Playlists and streaming technology are upending just about everything in music, and the relationship between fans and musicians is no exception. A decade ago, it’d be safe to call most of an artist’s listeners true fans, but that’s no longer the case. Between the plummeting value of music and how easy it is for fans to listen to and discover new music, more people are listening to more music than ever before––but it takes much more than listening to an artist to become a loyal fan. Here’s three ways casual listeners are different than fans:
Listeners sample. Fans dig in
If your band racks up 10,000 listeners per-month over major streaming platforms, those numbers don’t necessarily translate to engaged fans. Casual listeners might check out your latest single or your most popular song, but it doesn’t mean they’ll buy your music, make it to your shows or show interest in your less popular work.
Fans are in it for the long-haul
A surefire way to tell whether your listeners are fans or not is by separating the folks who stick around to support you over the years from the ones who listen to you for a short period and move on. True fans listen to all the music an artist releases and have attention spans long enough to remember them throughout gaps between their releases. But before you go off resenting casual listeners of this, there’s a few things you should consider. First, because of the massive amount of music that’s now being released each day, listeners are now inundated with music. This is why so much music gets forgotten or overlooked, which is frustrating, but that’s the way things are. Also, even if you’ve got lots of devoted fans, spending too long between putting out new music can now be a career-killer, and that’s not your listeners fault.
Listeners don’t engage
If you’ve got someone who shows up to your shows, interacts with you over social media and buys your merch, then you’ve got a real fan. Listeners listen, but fans show their support in myriad ways. The kicker here is that some artists can appear to have a huge amount of traction and success over streaming platforms only to realize they don’t have much in the way of loyal fans when they hit the road or release new music.
How to win over casual listeners
Figuring out how to convert regular listeners into devoted fans is something that’s going to become more and more important for musicians in the future. The hardest and most obvious solution to winning over fans is by doing your best to regularly release great music over the long-term, but that’s only part of the answer. The identity musicians carve out for themselves through non-musical fronts serves as an important chance to catch an audience’s attention and make a lasting impact. Videos, engagement and visually compelling live shows are just a few ways for artists to help bring their music off of streaming platforms and into the world to earn fans.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.