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In The City: Analyse this

By | Published on Friday 15 October 2010

Whether it’s Facebook page data, Google Analytics on your website, the back end of Bandcamp or some other form of web stats, fan analytics – data on when, where and how people are interacting with your websites, emails and social media profiles – are one of the internet’s most important gifts to the music industry. Or at least that seemed to be the consensus at the In The City panel on all things fanalytics yesterday afternoon, though panellists were keen to stress the limits of the stats frenzy too.

“Record companies have always been keen to know as much as they can about their customers, their bands’ fans, but the internet has revolutionised this”, began Barney Wragg, formerly a senior digital man at both Universal and EMI and now a consultant in this area. “Through the internet, we have access to a plethora of data, most of it automatically generated, and all of it available really fast. That offers great opportunities for understanding who likes an artist, where they live and how they want to interact and consume”. And that data, of course, can be used to help plan tour routes, devise CD, download or merchandise packages, and make mail-outs and sales pitches more relevant. 

The problem though, Wragg added, is that there is too much data. The trick to getting something of value out of the barrage of stats is “to know what you are aiming to achieve before you start mining the data. What do you want to know? What will you do with the data once you’ve got it? One of the best uses of analytics is it can help you make decisions. If there is a disagreement within a band over what to release next, when to announce a tour, what to put in your fan email, you may well be able to solve the issue with your analytics”.

For Fanshake’s Dana Al Salem, fanalytics isn’t just about monitoring who is clicking on your web links. “It can be more proactive than that”, she said. “Once you have a fanbase online, if you are struggling to make a decision, ask your fans. Which track to release, what t-shirt design to sell. This is really simple stuff – I used to do it for my bands with just email – but you can get some of the most valuable data just by asking your core fanbase questions, plus it enhances an artist’s relationship with their fans”. 

There are now a plethora of tools out there that can help artists and labels learn more about their fans, monitor what content and activity is popular, and to survey their fans’ opinions, and many such tools are free or cheaply available. “I’d encourage people to jump in and give it a go”, panel chair Liz Leahy of Section 101 told the audience. “Don’t be frightened of making mistakes, learn how fanalytics can best help you by trying it out”. 

And while Al Salem cautioned that it’s perhaps unwise to invest too much time learning how to use brand new web tools, just in case they quickly go under – “leave it four months” she advised – Wragg concurred with the chair. “There are only really two mistakes you can make. Don’t spam your mailing list with irrelevant content, and don’t give away your data. Other than that, try it out, you have nothing to lose”. 

So what about the limits? Well, says Stephen Stanton-Downes of start up Music Balloon, “analytics can help you better target your sales and marketing activity once you have a fansbase, but they won’t help you find fans in the first place”. 

CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke, also on the panel, concurred. Despite waxing lyrical about the potential of analytics for helping artists and labels understand and monetise their fans, he concluded “in terms of building a fanbase, none of this changes the traditional advice for new bands – you need eight good songs and to gig relentlessly. Build a fan base and then use social media, a web presence and analytics to turns fans into customers”.

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