16 Nov There Are Fans, And Then There Are Superfans
For decades I thought I knew what it meant to be a dedicated fan of my favorite musical artists – I’d listen to their music, share it with my friends, attend the live shows – but it wasn’t until I started managing a band two years ago that I discovered a whole new class of people I lovingly refer to as “superfans.”
Superfans are folks who love the music so much that they collectively comprise a sort of “underground railroad” for up-and-coming artists, such as the band I manage. A superfan can be anyone, from a distant Facebook friend to a family member, an old college roommate, a show promoter, or even a complete stranger. Superfans are the secret ingredient to our band’s early successes, so I want more people to know what they’ve done in hopes that this trend continues for us and for other young bands. Your results may vary, but here are seven real-life examples of what superfans do to set themselves apart:
#1: Superfans invite us into their homes.
Even rock stars need a good night’s sleep, and many young bands simply can’t afford hundreds of dollars for hotel rooms every night to go on tour. Finding a place to crash is the second most important thing next to actually booking the gig. Sometimes we’re able to stay with folks we already know and trust; other times it happens spontaneously with folks we’ve just met. We’ve been invited into the homes of retirees and empty nesters, sleeping in their now-grown children’s beds. We’ve gladly laid sleeping bags on the cold, hardwood floors of an empty mountain house. One superfan in Fayetteville throws a big bonfire after-party for us when we perform in his town and lets us take over every bed and couch in his house, while cooking a breakfast buffet in the morning fit for an army. Staying at a superfan’s home is about more than just helping the band save money; it also paves the way for a lifelong friendship. Chances are, if we’ve stayed with you before, we’re probably gonna do it again! Thus, one more plank in the underground railroad is laid.
#2: Superfans buy us hotel rooms.
Helping us secure hotel rooms is the absolute next best thing a fan can do for us besides inviting us into their home. One time, early on in my management career, I failed to properly plan for a late-night show an hour south of our hometown of Atlanta. With several band members driving, and yes, some of them drinking, it wasn’t clear how everyone would get home safely that night. Hotel rooms would cost more than what we earned at the show. Perhaps unwittingly, a brother of a friend (turned superfan that night) came to our rescue by offering to use his hotel points to comp us two rooms at the hotel down the street where he was staying. I’m sure to him it was no big deal – he wanted to hang out anyway and had business travel points to spare – but to me, it meant everything. It meant everyone got home safe and sound that night. It meant I still had a band intact to manage the next day, and that I would do a better job of managing so that situations like that never arose unplanned again. If superfans and talent buyers would comp us hotel rooms everywhere we played, we could probably go on tour tomorrow.
#3: Superfans bring us food.
Artists need to eat well in order to perform well. A typical night for a gig – from load-in to load-out – can easily span 8 hours, and the venue doesn’t always provide the band with a meal. Healthy eating at home is hard enough, but on the road it’s nearly impossible. A fresh, homemade meal for a touring band is a godsend for the psyche and the digestive tract. One promoter we work with in south Georgia could book us anywhere, anytime, for practically any price, so long as he keeps bringing us his neighbor’s delicious pulled pork BBQ to every show. The heaps of leftovers make a perfect late-night snack at the hotel too. Bless the people who fill our bellies and make us feel at home when we’re just visiting.
#4: Superfans share, share and share some more.
I could easily name the top five superfans (as measured by live show attendance and social media interaction) who love our band like it’s their religion. No joke – a couple of them even have tattoos of our band logo, including one spanning a guy’s entire back (lookin’ at you, Brandon!). This is the kind of superfandom I’m talking about, and it truly is the lifeblood of our band’s advertising ability. Like clockwork, superfans will like, love, post, comment, share, click, forward, re-tweet, and upvote everything we post on social media, and we love them for it. We rely on superfans and everyone who promotes the band’s content to be our collective publicists and marketing team while we build momentum. I believe peer-to-peer sharing is more effective than paid advertising any day.
#5: Superfans help us get gigs.
The most common way superfans help young bands get gigs is by directly referring them to new venues and show promoters. Unless a talent buyer or promoter actively seeks us out, it’s up to us to contact them and try to work out a deal. In my experience early on, if I would cold-call (or cold-email) a venue about booking a show, my chances of getting a response were virtually slim to none. However, if someone with a personal relationship (no matter how tenuous) referred us to the venue, our chances of landing a gig went up exponentially. Venues listen to their customers and cater to local tastes, so mentioning the band’s name to the right person can make all the difference in the world. A select group of superfans understands this, especially the ones who work in the music industry, though everyone has the power to wield this kind of influence.
#6: Superfans hire us for private parties.
If you think hard-working Americans won’t spend thousands of dollars to hire their favorite band to play at their birthday party or wedding anniversary, you’d be wrong my friend! I personally love these kinds of shows, not only because the pay is great, but also because of the friendly crowds and the (perhaps unintentional) emotional support. It is truly a wonderful feeling to see superfans so dedicated to the band that they’re willing to put good money on it.
#7: Superfans share their gifts with us.
The band has received numerous gifts from superfans over the years. From bootleg recordings to a custom beer cooler, their contributions are always welcomed and often long-lasting. One superfan donated his time and talent in the form of a professional music video to our first single, which helped us launch the debut album. Paintings and sculptures inspired by the band’s music adorn their recording studio and rehearsal space. One superfan gifted us a large, polished, steel wall hanging of the band’s logo, cut in his own factory. Sometimes it’s as simple as a friendly email telling us how our music has impacted their lives or a photo of them wearing the band’s t-shirt. These may not seem like big things, but they mean more to the band and I than most fans may realize.
For more discussion on the topic of superfandom, I highly recommend Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk called “The Art of Asking,” which continues to serve as a source of inspiration in my career as a band manager and entertainment lawyer. Thank you to all the superfans out there who support up-and-coming artists in this new, wild-west era of the music business! The power to change the future of music is quite literally in your hands.
Beth B. Moore, Esq. is an entertainment lawyer at The Beth B. Moore Law Firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. Beth specializes in copyrights, trademarks, contracts, and general business consultation for clients who work in music, film, television, theater, gaming, literature, web development and other creative arts industries. You can reach Attorney Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.