Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

June 22, 2009

Fringe Fans: They're Really Not That Into You

Imagine this ...

You get an email from someone you've never heard of or heard from before. He writes:

"I've sampled a bunch of your free downloads online, and honestly, I haven't heard one song I really like. So I'm not sure I want to spring for your new album. Tell you what ... give me the entire album for free, and if I find a few songs I enjoy, I'll pay you for it. Deal?"

How would you respond? (Once you stopped cursing, that is.)

I ask because I got an email just like this a few days ago. Only this guy wasn't asking about my music; he was referring to my articles, blog posts, and books.

He said he hadn't found anything of value in the stuff he's found of mine online. Then he asked if I would give him some full ebooks for free. If he found something that "worked" in the books, he would gladly pay me.

How do you think I responded?

Thanks, but no thanks!

Why? Don't I have confidence in my own material? Wouldn't he be rushing to compensate me if he were only exposed to the awesomeness of my best ideas?

YES, I have confidence in my material. But NO, I doubt very much he'd ever be willing to pay for anything I publish, regardless of the cost or the arrangements.

The point being ... this guy is a "fringe fan." He is not my ideal customer. And while I welcome suggestions and respect a diversity of ideas, I won't lose any sleep over what this guy thinks.

Do you feel the same way about your fringe fans?

The reason I ask: Artists like to please people. We love a kind word and a pat on the back. Therefore, I bet you often let music consumers of all stripes steer the way you run your career.

So you give everything away, or you beg people to attend your shows, or you water down your identity so you don't offend anyone.

And guess what? That's a sure recipe for failure!

Don't get me wrong. You must be aware of the response you're getting from people. Your radar must be up at all times monitoring which songs get the most positive response and what types of people are attracted to your music the most. That's good.

But at some point you must draw a line between how you serve your "ideal fans" and how you react to everyone else.

For me, I know my ideal fans are proactive indie artists who understand the value of lifelong education and feeding their minds with fresh ideas on how to promote and sustain a music career. Those types of musicians are a small subset of the planet's entire musician population.

So when it comes to the cynical "prove it to me" music crowd ... I wish them well, but I don't expend energy in trying to please them. They are not a part of my core "tribe," as Seth Godin says. They are on the outskirts of it.

I suggest you not be distracted by the people on the fringe of YOUR tribe. Don't insult them (unless that's a part of your brand identity), but don't cower to them either.

Focus on the people who matter the most: your ideal fans!


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posted by Bob Baker @ 6:50 PM   12 comments


At Jun 23, 2009, 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Rain San Martin said...

Bob, just unbelievable! True you can not please everyone. Know that all of your material from The Buzz Factor is of tremendous value.


At Jun 23, 2009, 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity Music said...

Great point, Bob! I think a lot of musicians (but not limited to us--lots of other industries do it, too!) are geared toward that mindset that we must get in front of as many people as possible to find that small percentage that are going to buy. It's the old radio model of being the loudest with the biggest reach. That also breeds hitting the 'lowest common denominator', which in the indie world means low sales, fickle (maybe even apathetic), non-return buyers or fans.

Truth is, the more we focus on our core "ideal customer/client/fan/audience", even if it's a small number, we're going to have more sales that are more meaningful, that will return and refer for a lifetime.

AND...we'll spend less time being techno artists performing at biker bars, metal bands at jazz clubs, etc. Finding our audiences will be easier!

I can remember the days when just "getting out there and playing" was the goal--but that's a pretty easy goal to meet. With the options we have now to really hone in and find our audiences and actively market to them, with their permission...there's just no excuse for doing it the other way anymore. "Spraying and praying" as a coach of mine once called it, is a dead art.

At Jun 23, 2009, 11:56:00 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Well, I'm nice to everyone and tend to be flexible. If they don't like my material, at least maybe they'll like me, which is always beneficial. I believe pretty strongly in networking, and seizing weird opportunities like this has a tendency to yield strange yet pleasant results. I would have taken him up on it, personally, but I already give all of my work away free anyway.

Anyway, it is my experience that having a lot of fringe fans is a good thing.

At Jun 23, 2009, 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Bob Baker said...

Good point, Daniel. As I pointed out in the post, you shouldn't insult or be rude to these fringe fans. That's not my style either.

My main point was not to let the fringe dwelling fans alter the core of who you are as an artist in an effort to please them. It's OK if some people (or even a LOT of people) are unhappy with you.

Plus, some of the fringe fans may convert into ideal fans later, or tell a friend about you who will be a better match.

At Jun 23, 2009, 7:03:00 PM, Blogger Sam Bhattacharya said...

I agree with you, Bob. There really is no point in having a music-based relationship with someone who sends an email like that.

If they don't like any of my free music samples, then what makes them think they will like my CDs? Lol. They'll probably become like hecklers.

My style is to kindly say to them, "Thank you for your feedback about my music. If you like, feel free to revisit my web sites and check out more free samples I make available in the future." And that's about it.

At Jun 25, 2009, 2:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been running into a lot of these lately. Thanks for the solid advice and insight!

At Jun 25, 2009, 2:37:00 PM, Anonymous Steven Cravis said...

One of my favorite emails from a non-fan said 'Why does your left hand always go doo-dee-doo-dah-doo-dee-doo-dah?' :-)


At Jun 25, 2009, 2:44:00 PM, Anonymous Alun Parry said...

Nice example of 80/20 thinking there Bob!

At Jun 25, 2009, 2:54:00 PM, Blogger eve said...

You are SO right! I think we can all get caught up into that. I had to learn the hard way. Don't give yourself away. Do your music the way you know you should and you will get fans because you are being authentic about what you do and people will find the value and pay for your work! Value yourself as you want others to value YOU!
I know that when I started to get fans I wanted to make sure I was doing what I could to keep them's a fine line. Now I do give aways on my OWN terms mostly contests! Thank again for all the information that you share, Bob; I look forward to hearing what is next!
The Dove Experience

At Jun 25, 2009, 6:07:00 PM, Anonymous Dallas said...

Does this mean I don't get my free ebooks then Bob?? ha ha - agree with you 100%

At Jun 28, 2009, 9:00:00 PM, Blogger said...

Anyone who knows your work wouldn't be able to read all of it in a short period of time, anyway. You're very prolific and each one gives me something. I mean that unequivocally. Every one.

At Jul 4, 2009, 6:56:00 PM, Anonymous william zeitler said...

Not everyone likes MOZART! And you just don't get much more talented that THAT! In other words, there is NO MUSIC that EVERYONE likes. That even includes YOURS. And MINE. And you're in good company--not everyone likes Mozart, or the Beatles, or... So get over it! All you need is 0.000032% of the planet's population to dig YOUR music to do just fine, thank you very much!


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