By Denise Zavitson – Chief Entertainment Specialist, Staks

Today’s artists desperately need a path away from social media interference and back to their fans. In order to succeed, they need a place where they can get to know the people that love them, share content, track real engagements, and, oh yeah, celebrate music. In short, they need a fan club.

Sure, it’s a digital world, but there’s plenty we can learn from the old-fashioned fan club. Let’s explore how bands can move toward more genuine fan connection and independence within the music industry through the power of the fan club.

Bring back the fan clubs of yore
Fan relationships can be powerful. Case in point: when famed jam band Donna the Buffalo started a crowdfunding campaign for a new bus last year, their fan base, the Herd, came through for them in a big way. How big? $90,000 big.

Members of Donna the Buffalo have been nurturing those fan relationships for thirty years, from the long lost time of physical albums, traditional radio and proper fan clubs. The latter has played a big role in the careers of some of music’s most legendary groups over the years. The Beatles, for example, released exclusive content direct to their fan club, whose fervor sparked its own term (for the youngsters out there, we’re referring, of course, to ‘Beatlemania.’)

Social media makes a mess of fan relationships
So whatever happened to the fan club? It’s been replaced by the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and (#RIP) MySpace, all of which have promised closer social connections through now tried and true features like following, friending, posting, “liking,” chat, direct message and more. But for emerging artists, who rely on these platforms to nurture fan relationships, the reality is a little more complicated. How so?

  • No ownership
    • If the only record of your following lives on a platform like Facebook, then Meta owns it, not you. You don’t own the data, which limits the degree to which you can leverage it strategically. The platform becomes a third-party mediator rather than a direct connector of fans and bands.
  • No solid numbers
    • Need to quantify your following for a prospective label? Given how easy it is to buy followers, massive followings on platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t carrythe same weight anymore.
    • After all, a band could have 200 million followers—but fail to sell out a 200-person venue. Without a reliable way to authenticate your following –to prove that a certain quantity of people show up and open their wallets when you play –you lose major bargaining power and influence with potential labels.
  • Algorithm interference
    • Even if you can’t run numbers or impress the big wigs, these platforms at least allow you to post content and communicate directly to your fans, right? Not exactly. Strict (and ever-changing) algorithms dictate who sees what on a given feed, so you can’t assume that the right people will see your content. For that, you’ve got to pay for targeted advertising.

It’s time for a change
For artists who want to pursue a professional music career, social media isn’t the democratic game-changer for fan-building that it once seemed. Bands need a new way to connect that’s not owned or mediated by a third party. A way to both own the relationship and actually communicate directly. In essence, they need a fan club—this time digital.

Hoping to “make it” in music?
Keep these questions in mind when it comes to building your fan base:

  • Can you have an interactive dialogue with your fans? Find out what they really think or prefer when it comes to your music?
  • Do you have a direct way to reward your biggest fans—with exclusive music, merch, content and more?
  • Are you able to document (and authenticate) your following—including the people who actually show up and show out for you at events?
  • Can you pinpoint exactly who purchased what, when and where?

While we can’t go back in time, we can learn from the successes of yesterday’s fan club moving forward—and put the power back in the hands of those making music, and most importantly, those supporting it.

Start with Staks
Our apps for musicians and their fans, StaksMusician and StaksPay, bring you closer to your fans by helping them discover your performances, leave tips, buy merch and more while you maintain an auditable record of fan participation and a direct line of communication to share exclusive content, issue rewards and more. Click here to learn more.

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We’re building a platform where fan experience is KING.