A generation ago, possessions were everything. A successful person was measured by the size of his or her house and the car in the driveway; a music fan by the vastness of his or her record collection. Today, kids rent their apartments, take public transportation, and lease their music -- and are judged on their Instagrams and Facebook posts. A selfie at the Taj Mahal or Coachella is worth a thousand suburban McMansions in millennial currency.
For artists, this has meant the virtual death of one revenue stream -- but the rise of several others. Musicians no longer sell CDs, but they can use the web to create any number of opportunities to connect with fans and provide the shareable experiences that they crave. Owning a signed album might not mean much anymore, but a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, and a candid snap with your favorite artist can mean a loyal fan and evangelist for life.
While music festivals have existed for many years, the rise of the live show as a primary way for experiencing music is a new trend. Some festivals sell out before the lineup is even announced, and fans are increasingly using them to discover new acts, not just see old favorites. The downside is that some festivals have become fashion shows, where the band on the stage is secondary to getting the perfect shot with friends to let everyone know that you were there. Artists need to make sure their festival sets are compelling and viral, whether that's debuting new music, addressing important issues on-stage between tracks, or creating compelling visuals. Bands need to have a social strategy in place before they play, so that they can quickly push content live and capitalize on the attention generated.
Artists also need to focus on super-serving fans and creating brag-worthy experiences for them. Gone are the days when artists could be mysterious -- the modern musician needs a multi-channel strategy for connecting with supporters. Hosting sponsored meetups before every show is a quick and easy way to reward your top influencers for no cost -- get a brand to underwrite the event and spend a few hours chatting and snapping pics. Bands also need to know where their fans are and act accordingly -- if you have lots of gamer fans, hang out on Twitch and challenge folks to some Call of Duty; if your fans love fashion, curate the daylights out of your Pinterest channel.
I'm addressing artists here, but this is good advice for anyone looking to build a community and a personal brand. What people want today isn't a name but a connection and assurance of quality -- they want to know that what they're getting comes from a trusted source. You can't skimp on the work, but great product is no longer enough. When I curate my radio show, I'm looking first for great music, but I'm also looking to create an experience of hearing things before anyone else does and feeling like part of a cool community for my listeners.
The shift to the experience economy has meant more people leaving their comfort zones, meeting others, and creating bonds. We're no longer stuck inside fancy cars or sitting alone in a basement with a record player. Artists need to help foster community with fans and create great experiences, or risk being left behind.