Figuring Out What Your Fans Want

Figuring Out What Your Fans Want

I have some good news and some bad news.

First the bad news. Figuring out what your fans want isn’t always easy.

The good news? Once you know what they want, you can keep hitting those same notes repeatedly.

And that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep making new things. But those new things are going to do so much better if they are rooted in a clear understanding of what worked in the first place.

The first step is to experiment. Ask friends and fans what they liked about your album or show. Be rigorous in getting honest opinions. It does you no good to surround yourself with yes men. Or women.

Take the feedback and iterate on what you’ve created. Test reactions. Track minute things like whether there were more people at the beginning of your show versus the end of your show.

There are few people who can better articulate the process of iteration than Jack Conte, who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing for Music Entrepreneur HQ. In an interview with Hypebot, Conte once said:

Iterate a thousand times until you have a hit, and then you’ve got something. So, I love that idea – if it’s not a hit, switch.

If it’s not a hit, switch.

This is where a lot of artists get stuck. Because they don’t switch. They just keep flogging the same dead horse, hoping it will get up and gallop for them again.

And for better or for worse, I’ve also been stuck in that cycle at times. It’s easy to say, “if it doesn’t work, try something else,” but it feels like another thing entirely when your 10-year hustle doesn’t seem to be shaping up into the six-figure cash cow how you once expected it to.

To get anywhere with that, you’ve got to take a step back, clear your head, and drop the past. Reflect on your failures and successes and separate the wheat from the chaff.

I remember going through that process with my friend Maveen Kaura of Discover Your Life Today after a spectacular failure in network marketing.

With dozens of eBooks, books, audio programs, courses, membership programs, and other products under my belt, there are only few that have proven reliable sellers over the long haul:

And there’s probably something to be said for the Pareto Principle here.

But do I regret making the dozens of other stinkers? No. Was it a waste of time? No. It was a valuable education in what doesn’t work. The market decided and I get to be a student of that.

And I can see now, more than ever, that I can keep hitting the same notes that worked in different ways.

The New Music Industry book led to the creation of The New Music Industry Podcast. And now I know that new editions of the book, a workbook, a companion guide, a 30-day challenge, a course, and other related resources would also play well. That goes for the other winners mentioned.

Now, it’s up to you whether you heed my words or ignore them. But if you want to save yourself years of wasted effort and thousands of dollars lost, start paying attention to what works. Look for ways to resurface and iterate on it.

We all poke fun at AC/DC for releasing the same album a dozen times, but they were smart for leaning into a formula that worked.

We all poke fun at AC/DC for releasing the same album a dozen times, but they were smart for leaning into a formula that worked. Click To Tweet
Are You Ready for a Million Streams?

Are You Ready for a Million Streams?

I recently asked my friend, “are you ready for a million downloads of your new app?”

He looked at me wide-eyed, shook his head and said, “no way.”

Growth is exciting. It’s what we think we want. But a lot of the time, if we were to look at the structures we have in place, we’d see that we’re not quite ready for massive, rapid growth.

If you got a million streams today, would you be ready for the sudden influx of media requests, website traffic, merch sales, customer support emails, booking requests, and more? Because that’s what growth is going to look like.

And the answer for most artists looking to create that kind of success is simply “no.”

Whether it’s learning the ins and outs of enterprise level tools, hiring new team members, putting new structures in place, or otherwise, there are sure to be many steps and missteps in responding to explosive growth. Mistakes will be made, and they will be more public than if they were handled while no one was watching.

Growth isn’t the enemy. But there is such thing as sustainable growth, and that’s the ideal for most. It isn’t always possible. Sometimes, we’ll shrink when we feel like we should be growing. Sometimes, we’ll take big leaps when we don’t feel like we’re ready.

But growing a little bit at a time allows you to identify the bottlenecks and the structures you’ll need to put in place to meet growing demand. You’ll get to see what it feels like to have 100 people on your email list, and then 200, and then 500, and then 1,000, and so on.

The email list is just an example of an area where you might be stretched, but you can probably see how 1,000 subscribers would feel like a different level of responsibility than 100 subscribers.

Growth is awesome. But it isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always what you need. Learn to appreciate and enjoy exactly where you are while keeping an eye on where you want to go.