The Real Conversation Starts When You Listen

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May 2, 2024

The superfan is the focus for every music CEO worldwide, with Lucian Grainge’s 2024 memo stating,

“Our pioneering artist-centric strategy will extend its reach. We first focused on a fairer way to allocate the streaming pie among real artists by addressing fraud and other aspects that deprive artists of their just compensation. The next focus of our strategy will be to grow the pie for all artists by strengthening the artist-fan relationship through superfan experiences and products.”

Warner Music Group’s CEO Robert Kyncl announced recently at WebSummit,

“I’ve assembled a team of incredible technology talent who are working on an app where artists can connect directly with their superfans, who are generally the people that consume the most and spend the most… and we’re focused on making sure that artists get data on these superfans.”

Superfandom is rapidly becoming the most important area for the industry to focus on.

Fans hold the power to influence

In Luminate’s 2023 report, they focused on first understanding the main characteristics of a superfan. In doing so, they provided the industry with a clearer overview of the psychology behind fandom and those who go above and beyond regarding streaming and purchasing. The music industry still lacks access to the data points to understand who superfans are of their artists, and the industry’s infrastructure isn’t built to enable super fandom to thrive.

Luminate defines a superfan as:

“A music listener aged 13+ who engages with an artist and their content in multiple ways, from streaming to social media to purchasing physical music or merch items to attending live shows. More specifically, the super fans who were identified in the studies referenced in this report were participants that self-reported engaging with their favourite artists in 5+ ways.”

With this definition in place, our focus has been understanding emerging artists’ communities superfans and how Web3 plays into this.

Shifting to a co-creative fan experience

Through the drops Public Pressure has been doing with artists, the Minecraft parties they host, or the collaborations with brands, such as the Diesel Metamorphosis campaign, we’ve been able to analyse various data touchpoints that are only available to them because of the interoperability of Web3. 

We can analyse and show artists how to analyse fan data points that are usually out of their reach. Still, being GDPR compliant, we can understand how fans interact across the digital landscape because of their wallets. Because of these data points we’ve been working with, Public Pressure can now build that serve artists best. 

Gone are the days when fans were mere passive consumers of music. Today, an estimated 20% of music listeners identify as superfans of at least one artist, highlighting a huge opportunity for deeper artist-fan connections. Superfans desire a more intimate connection with their favourite artists, with 92% expressing a deep-seated wish for closer ties. They’re not just interested in streaming; they crave exclusive content, direct communication, and genuine engagement that makes them feel part of the creative journey. The modern superfan wants to co-create and participate actively in the artist’s world, a far cry from traditional fan engagement limited by the constraints of Web2 technology.

The Superfan evolution

This evolution merely reflects broader shifts in technology, culture, and how we interact with music and artists. Traditionally, superfans were seen as the most devoted followers of an artist or band, demonstrating their passion through collecting merchandise, attending every concert, and engaging with each release. However, due to our ever-evolving digital landscape, from social media to Web3, the scope of what it means to be a superfan has completely expanded.

Previously, super fandom was a passive undertaking characterised by consumption and collection. Fans would buy records, attend concerts, and join fan clubs that were often one-way streets in terms of communication. Today, superfans are not just passive consumers but active participants. They engage with artists on social media, contribute to crowdfunding campaigns, and participate in interactive events like Q&As, digital meet-and-greets, and exclusive online communities.
Social media has played a pivotal role in the evolution of super fandom. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok allow fans to interact directly with artists and engage with a global community of like-minded individuals. This direct line of communication has given superfans a voice, enabling them to influence everything from setlists to ticketing. Social media has also allowed superfans to become brand ambassadors, spreading the word about their favourite artists to a broader audience.

Why every fan matters

Superfans, willing to spend twice as much as the average listener, are not just listeners but avid customers and active participants in the artist’s ecosystem. This group’s financial and emotional investment in artists is a game-changer, offering a path to diversified revenue streams beyond traditional models dominated by streaming services like Spotify.

Deep fan engagement yields myriad benefits. For one, it translates to higher revenues, more streams, and deeper connections. Artists gain valuable insights from their most dedicated fans, allowing them to tailor their content more effectively and foster a sense of community that resonates personally. Such engagement enhances the overall fan experience, as superfans account for a substantial portion of an artist’s monthly streams and are likelier to continue engaging with the music long after its release.

Moreover, direct-to-consumer music and merchandise sales are witnessing significant growth, emphasising superfans’ increasing influence and financial contribution. Superfans, defined as music listeners engaged in multiple ways with an artist, from streaming to attending live shows, spend over 80% more on music each month than the average listener. This engagement is not just about the music; it’s about creating unforgettable experiences that build a deeper connection between the artist and their fans, turning casual listeners into devoted supporters.

It’s about recognising the value of every fan and understanding that the key to a thriving music career lies in nurturing these deep, authentic connections that transcend the boundaries of traditional fan engagement. The emphasis on superfans signals a new era of music consumption, where the relationship between artists and fans is more interactive, co-creative, and mutually rewarding than ever before.

Super fandom has always involved a sense of community, but digital platforms have expanded the scale and scope of these communities, transforming them into global networks. Fans not only share their love for an artist but also create content, organise events, and support each other. This sense of belonging and shared identity is a powerful aspect of modern super fandom, with communities rallying around artists in times of need or championing causes important to them.

The economic impact of a superfan

According to a study shared by Spotify for Artists, superfans, though they constitute only a tiny fraction of an artist’s listener base, are responsible for a disproportionately large share of streaming activity. On average, super listeners make up 2% of an artist’s monthly listeners but account for over 18% of monthly streams. These dedicated fans continue to engage with an artist’s music long after its release, with two-thirds of super listeners still streaming their music after six months. This sustained engagement boosts streaming revenue and enhances the artist’s platform visibility, potentially attracting new listeners.

The economic contribution of superfans extends into merchandise sales, with the same 2% of listeners accounting for 52% of merchandise purchased via Spotify’s in-app Shopify integration. This underscores the superfans’ willingness to spend on their favourite artists, supporting them through avenues beyond just streaming.

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales growth further highlights the superfans’ economic impact. Luminate’s 2023 Midyear Music Report notes that D2C music sales from artists’ stores are up +20% this year, with D2C vinyl sales increasing by over +25%. This rise in D2C sales is primarily attributed to superfans who seek closer connections with artists by purchasing exclusive or limited-edition merchandise and physical music formats.
The willingness of superfans to invest in artist careers goes beyond mere consumption. Crowdfunding and patronage platforms like Patreon and OnlyFans have enabled superfans to directly fund the artists they love, providing a financial lifeline that allows artists to continue creating without relying solely on traditional revenue streams. This direct support mechanism offers artists greater financial stability and fosters a deeper sense of community and shared purpose between artists and their fans.

The relationship between Web3 and fandom

Web3 has introduced a new dimension to super fandom, emphasising co-creation and deeper involvement in artists’ creative processes. It has opened up unique opportunities for fans to own a piece of their favourite artist’s work, participate in decision-making, and even influence the direction of an artist’s career. This level of engagement goes beyond traditional fandom, offering a sense of partnership and investment in the artist’s success.

Web3 enables artists to interact with their audience without needing a middleman. This direct interaction fosters a sense of closeness and authenticity, allowing fans to support their favourite artists more meaningfully. Artists can offer exclusive content, early access to tickets, and unique experiences directly to their superfans, enhancing the fan experience and deepening the artist-fan connection.

The decentralised nature of Web3 offers a more secure and privacy-focused way of handling fan data. With fans having more control over their data, artists can leverage this information to create personalised marketing strategies that resonate with their audience. Through smart contracts and blockchain technology, artists can gather insights into their fans’ preferences and behaviours without compromising privacy. This data-driven approach enables artists to tailor their offerings, ensuring that superfans receive content and experiences that are most relevant to them.

Strengthening communities – your voice, your impact

Data and insights from the music industry highlight communities’ indispensable role in nurturing emerging artists, providing a supportive environment that fosters growth, engagement, and the cultivation of superfans.

Community is not just a group of listeners; it’s the basis upon which artists build their careers. For emerging artists, the community offers more than just an audience; it provides feedback, support, and the energy needed to drive creativity. They play a pivotal role in creating superfans. According to Luminate, superfans emerge from environments where they can deeply engage with the artist’s content, share experiences with like-minded individuals, and feel a part of the artist’s journey. These superfans are willing to spend over 80% more on music and related merchandise, underscoring the economic value of nurturing a strong community.

Recognising the importance of community and the power of superfans will only deepen the connection between artists and their fans, leveraging the potential of both Web2 and Web3 technologies to bridge communities and convert casual listeners into passionate advocates and collaborators.

Contributor

Web3 Music Association Executive VP of Ecosystem

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