Forging Authentic Connections with Fans

dh-by-eric-landmark_largeOk, so I confess that until about a year ago I had never heard of Deerhoof. A few of the guys at Indaba first introduced me to them…and I must say they’re definitely one of the most talented, musically innovative bands out there. Some of their stuff is a bit over my head (sometimes I have simple tastes 🙂

This however, I totally get: Deerhoof has decided to launch a featured session on Indaba Music, in which they’re inviting Indaba members and fans to re-imagine their new song “Buck and Judy”. It’s not a contest, there’s no prize – it’s just a great band collaborating with other musicians and fans. So cool.

From the session:

Part 1. Deerhoof’s offering a sheet music arrangement of “Buck and Judy”, as well as tabs showing exactly how Deerhoof played the two guitar parts and bass part. This way you can play parts of the song yourselves, replace one of the instruments or add a new one. When you’re ready, add your contribution to the tracks section. 

Part 2. Deerhoof has already uploaded the drums, bass, two guitars, piano, and vocal from their recording of the song. Use any combination of the uploaded stems (from Deerhoof or any other Indaba member) to create your version of the song. Post the finished version to the mixdown section! 

That’s it for my shameless plug; now on to the point. Over at Indaba we think about artist marketing A LOT, and we often run marketing programs for major artists, as we’ve done for Mariah Carey, The Roots, and many others. We work with our clients to make those campaigns musically interesting, organic, and engaging (and huge opportunities for exposure among participants), but they can still be perceived as marketing programs. Which brings me to my question: when a band like Deerhoof approaches a company like Indaba, when the band doesn’t want to run a contest or affiliate with a sponsor, when they just want to use our technology to collaborate with fans, is it marketing?

Ultimately it’s semantics, but the important thing for me is this: bands that take the time to connect with fans in authentic, innovative ways won’t have to do as much that would be considered proactive “marketing.” They get all the marketing mileage they need from the things they already do and the way they relate to their fans.

This certainly isn’t the first time a band has done something like this. It reminds me of the many times Trent Reznor has engaged in organic “marketing”, even if he didn’t consider his actions to be “marketing” at the time (I don’t know what he was thinking). Musicians and die-hard fans can be understandably averse to anything that is overly commercial. Softer, more authentic actions that aren’t marketing per se from bands like Deerhoof and NIN with hard-core indie followings can turn into runaway successes. The trick is to involve as many people as deeply as possible in the band’s music and life. Bands with the most intense fans do this naturally, without being told to by marketers. For indie bands, this means playing a lot of live shows, and using technology to its fullest (blogging, Indaba-ing!!!). For bigger artists the formula is pretty much the same. Even MC Hammer tweets.

Now go join in the fun and collaborate with Deerhoof!

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