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Opinion February 27, 2021

Direct to the fan: websites are where the rubber meets the road for independent artists

Stacey Bedford
Direct to the fan: websites are where the rubber meets the road for independent artists

It’s all about connecting directly, rather than passively, with fans.

During a time when live events have been disrupted across the globe, a strong spotlight is shining on streaming royalties as artists’ revenue sources. It is important for artists to receive proper payments from streaming, but in the world of independent music, an artist’s direct engagement with their fans is arguably a more influential path to career growth and monetisation.

Think of social media and streaming as crossroads, rather than final destinations for your content.

Social media is fun and has its value, streaming is a piece of the puzzle, and it’s important to be present on the major platforms. In some ways, though, the medium only matters if it fosters engagement and feels like a meaningful touchpoint for fans.

Much like the live music experience is enhanced when fans can meet the artist at the merch table, there are opportunities in the online world for more direct and personal interactions. Streaming and social media are largely one-directional, but your artist website is a space for meet-and-greets without the noise.

Speaking of merch tables, musicians don’t need to be on the road to sell physical goods, or even tickets. In 2020, Bandzoogle members sold a total of over $8 million in merchandise, over half a million dollars in (primarily virtual) ticket sales, over half a million dollars in digital album sales, and received over $242,000 in tips from their fans.

Don’t underestimate the sustainability of artist websites and email newsletters.

Over the past couple of decades, social media platforms have risen and fallen in popularity, but websites and email have endured: they’re widely understood, easy to interact with, and don’t require a lot of time or cognitive investment from music lovers. In 2020, over 48 million people visited musician websites powered by Bandzoogle, and over two million email addresses were collected.

It’s also worth noting that blogging is very much still alive. Hundreds of thousands of blog posts were published last year. If you’re a writer, or simply prefer to engage with fans with text over visuals, launching a blog as part of your artist website can be an excellent way to interact from wherever you are.

Your fans are probably already paying for subscriptions. Invite them to yours, too.

There’s a misconception that fans won’t pay for “what they can get for free”, but that’s like assuming people won’t pay for Hulu or Netflix if they have general access to the internet. In reality, fans truly want to support their favorite artists: thousands of fans joined artist subscriptions in 2020, and their support provided a significant source of income for many musicians.

If you have a solid social media following and your fans consistently engage with behind the scenes footage, or love a quirky shtick you have, you may be ready to launch a subscription. You can control the pricing, the types of content you post, and how often you post.

There is a lot of room for improvement in the structure of the music industry, and 2020 exposed a lot of the areas that need to be cleaned up. However, independent artists have a lot more control over their growth than we may be led to believe, and 2021 could be the year of the direct-to-fan artist.

About Stacey Bedford

Hired as the very first support technician for Bandzoogle in 2007, Stacey Bedford was named CEO of the music website platform in 2018, and a 2019 Digital Power Player by Billboard Magazine. A mother of three, Stacey lives in Ottawa with her family, and holds a BA in Economics from Carleton University. She’s also an avid guitar player, beekeeper, and karaoke singer.

Check out Bandzoogle’s tips on how to build band websites below.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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