Confession time: I’m a bit of a geek. Yes, beneath my fondness for bright colours, cats, and all things sparkly, I get really excited about studying trends and building mathematical formulas. 

One of my latest fascinations has been this concept called “Enterprise Gamification” – particularly, the idea of how fan loyalty can be strengthened by integrating one’s brand into the everyday lives of customers by harnessing the natural competitive streak and value of social status in humans. 

It’s a fact that some fans are more loyal than others to your brand. A YouTube video viewer is not the same as someone who comes out to your shows. Someone who buys your new album on vinyl is not the same as someone who pirates it. If you’ve ever organized a crowdfunding campaign, there were probably less individual people who donated than you have social media followers. If you have a mailing list, they will rate your subscribers from who excitedly reads everything you send, and who hasn’t opened your emails in a year. 

So then, wouldn’t it be a thoughtful idea to recognize your most loyal fans, and encourage others to follow their example? It’s taking the classic artist fan club, and amping it up with some inspiration from outstanding retail brand loyalty programs.

Like a multi-player video game, your fans would be given missions to complete and goals to unlock with prizes and other incentives to reward them. The gamification element means that there are more missions than simply spending money, making this fan reward system something far more exciting and personal than a retail store’s run-of-the-mill brand loyalty program. 

Missions involving fans spending money (purchasing actions) could include (loosely ranked from most loyal to most casual): 

subscription-based patronage

one-on-one experiences

crowdfunding donations

handmade items

tickets to exclusive, small events

merch (bigger pieces, $50+)

physical records

digital records

affiliate sales

small merch

casual show tickets (ex: a local pub)

Missions that fans can complete for free (non-purchasing actions) could include:

sharing your social media content

engaging with it

leaving reviews

video watching,

taking surveys

These missions play into our natural drive for success and problem-solving. Now, we would add in our species’ conditioned desire for social status by adding ranks, or levels of fan loyalty. Unlocking a new ranking by completing a certain amount of missions would also unlocking extra rewards for the fans, a positive reinforcement. 

But why should fans care about their rank? There needs to be a sense of exclusivity, special treatment and personalized experiences that warrant reaching and maintaining that status. Here are two real-life examples from global retailers who have received high praise for their customer loyalty program:

Sephora’s VIB Loyalty system has a relatively high monetary threshold for rankings (three tiers: free to join, spend CAD $350 annually to qualify for the middle tier, and CAD $1000 for the top tier), but…

The rewards of rankings valuable to loyal customers 

Their sales merchandise is of recognized quality (and is priced at a point where loyal customers will reach the rank qualifications)

They mainly sell other companies’ products, taking a lot of marketing and sales pressure off themselves

They are an established brand

Starbucks’ Gold Star Loyalty system is very interactive (no tiers, anyone can join), but…

They have many locations for impulse purchases

Their main product (a to-go coffee) is a onetime use, disposable product

Their products are relatively cheap, but revenue is made up for in sheer sales volume

They are an established brand

I think independent artists can be inspired by both these case studies, and offer cheaper one-time use products (experiences such as live shows, one-on-one meetings) and well as quality, long-term options (merch, recorded music).

I will soon be demonstrating my mathematical formulas for projecting steady music industry income by using the concept of Enterprise Gamification as a fan loyalty system. So for those purposes, let’s have three basic tiered ranks for your fans, and gauge their numbers like so:

Lower Tier: Your casual social media followers. Many individuals in number, but they do not have a track record of spending time/money on you. However, they do show enough interest to keep up wth your career. 

Middle Tier: Your email list subscribers. These are the fans who have given you explicit permission to reach out to them, and have likely (or will likely in the near future) purchase something from you/go see you play. 

Higher Tier: Your super fans and investors. These are the small number of people who believe in you so much that they are happy to donate larger sums to your crowdfunding campaigns, organize private concerts for you, or simply let you crash on their couch while touring. Like crowdfunding, there should be real perks that comes with the status, and a way to track fan purchases and their rankings (from loading invoices into a CRM system, to a basic spreadsheet).

The essential idea is this: You want to guide strangers to the lower tier, casual fans from the lower tier to the middle one, and so on.

Annual Sales Goal Per Customer: 

x = z/y   (if divided by 12, that becomes a monthly sales goal per customer)

x = purchase required per fan to retain middle status

y = email list subscribers

z = annual income goal

For example, 

x = purchase required per fan to retain middle status

240 = email list subscribers

$ 24,000 = annual income goal

x = 24,000/240

x = $ 100

100/12 = $ 8.35 monthly average sales goal per fan.

Just as you can likely project that your higher tier fans will buy more merch and attend more shows, the lower tier fans earning any points is a lovely surprise, so it will all balance out by focusing on the middle tier fans when it comes to numbers. 

At the end of the day, you want to make your fans feel like stars – recognize and reward them publicly for their loyalty. Remember that loyalty does not just comes from high spending, but also the engagement and excitement that comes with the classic artist fan club. We’re just amping it up. 

Colourfully Yours,

– Clarence