Well alright, I’m a fan and I use the word “fan” a lot and on purpose. I use the word fan in places where a lot of other people use words like end users and customers and I especially use it and annunciate it really clearly when I’m in a conversation with a jaded industry exec who’s referring to the audience as the unwashed masses or the hordes or is calling fans at a concert punters. I use the word fan because it’s respectful. It’s inclusive and I know that our future as business people and artists, it’s depending upon our ability to think like a fan. Here’s what that means, an artist who are being successful doing that today do these things – it means taking a look at your new creative work and finding the very best part of it, the part that’s the most amazing that you believe is the most valuable and giving that part to fans for as low a price as possible, oftentimes free. And at the same time, these artists also make sure that their work is accessible and easily shared by fans on any device that they choose. I’ll give you a couple of examples and we’ll start with music.
The music business, as you probably know, hasn’t always been particularly good at thinking like a fan, but these days there’s an awful lot to be excited about. This is the Twitter profile of a rapper named Drake. Drake is only 1 of 2 artists to ever have 3 songs in the top 3 spots of Billboards hip-hop and R&B charts at the same time. He’s got 15.8 Twitter followers. He’s been the musical guest and the host of Saturday Night Live. He’s a really popular guy. But Drake and his team know that even if you’re one of the most popular artists on the planet, you are still engaged in a daily battle for fan attention. Without warning, often late at night, Drake will sound out tweets that premier new songs. Fans go instantly crazy. They post, they comment, they share with their friends, and they drive those songs, almost every single one of them, on Billboards new real time trending songs chart.
In between, he sends out other messages – news updates, pics, links to ticket on sales, he even announced he was hosting the ESPY awards exclusively in a tweet. But so far this year he’s done this 7 times and he does it because it engages fan and it makes them pay attention. Those fans are now paying extraordinary attention to the other updates. They’re reading every line; they’re clicking through every URL. They want to know what’s on the other side of those messages from Drake. The last time he did this, about 2 weeks ago, the song got posted is currently being played 500,000 times a day. I actually heard it on the way over here today on the radio. For the year, Drake’s following on Twitter has increased by more than 10%. Drake can think like a fan.
It works in television too. When Jimmy Fallon took over The Tonight Show, he hired a dedicated social media team to do 2 things – 1 create participatory bits where fans could participate and see their jokes on air and 2 to make sure that the very best parts of every show, those jokes, routines, clips, videos, that had the best chance to go viral were posted online immediately after they air. A great example of their work is the recurring bit Tonight Show hashtags. Every Wednesday, Jimmy tweets out a topic via hashtag and you have to be following him to know what it is. And then fans reply back with jokes on that same topic. For mother’s day, the topic was #momqoutes and for an hour after Jimmy posted it, it was trending worldwide with 41,000 hilarious responses, my favorite of which is this. Mom meant to say buds aisle but she said grandma booty called me today #momqoutes. Immediately after this has been aired on the east coast, it was posted online and available for fans to watch, share and spread for free.
It’s a very, very different approach to television. If you miss the very best part of a show and it happens to be something that you co-workers are talking about the next day, if it was on The Tonight Show, all you have to do to catch up is grab the phone, watch the bit and join the conversation. So far this year, The Tonight Show’s number 1 rating is equal to its next 2 rivals combined. Jimmy Fallon can think like a fan.
In the concert business, anybody here have been in a concert in the last 10 years? In the concert business there’s incredible opportunity for people who can think like a fan – myriad ticketing fees, parking tolls, exorbitant concession prices designed to pull as much money as possible out of fans pockets. What if promoters and artists instead focused on creating as an inclusive and a celebratory event as possible? What if the goal was to earn a little bit less but from a lot more people? Kid Rock did that on his last tour. Instead of playing theaters, he slashed ticket prices to the point where he could fill arenas. And to do this, he lowered his fee and entered into a joint venture with Live Nation, where he took a cut of total sales for the night, including concessions. Tickets cost $20 and they included parking. If you bought your ticket at Wal-Mart, the ticketing fees were 0. When you got to the arena, a can of beer cost just $4. In Detroit, they sold out the 15,000 seat DTE Center for 8 straight nights and on each of those nights they sold 30,000 cans of beer. The average beer at a concert costs $8 and a venue will normally sell 2 beers for every 3 attendees. That’s about $80,000 a night in beer sales. But on the Best Night Ever, which was the name of Kid Rock’s tour, Best Night Ever, on the Best Night Ever they did $120,000 a night in beer sales. That’s 2 beers for every single person at the show. They made $40,000 more by charging less. Kid Rock can think like a fan.
Now I’m going to close by being the first person and I would bet also the last to ever compare the wisdom of Kid Rock to the wisdom to the great late Maya Angelou. Stay with me. Maya Angelou said this “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” They never forget how you make them feel. How do Drake fans feel when it’s so easy to hear new music and share it with friends? How do fans of Jimmy Fallon feel when they know they can watch the best stuff from any show the next day, that night, 2 weeks later, on any device for free? How do Kid Rock fans feel when they know they can get a concert ticket for $20, no parking fees and then they can go for $4, share a beer with 15,000 of their friends? They don’t feel like the unwashed masses. They don’t feel like punters. They feel connected, appreciated, loyal. And when fans feel that way, the money flows. They never forget how you make them feel. Best Night Ever.
So from here out, as we design new products, as we set prices, as we invent new ways to watch, listen, read, let’s make sure that what we create is easy to understand, reasonably priced and delightful to use. Let’s make sure that from here out we think like a fan. I promise I will. Thanks for listening.
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