Audience shape matters more than size

Plus, is web3 music back?

Welcome, artists & builders.

Each week, we navigate music’s future together. Today I’m sharing a story that helped me understand the power of knowing your fans.

Inside Issue #25

  • 💡 The shape of your audience

  • 🛠️ A new artist-centric streaming platform

  • 🚀 Web3 music momentum

  • 🗞️ Plus, what you missed

The Shape of Your Audience

Just because 20% of people are superfans doesn’t mean 20% of yours are.

Every audience has a different shape.

Here’s how to think about it:

  • Size = Number of listeners & followers

  • Shape = Balance of listeners to fans to superfans

And now, more than ever, you need close bonds with fans. There's simply too much noise — without depth, you're forgotten tomorrow.

You need to go deep, not just wide.

Going beyond 20% superfans

One of the last artists I managed does about 20 million streams per album. That's $80,000 in royalties - not much on its own.

But, they make 10x that touring the record.


They have an extremely high concentration of core fans.

They buy vinyl.
Limited editions.

They buy concert tickets in numbers you wouldn't expect when seeing their 300,000 monthly listener count.

These fans are worth far more than passive listeners, and they're the key to building a sustainable career - particularly for artists going their own path.

This artist will earn over $1m touring the record in year 1 & almost every category will earn more than streaming:

1-Year-Earning Estimates
Touring: ~$1,000,000
Streaming: ~$80,000*
Sync Licensing: ~$50,000*
Albums: ~$150,000
Soft Merch: ~$200,000
TOTAL: ~$1,480,000
*numbers for newest album only / pub-side not included

Not bad for an artist 99% of you have never heard of.

This isn't a superstar artist by any means. But they are proof that when done right, there are avenues for sustainability outside the mainstream.

You do this by thinking about the shape of your audience, not just the size of it.

By going deep.
Not (just) wide.

The shape of your audience matters.

With hundreds of millions of songs, millions of artists, and attention so fractured, artists that best nurture core fandom will outlast — and outearn — the field.

Deep audiences win.

If yours is overwhelmingly listeners, it needs to be massive. If it's heavy on fans & core fans, more possibilities emerge.

The good news?

New technology & tools are making it easier for artists to surpass 20% superfans.

You can..

  • Engage directly

  • Tell your story

  • Deeply understand your fans

  • Create personalized experiences

  • Capture data at shows & digital moments

  • Integrate every fan interaction

  • Reward & monetize fandom

  • Build community

You can build your world — and be the center of it.

Of course, tools are only as good as the strategy & execution behind them.

My mandate is to map these out & show how to grow sustainably with the right mindset. This newsletter is the first step — with more to come in 2024.

(see below)


PS: Want to build out your direct-to-fan approach? I’m piloting a sustainable growth agency for select artists & builders. Join the interest list here.

PPS: Is Phish the best example of an extremely deep audience shape?

📚️ My 3 Favorite Reads This Week

2024 predictions round-up edition..

  1. MIDiA’s 2024 Predictions, from Mark Mulligan & co.

  2. 2024 Music Industry Predictions, from Jay Gilbert

  3. Live Music Biz 2024 Outlook, from Variety.

Revisit my 10 predictions for the next 5 years (1 year wasn’t enough).


An Artist-Centric Streaming Platform

Sona is a lean-in streaming platform that’s as much about connection as it is consumption.

They’re looking to reshape how artists earn & fans engage.

They’re zigging: It’s free to stream, with no ads & no algos — opting for only human-curated playlists & social discovery. The 1st prompt upon entry is following friends, not artists.

So, how does it work? Artists can auction SONAs (one-of-a-kind digital twins of songs). Fans buy their favorites to build out their collection & begin to earn 70% of that song’s streaming rewards (read more).

Why I like it: Streaming usually rewards wide audiences, not deep ones. Maybe Sona can do both. It’s a bit complicated & fans will need to see the true value. But, I’m rooting for it.

Sona is now in open-beta to artists from select distros.

Watch Sona co-founder Laura TJD talk on the Invest in Music podcast

3 more streamers trying to zig…

  • Audius: Decentralized streamer with token reward system

  • Formless: Protocol with artist-set terms & seamless revenue-sharing.

  • Supercollector: Web3 Bandcamp-on-steriods just launched Radio.


I’m Not Saying Web3 Music is Back, but…

In the last 10 days:

Oh - and Michael Jackson’s 1st ever recording is now on-chain.

Inventive new releases & fandom-focused upgrades are revealing the true potential here.

PS: Sound's Soho acquisition is a smart move to acqui-hire a CTO & expand their social & mobile capabilities.

💨 Quick Hits

  1. TikTok’s 1st global live concert pulls 33.5m viewers: The ‘In the Mix’ livestream featured Cardi B, Niall Horan, Anitta & Charlie Puth. It broke the record

  2. TIDAL plots a new course: The streamer pivots to serve as the financial resource center for artists.

  3. SoundCloud’s 1st profitable year: It only took 16.

  4. Spotify tests AI playlists: Streaming keeps moving further away from any human involved in music selection.

  5. Limewire is back, but this time it’s about AI: and apparently no longer about NFTs, or music.

  6. Spotify x IYK x Shopify: Using Wrapped to offer merch discounts to top listeners.

Thanks for reading. Interested in working together?

Or just shoot me a reply. Catch you next time.

- Rob