Passive Supporters, Active Fans and Super Fans

I wrote a tweet a few days ago that seemed to resonate with people. It said that artists should spend more time defining a sense of purpose, and aligning themselves with their fans’ values.

If you’ve ever been in a band, you know that the majority of band conversations regarding goals and upcoming plans tend to revolve around things like booking as many gigs as possible, figuring out ways for as many people as possible to view your next video, etc. Of course those are not bad things to think about. But if that is the end of the conversation then you’re not only missing the other half of what’s needed, but you’re also pretty much missing the point.

This is the fan path every artist seeks:


The goal is to turn passive supporters into active fans, and then those active fans into super fans.

If you’re only thinking about how much you love playing gigs and your YouTube channel views, you definitely can get through this cycle, but the odds of getting to the third stage definitely decrease.

Two key areas I believe artists should spend more time thinking about are Transparency and Exclusivity.


Transparency deals with breaking down the barrier between you and your audience. Social media is the vehicle for transparency. Authentic Twitter conversations, behind-the-scenes YouTube videos, and sharing about things that dont relate to your music but still reinforce your values/brand/voice are examples of this.


“Exclusivity” almost could have been replaced by “Community”. This element makes people feel like they are part of a scarce (and therefore valuable) tribe. Your mailing list is a perfect way to amplify exclusivity. Exclusive content and private events/listening parties are examples of developing your community. This is why every major artist has some sort of fan club.

Transparency helps turn passive supporters into active fans, and Exclusivity helps turn active fans into super fans. Bands should spend more time talking about this.


9 thoughts on “Passive Supporters, Active Fans and Super Fans

  1. Hi Ethan, this post is really making me think. I have some questions.

    How can my band get more conversations happening with our fans?

    And how do we find people that care enough about our music to become active fans and super fans?

    • Hi Galen,

      The first thing to recognize is that there is no quick fix. Just like any great writer, speaker, or non-musical artist, you develop your voice over time. As the band continues slowly developing their ‘voice’, your community of supporters and fans will develop too. As the community develops, begin planning memorable ways to spark conversations. Try taking things that spark conversations in ‘real life’, and turn them digital. Look up Hugh Macleod’s writing on “social objects” for more on that.

      To answer your second question, the best thing to recognize about your art is that it is not for everybody. Find the small pocket of people that it IS for, and try to authentically connect with those people. The more obscure the genre, the more likely it is that you can build a strong community behind you.


      • Hi Ethan, Cool! Thanks for the tips and reassurances.

        I just checked out some posts and a video where Hugh MacLeod talks about social objects. One conclusion I’m drawing is that my band has to publish more things online, like clips, singles, videos, photos, etc. – is that right?

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