The music marketing funnel helps your band maximize its reach by catering to a fan's journey, from potential fans to those much-celebrated band superfans.
We’ve said this before and we’ll surely keep repeating it: your band is a business. And in order for that business to prosper, you’ll want to understand some important music marketing concepts. So let’s discuss the music marketing funnel and how utilizing it properly can lead to the creation of band superfans, and why these devoted fans are so special.
In the business world, a “marketing funnel” is a roadmap of a customer’s journey from discovering a product to buying it. In our context, your band and your music are the product and your potential fans are your customers. A music marketing funnel maps a person’s journey from hearing about your music to joining the ranks of dedicated band superfans.
That second phrase largely speaks for itself. A band superfan is someone who really, truly, deeply adores your band’s stuff. Luminate, a company that gathers analytical data on the entertainment industry, defines a “band superfan” as someone who engages with an artist and their content in five or more ways.
Superfans are more likely to spend money on your band than anyone else. They’ll attend your shows, listen to your streams, watch your videos, buy your band merchandise, engage with your social media posts … you see where we’re going with this. And that’s not to say your more casual fans aren’t also important. But understanding the music marketing funnel can help you stir up attention across the board, up to and including those aforementioned band superfans.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
Marketing funnels are usually described as involving four (and sometimes more) steps. We’re adding two here, because they apply to the music marketing funnel in important ways:
- Awareness: Someone discovers that a product (in this case, your band) exists. They’ve heard about it from someone, or found it through researching a competitor, or they’ve seen an advertisement
- Interest: This person is actively looking for more information about the product. They’ve heard the name, and now they want to know more about it
- Decision: They’re more seriously considering becoming a customer now. They’re weighing their options, considering their needs, and deciding whether or not they need this product in their lives
- Action: This is where they become a customer. As a business, your job is to make the purchase process as easy as possible, removing any roadblocks that might prevent a sale
- Retention: Getting a customer to visit you once is great and all, but what if you can get them to keep buying your product over and over? Customer retention is all about keeping people buying your stuff on repeat
- Advocacy: Your customer loves your product so much they’re now telling others all about it, and putting their friends and family into the awareness and interest stages of the funnel on your behalf
The six stages of the music marketing funnel: Awareness and Interest
The music marketing funnel generally follows these same concepts. Let’s break it down two stages at a time, starting with awareness and interest. During the awareness and interest stages, a potential fan is learning about your music and hasn’t yet formed an opinion about your band. Your goal here is to put your music in front of them and let them decide if they dig it.
In the awareness stage, the potential fan learns that your band exists. They’ve heard about you from a friend, they’ve seen you open for another band, etc. They’ve heard of you, but they haven’t heard your music yet.
The interest stage is where the potential fan learns more about your band. During the interest stage of the music marketing funnel, a potential fan actively wants to hear what your band sounds like so they can form an opinion. So they’re going to head to a music streaming platform like Spotify, or find a video on YouTube. They might search you up on social media, or find your band’s website through a search engine like Google.
Spotify and other streaming services don’t really pay artists (there’s a lot Spotify should change, really). But streaming services are invaluable in terms of the music marketing funnel. It’s a popular and accessible platform where existing fans can throw your music on repeat, but it also allows potential fans to easily find out if they even like your music to begin with. If a potential fan can’t hear your music, their interest in your band will usually end then and there.
Related: How to book a gig with your band
Decision and Action
A potential fan might listen to your song and dig it enough to toss it on a playlist, but that doesn’t mean you can really call them a “fan” just yet. They might like one or two songs, but is that enough to entice them to come out and see you perform live, or to buy an album or a t-shirt?
Your goal in the decision and action stages is to convert someone into a fan. We mentioned earlier that band superfans are defined as people who engage with an artist and their content in five or more ways. Listening to your music counts as one, but in the decision stage, someone is becoming a fan (not yet a superfan) of your music and engaging with your act in multiple ways. This could mean they’re doing any two or more of the following:
- Streaming more of your songs
- Seeing you perform live
- Liking and/ or following your band on social media
- Sharing your content on social media
- Watching your band’s videos online
- Visiting your band’s website
- Reading reviews, interviews, and other articles about your band
Once someone clears the decision stage they’ll hopefully move into the action stage, where a fan is taking financial action to support your band. They might hit up your merch table or buy something from your website, or buy your music digitally or on physical media. Provided your band has merchandise and music to sell, of course, and they’re aware this merchandise is available.
Retention and advocacy: The birth of band superfans!
This is where we start discussing those band superfans we’ve been mentioning. Band superfans are dedicated to your music and gobble up your content at a much higher rate than anyone else. Oh, and they spend more on your stuff, too! The retention and advocacy stages are all about keeping your fans with you and making them into band superfans.
Band superfans often check five or more of those engagement boxes we mentioned earlier. They’ll see you live whenever they’re able. They’ll follow you closely on social media and watch your videos. They have a deeper, more meaningful connection with your band and your music. So if there’s an opportunity to enhance that connection, it’s one worth taking.
In the retention phase, your fan is transitioning to become a superfan and engaging with your act on multiple fronts. They’re not just with you in that moment, but for the long haul. They’re invested in the future of your act and will hopefully be amongst the first people to listen to your next album or see you on your next tour. And that means you need to offer up content that keeps them interested and engaged.
If they really love your music, they’ll join the ranks of your band superfans, and this is where we enter that final stage—advocacy. The advocacy stage sees your band superfans helping promote your music. They’ll evangelize your music to their friends. They’ll toss on your band’s hoodie when they’re heading out for the day. And that means they’re feeding fresh sets of ears into those awareness and interest stages, too.
Your band superfans, by the numbers
Using the music marketing funnel effectively helps your act build a dependable legion of band superfans. But just how valuable are these dedicated music lovers? Let’s look at the numbers!
Luminate’s analysis finds that 19 percent of American music listeners are classified as superfans. And those band superfans are definitely committed to the acts they follow, spending over 80 percent more per month on music-related activities than other consumers. They’re 43 percent more likely to join communities focused on your band and engage with other fans, too.
According to Luminate’s research, superfans are a staggering 128 percent more likely to buy physical music, including vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes. Your band superfans make up a tiny fraction of your total fanbase, but can potentially contribute as much financially as your other fans combined.
The music marketing funnel helps you understand a potential fan’s journey
I never loved the phrase “marketing funnel”, however ubiquitous it may be in the business world, because funnels are meant to push a lot of stuff into a small space and avoid spilling anything. No amount of marketing magic can force a square peg into a round hole. You’ll never get a majority of people from the awareness stage all the way down to the advocacy stage, and you shouldn’t really want to, either. No product will ever satisfy every person’s needs, and no song will ever move everyone the same way either.
It’s not on a listener to fall in love with your music. It’s on your music to show them why they should. And so we shouldn’t look at the music marketing funnel as some maniacal assembly line churning out band superfans. Instead, think of it more as a system of parsing your fans into distinct groups with their own needs, and then figuring out how your band and your music can fulfill those needs.
- Potential fans need to find out your band exists and learn about your music
- Casual fans should learn more about you and be given the opportunity to explore more of your stuff
- Growing fans want better access to your music, content, and merch
- Band superfans love your band. They need a deeper connection with you and your music
So how do you make this music marketing funnel work for you? Simply put, you want your music marketing efforts to provide coverage to these four types of fans. Make your music accessible to them and be mindful of their general needs. You won’t make everyone into a superfan, but you’ll definitely maximize your reach, and that inches you ever closer to the ultimate goal of earning a respectable living making music.