Direct to fan marketing has been breaking down the barriers between artists and fans for some time now, and with mediums like Twitter and Facebook providing a direct link socially and Kickstarter and Pledge Music allowing artists to fund their projects by tapping into their fanbases, the two sides are closer than ever. Friday's SXSW Music panel "Give Fans A Reason To Buy: Make Direct-To-Fan Work" addressed the question of how artists can turn direct marketing into actual dollars.
Moderated by Brendan Moore (product manager, Frontgate) and with panelists Emily White (Whitesmith Entertainment/ Readymade Records), Benji Rogers (founder, Pledge Music), Nicole St. Jean (Topspin Media), and artist Julia Nunes, the panel tackled four questions ranging from merchandise packages to giving away free music to whether or not artists should release their music on their own websites before it hits iTunes or Spotify.
"Spend 10 percent of your creative energy thinking about how your music will reach your fans," said Rogers, whose company, much like Kickstarter, helps create incentivized fundraising campaigns for artists hoping to put out new music. "You need to personalize it, and make it about who you are."
White, who works at Brendan Benson's Readymade Records label, was able to tap into Benson's penchant for fashion and headphones by packaging his music with other merchandise, including reaching out to Benson's favorite headphone company to add their headphones to the bundles associated with his upcoming new record. "Direct-to-fan bundles are tied with publishing as our artists' number one revenue stream," she said.
Giving away free music is another boost for artists, with the panelists dismissing the idea that it cannibalizes record sales, instead saying that it's a way of getting people to hear music that and creating buzz that translates into sales. Nunes related a story about giving away one of her songs right before she performed on Conan, creating a buzz and getting people talking about her song before she played it, but for Rogers it's an even simpler concept than that. "If you've got a great song, get it into people's ears any way possible," he said.