Why Artists Need to Go Direct to Fan (and How to Do It)

softspoken band direct to fan on shopify

Ditch third-party platforms and start owning your audience

It's never been easier for artists to get their music out there and start building an audience from scratch. But that initial growth spurt is often deceiving and short-lived for those relying solely on third-party platforms like Spotify, Instagram, and TikTok.

While these massive sites can provide an incredible initial discovery engine, they can also limit artists' ability to transform casual listeners into devoted, long-term superfans. To build a truly sustainable career in music, you need to own your fan relationships directly - escaping the pitfalls of other people's platforms and unlocking your full potential.


Why Third-Party Platforms Ultimately Let Artists Down

Don't get us wrong, having your tracks blowing up on Spotify or a viral TikTok moment can be huge for getting on people's radars initially. But at the end of the day, you're just “renting” attention on sites you have zero ownership over.

The downsides are stark:

  • Zero access to fan data beyond some broad analytics. Want to actually know who's listening and market to them directly? Forget about it - that precious data gets siloed away by the platforms.
  • Always at the mercy of changing algorithms. One minor tweak and your hard-earned following could disappear. Just ask anyone who built big on Myspace or Vine!
  • Extremely limited ability to customize fan experiences. Want to drop limited merch boxes for your biggest supporters or host livestreamed concerts only they can attend? Not a chance on these platforms designed to monetize your art without letting you fully participate.

Don't get us wrong, juggling all these third-party channels is almost unavoidable when you're first starting out and trying to get noticed. But at some point, you need to start centralizing your audience growth through channels you own and control.


The Future is Fans: Embracing the Direct-to-Fan Approach

Just look at bands like Soft Spoken who are already nailing this direct-to-fan playbook. They recently moved their fan club from Patreon to their own Shopify website, gaining powerful backend data and marketing tools that would never be possible on their prior setup.

softspoken fan club on shopify

Powering their Membership with Single on Shopify, they've been able to roll out:

  • An intimate, members-only community for their die-hard fans
  • Hyped-up limited merch drops exclusively for paid supporters
  • Personal video messages, handwritten lyrics, and other one-of-a-kind extras
  • And so much more custom, engagement-driving fan experiences

This direct-to-fan model isn't just for fan clubs either. Once you own your audience, you can get creative with all sorts of activations to excite and monetize those dedicated followers.

Take Victory Boyd's impromptu rooftop concert, streamed directly on her webstore. Fans could snag signed CDs and exclusive merch on the spot - turning a simple show into a powerful direct-to-fan moment.

victory boyd direct to fan on shopify livestream

Can you imagine trying to recreate that level of creative fan engagement if you were still renting attention from the Instagrams and Spotifys of the world? Of course not - these kinds of experiences simply aren't possible when you're beholden to the rules and limitations of third-party platforms.


Start Small, Think Big

We get it - transitioning your entire music business to a direct-to-fan model can seem daunting, especially when you're just trying to keep your head above water as an artist.

That's why we encourage a step-by-step approach. You don't need to overhaul your website or launch a full-fledged fan club right away. Small, consistent actions can snowball into major progress over time.

As our friend Jon Mark says:

"If artists can do just one simple thing each day to build a tighter, more engaging direct connection with their fans - drop a unique merch item, share exclusive content, offer special fan experiences - that's progress."

So start by reassessing the basic marketing tactics you default to on third-party platforms. Promoting a new single? Instead of just blasting it out on Twitter and Insta, run a contest through your email list and website to drive fans to pre-save it on their preferred streaming service. Launching a new tour? Cool, host an exclusive livestream event on your Shopify store to reveal the dates, dish behind-the-scenes details, and offer early venue pre-sale codes to your biggest third-party supporters who join your email list on the spot.

It's these tiny, intentional behaviors that'll train your fans to see your owned channels as the central hub for your community and offerings. And over time, you can continue elevating your direct-to-fan game.


The Tech to Make Direct-to-Fan Happen

Of course, none of this is possible without the right tech stack in place - things like online merch sales, fan club subscriptions, livestreamed events, limited-edition product drops, and more.

Single Memberships for Artists Going Direct to Fan on Shopify

For most artists, the perfect direct-to-fan homebase is a customized Shopify website. Whether you're a solo act or full-on touring band, Shopify provides the intuitive yet powerful ecommerce platform to facilitate all these fan-centric experiences, especially with an app like Single plugged in that makes all those fan activations possible.


Feeling Inspired?

So, even though it might feel like a bit of a mission to switch over to a full-on direct-to-fan model, it's totally worth it in the long run.

Get started on your own:

Install Single in your Shopify store.

Thinking big?

Want to start your own Fan Club or do a Live Shopping Stream? Our professional services team frequently partners with clients to help brainstorm ideas, build websites and more.

Get in touch and let’s talk!