Bob Dylan once said, “What good are fans? You can’t eat applause for breakfast. You can’t sleep with it.”
With the utmost respect, Mr. Dylan, I beg to disagree. The fans are everything.
While the digital era has led to many difficulties, challenges and changes for the music industry, it also has opened opportunities for music fans to interact with their favorite acts in ways that were not possible before.
Bon Iver partnered with the site Indaba Music to host the Bon Iver, Bon Iver: Stems Project, a contest that challenged fans to remix the songs from the band’s second album. The band chose the 10 best songs to feature on a remix-only album exclusively on the music-streaming service Spotify. The crowd-sourced album helped spread the popularity of the existing discography while giving fans new music to enjoy.
The xx made their album Coexist viral by tapping into people’s pride over cultural capital. The band shared the album with just one fan several days before its official release. Partnering with Microsoft, they tracked the digital sharing and global spread. This one fan was given something special that made that person hip, and “in the know.” That feeling led to flaunting through sharing, creating a viral sensation.
Washington duo Bluebrain released a location-aware album in the form of an app called The National Mall. This app responds to the listener’s location on the Mall in Washington, D.C., adapting to the user and the experience. The audio content of the album alters to interact with the environment, thus creating a unique listening experience every time the album is played en route. The group has created similar projects for Central Park in New York City and The Violet Crown in Austin, Texas.
These bands built experiences around the end users, their listeners. In creating unique, audience-centric ventures, the bands are engaging fans and giving them control over the outcome of each experience. Bands can then connect with them on a deeper level while establishing a distinct voice, and generating content that keeps devotees coming back and helping broaden an audience base.
If brands can interact with individuals and treat them like fans rather than consumers, maybe the next trade show will look like this.
Rachel Darivoff is an account executive at gyro New York
Follow her @rmdee