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Redefining the Online Fan Experience in the Wake of COVID-19

Redefining the Online Fan Experience in the Wake of COVID-19

This is an opinion column. The thoughts and viewpoints expressed are those of the author, Alex Zaccaria. Zaccaria is the Co-Founder & CEO of Linktree.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the music industry. For many artists, it means that playing at clubs, concerts, and festivals in the U.S. likely won’t be an option for the foreseeable future. That’s a monumental shift in the way artists will think about their work and the performance experience.

In an industry where artists get paid less than a cent per stream on platforms like Spotify, festival appearances, club contracts and touring are the main sources of income. Without touring, many rising musicians, DJs and producers must find new and creative ways to engage with their fan base and monetize their music.

The importance of online presence is nothing new and the pandemic has only shown us why. Luckily, there are ways for artists to amplify their presence online and grow their fan-base while touring is on hold.

Connecting with fans authentically

Some of the world’s biggest DJs have mastered the art of social media marketing to not only grow their audiences and connect with fans, but successfully monetize their platforms.

Digital channels can reduce friction (and backlash) to maximize audience engagement, something that is more essential than ever before. We’ve seen an uptick in artists, such as Above & Beyond, using social media to direct followers to their virtual concerts, online merchandise stores and new music releases across streaming platforms. DJs are able to interact in chat rooms and on Twitter while streaming, effectively removing the distance between the dance floor and the DJ booth and bringing their audience into their inner circle.

Social media is a way to instantly connect your tribe to your entire ecosystem of content and platforms, giving them the opportunity to be a part of who you are and the tools to become an actual fan.

Another go-to, pandemic-era fan experience has been turning to livestreaming platforms like Twitch to bring people inside the studio, host Q&As, and even produce new music on-air, with fans finding a new way to experience their favorite DJs and live performances up close. Globally, that’s an opportunity fans have struggled with for years, bombarding the Instagram accounts of their favorite artists with touring requests.

Beyond interacting in new ways and giving fans a glimpse into other areas of artists’ lives, connecting online gives artists the power to dig deeper into audience behavior and response. Artists are able to better understand their fans, including where they are, how long they’re tuning in to performances, and how they interact across platforms. Fans are more engaged and the engagement is more measurable.

Following the flow of followers

The pandemic has pushed artists to find creative ways to monetize their art and get paid performing online. This recent shift to promoting and monetizing livestreams provides a unique opportunity to reach a wider audience through virtual experiences on platforms they haven’t explored like Fortnite or Minecraft and virtual meet-and-greets that are accessible to fans no matter their location or age.

These digital environments further enable artists to offer fans direct access to their music on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud, and their social media accounts within the stream—something that isn’t an option in a live set. Possibilities like these will make virtual events part of the norm even as travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders ease. This makes for a more robust artist-to-fan relationship.

Navigating the new normal

The pandemic has posed several challenges for the music industry, but it also levels the playing field, giving fans and artists everywhere the opportunities and experiences that make the industry vibrant and exciting. This is what fueled my co-founders and I to build Linktree—to democratize crowded spaces online and make it easy for anyone to connect with, grow, and monetize their audience.

If we can find an easier way for artists to diversify their audience and the way they engage with fans, they’ll have the power to not only monetize and survive, but also create entirely new ways of engaging and interacting with their fans, bringing them closer together and creating their own communities. 

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