Ben Folds and Fans (Update)
Update: Below, I sang the praises of Ben Folds and his band mates touting their fans, first, for the announcement of a new Ben Folds Five album. The following week I was more than delighted to see that Ben launched a Pledge Music campaign. The campaign launched just over a week ago and has already generated 4,146 pledges, exceeding the bands expectations and pledge goals by 206 percent. What’s interesting is that Ben Folds has 522,000 likes on Facebook and 486,000 followers and Twitter. His blended social equity puts him in the neighborhood of 500k, not bad. When we look at the total pledges, 4,146 to date, that accounts for roughly less than 1 percent of his and the bands total reach. This may seem like dire news, but it’s not, it’s just a reality and it’s beholden to managers and labels to remember this, “focus on the fans that matter”. Kudos to Pledge Music and Ben Folds Five for doing just that.
Nearly 15 years ago I was fortunate enough to meet the legendary lead singer of Ben Folds Five, Ben Folds. I was working at a record store and literally happened upon the bands first album, self-titled, and fell in love! I would literally confiscate friends to drive long distances to see the band. The show that I met Ben at was in 1996 at the BoatHouse in Norfolk, VA, there were literally 37 people, I counted. After the show, I walked right up to Ben, sang my praises, shot the crap about our home state of North Carolina, and got an autograph. The autograph lived above the Blockbuster Music phone and was a constant reminder of how cool that was to meet and create a bond with “my guy”. This was 10 years prior to any sort of social networking that we know today.
Over the years, Ben and his band have really made a name for themselves. In 1997, the band released their biggest record to date, Whatever and Ever Amen. The record went platinum (1 million records sold) due to the song, Brick. The band had officially “made it”. A few years later, Ben decided to go solo. Again, he has been quite fortunate (determined) in his solo career, as well. Ben has received a lot of exposure, recently, for his work on the hit show The Sing Off, and also his open-minded approach in regard to the crossroads of music and tech.
Last week, I was delighted to learn that Ben Folds Five will be reuniting for a new record and subsequent tour, later this year. Ben broke the news on the most powerful medium to date, Facebook. Ben spoke of very intimate details in the post around the process of getting back together, song meanings, etc. Later in the post, Ben made a rather poignant observation on the importance of fans and his music:
“I suppose the album should come out in September and we do not want to release it traditionally at all. I’m all into traditional record releases but for this one… I want to avoid ass kissing. It’s not healthy. I think we’re going to pass on radio promo and on most advance press. No sending it out for reviews etc. We’ll just let you know through Twitter and Facebook that it’s coming out. That’s the idea, and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe we’ll adjust our thinking. Just seems like such a musical experience I hate to be in the position of selling it to people who don’t care. I’d rather spend my time telling people who DO care and save the money and time. Sell fewer records probably to those who want it. That leaves more time to make new records and tour. Less ass kissing, more music and life. A good theory… we’ll see… lemme know what you think of that theory.”
The key take away, for me and for MusicHype, is spending time on the fans who do care. Now, more than ever, an artist has the opportunity to live and breathe where their fans are, no matter where that may be (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, YouTube, Blip.fm, SoundCloud, or Last.fm). In a nutshell, this is exactly what our goal is with MusicHype and next week you will finally see the fruits of our labor. That special, in person, feeling I got back in 1996 as one of Ben’s “true fans”, will finally be replicated in an organic fashion using technology in a way that benefits and enhances both the artist and the fan.