The following does not apply to these people
I know what’s on your website. It’s all that great stuff your fans like so much, right? Music, videos, photos, blog posts and so on. It’s a veritable goldmine of information, images and media. Anything they want to know about you, they can find out. Anytime they want to see you, that’s where they can go. Any desire to hear your recordings can be instantly gratified.
But y’know, there’s one thing your fans want from your website – perhaps even more than you and your music, incredible as that may seem. And I bet you’re not giving it to them. In fact, I bet they don’t even realise they want it.
I’m not saying that people are egocentric and narcissistic when it comes to the internet and music fandom – although that’s almost certainly the case. What I’m suggesting is that there’s nothing quite so special to a music fan as actually being included within the official narrative of their object of fandom.
Kidnapped by Bono
Let me give you an example. Once upon a time, I drove rock bands around. Famous ones. Whenever big names came to New Zealand, chances are I was one of the people driving them, their crew or their management around. There aren’t many people in New Zealand and we have to mulititask.
As a consequence, I’ve met Janet Jackson, Massive Attack, The Rolling Stones, U2 and many others. They don’t remember me, of course, but this was all pretty significant to me all of 15 or so years ago.
It was on the U2 gig – 1993 – the Zoo TV tour – that my van was hijacked by members of the band. As the crew disembarked at the hotel after the concert, Bono, Adam and Larry climbed in with a couple of other people and insisted I drive them around. Who was I to argue?
Where we went and what we did is not an important part of this story, but there were adventures, and I did actually get to see the sun come up over One Tree Hill with Bono, which will be significant to you if you’ve ever been anything of a U2 fan – and while I’ve kind of lost interest over the past decade, I’d been a huge fan right from the tender age of 14 (1981) – so this was a pretty big deal for me.
Not kidnapped, but carjacked
Anyway, it turns out that one of the people in the van was writing a book about the band, and this particular night of escapades was interesting enough to make it into that book.
Only… the author took quite significant poetic licence and in his version, the driver (that would be me) was ejected from the vehicle back at the hotel right from the outset, and the van was commandeered in the name of hijinks, which were, of course, far more adventurous than the versions I had been witness to – though they bore many similarities.
So of course, I recognised the stories as being the ones that I had been a part of – and this official tale specifically mentioned ‘the driver’. And that meant I was suddenly part of the U2 narrative. When you’re a fan, these things, however shrouded and distorted, can be pretty important.
Even better than the real thing
But you can do it way better than that. First of all, you’re not U2, so you don’t have to tread water on a career that’s been more or less ostentatiously stagnant and predictably stellar for a couple of decades. Second, you can be more honest about the inclusion of your fans. You don’t have to make stuff up in order to appear spontaneous and thrill-seeking. And third, you can do better than simply refer to them in an offhand way.
Use every medium at your disposal. Take photos of your fans at gigs. Take photos with them. Interview them about what they like – ask which ones are their favourite songs, and so on. Wave video cameras at them and just generally get them involved. And most importantly – include them on your website. Give them a reason not only to visit, but to bring their friends and say ‘look – that’s me!’
If Bono had taken my photo and put it up on the U2 website (had such a thing existed in ’93), you can guarantee that everyone I had ever met would have seen it within 24 hours.
You get the idea. Don’t just let people visit you on the internet. Let them be part of what they visit. That connection is incredibly important to fans, encourages a viral, word-of-mouth response, and could well become part of a story they’re still telling anyone who’ll listen 16 years later.