How Fan Clubs Can Be Monetized Through Streaming and E-Commerce

Artists and performers are creatives by trade. Their right-brained sensibilities are critical to self expression and connecting with an audience. But monetizing those gifts isn’t often part of the package. Just as the average accountant or marketer would struggle through a guitar solo or comedy skit, many musicians, stand-up comics, and other artists have trouble building a profitable business model around their craft.

The irony, of course, is that audiences for visual artists and live performers tend to be some of the most engaged and supportive of any “customers” around. Companies like Apple and Nike would be envious of the brand awareness and retention enjoyed by, say, the Foo Fighters or Dave Chappelle. Fans crave an experience, and artists have the ability to trigger laughter, elicit tears, and leave audiences eager for more of each to be wrung from them with every drum beat or punchline. Another moment, another opportunity to be moved.

As it turns out, there’s an old-school technique that allows performers to tap into that audience and those feelings, one that happens to be perfect for the digital age: fan clubs.

“Fan clubs are back and more beneficial than ever,” writes Hypebot, a music technologies and trends blog. The idea: By building a one-to-one channel with an audience, artists — DJs, bands, comedy troupes, and others — have the ability to stay connected to their target demographic, capture important data from that audience, and reach out directly with offers, discounts, and exclusive content that will be uniquely valuable to those fans.

A subscription-based fan club can also provide artists with a new, recurring revenue stream. The concept is similar to a digital newsletter (think Substack), in which a passionate subscriber base pays for the privilege of access to a pipeline of can’t-miss content that’s regularly delivered from a favorite source. The key for artists is to meet their die-hard followers where they’re at and then provide enough goodies to make a fan-club subscription worth their investment.

As more artists embrace the medium of streaming video, either by necessity or by choice, audiences are adjusting to the venue: The number of streamed live events grew by a whopping 1,468% between January and August 2020 alone (Uscreen), and nearly a quarter of viewers report that they will continue to stream more post-COVID-19 (GWI). If you stream it, they will come.

And once they arrive, you can offer them — the die-hard followers — pre-sales on music and concert tickets, exclusive music, bundle deals, VIP shows, special discounts, subscriber-only savings, chats, and any number of other creative tactics. One website, Cameo, allows celebrities to monetize recorded personal messages and shout-outs to fans. Creating a similar build-in to a digital fan-club experience would be a simple inclusion.

Imagine you’re a big fan of a jam band whose followers shadow the group’s summer tours, traveling the country and hitting every stop along the way. Now imagine an all-in-one digital stop that allows you to track their tour schedule, stream the shows, buy discounted swag, find geotracked campgrounds close to the concert venues and earn deals on tents, sleeping bags, and dried foods from a sporting-goods merchandiser that delivers directly to your door. Would all that be worth a fan-club subscription of $3 a month? Probably so.

In the end, artists and performers don’t need to be marketing specialists or business experts to make an honest living off the support of their audience. They just need to think hard about precisely what their fans want and a fair price for it. Once that’s settled, creating a fan club that can be matched with a streaming platform and digital shop is a simple initiative that can mean the difference between financial solvency and finding a new day job.

George Meek is CEO of InPlayer, a leading monetization and subscriber management platform with over 700 customers worldwide. George has almost two decades of experience selling broadcast technology and almost as long operational experience in scaling high-growth technology companies.

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