Premium Article

What it really means to be “fan-first”

August 21, 2023

Connecting artists and fans is one of the most critical functions of the music industry. It’s also facing an onslaught of new challenges, as technology expands fandom into a hyper-speed, 24/7 business.

With 120,000 new tracks hitting streaming services a day, it’s harder than ever for artists to break through and reach the right listeners, let alone cultivate fan bases long-term. Recent controversies like that around Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program have pointed to the limitations of centralizing and fragmenting consumer data when it comes to crafting a smooth and delightful fan experience. The always-on demands of social media have also led to issues around burnout and mental health for many artists, especially in the context of juggling digital marketing and community engagement with an already grueling touring schedule.

At our inaugural Wavelengths Summit in May 2023, we hosted a mainstage discussion bringing together artists, artist managers, tech founders, and industry analysts to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the future of fandom — with a special focus on what it really means to build “fan-first” technologies and experiences for music. We explored the chicken-and-egg tension of building first for fans vs. for artists and industry-stakeholders, trends in fans’ adoption of tech, and strategies for monetizing fans effectively while maintaining the health and integrity of organic artist-fan relationships.


This article is available only to paying Water & Music members.

If you’re already a member, please sign into your account here.

If not, sign up today for a quarterly or annual membership plan to get smarter on music and tech and meet like-minded professionals in the industry. You can read more about our membership benefits here.