This article aims to provide a clear understanding of Topspin's view of direct-to-fan (D2F) marketing from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective.
What D2F marketing is and its importance to an artist's business success.
How to measure performance in D2F marketing efforts.
Direct-to-fan marketing (D2F) is the practice of connecting an artist directly with their fans to:
Keep them aware of relevant news items.
Engage them with content and experiences they find interesting.
Create permission marketing relationships.
One other definition, channel: a route of communication and access. The D2F channel represents a way, in addition to retail like itunes or Best Buy, to market one's self.
D2F IS NOT:
A magic path to stardom and riches. The marketing/branding fundamentals apply to this channel as in any other. Building an audience and keeping them engaged requires time and effort. Bands that have been at this for some time will perform differently from upstarts.
A replacement for retail. Retail outlets (either digital or brick & mortar) add value by providing access to fans you might not be able to reach. At the current time, retail represents more volume (# of sales) than D2F for a large number of artists we work with.
Just "putting up a store page." If you simply place a link to a store page on your site, you are leaving much on the table. D2F involves much more strategy and execution around creating offers and getting those offers distributed to the right places. Sales resulting from following D2F best practices have been measured up to 7x greater than efforts that involved just putting up a store page.
A way to develop a deeper connection with core fans. It's a two way dialog, both literally via discussion and by the ability to get instant feedback on how fans respond to offers put before them. It's also worth noting that fans that find their way to an artist's site typically have more than a casual interest. I.e., they're the ones that are most excited by an artist and will spread that excitement to others.
A way to give fans "more and different." It's not just another place to hawk downloads and CDs. Rather, D2F gives you the freedom to create products and offers that can't be obtained anywhere else - bundles of both music and merch, extra songs/videos, collectible goods, etc. By giving more and different via D2F, artists can further generate excitement among core fans.
Different economics. Aritsts have ultimate freedom to offer any product/experience via D2F. This means that an artist can create products at any price point to meet their current objectives. If the objective is monetization, premium products can be offered at premium prices. The average sale on Topspin is about $20. Compare that to an average sale on iTunes that is about $3. That means an artist would have to sell 6-7x more goods on iTunes than D2F to generate the same revenue. If the objective is fan growth, products like digital downloads can be offered at extremely low, promotional prices, or given away in exchange for an email. This is a flexibility that doesn't exist readily in other channels like iTunes.