Direct to fan management: Are Artist Membership Sites Still a Good Music Business Model?

by Matt @ Kurb on May 25, 2009

In the past I’ve been a huge fan of membership sites mainly because it was the most rudimentary way of representing the “1000 true fans model” – think about this, if you had a private membership site with 1000 members who were all happy to pay $7 per month you’d be making $7000 a month and $84,000 a year which would be pretty good, I bet it’s more than you’re making now, especially in US$.

But don’t forget that’s just your core earning – there’d still be income from gigs and physical products and merchandise, it’s just that paid up members would have unlimited access to all digital content. The downside to this for smaller-mid sized artists is that you’d likely be under some obligation to continually add content to the site and interact with your fanbase but of course if you were smart you’d already have a company or service such as ours helping you to develop this kind of sustainable content platform.

I must admit it still sounds like a great idea. Artists are generating significant income and leveraging all their content to create the most high value proposition possible for the fans, and $7 a month does not feel like a lot to commit to an artist, it’s not too much that anyone, even if your audience are still teenage kids, can afford.

Also it narrows your audience down to a small and specific group for which to direct personalised contact between artist and fans.

What’s more, it’s highly likely that those 1000 people will also be buying – albeit discounted – physical merch and coming to gigs. They can also be incentivized to sign up more premium users and once you have that solid audience, branch into new items and services that can be provided as an affiliate marketing partner.

But the problem with the “1000 true fans” model is that it makes it sound like 1000 isn’t that much – when we’re talking about building real fans one by one, day by day. So you’ve got to recognise that in order to maintain fans and sustain growth you’re going to need a high level of engagement as well as continued interaction and that is what services such as our online artist management aims to provide.

In the beginning you’re building fans one by one and it’s manageable, but what happens when you get into triple figures and you’ve got a lot of people to keep connected? This is the real challenge, the journey from an artist who is starting out to an artist who is willing to take the time and plan the strategy to continue to leverage progress from what has been built before, and having systems in place to manage this development.

So down to the question at hand. Are membership sites the best way to leverage musical and artist brands and digital products for the most revenue?

It certainly presents a compelling model. But when addressing the needs of artists who come to me, getting organised with a solid platform, regular content and a commitment from the artist to the fans is a long way off, that’s why though I talk in 3 month chunks, most artists need a lot more time than that to take them from a myspace and a website to a cohesive fan management structure.

Because if you’ve only got 100 true fans which is more than even what most artists that come to me have, you’re still building that equity in your brand and your value with the tribe before you can seriously start trying monetize by launching and maintaining a membership site.

Membership sites maybe great once you’ve won that ground with your audience and your trained in delivering content regularly for this market, but until then, with the clients I’ve got coming to join our music marketing packages the issue is not how to make money out of 1000 true fans because membership sites are one of a number of options in delivering content and fan experience, and delivery the proposition that allows the artist to create revenue – and those two thing may not necessarily be the same transaction.

In the meantime we have to worry about how to bring an artist to that point with the right platform and the right marketing and branding process to build 1000 fans. Membership sites maybe a cool idea, a long term goal for when the time is right, but right now is still the time for doing the hard work and getting the basic foundations right.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

OGUNYEMI YUSUF OYESOLA 02.15.12 at 10:58 pm

HOW CAN I JOIN YOU?

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