Music is getting superfans wrong

Plus, UMG vs TikTok

Welcome, artists & builders.

There’s been so much talk about superfans lately and I, as your resident fandom guy, felt I should weigh in on what the industry is getting wrong about the opportunity. Enjoy.

Inside Issue #26

  • 💡 What music gets wrong about superfans

  • 🥊 UMG & TikTok go toe-to-toe

  • 🗞️ Plus, what you missed


Everyone wants a piece.


Because after a decade focused solely on the most casual, lean back experience in the all-out pursuit of scale, growth is slowing & hyper-fragmentation has sliced attention thinner & thinner.

Nothing it sustainable.
Nothing is repeatable.
Nothing is predictable.

And superfans are a $4.2B annual opportunity that majors & streamers have in their sights.

But, here’s the thing:

1) Most of fandom’s value is gained in layers on top of streaming.

In ways that offer something deeper & more connective.

It’s social.

It’s often mission-driven & it’s always artist-driven.

Passive streaming doesn’t fulfill it, which is why you see things like this:

2) Fandom happens at the artist level.

It’s bespoke, and each artist business must be the center of that control - not labels or platforms. Solutions must be modular, allowing artists to build their own worlds with unique value.

Give tools
Give access
Give resources

Then, get out of the way.

3) Superfans are more than just a bank.

Understanding Superfans, Luminate

They drive sticky discovery, loyalty & participation.

Creating superfans is even more important than monetizing them, because you’ll have people who stick around whether or not the next thing goes viral.

And the more you force it - with inauthentic, extractive systems by mega-corps - the whole thing falls apart.

Music’s next decade is about fandom.

But it’s about cultivating it, not just monetizing it.

It’s about creating meaningful relationships between artists & listeners, upgrading the experience for the biggest fans, and encouraging paths to fandom. It’s about building artists, not just songs.

Fandom is bespoke, but current mega-platforms & majors are built for mass consumption.

We need new tools that center artist-fan & fan-to-fan relationships.

Passive consumption has been prioritized over everything.

That time is over.


PS: Spotify might be building superfan clubs. Altho…they did just gut their fans first & monetization teams. We’ll see.

📚️ My 3 Favorite Reads This Week

UMG Removes Music from TikTok

Music’s top discovery platform vs. its most powerful label.

UMG’s open letter states 3 reasons for pulling their music when the current deal expires (today):

  1. Payments: TikTok is offering “a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay”.

  2. AI Dilution: “TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings”. Plus, UMG accuses them of diluting the royalty pool by providing gen-AI tools to users.

  3. Online Safety: UMG says they want more efficient safeguards to stem harassment & infringing content.

TikTok Fires Back: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

TikTok believes they’re not a streaming platform & should not structure deals like Spotify or Apple, claim UMG is using a false narrative & they’ve been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other partner.

Can We Be Friends? UMG may need TikTok more than TikTok needs UMG, but they work best together. It’s a moment of leverage — TikTok’s power will only grow — but they will work it out & the terms will affect every artist.

💨 Quick Hits

  1. BeatDapp takes on streaming fraud: Closes $17.5m round & partners with UMG, Napster & SoundExchange.

  2. SymphonyOS teams up with CD Baby: Offers AI-powered marketing tools to all artists.

  3. Universal announces startup hub: UMusicLift will provide tools, news & resources for music-startups.

  4. 4 simple ideas for social media posts: Unsure what to post, Audiomack’s Brian Z shares an easy list.

  5. Bello opens to everyone: On-chain data analytics startup comes out of beta.

  6. Kith drops loyalty program: It’s a master-class in how to incentivize fans.

Interested in working together to grow your startup? Let’s chat. I take on a limited number of projects for strategy & growth. Just reply here.

- Rob