The "Secrets to Fan Engagement" panel at SXSW Music veered from the most effective methods of online engagement (Facebook took number one, with email blasts just below it and Twitter surprisingly far behind) to the ways in which innovative marketing strategies and events can bring in new fans and press.
Moderated by The Knitting Factory marketing director Valerie Gurka, the panel consisted of ReverbNation's Lou Plaia, Stageit CEO Evan Lowenstein, World Cafe Live talent buyer Laura Wilson, and LYVA Music founder Lynda McLaughlin.
One effective method of engagement came through Stageit's live-streamed performance platform, where artists can sell tickets to performances that can take place in their bedrooms or kitchens, and allows them to limit tickets to provide an air of exclusivity, while video interactions with fans resonated so well that it represented the third-best method of engagement, ahead of blogs and radio. "I don't think there's any way to undervalue a video," said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also promoted creative events as a good way to generate buzz, noting a friend who ran an unofficial Hooker Runway party at CMJ this year that garnered press in droves, mostly because of its unique cache. "There's no golden rule of how to do it, but it's really powerful to do something no one else is doing," she said.
Wilson, representing World Cafe Live from Philadelphia, also agreed, saying the her venue has positioned itself as one that often offers meet and greets and special events that bring fans and artists together, crafting that into a reputation for the venue in the process. Special event-based shows or concerts also serve as good ways to bring in diverse crowds, such as partnering with local businesses to put a new spin on a concert or help promote a show.
But the most important aspect the panel discussed was having a continuous conversation with fans, and offering them creative content that acknowledges how important they are to artists. "You have to let people know they are part of a 2-way conversation," said Plaia.