As I get older, I realize that my preferences for music enjoyment have shifted. I’m not just talking about a changing attitude towards certain genres but also the way music impacts me.
Strangely enough, an old friend from college posted something similar on his Facebook page, which lead to a long thread of several people commenting on their changing attitudes towards music, especially as we (collectively) get older. Seeing that the music industry has shifted significantly in the past 5-10 years, and that artists who want to really grow their audience should look towards attracting real music fans, I decided to talk directly to my friend and get his perspective.
Dan Carlson is a writer, blogger, and true fan of good music. He writes for himself and a few larger publications. His blog post Shuffled & Paused is what led to the original discussion. I asked Daniel a few questions about his listening preferences to get a better grid for this shift. Also, the conversation will shine a light on how you as an artist can learn to attract fans of whole albums, fans who buy instead of stream, and those fans who love discovering new music. Here are the questions and Dan’s response:
How important is a good album beginning to end for you to want to buy it?
Dan: The cop-out answer is “It varies,” but it’s true. It helps to think of two categories of purchases: artists I’m already familiar with, and those I’m not. If it’s an artist I know and have previously enjoyed, then I might be predisposed to like them and not worry as much pre-purchase about the entire record. If I’m sampling someone new, I’ll listen to snippets of a few songs; if there are a handful, or even just a few, that I hook into immediately, I’ll be inclined to pick it up.
I also expect to spend some time with an album, too. I know I’m going to listen to it a couple times at first, then repeatedly over time, then maybe revisit it later. Some albums I love every song, some I love even though I skip one or two tracks each time through. If I wind up loving most of the album, I don’t hold the outliers against the whole, if that makes sense. (Random example: I really liked the soundtrack to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” even though one of the songs is not my style. So I just skip it)
How have your music buying preferences changed in the last 5-10 years?
Dan: They’ve gone down overall. Part of it’s because I don’t regularly visit music stores any more, and once you’re in the store, you’ve already got the momentum to make a purchase. I’ve bought a number of singles, though, sometimes songs that I loved when I was younger and just wanted to own again.
Would you rather stream a song or album online via Spotify or Youtube than buy an album online (via iTunes or Amazon)?
Dan: I’d rather buy because I like knowing I own a thing. Like, Netflix is cool, but you can never trust its streaming service for reliability. If I really want to be able to watch a movie (and enjoy the best possible picture and sound), I’ll buy it. I stream on YouTube at work sometimes, and my wife loves Pandora. But if I want an album, I want to own it.
What factors do you consider before you buy music these days?
Dan: First impressions are big: Do I like the sound? Do I connect fairly quickly? If it’s a new artist to me, do they remind me of some other artist or sound I like? Do they seem authentic? Also, what are people I trust saying about them? Everyone has that friend(s) or site(s) whose views they trust, and when I see those people mention an artist, I’m more inclined to check them out. Buying online, the cost is usually about the same ($8-$11 for an album), so it usually comes down to the intangibles.
Dan also said that he trusts his friends and a few choice outlets to introduce new music to him. This is the power of the Super-Fan (aka your core audience). Once you get in and become a passion for a true music fan, they will share your music with their circles, who are most likely to trust their friend’s recommendation than something they find elsewhere.
Read more of Dan Carlson’s unique insights, as well as his fascinating take on movies on his Blog.