), which posts and photos generate the most interaction (this gives you an idea of what to post more of), and so on. You might just find that your biggest fans are not the age, gender or nationality that you thought!
Also keep in mind that targeting friends of friends on Facebook can provide good fans in the same way that following the Twitter followers of like-sounding artists can. People are often friends because of similarities in interests, pastimes, location, and so forth.
This is a great resource for finding out such information as how far your Tweets travel, who the most influential Tweeters are, and who retweets your posts the most. This will give you a good idea of who your super fans are and whose followers to follow. If you type in the Twitter handle of an artist who sounds similar to you, you can find out who their most active followers are so as to follow and engage with them. You can also type in a word or topic and identify the most influential people tweeting about it. This, again, can help you to find potential fans.
Link shorteners, other than doing the obvious, give you stats on your links. These stats include number of clicks and saves. This all helps you learn more about your fans’ interests.
Not only can you view the stats of the links that you have posted but you can check out the stats of links posted by others. Knowing the stats on links that similar artists post provides insight into what their fans engage with the most.
Many companies out there offer link shortening, including Bitly, Goo.gl, is.gd, Ow.ly, Readability, Tinyurl, and v.gd.
HootSuite is a way to have all your social sites controlled from one location or dashboard. Although there are many ways to use Hootsuite, for now I want to discuss how you can use it to profile your fan(s).
HootSuite has a number of analytical tools. For example, it provides stats from its own link shortener. You are able to see which links get the most action based on number of clicks, as well as what day they are opened. This gives you feedback about your audience’s interests.
One of the coolest features in HootSuite is the ability to create streams. Once you choose to “add stream,” you are able to set it up as a search or a Twitter list. You can then filter the stream by keyword or by using Klout. This enables you to narrow down what appears in a stream by setting the filter to display only people of a specific Klout Score or by specific keywords.
Additionally, when creating a stream as a search you can choose to use your location to show local results. This automatically displays the results within a 25-km. radius. However, if you want you can change the longitude or latitude of your current location to that of anywhere in the world (you can use Google Maps Labs to find longitudes and latitudes). This allows you to create searches for specific geographical areas. For example, while located in Vancouver, Canada, you can find out within a 25-km. radius of downtown London, England (this can be set to a greater radius if you wish) who is talking about U2 and filter the stream so that it shows only people of a minimum Klout Score. I am sure you can see the benefits.
There are many more fan profiling tools including Followerwonk that give in-depth analysis and profiling of your followers and those you follow. These tools also allow you to get the same in-depth stats on similar artists to you and their super fans, helping you to determine if their fans will match your own fan profile. These tools are just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot include all tools here due to space, so use this article as a jumping off point for further research of your own.
In part two in the January/February issue, we will look at fan profiling tools in blogs, websites, and Google, iTunes, Facebook, and more, as well as how all this data impacts your career building decisions moving forward.
Aaron Bethune is a musician, consultant, creative collaborator, founder of the music services company PlayItLoud, a juror for FACTOR, and the author of Musicpreneur: The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music, in which this and much more career building advise can be found. For more information, go to www.musicpreneur.ca. Aaron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
END PART ONE