In this section we'll explore setting measurable direct-to-fan campaign goals for your particular project. It's important to focus on the following questions:
Do my goals match the overall career/project goals at this time?
Do I have the instrumentation to measure my efforts effectively?
Do I have the assets in place to create important, interesting, and irresistable direct to fan offers?
Best Practices Walk-through
Your planning activities will answer a series of questions:
1. Do my goals match the overall career/project goals at this time?
Consider where your artist's career today:
Is your artist is a developing artist
Does your artist have recent releases and an established following
Does your artist have an established following but no recent releases, or limited visibility
Is your artist is a legacy artist, focused primarily on re-releases of back-catalog
If you are working with a developing artist (aka "baby band"), you will likely need to focus on connecting with fans first, kickstarting your fan network, and focusing on revenue-generating activities second. A four-to-five-figure email list is required to do meaningful email marketing, so reaching that milestone should be your paramount goal. At the very least, you should be giving away significant content in exchange for email addresses. Consider the Fanfarlo case study. This is a textbook example of a band breaking into a new market by giving away its record for a limited time, using those fans to build an audience, and then marketing deluxe wares to those same fans.
By the same token, are working with an established artist who has been dormant for a while, you may need to focus your efforts on re-introducing yourself to your audience. Had a hit record in the eighties? That's probably not a guarantee that fans will flock to your direct-to-fan offers. Got a big email list from ten years ago? It's probably stale (addresses from Excite and Lycos are a dead giveaway). For such an artist, you'll need a couple of months to acquire fresh email addresses and re-build awareness of your brand.
Assuming that you do not fall into these categories, and you have an artist with an established following, you will be focused on building campaigns around maximizing transactions. In the weeks or months leading up to your DTF offer launch, you will be building awareness of the offers, maximizing streaming, sharing, and embedding, and aiming for multiple mentions of the offers on various channels.
Monetization goals are unique to each type of artist mentioned above. For a developing artist, you may be building the DTF channel as you are building your retail and tour businesses. A first DTF campaign is an investment in the future, so simply making a ROI of marketing costs may be realistic. For an established artist, you may be creating a DTF channel to supplement your mature touring and retail businesses. In this case, you will be focused on building a high-margin business with your most dedicated fans. If you follow best practices, it is possible to build a very large DTF business in addition to your other revenue channels.
One note about re-issues: In general, fan demand for re-issued content will be much lower than demand for new content. You will need to find creative solutions to this problem. See Section #3 below (making your offers important, interesting, and irresistable).
2. Do I have the instrumentation in place to measure my efforts?
Without a basis for comparison, measuring goals is pretty tough. Here are sample metrics that you'll need to get a handle on:
Audit of email list, with number of bounces and typical click-through-rates
Monthly search volume and unique visitors to website
# of fans on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm, YouTube, etc. and typical fan engagement (e.g., X # of adds/follows/RTs/ per week
Amount invested in online/offline marketing
# of monthly/weekly blog posts about artist
In order to measure these metrics on a regular basis, you'll need to get comfortable with:
3. Creating Important, Interesting, and Irresistable Direct-to-Fan Offers
When fans buy direct from the artist, they are looking for offers that feel qualitatively different from packages sold through conventional channels like iTunes, Target, or Amazon. Fans are drawn to offers that are compelling and reflect the unique personality of the artist. Successful DTF offers are important, interesting, and irresistible:
Important Offers Important offers are offers that feel authentic and essential to the artist's career. Ask yourself: "Does this offer enrich the artist's work? Does this add meaning to the experience?"
Examples of important merch offers:
A lithograph created by the lead singer
Remastered copies of the hard-to-find first EP on vinyl
Examples of important digital offers:
A free download of an acoustic version of the first single, several weeks before street date
A widget that streams a movie about the making of the album
Examples of unimportant merch offers:
A t-shirt featuring the band logo
Guitar picks, stickers, cheap tour laminates
Examples of unimportant digital offers:
A free download of a 2-year old album track
A widget that streams 30 sec. samples of songs that can be found anywhere
If an offer is sufficiently interesting, it can transcend its context and reach a broader audience. When the Get Busy Committee decided to distribute their album on an Uzi-shaped USB drive, they attracted the attention of people who had never heard of the band before.
A good rule of thumb is to imagine writing a press release about your offer. What about your product is interesting to an outsider? Can you qualify it with objective information? A "limited edition t-shirt" is not nearly as interesting as a "t-shirt designed by famed graffiti artist XYZ."
When David Byrne and Brian Eno created the deluxe package of their last album, they hired famed designer Stefan Sagmeister to design a special container and insert. It went on to win a Grammy for best packaging.
When Metric assembled their products, they licensed images from the Argentine artists Hollywood in Cambodia. These images became a backdrop for their entire DTF campaign: in basic packages, these images were embedded in metadata and included as downloadable wallpaper; in deluxe packages, high-quality prints were included with the music.
Don't just create offers that are important to your fans. Create offers that are also interesting to a wider audience.
Fans of Sagmeister ended up checking out the Byrne/Eno release. People who enjoyed the humor of a novelty USB drive ended up checking out the Get Busy Committee.
You've made it this far. Make your fans an offer they can't refuse.
A good way to make your offers irresistible is to demand action. Classic examples include contests, limited time offers, limited quantity offers, and rewards. Here are few examples to get the juices flowing:
Limited Time Offers
Limited pricing for a limited time (e.g., Fanfarlo selling their album for $1 for 1 month)
Digital or physical offers made available for a window of time
Limited Quantity Offers
NIN selling out of deluxe Ghosts editions
Beastie Boys selling out Paul's Boutique deluxe packages