I had been meaning to write this since I started blogging. As a long standing member of one of the largest group of die-hard fans, The KISS Army, and having managed a couple websites catering to those die-hard KISS fans I felt I had a interesting perspective from which to write.
In the pyramid of fans, die-hard fans occupy the very top. They are the early adopters of music for your band. Meaning they lead the way for the majority, they take the risk, they are the most loyal. They are the most passionate fans you can find. If you are able to create a army of die-hard fans you are often set. This is not so much about how to create the army of fans, that comes from lots of hard work. Check out my series, 2000 Things to Generate 20,000 Fans for ideas on what you can do to get more fans. This article is about how your die-hard fans can easily become your most vocal fans filled with hate. It is a fine line between love and hate.
A die-hard fan is already sold. They will often buy anything you release, do anything you ask of them. There is a old saying, no need to preach to the converted. They are converted and you will often not need to invest any effort in “selling” them, other than just letting them know you have a new album or tour. That does not mean you should ignore them. Die-hard fans want to be involved, often they feel they deserve to be involved. They often feel because of their devotion and possible financial investment they should have more say in what you do. This feeling that they deserve something is the first thing that can cause you problems. Lets be clear, in my opinion, they don’t deserve anything beyond being treated like a fan and getting whatever they pay for… a album, a concert, a shirt, etc. Every fan who loves you, whether they have been following you for one month or 10 years, deserves to be treated like they are the most important fan. Where some musicians have a problem is they feel like a die-hard will always be there and therefore they can be ignored. That they will buy anything and everything, therefore their opinion is not important. You should never discount any fans opinion. Make them always feel like their opinion matters.
When a die-hard fans begins to feel as if they have no voice, that the musician takes them for granted, or cares about other fans more the first cracks in the love begin to appear. Those cracks can grow very quickly. As a die-hard feels more helpless they will become more vocal. 20 years ago that really meant nothing. Today a die-hard who has many other fans as Facebook friends and Twitter followers can make ALOT of noise and actually influence other fans, fans they have never met. What do you do when they get vocal? Remember that a die-hard fan would love nothing more than actually be acknowledged that their favorite musician heard them.
Example of pushing fans from love to hate.
I was running the official KISS website, Kissonline.com when around 2000 the band replaced original drummer Peter Criss with Eric Singer. That alone wasn’t really the issue with the die-hards. The problem was they put Eric in Peter’s cat makeup. That action set off a storm of comments online. Fast forward to 2001, actually September 11th. On 911 like many others I did not go into the office. But Gene Simmons had faxed over a statement he wanted posted on the website. When I got in on the 12th I addressed it and posted. The timing of this statement in my opinion was poor. Basically Gene called out and directly addressed this group of die-hard fans who disapproved of this change, calling them the “few” a nickname that has stuck. Gene talked directly to them. All of a sudden it was a “us vs. them” battle. The band had poked the bees nest and the bees were now in a fury. This actually grew into a war that was not just the band VS. The “few”, but also between the fans. The “few” labeled the fans who supported the band as “sheep” and it became the “few” VS the “sheep” as well. Nobody was happy and battles were happening everywhere; the bands official message and within comments to news stories. Eventually the band closed the message board and removed the ability for commenting to stories. The timing of the original post actually added more fuel to the fire, the fans were asking how could Gene post something like that immediately after 911. Let me be clear, it is his website, his band, his fans… he can do whatever he wants. I would never advise you to directly call out your die-hard fans in a situation like this. Doing so you just put them and their issue into the spotlight and escalate the war of words. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. It is a never ending battle of opinions. Eventually the “few” left, or were banned from the KISS website and formed their own anti-KISS website where hatred just flowed free. But the damage had been done and to this day the band’s website has no conversations happening on it. Ironically on their Facebook page where they are very active you can say whatever you want, including negative posts. Almost overnight a group of die-hard fans that grew up loving the band crossed that fine line from love to hate. Now they loved to hate them. This is a extreme case that very few other bands will never experience. But the example is clear.
What does all of this mean to you?
How can you avoid pushing your die-hard fans from love to hate?
1. Never take your die-hard fans for granted. Their opinion, devotion and money is as important as any fan.
2. Make all your fans feel like they are important, that all of their opinions matter.
3. Be careful about directly calling out upset fans.
4. If your fans have a voice on your website, do not take it away if you don’t like what they say. Doing so will only make them louder, on a website that you have no control or voice on.
5. You don’t owe your fans anything special because they have spent more money or have been a fan longer.