Thursday, February 6, 2014


Allow me to take a trip down memory lane for a moment. Pardon the religious perspective this metaphor uses, but it's very relevant to this blog entry.

I remember a home Bible study I attended waaaay back in 1991. I was really starting to do some deep study of the scriptures and was being taught so much by the leaders in the home study at the time. I remember the topic of "knowing God" came up and how reading the Bible was our primary way of getting to "know" God. One challenge was issued to the group about how well we knew God. The illustration they gave has never left me. At the time, the group leader said this, "How many of you know President Bush?" Everyone raised their hand because, of course, he was our president. Then came the zinger.

"How many of you talk to him over the phone? Have lunch with him? Been to his house on the holidays? Visit him when he's ill?"

The room went silent.

You see, the point he was making when sharing this perspective is that we can know "about" someone, but not really "know" them. I know a lot about famous people, but I don't really KNOW, know them.

Now thanks to social media and the impact of reality TV shows, "knowing" someone popular or famous makes it seemingly easier than ever before. With Facebook, I see what delectable delights a person is about to consume, wants to consume, or just consumed. I can learn how a stupid driver pulled out in front of them and nearly caused a wreck. I can see photos of them standing in their bathroom smiling for their phone camera. My ability to "know" a person is literally easier than it used to be. But even so, I still don't really "know" know them.

The farther down the road an artist gets in their career, the more likely their fan base will grow. The more fans they connect with in person and online, the more likely those fans will want to truly get to "know" the artist. This is where this blog post wants to focus...


First, let me say there are various thoughts that could probably be summed up in these three areas:

  • Talk to and connect with as many fans as possible because it will help your career, and, honestly, it's exciting to get feedback and adoration from them to help keep you motivated to get better.
  • Find a way to keep your personal and public life separate.
  • Make sure you stay aware of stalkers, weirdos, and dangerous fans who may want things other than to buy your music (to be discrete).
All of these are important to keep as a reference, but at times some are more important.

I can say that in the past three years of Spencer's career, we've experienced annoying, bizarre, frightening, and typical fan behavior. We've contacted the FBI in one extreme situation where a pedophile stalked Spencer online. We've dealt with fans who presume because Spencer speaks to them, they are somehow best friends for life. We've experienced fans showing up outside our house. We've seen innocent fans follow Spencer at the Mall. Spencer has experienced a fan mob attack him at a concert and needed to get a police officer in the midst to remove them. Then there are the fans who are desperate in their personal life with crisis occurring in the home or with themselves that reach out to Spencer for help. In fact, of all the type of fans Spencer interacts with, those struggling with something and asking his input are the most common.

Of course, there are the typical fans who want a follow or to friend him on Facebook. These are mostly young people just wanting to show off how many people like them or follow them on social media.

At this point, I'm sure some or all of these things have happened to every emerging artist. If not, they probably will.

A strange thing happened about 6 months ago when trying to figure out why music sales of Spencer's EP and iTune songs wasn't generating much income for him. He has averaged over 50,000 followers on his various social media sites yet we haven't seen that turn into actual revenue.

The question became, "Are these social media followers actually FANS or just kids wanting to have connections with other kids?" That question then led to "What really is a fan anyway?"

Well, according to industry exec types that we've had this chat with a few dozen times, a fan really isn't the same as a social media follower or subscriber. In the simplest definition, yes, but in reality, my friend list on Facebook is hardly the same as my "fans". No. They are simply people who I'm connected with in some way. Of course I'm not a public figure either, so it's hard to separate that.

However, one of Spencer's manager's in Nashville put it to me this way.  He works with another artist who has had top 10 radio hits each of the past 4 years. Their social media followers combined total less than 8,000, but their royalties and overall income as an artist exceeds several hundred thousand dollars. Plus, they sell more than 100,000 units (songs) a year of their new songs. So, knowing this, they may have an online social media picture that is far less than you'd think, but yet they are considered a successful artist (they are young too).

So, is a fan someone who follows you or is a fan someone who buys your music or comes to your concerts? Fan is really the shortened word for FANATIC... and if we called our social media followers FANATICS, it would probably make us think twice.

So, now that we've muddied the waters of what a fan is or isn't, back to the question. How should an artist interact with their "fans"?

These are just suggestions based on our experience so far.

  • Because social media is FREE, it's always easiest and most efficient to simply tweet, post, video, or photo upload stuff that fans can use to connect with you each day. This is the simplest.
    • Without going into too much detail, keep the social media content you post to a public focus only. Don't get into personal stuff (venting, complaining, etc.) as it will open pandora's box to fan follow up and digging to get into your personal space.
    • ALWAYS remember that once it is posted in public, technology has a way of finding you years from now and all it takes is a screen shot (photo of the screen) for any fan to have a permanent record of what was said or posted. (works both ways if you also have inappropriate things occurring and the poster removes them after a while. You can always take a screen-shot for building a record of what has been said by them.)
  • Don't ever give out your personal cell number to someone you don't have a personal relationship with or haven't met in person. No compromise on this.
  • Avoid using any communication methods with fans that are hidden from the general public. Private messaging apps, instant messaging, or any form of communication that the public can't read should be off the table as an option. Always leave a paper (digital albeit) trail of fan communication.
  • If you have occasion to meet fans in person, avoid giving in to the pressure of suddenly becoming their 'bestie' or close friend. Trust me, it's very difficult for them to separate the public persona they have come to know versus the real person outside the public eye.
    • We've unfortunately had to block a lot of fans who pushed the personal envelope too far and began demanding Spencer's time and immediate attention. Some even began stalking.
  • Allocate at least 2 days a week to devote to online interaction in a personal way. Upload a Vlog or go on a site like YOUNOW.COM to give fans a chance to connect. This means to purposely put it on your calendar and be faithful to it.
  • Never give out your home address for anything. If fans want to mail you something, use a post office box. We pay about $75 year for a PO Box in our local town. It's a healthy way to keep whackos away. Not guaranteed, but at least an initial buffer.
  • Try to find creative ways to be in the public in a safe setting so fans can interact. Meet and greets are always a safe way to have supervised fan interaction if necessary.
  • PARENTS, "ALWAYS" (and I mean always) read every single email, message, and any form of communication that comes into your child's social media. Have regular conversations with your child about who people are, and do some of your own investigating of the profiles of any fans you see regularly trying to connect with your child.
  • Make sure you keep fan interaction as professional as possible at all times. Fans need to understand that they can like an artist and be infatuated with them, but a healthy boundary of reminding them that the artist isn't just a regular Joe or Mary (even though in their personal life they may be) will go a long way in keeping them and the artist in a mutually respectful place.
  • This last one is somewhat tricky. PROFESSIONAL (business persona) VS. PERSONAL (relatable human persona).
    • Never forget that "EVERY" communication with the public is a representation of the business (brand of the artist) to the public. So using fan attention to help maintaining the brand of the artist is as important as letting them see the casual side of an artist. Both are equally important when launching and maintaining a career.
It's safe to say that most fans know "about" the artist because of what that artist publicly reveals and shares, but you don't want to get to the place where fans "know" the artist like I shared at the beginning of this post. It's not healthy for either the artist or fan to become entangled in the personal lives of each other. Keep it professional and friendly.

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