Aaron Bethune is a seasoned music industry professional, a published author, and an educator. His book, Musicpreneur: The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music, provides musicians with a career roadmap and is an essential read for any artist.
For this blog post, we are sharing a full chapter from Musicpreneur on fan profiling, or in other words, figuring out who your audience is. This chapter includes dozens of immediately useful websites, apps, and techniques that you can employ to advance your artist career today.
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Chapter 2 - Fan Profiling
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?
In this chapter I have put together links to free tools, with suggestions of ways to use them for developing the profile of your “Super Fan.” And by Super Fan I mean the fan who is going to buy all your music and merch products, attend as many shows as he or she 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 who 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 in this chapter to help you search for similar bands.
A good way to begin to know the profile of your Super Fan is to con- sider 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. But I have listed links to all the sites mentioned so that you can 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 in this segment. 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 not to know.
Here are some of those tools:
Next Big Sound conveniently takes stats from twenty-seven 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.
“Every day, thousands of people around the world write about music they love—and it all ends up here.” — Hype Machine
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.
Followerwonk is an amazing analytical tool. It gives in-depth analysis and profiling of your followers and those you follow. Knowing the gender, age, location and so on of your followers gives you insight into your fan demographic. This in turn tells you how, where and when best to market to them. The best part is that not only can you use it with your own Twitter handle, but you can enter the Twitter handles of similar artists and get the same in-depth stats on them.
From the perspective of profiling your fan, this has two benefits: (1) it gives you an idea of what type of followers/fans you have, and (2) it analyzes the same information of like-sounding bands’ followers to determine if those fans will match your fan profile. If they do, then start following and engaging with those fans online and soon enough they will be your fans too!
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.
“How far did your tweet travel?” — TweetReach
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. The more information you can add to your Super Fan profile, the more you can find out about your top fans and what their common interests are.
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 gives you insight into what their fans engage with the most. All links in this book are using shortened links.
Many companies out there offer link shortening. Here are a few:
Klout is an ingenious tool that puts a number or value on your overall social influence. It measures your online influence on a scale of 1 to 100. Having a number associated with your influence is a real motivator to improve your online presence if you have even the smallest competitive bone in your body! It is a great barometer of how influential your fans and their followers are.
In regards to profiling your Super Fan, the Klout profile descriptions can help you learn more about your fans as well as the community that they influence and those that influence them.
I suggest focusing your attention on the followers who are the most influential in their circles—those with the highest “Klout Score.” Influential on Klout does not mean having the most followers; it means having the most engaged followers.
Klout allows you to compare yourself to other Klout users. Comparing your Klout to that of another similar artist will give you insight into who they influence. The people they influence should be people you connect with. I recommend that, once you have used Klout to gain information about people’s influence and networks, you connect with them via Twitter. You can also use Klout to input the Twitter handles of those who follow you, to identify the most influential followers.
My favourite way of using Klout is via HootSuite.
HootSuite is a way to have all your social sites controlled from one location or dashboard. Although I will talk about HootSuite later on (see Chapter 5), 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-kilometre 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-kilometre 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.
Blog, website and Google analytics
Using the analytics or stats provided by blogs, websites and Google can give you key insights into various things, including where your visitors are from geographically, what keywords they have typed to come across your site, how long they spend on your site, which content gets the most action, which days and times of the week get the most traffic and which posts or tracks got the most views or listens on specific days.
Use your blog to find out how people came across you. Seeing the search terms used can give you an idea of what brings people to your site. These search terms can give you an idea of your viewers’ interests. It also is a good barometer of what your brand is attracting. In turn it can help you to create content, tags and so on that can help with search engine optimization (SEO).
People who comment are potential Super Fans. They are the ones you want to be sure to engage with. From the perspective of profiling your fan, you can check out each commenter’s profile or Gravatar to gain more information on the person. You can even find out what blogs those who comment are subscribed to and learn more about their interests.
Use the blog analytics to discover where your audience is coming from. This again will help you focus your marketing efforts, your distribution strategy and your tour scheduling.
Use TV to profile your fans
If you have had the opportunity to license your music to television, you can tap into the resources of the TV show involved to find out more about the demographic of its audience. You can find out where the show’s ratings are highest, so as to have an idea of popularity based on geographical location.
Quite often TV series have music players on their websites with the names and songs of the artists featured on their shows. This can give you an idea of other artists that sound like you. Once again, this can help you when it comes to comparing your fan profile to that of another established artist.
If your music has not been licensed, you can still use these resources as long as you are able to identify shows that play music of a similar style to yours.
TuneFind can help you identify the music that you hear on movies and TV shows.
Adtunes can help you identify the music used in commercials.
Once you have found your fans on other sites, you can search for them on Pinterest and you can also search the Pinterest pages of artists who sound similar to you. Pinterest will give you a very visual idea of what your fans’ interests are. Because your music is only a part of the engagement with your fans, it is important to know some of the common interests you might share.
Keep in mind that if you were to find out that your fan is a female between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-seven who enjoys yoga and outdoor living, is a vegetarian and has no kids, you might decide to approach your music marketing from the angle of a yoga-equipment company. You might choose to establish brand partnerships with companies unrelated to the music industry that are influential in the lives of your targeted demographic. Finding your way into the hearts of potential fans via lifestyle choices and brand consumption is a great way to set yourself apart from the pack.
Use iTunes to see other albums or artists purchased by the people that bought your music. This gives you an idea of who else your fans are a fan of. As mentioned here many times, you can use the fans of others to build the profile of your own fan.
Keep in mind that people who go to the extent of commenting and engaging on blog posts and leaving reviews on sites such as iTunes and Amazon are potential Super Fans.
As a side note, when a comment or review is negative, you can give yourself a pat on the back for generating passion in people! With passionate diehard fans come passionate “haters” too. Great brands create passion. Author and branding expert Marty Neumeier puts it best when he invokes the words of human rights activist Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.” Negative comments can be opportunities to start a conversation and ultimately lead to converting that bad reviewer into a new-found Super Fan.
As for how to get featured on iTunes, mobilizing fans to download your music around a specific day or event really does increase your chances of spiking and arousing attention. The number of downloads it takes depends on the genre. But if you are able to get attention with enough action in one day and everything available online shows that you are the real deal and not just trying to cheat the system, you could get featured on the front page of the genre you are in.
For example, if it takes one hundred downloads of a folk artist in one day to create a spike, how could you organize at least one hundred fans to purchase your latest single on the same day? Get creative. Here are some ideas to get the juices flowing:
- You could include a $10 iTunes gift card as part of the ticket price to your concert, or even with the purchase of a physical album, and then find a way to have everyone use it to purchase your album during the show. Make it some sort of a ritual. They get it for free, you get the majority of the money you spent on the gift cards back via your digital distributor (from the iTunes sales), and you get the chance to be featured on the iTunes page. What happens if you were to give out one hundred cards a night on an extensive tour?
- You could call your mailing list into action to purchase your latest single on a specific day and in return gift them the rest of the album electronically. All you would need is proof they purchased it, such as an iTunes receipt or a screenshot of the download. While you’re at it you could ask them to leave a review on iTunes in return for a bonus song.
- You could have a laptop at your merch stand and have people log in to their iTunes account and purchase your single. They could also use their phones and mobile devices to log in and buy it. In return you can give them a link to download the entire album digitally for free. The pitch is “99 cents for the full album.”
Being featured is an editorial process. Be sure to communicate with your aggregator (such as CD Baby, TuneCore or Ditto Music) to ensure they include your content on the list that goes to the iTunes editorial teams.Every little bit counts and the potential exposure is more than worth it!
Use Facebook Insights to understand more about your audience members and how they interact with your posts. By knowing what posts pique your audience’s interest, where your audience is from geographically, the languages the members of your audience speak and the gender and age group they belong to, you have more information for the profile of your Super Fan.
YouTube provides analytics for its videos, which give you insights into where the most views are from geographically; details about the age demographic, the gender of the listeners, likes and comments; as well as top playback locations, and top traffic sources. YouTube recently added a function that allows you to identify your most engaged and influential subscribers. You can use the information from your own videos and also find the same information for videos from artists you consider to be similar to you. Use their fan profiles to help shape your own! YouTube annotations and keywords are also important tools as they help you learn more about your demographic and target them more efficiently.
Use Google Trends to search for similar artists, song titles of similar-sounding tracks, lyrics, brands and so on. You will be able to gauge such factors as the online interest that currently exists, whether the artists and songs are actively being searched for and whether there is more or less interest presently than in the past. You’ll also find out such information as what search terms are most popular, how popular the topic is and where most people are searching those keywords from geographically.
For example, by searching for “Kings of Leon” you will find out in which countries people are most actively searching information about them and what search terms people are using, and you will be able to compare dates of when people were most actively searching for the name and particular events and articles that took place at the time. Consequently, you can learn about what in particular sparked people’s interest in doing a search. This information helps you learn more about the audience that exists for artists that are similar to you and so gives you more information to add to your own Super Fan profile. It is a good source of marketing ideas and research too. Additionally, Google Trends gives a lot of insight into keywords to use in your online content, as well as topics to blog about to help with your SEO.
Trends are cyclical. In the cycle of a movie, there is talk of the film being made, then you see the trailers, the interviews and pre-release articles, then the movie comes out and there are more reviews, then the DVD, and so on. During that process, people will be actively searching for information online. However, once the cycle is over the searching stops. It is only when a 3-D version is made, or, for example, a movie is remastered, brought back in colour or released on BlueRay and marketing and media come into play again that we see new spikes appear in the trends.
When “new” information is released or “new” events take place around a previous trend, new spikes appear. The interesting thing
is that a topic may not have lost people’s interest—they may still be fans of Harry Potter books and films, for example—but it may simply be over the novelty phase. To create Google Trend peaks you need to create conversation, media interest, online content and so forth around your brand. If it is a matter of peaking old trends, you need to bring something “new”—something that once again generates media interest, conversation, online content...
You can use Sonicbids to find out about gigs that other artists who sound like you have landed. This gives you an idea of who might be interested in you and which opportunities might exist. If you start looking into the types of audience that the people, companies or brands supplying the gigs have you will obtain more information to research, more search terms to use and more potential Super Fans to win over.
Ask Your Fans Who They Are!
After all the previous suggestions, I cannot leave out the most direct approach: ask your fans who they are. Use online surveys and have sign-up sheets at your concerts, with pertinent fields for fans to fill in.
Many companies offer surveys that can be sent out in different ways, including via social media or in newsletters or emails.
Always consider the fan and the WIFM (what’s in it for me) factor, by giving back something in return for someone’s time. Get creative. Get creative with the questions and get creative with what you offer in return.
Here are a few companies that provide surveys:
All accumulated data plays an immensely important role in how you market your brand. It helps you create Facebook ads to target your fan demographic. It helps you know which platforms to focus on and which to forget about. It can affect your tour routing and the types of venues you approach, as well as the choice of radio stations you send your music to. Even the merchandise you create will be affected once you know who’s buying it. You can create marketing strategies that will appeal to your fan base and not miss the mark. Without knowing your fan base it is all just a shot in the dark.
It’s obviously preferable to send out newsletters whose content appeals to your fan base. Just think: with all the accumulated data, you can create a newsletter containing information people want to read about as well as details of experiences and products that they not only want to purchase but that fit their personal income. Keep in mind that knowing where your fans are from and what their ages are means you are able to find out what average incomes are in their area. If you know where your fans are and what they do for work, you can use a tool like Salary.com (atnmusi.ca/ch2h32) to know their average income.
- When creating a sign-up form for a newsletter, request information that will tell you the most about your fans.
- When you give music away for free, be sure to gather as much data in return as possible. The more data, the easier it is to create a profile.
- Gather more info from fans at live performances by handing out free download cards that will entice them to give information you request when redeeming the download online.
- It is said that what we are passionate about when we are younger—in our teens—is what continues to be our deep- rooted passion as we get older. If you know the age of your fans, you can find out what the pop culture of the day was when they were in their teens and that too can spark ideas in your marketing efforts.
Other sites to check out
The following sites are useful for monitoring media mentions. You can use them to monitor your own mentions and also those of similar-sounding artists, brands and so on. That can give you insight into good places to focus your own media attention. These sites are especially useful for measuring the success of your campaigns (and you can directly apply the tools they offer to the "Music PR" and "Social Media" chapters of this book—Chapters 4 and 5 respectively).
*This excerpt has been edited from the original text to exclude dead links to websites and services that are no longer in business.
Aaron Bethune is available for 1-on-1 online mentoring through the Pyramind Mentorship Network in the following topics:
Music Business • Artist Development • Talent Management • Marketing & Branding • Defining Your Signature Sound/Style • Licensing for Television • Licensing for Advertising • Brand Strategy • Artist & Career Coaching • Licensing for Games • Licensing for Film • Contract Negotiations • Marketing Consulting & Guidance • Incorporating Various Talents into Your Career • Business Plans